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Of course, y’all know there is no “perfect” personal statement, right? Below is the outline of a presentation I gave to master’s students in the Department of Health Policy and Management. Note that these tips apply to any type of “personal statement,” including for jobs, fellowships, academic programs, colleges, etc. You might also think of these tips as fodder for interviews.

This is the quick version, so please let me know if any parts need clarification. Also, this type of statement may have different names, e.g., statement of purpose.



  • Identify your qualifications (strengths, goals, skills)
  • Identify what the employer/program wants from an employee/student/fellow
  • Match the results

The first step is to see whether you should proceed with the application. If your qualifications align well, proceed, and if not, do not proceed, which can be the harder choice. If you are matched on some aspects and not others, you will have to decide whether other factors make the application worthwhile….and how you can improve the fit between your qualifications and their needs.

This type of exercise will help you give yourself an honest assessment of your chances of success, both with the application and in the position or program. Your goal should be to find opportunities that are a good match.

Statement Characteristics

: Provide an authentic picture of yourself and how you are unique

  • Describe experiences and events that shaped your personality
  • Explain your values, goals and the professional experiences you seek
  • Demonstrate how you can meet the organization’s needs

This statement IS:

  • A picture of you – now and in the future
  • An invitation
  • An indication of priorities and judgment
  • Your (authentic) story

This statement IS NOT:

  • An academic paper with you as the subject
  • A resume in narrative form
  • A journal entry
  • A direct “please hire me” justification

Format: See the employer’s/program’s requirements and adhere to them.

Elements of good writing
(in general):

  • Have a purpose.
  • Write clearly and concisely.
  • Have a beginning, middle and end (good construction).
  • Avoid repeating other parts of your application.

The personal in personal statement

  • Who am I?
  • Who do I want to be?
  • What kind of contribution do I want to make and how?
  • Why does it make sense for me to be part of this organization? Take advantage of this opportunity?

After you complete your best personal statement, consider whether you are still a good match for this position, program or college.


Sources: Definition of a Personal Statement, Mary Hale Tolar, online; Resumes and Personal Statements for Health Professionals, James Tysinger.


Additional Notes

Follow all application instructions exactly! The easiest way for selection committees to reduce the number of applications to be considered is to reject submissions that do not follow instructions, e.g., for margins or word count or content focus.

If you search online for “personal statement” examples and advice, you will find A LOT of information. Please make sure that you carefully consider any such advice (including mine) so that your result is the best representation of YOU!