How can I big myself up on a personal statement?
September 21, 2005 12:32 PM   Subscribe

What can I write in the personal statement on my CV that makes me sound interesting and funny yet responsible and sensible, and like someone who would be an asset to the company that would take me on (without being boring)?

I am at University but my degree involves a placement year where I go find a job for a year that is relevant to my degree course. My course is called Digital Arts and Technology, which is a combination of computer programming and web design, animation, and digital art. I have to write a personal statement that makes me stand out, because I'm competing with everyone else on my course for potential employers' attention. Any good suggestions? PLEASE try to think of something slightly witty because I just hate the idea of sounding boring =/
posted by angryjellybean to Work & Money (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know if this is witty, but I just interviewed a young woman today for an internship and she had listed her interests as something like:

Reading, cooking, vegetarianism, music (in other words the normal stuff), found objects.

And that last one stood out, she was just bold/weird enough to admit that, but not too weird. So maybe something slightly odd about what you are trained in/interested in, but not too odd.

Be careful.

For instance, don't put weed and other people's wives as your interests, I've lost more good jobs that way.
posted by Divine_Wino at 12:40 PM on September 21, 2005

If I were you, I'd try to attract the employers attention by writing something which makes you sound impressive, rather than funny.

You're right that a boring personal statement is not the way to sell yourself, but unless you're wanting a job as a comedian, neither is being funny.

Put yourself in the shoes of the employer - you've got a bunch of people trying to sell themselves on pieces of paper: are you going to buy from the boring guy, the funny guy, or the impressive guy...?
posted by forallmankind at 12:43 PM on September 21, 2005

funny guy. the impressive guy is trying too hard, probably because he's not qualified.

then again, i don't like working with jerks and jargonistas.

of course, i'm a jerk, so this makes things difficult.
posted by fishfucker at 12:54 PM on September 21, 2005

That's a very good point forallmankind, and I agree. It's just I don't really have anything impressive that I can brag about. If I did I'd be doing it, trust me =)
posted by angryjellybean at 12:56 PM on September 21, 2005

I hired a programmer a few years ago who on his (excellent) resume wrote that he could make really good beer. So of course I had to hire him. But this hobby of his provided an excellent screening mechanism for both him and his employer, demonstrated dedication to a craft, and revealed something about his self esteem.

Quirky information on a resume also makes a good starting point for a interview. So i say go for it.
posted by ldenneau at 1:00 PM on September 21, 2005

I once put a starburst reading "Geek for Hire" in the upper right corner of my resume, but only because I knew for certain the people I was sending it to would appreciate it.
posted by kindall at 1:00 PM on September 21, 2005

I wrote "able to leap tall buildings in a single bound" under "special qualifications," when I was applying for a job in a snooty independent bookstore. I was offered the job, and the owner said she loved that I wrote it, but then I tried to negotiate the pissant salary and she rescinded the offer in a most asshat-like way.
posted by scratch at 1:14 PM on September 21, 2005 [1 favorite]

I once got a resume from a software programmer that included the statement "I am committed to living a clean lifestyle." My boss at the time laughed at it just before she threw it away.

I would say that there are those hiring reps who would find a little irreverence refreshing but there are others who would be turned off. Just make sure you have a good handle on the company's reputation before you fire off your resume. (I think it's a good idea to have a few different resumes, tailored to the different kinds of jobs you might apply for.)

Another thought: Be playful in your cover letter rather than resume. A few years back I was hiring an editorial assistant. The top candidate for the job had qualifications much like many of the others that applied. But she wrote such a smart, clever cover letter that I made sure to interview her.

I got a lot of letters for that job that tried to be clever. Unfortunately many of them just came off as juvenile.
posted by Sully6 at 1:37 PM on September 21, 2005

(follow-up question): Would it be appropriate for me to make my own logo that's basically just a cool/quirky photo of me cropped into an oval with my contact information wrapped around it to use as 'letterhead' on my resume. I always thought that would be a cool way to make it stand out in a pile, but I've never been bold enough to do it.
posted by TurkishGolds at 1:37 PM on September 21, 2005 [1 favorite]

TurkishGolds: we get tons of resumes where I work and one has to filter them in some way - throwing out all the ones printed on acrylic, pink paper, with logos etc is a common method.

