PS Tip 55 : Personal statement structure

We’re often asked about personal statement structure, and the truth is that it depends entirely on what you’re trying to achieve. Your aim is to sell yourself effectively, so you’ll want to focus on the overlap between your strengths and the requirements of the job or course.

With that in mind, it’s usually best to include the structure of your statement in your initial plan, rather than simply starting and hoping that it all comes together.

A classic personal statement structure might look like this:

  • Introduction – Usually short paragraph, your introduction should start the job of selling you straight away. Often includes some punchy sentences about who you are and what you do, covers why you’re interested in the position, and finishes quickly before anyone gets bored.
  • Body – Addresses requirements, and positions you as a proactive achiever who will be an asset to the company or educational institution.
  • Conclusion – Notice that I call it a conclusion, and not a summary. This is not a paragraph which simply reiterates things that have already been said; it should leave the reader with the impression that you’re genuinely enthusiastic about the job or course you’re applying to.

But this is just one format, and whilst popular it is by no means the only way to go. Some form of introduction is usually called for, but if you were extremely tight on available words/characters you could choose to simply miss out the conclusion.

Equally, I’ve seen strong personal statements that were simply a set of headings – one for each requirement – followed by achievement-rich bullet points. If you’re asked to complete a personal statement in an incredibly small number of words, this could be an approach that you consider.

Perhaps the most unusual personal statement I’ve read was submitted by a friend of mine for a marketing role – As a writer, he felt the personal statement was his opportunity to demonstrate his unique gifts, so rather than using a traditional format he opted to literally sell himself to the employer by writing a sales letter. This is certainly an usual case, but he got the job, and that goes to show that sometimes being a bit unconventional can pay off.

More than anything else, I’d like to instil in you the idea that there truly are no set rules when it comes to writing personal statements – it’s about really thinking through your options, and making a decision based on what you think will give you the best chance of success.

PS Tip 54 Order your statement logically

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