CV Tips: To profile, or not to profile?

Posted in: Advice, Applications, Tips & Hints

A "personal profile" is a short section at the top of a CV (usually following the contact details section) that is used to describe and summarise a person's unique selling points.

I've recently had a number of discussions with students about whether or not they should include a profile section and how best to write one.  Profiles are hard to write, partly because most students are in the early stages of their career.  And it isn't expected that you should include it on your CV (unlike education and relevant skills / experience).

When should you use a profile section?

Personally, I think profiles can work well if:

  • You have decided not to pursue a career directly related to your degree.  The profile is a good opportunity to highlight transferable skills (as long as you do it well - see below!)
  • You are applying for further study or a research role, and want to summarise your interests, skills and / or career aims
  • You are working with a recruitment agency, and would consider a range of different roles and want to highlight your key skills
  • You are applying to roles which are highly sought-after.  The profile is another opportunity to really sell yourself and grab the attention of the recruiter.

Writing your profile - how to stand out

It's actually quite a challenge to write a good personal profile.  When writing your profile, think about what the employer wants to know.  What would be most impressive and useful to know about your education, skills and experience? Is it your academic ability? Your proficiency in a certain kind of skill?

When trying to articulate their key skills, students often fall into the trap of using commonly-used words and phrases like "hard-working" and "excellent communication skills". But imagine how many times an employer has seen those phrases. Most employers would say that being "hard-working" was a pretty basic requirement for a role....! Here's an example of the sort of profile that we commonly see:

"I am a hard working, motivated and enthusiastic final year Computer Science student from the University of Bath. I have excellent programming skills gained on placement and am able to work independently and as part of a team."

The above statement would probably apply to most students studying Computer Science!  It's not personal enough and doesn't make the student stand out.  Here's another one:

“I am a University of Bath Computer Science finalist with 12-months programming experience gained at Decision Technology. I am confident using languages such as JavaScript, CSS and HTML, and have worked in an agile environment with a team based in the USA."

This student has managed to tell us many of the same things as the first example, but perhaps with greater effect.  Why?

  • They have briefly given specifics of their industry experience - quantifying practical experience is a good idea.
  • They have briefly listed languages in which they are competent - it's immediately clear that they have a good range of skills.
  • They have briefly given a piece of evidence about working in a team (rather than just stating that they can work in a team), which simultaneously shows that they have good knowledge of industry practice.

So you can see that the impact can be much bigger if you tweak your language slightly!

If you're having real trouble coming up with something that is snappy, and personal to you, then don't include it.  Take a look at this great blog on whether or not to write a personal profile (or career objective).  If you want to discuss your CV, then do make an Applications Advice appointment via MyFuture.

Posted in: Advice, Applications, Tips & Hints


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