I personally think that standing out is an art of subtlety, and that bright colors and pictures is like driving a bright yellow car: it's trying too hard, too obvious.

But: as several posters have noted above, whereas one miserable git like me will trash your resume for being too garish, there's always a hip and trendy manager that that style appeals to. Having said that, that hip and trendy manager is most likely to run a MacDonalds, so YMMV.
posted by forallmankind at 1:48 PM on September 21, 2005

Sorry, I disagree wtih forallmankind's last comment. If I'm looking to hire someone who has a design background, I want his/her resume to stand out in a design way. A customized logo showing your personality is one way to do that. I regularly hire designers in my job (mainly because I know nothing about design) and I generally weed through the resumes by throwing the boring, standard-style ones out. If you can't be creative enough to craft a beautiful resume, why do I want you to be my designer?
posted by MeetMegan at 1:55 PM on September 21, 2005

angryjellybean: is that nothing impressive with regards to the position you're applying for, or nothing impressive in the whole wide world ever.

I know what it's like not having experience so yeah, it's hard to be impressive in that way. What you have to do is equate other life experiences you've had to what would be desirable qualities for the position - essentially what are called transferrable experience or skills.

When I was in your position, the most useful thing I did was to write a huge list of everything I'd ever done, and then tried to equate suitable stuff to the job - with a degree of embellishment of course. One certainly has to be... creative in this situations....
posted by forallmankind at 1:57 PM on September 21, 2005

Of course everything I said above about logos does not apply to design jobs - I mistakenly thought that that was too obvious a caveat to mention :-)
posted by forallmankind at 1:59 PM on September 21, 2005

I would say that there are those hiring reps who would find a little irreverence refreshing but there are others who would be turned off.

I'm not currently looking for a job, but I've thought about putting something a little goofy on my CV. I would do this to help ME screen out employers who would make me unhappy.

I HATE the super-corporate environment, where you have to control everything you say, control the way your dress, etc. I wouldn't work well somewhere like that. So it would HELP me if tight-ass employers tossed my resume into the trash.
posted by grumblebee at 1:59 PM on September 21, 2005

Oh grumblebee - who said anything about super-corporate? If you need to take someone on, you simply need someone who's most likely going to fit the role, work hard and, as a bonus, bring something to the company - whatever that company may be.

We're throwing posts about logos around carefree, but you hire someone who's lazy, irritates other colleagues, offends clients, or simply just doesn't fit, you stand to not only lose a bunch of cash, but if you're the hirer, you're gonna look like an ass too, and you're right back at square one - irrespective of whether you're hiring for Microsoft or a mom & pop store.

So like I said: put yourself in the employers' shoes....
posted by forallmankind at 2:21 PM on September 21, 2005

grumblebee, I can appreciate your point but look at it this way: There are many eyes that will look over your resume, some of which may have the power to "yay" or "nay" you. If you can be so selective that you wouldn't want to work for company that employs anyone who doesn't get your sense of humor, more power to you.

Whenever I've hired someone, I usually get about 100+ resumes for the position. Usually a third are clearly unqualified for the position. The remaining ones I go through, looking for the top five or so interview; the rest go into a maybe pile.

At this point in the process, I look for reasons to exclude people from my top picks. I don't want to interview 20 people unless I absolutely have to. Thus, if the credentials are good but there's something about the resume that sets off a red flag, it gets put in my maybe pile. Lame humor would be a red flag for me.
posted by Sully6 at 2:39 PM on September 21, 2005

Now that I think about it more, and especially considering what Sully6 has to say, humor is just too polarizing. What many people will find hilarious will just be lame in the eyes of many others. If you're going to try to be funny, make sure that it's something that genuinely has mass appeal.
posted by TurkishGolds at 3:08 PM on September 21, 2005

I think that you may be able to get away with a little quirkiness in your field. The trick is to just toss in one tiny thing that's honest and unexpected, not "clever." Also, it is especially important that rest of your resume is impeccably straightforward. The "found objects" example is good.

