The format for a personal statement typically includes a strong introduction, paragraphs that describes you, and a conclusion that wraps it all up. Within this format, you provide a statement that delves more deeply into your background and goals than a cover letter might do.
The introductory paragraph is your chance to capture the employer's attention and tell him why he should care to read the whole statement. Unlike cover letters, this introductory paragraph usually doesn't talk about the job for which you're applying or where you found out about it, but instead tells an interesting story or shares an anecdote that relates to your career. For example, you might tell the reader a short story about growing up in a foreign country, or talk about a formative incident that happened when you played high school sports. Don't give all the details away just yet, however.
The Body of the Statement
The body of the personal statement is where you'll describe your qualifications and how certain traits or skills make you well-suited to a particular position or career field. Try to tie in that story you told in the introduction. For example, you might talk about how your experiences abroad shaped your outlook on life and prepared you for a life as a diplomat, or how playing sports helped you develop leadership skills that would benefit you well as a sales manager. Naturally, the qualifications or skills you describe should be ones that apply to the job for which you're applying. You can also talk about your overall career goals in this section. The section can be several paragraphs long.
In the conclusion, once again bring up that compelling story you told in the introduction. Look for ways to tie together all of the things you mentioned in the introduction as well as the supporting paragraphs, recommends Indiana University Bloomington's Writing Tutorial Services department. At this point, it's also OK to mention that you're very interested in the position, if you are indeed applying for a specific job -- but you don't need to provide specific details about when you'll be available or when you'll follow up, as you would with a cover letter.
Requested Format Guidelines
As with all application materials, follow any instructions given to you. Some employers or schools may ask that your statement is limited to one or two pages, or may limit you to 500 or 800 words. You might be asked to use a specific font and font size, or to follow a certain style, such as APA style for psychology-related jobs. If the employer doesn't give you any guidance, use an easily-readable font, no smaller than 10-point size, and no larger than 12-point, with margins of about 1 inch. Align the text to the left.
It's not a letter, so you don't need to include the date at the top or other business letter formatting. Think of it more like an essay format. Start with a heading such as "Personal Statement for..." and then include your name. If the statement runs longer than one page, add a header or footer to each page that contains your name and your contact information. When you're done writing, read the statement out loud to make sure it flows well and doesn't include wordy or odd phrases.
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