Getting noticed – when and how to use personal profiles in CVs

With increasing numbers of applicants (sometimes up to 100 or more) per job advertisement nowadays, even for academic positions, how do you ensure that your CV gets you noticed and selected for interview? Obviously you need to have the majority of requisite experience, skills and qualifications required for the job but, with many employers having only a few seconds to skim-read applications, how can you make sure they notice all the relevant content in your CV at a glance?

This is where the personal profile can help you out. Rather than relying on the employer finding all the really relevant information spread out around your CV in various sections, by highlighting 3 – 4 key pieces of information right at the top of the CV on page 1, you will ensure s/he sees them immediately, on first glance. The idea is that this will prompt them to read on.
If used, the personal profile (sometimes known as ‘Career objective’ or ‘Personal statement’) must be relevant, targeted and meaningful! During the selection process, when there are a large number of applicants, more than likely, the employer will be scanning for keywords and phrases which match their job requirements. For an academic job it will be evidence of academic-related experience such as disciplinary expertise, journal publications, awards, teaching, growing research independence, etc. For a job in industry it may be particular technical knowledge and abilities, or interpersonal skills such as team working and communication. The personal profile must contain evidence of these ‘essential’ requirements otherwise it won’t be effective. Saying something like, “Experienced, reliable postdoctoral researcher in the field of human nutrition seeking to secure an academic post within a highly respected university. Good publication record, supervision and teaching experience” or “Experienced, reliable postdoctoral researcher in the field of human nutrition seeking to move into industry. Brings a wealth of technical expertise as well as being a good communicator and team player” are both too wishy washy and unsubstantiated. What is required for an effective personal profile are short targeted quantitative statements so that they stand up in their own right. For example, imagine a researcher applying for the following post:

Lecturer in Nutrition/Nutritional Biochemistry, University of Reading
Key requirements
: To develop an independent research group in an area of Nutrition or Nutritional Biochemistry/Metabolism that complements our existing research strengths; To seek funding from to support research activities; To develop research links with other researchers.
Expertise in an area of nutrition or related area aligned to our current research activities; Proven and continuing ability to publish in leading scientific journals; Excellent presentation and communication skills as required for teaching; Excellent research skills.
The personal profile should highlight these key requirements as far as possible. For example:
Personal profile
Postdoctoral researcher with 8 years’ experience in the field of human nutrition, rapidly gaining an independent research profile in nutrient-gene interactions related to food security. Key capabilities and achievements:
Ø  Excellent and consistent publication record, with six peer reviewed primary papers and one review article published in previous five years.
Ø  Proactive collaborator with internal research groups in the fields of Food Security and Plant nutrient signalling, also externally as part of a major European Framework project: NUTRAID.
Ø  Teaching and supervision of Master’s and undergraduate students; 1st year module (taught over 8 weeks), including involvement in assessment and exam setting.
Ø  Presentation of research at international meetings (2 invited); session organiser at the Nutrition Society Congress 2012; responsibility for the departmental monthly seminar series.

As you can see, the profile reflects the key requirements set out in the job specification and provides compelling evidence of an ideal candidate to be selected for interview. More supporting information will be in the body of the CV and may also be repeated in the covering letter. You may or may not agree with the details of the content of this example profile, but it shows the kind of informative statements which ought to exist in a personal profile if it is to take up valuable space at the top of your CV.

Personal profiles are not compulsory – you need to decide when it’s appropriate to use them. If attending a careers fair where it may not be possible to attach a covering letter to your CV, the personal profile will serve to introduce employers to your key attributes. At less senior levels where competition for positions is not so fierce, a covering letter may suffice to bring the employer’s attention to your CV and its contents.
For examples of CVs including those with and without personal profiles go to:

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