A good place to start is to get your friends to tell you which hobby/interest/aspect of you that they think is neat. (Read online personals like those at Nerve see the sameness in most people's "witty answers" when asked to describe themselves.)

Turkishgolds: The logo strikes me as trying too hard. Clean, simple design of your resume will likely make it stand out against too many recent grads with over-designed resumes.
posted by desuetude at 4:40 PM on September 21, 2005

Sorry if my post rubbed people the wrong way. I wasn't implying that everyone in corporate America is a tight-ass. But there is a tight-ass element, isn't there?

I once worked for a large, well-known corporation. I DIDN'T interface with the public. I was in the IT department, in an annex to the main building, and no one ever saw me, except for other employees. No one ever came to my office, except for other people in my department. When I moved into my office, it was completely bare. After sitting in there for weeks and weeks, I started going stir crazy for lack of visual stimulation. So I brought some of my drawings in and hung them on the walls. My drawings were not offensive (no nudity, violence, etc.) I draw child-like, Dr. Seuse-like cartoons. Googly-eyed monsters, etc. Several of my co-workers commented that the drawings were fun. Other than then that, it wasn't a big deal. Until my manager came into my office, apologized and told me I was going to have to take the drawings down. When I asked why, she said that HER manager had ordered her to order me to take them down. Why? Because they weren't "appropriate in an business environment." This may seem like a petty thing to get upset about, but it this sort of thing was pretty continual in that job.

It was also the sort of job where you were always watched and forced into a mindless timetable. It didn't matter if I stayed for nine hours after closing, DONATING extra work, which I often did. If I came in 10 minutes late, I got in trouble. I was once asked to work on a programming project. I said that it would really help if I could use some reference materials, and that I had the books at home. I asked if I might be allowed to work at home for two days and continually stay in touch with the office (I wasn't needed at the office for ANY reason. The only work I had to do was this project.) I was told. again, that this would be inappropriate. So for three days, I lugged a stack of heavy books there-and-back to work (back to home, so that I could continue the work when I got home -- another DONATION. I actually LIKED the work itself.)

For a while, after I left this job, I freelanced all over New York City (usually in Fortune 500 companies). Though I found many fine places to work, I also found that my experience at that one horrible company was not unique. There are plenty of other companies like this. In fact, it is becoming a cliche. There are Saturday Night Live skits about it. There are also movies/shows, like "Clockwatchers" and "The Office."

It tends to boil down to middle managers feeling that they need to MANAGE. They don't care so much about productivity. They care about making a show that they are MANAGING.

I don't want to work for people like that. And I can't imagine why anyone WOULD want to (though to each his own). I don't fit in well in an environment like that, so it's not good for such a company either if I work there. So I think I need to do things -- via my resume or in the interview -- to make that clear. I am the kind of employee who will work his ASS off for you if you give him a little autonomy and allow for some personal expression. But if I'm working in a prison state, I will not be able to deal.

I don't draw cartoons all over my resume. But I DO allow little quirks to enter it here and there. I think of this as just being honest about who I am. If I am dishonest, everyone will find out what I am like eventually, anyway, so what's the point?

Luckily, I have spent the last five years working for a company that doesn't care what I do, as long as I get my work done. Is that so much to ask?
posted by grumblebee at 5:36 PM on September 21, 2005

grumblebee, as a young graduate currently stuck in such a super-corporate job, I appreciate your post. Writing a resume almost as hard as writing my thesis, as I loathe the idea of making myself appealing towards others. The idea of using your resume to weed out painful jobs is an excellent idea that never would have occured to me. Granted, it's not something I could employ at my grub-stage, but I'll keep it in mind.

For the sake of sharing, my manager considers Post-It notes "inappropriate to the workplace" and regardless of what is written (written, mind you, not drawn) on them. They spontaneously disappear from the side of my monitor while I'm away from my desk and almost always generates a scolding email in my inbox. Why the hell they even ORDER Post-Its, I have no fucking idea, because we're apparently not allowed to even use them.
posted by Plinko at 2:11 AM on September 22, 2005

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