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If you’re zipping through the documents in your CS&A candidate file, checking “to-be-completed” items off a list ( resume : check. transcripts: check. references : check.), you might pause when you come to the personal statement. Burdened by personal and professional commitments (those papers aren’t going to grade themselves), you might decide that you can skip it. You’ll be sending cover letters to each school that interests you anyway. And how different can the two documents be?
If this is the way you’re thinking, you’re missing an opportunity to demonstrate who you are without the constraints of addressing a particular school. Here are some key differences between a cover letter and a personal statement —both important parts of your candidate file.
1. Cover Letter = Them. Personal Statement = You
While to a certain extent every document you submit during your application process is for and about the school to which you’re applying, the cover letter presents a more direct opportunity to specify the attributes of a particular school that align with your past successes and future plans. The inherent vagueness of the personal statement allows you to discuss yourself more generally, without having to fit into the mold of a specific school.
2. Presenting All Tiers of Your Experience
We all have them: the “top tier” experience in our resumes. These are the positions with the best titles, the coolest opportunities, the real “turning points” in our careers. When you’re writing a cover letter, you need to address your top tier experiences, as well as any experience you’ve had that’s directly related to the opportunity at hand. That’s a lot of showcasing to do in one page.
Your personal statement provides an opportunity to highlight some of your “second tier” experiences—the ones that may have lasted for a shorter time or occurred years ago, but that may have made a real difference in the formation of your career. Your personal statement should complement—not completely echo—your cover letter. The two documents together allow you to flesh out some parts of your history that you may have had to rush by submitting solely a cover letter.
3. Hook ’em With a Story
Blank space on a cover letter is precious: you need to seamlessly condense your life story and catch your reader’s attention in a page or less. There’s not much room for the “softer” elements of presentation, like an anecdote that explains why you began teaching or a story that embodies why you love what you do.
There is room for that, however, in your personal statement. You have more room for creativity when you’re complementing—not highlighting—your accomplishments, and this creativity can create a rounder portrait of who you are.
The personal statement is just that: personal. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate your personality, tone of voice, and outlook in a very real way. Spend some time writing it and making it excellent: in the initial stages of your job application, the personal statement will do a lot of the heavy lifting in answering questions about what kind of educator and person you are. Whether you make it funny, touching, or smart, be sure to make it yours.
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West Sharon 10/12/2020 at 9:18am
Extension of your professional goals: Some statements for job applications may include specific reference to your goals and how the position can help you achieve those goals. For a university personal statement, reinforce how the school s mission or coursework can prepare you for a career. In both types of statements, consider discussing relevant short- and long-term goals, such as what you hope to achieve in the school or position and where you see yourself in 5-10 years. Summary of your personal statement: A brief summary of the main points in your statement can be an effective strategy for a one-sentence conclusion or one sentence of a larger conclusion. Be sure to connect your achievements, experiences and skills directly to your future contributions with the company or university.
Judith Hansen 9/25/2023 at 8:00am
It’s great that I found this article. I am in need of a statement of purpose writer and I decided to use a statement of purpose writer because I have never written one before. I don’t really know what they are about. Your article helped me to better understand what they are for.
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PracticeMatch Physician Articles
- Cover Letters vs. Personal Statements
Cover Letters vs. Personal Statements Crystal Carter
Not sure how to distinguish cover letters from personal statements? We’re here to help! We’ll break down the parts of each piece of content, as well as what they’re used for. Cover letters and personal statements are both used in many different settings, and both of them serve different purposes. If you’re planning to apply to residency or fellowship, you will need a personal statement, where a cover letter is required when applying for jobs. In the event that you need assistance writing your personal statement, we have written an article about it. You can access that article here .
Cover Letter A cover letter serves the purpose of establishing your qualifications for a position for which you may have applied. Cover letters tend to be more formal and introductory. Your cover letter should be used to expand upon the experience listed on your Curriculum Vitae (CV). Most people make the mistake of writing their cover letter about how the company could help them advance their career, rather than writing about how the company would benefit from hiring them. Your cover letter should not only be about selling your skills to a company, but you should explain how your skills could benefit that company. It is important to tailor your cover letter to each position that you apply for. As easy as it is to go in and replace the company name and job title before submitting a job application, you should also take the time to change the skills and experiences you have included so that they fit the position you’re applying for. Keep in mind that while including your skills and experiences in your cover letter is beneficial, you should make sure that you include the information that best fits the description of each position. Below are some things you should remember when writing your cover letter:
- Highlight the right experiences
- Showcase your skills
- Don’t focus too much on your education
- Avoid apologizing for any missing experience
- Consider including testimonials from your colleagues and supervisors
- Don’t be too formal – an excessive amount of formality makes you seem robotic
Personal Statement If you’re applying for medical school, you will need a personal statement. Personal statements are less formal and more flexible than cover letters. When writing your personal statement, there is no such thing as a “perfect topic”, nor will you have an “aha moment”. You should focus on writing about the experiences that helped you decide on a specialty, and you could even discuss other specialties that you considered. It is also important that you use identifying information in your story to avoid the risk of writing a personal statement that someone else could’ve written. Your personal statement should make you stand out rather than blend in, and should have quality and depth, and be personal and unique to you.
Here are some important reminders for your personal statement:
- Introduce your personal statement with a unique observation or idea that you will further develop in subsequent paragraphs
- Demonstrate the qualities that make you distinct by choosing experiences that highlight your best characteristics
- Show instead of tell – use a story to talk about your qualities
- Explain ways that you intend to help patients, or reasons you want to help patients
- Maintain the focus of your personal statement on the main character – you!
- Explain your thought process, critical thinking, and decision-making abilities
- Use identifying information to write a personal statement that could have only been written by you
Now that you know the difference between cover letters and personal statements, you’re reading to prepare yourself for medical school! If you find that there’s something we missed or something you would just like to share, please reach out to us at [email protected] – we love to hear from you!
Crystal Carter, Content Marketing Specialist You can stay connected with me on LinkedIn for all of the latest PracticeMatch articles and upcoming events.
Selection Criteria VS Cover Letters
Selection criteria vs. cover letters – there is a difference.
For potential candidates that are sourcing a role in one of the government sectors, Selection Criteria is something you may need to answer. Depending on how well you address each of these could depend on whether you gain an interview spot so it is critical that you get this right.
Most people often don’t realise there is a HUGE difference between a response to Selection Criteria and a Cover Letter.
What is a Selection Criteria response?
- Is no more than 2 pages, addressing Key Responsibilities (or Key Selection Criteria) (4-8 questions)
- Is answering these questions using the STAR method (which is Situation, Task, Action, Result)
- You are required to respond to each question about a “time when” you were in a Situation, doing a specific Task where your Action was required, and then the Result. Use one example per question in a paragraph
- Without this (if the advertisement asks for it), you will not proceed to the next round for interview
What is a Cover Letter?
A Cover Letter is an introduction to yourself, to accompany your resume when you apply for a job.
- Is 1 page only
- Talks about you and why would you be suitable for the role
- Doesn’t cover all your skills (as the resume does this) but more so, it covers your personality traits
- You can talk about 1 main skill they require for the role and HOW you can use this in the new role
- Uses passion and juicy words to attract the reader’s attention
Most people find it more difficult to write a selection criteria response than it is to write a cover letter. The good news though: thinking through examples of your work history to use as answers is also great preparation for your interview.
If you have your heart set on a job that has Selection Criteria, but you don’t know where to start, we recommend you seek professional help.
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Resources > Unitemps Career Advice > Cover letter mistakes and how to avoid them
Cover letter mistakes and how to avoid them
Cover letters seem straightforward enough but there is an art to making them stand out – find out what to avoid if your cover letter is to have the impact you want it to.
1. Don’t write a personal statement
A cover letter should give a brief indication of why you think you are right for this role. You will also want to showcase your passion for the work involved but be wary of writing a statement that is all about you – a personal statement would be a more appropriate document to tell your story and only some employers will want this as part of the application process. A cover letter, on the other hand, ‘covers’ the skills detailed on your CV by going into more detail and demonstrating your ability and how these skills have been put into practice.
2. Keep it succinct
It’s tempting to overload your cover letter with multiple examples of your skills and how you have utilised these in your work so far but the employer needs a short and snappy summary to get through a lot of applications. Instead, save some of your examples and scenarios for the interview stage, where you will be able to talk about your work in much more depth. Your cover letter should be no longer than one page.
3. Don’t repeat your CV
A cover letter shouldn’t simply list your achievements and work to date as this is the task your CV takes care of. Instead, you should reflect your skills and experience using specific examples to back up the information on your CV. Your cover letter is all about proving you’re the right person for the job through clear scenarios, so think about what qualities the employer is looking for and then instances of when you have shown these qualities at work.
4. Format it correctly
Be sure to present the information on your cover letter in the correct style and layout. It’s professional to include your address in the top right column and the address of your employer in the top left column of your letter, regardless of it being sent electronically. You should start the letter with ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ or even by name if you have this information to hand. If you have addressed the receiver as sir or madam, you should sign off with ‘Yours faithfully’. If you have addressed the receiver by name, then ‘yours sincerely’ is best. Check our the Unitemps cover letter template for an example of what to do.
5. Write a new cover letter for every job role
Writing cover letters shouldn’t be rushed – and this means it can be time-consuming and the temptation to copy and paste from previous covering letters is strong. The problem with doing this is that it is often obvious to the employers that you haven’t tailored your skills to the job description. It appears lazy and you can come across as unmotivated straight away – so, if you want your covering letter to have an impact, put the time in and explicitly link your skills and experience to the person specification.
Register with Unitemps to upload your CV and begin applying for jobs straight away.
Last updated on 12 December 2022
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