How To Write a Personal Testimony
How to Write a Personal Testimonial About Yourself
A personal testimonial is a tool you may use to apply for a variety of positions. You may have to write a personal testimonial for a college application, for example. A personal testimonial may also be important when applying for a job. Whatever your reasons for needing a testimonial, writing about yourself is never an easy task. Neither bragging nor being modest is likely to serve you well. Start by asking yourself the right questions and brainstorming carefully. Then, move on to writing and revising your testimonial. Focus on what's unique about you and why you'd make a great addition to the institution in question.
Brainstorming Before Writing
Read the prompt or job advertisement closely.Mark key words and phrases. Doing so will help you determine what to address in your personal testimony. For instance, if the job advertisement includes a requirement for managerial experience, organizational skills, and familiarity with particular software, you will want to be sure to address these topics in your writing.
- If you are applying for more than one position, you may notice some overlap in the job requirements. At this point, it may be helpful to create a list that organizes the positions according to key words or phrases. In other words, make a list of positions categorized according to job requirements (e.g., managerial experience, organizational skills, and so forth). This list can serve as a guide later as you revise your personal testimony to fit each particular position.
Reflect on your professional experience.Start with the phrases you have highlighted and create a list of past work experiences that demonstrate your capability in these required areas.
- If you have worked a lot during your university years or recent work experience, what have you learned (leadership or managerial skills, for example), and how has that work contributed to your growth? What are your career goals?
- Make a list of the skills you possess (e.g. leadership, verbal communication, analytical) and think of an example for each of those skills. Alternately, identify one example that relates to all (or the majority) of the skills you listed.
Write a list of personal attributes.You can also create a list of your personal characteristics (e.g. integrity, compassion, persistence) that would relate to the positions for which you are applying, as well as challenges that you have overcome.
- Be sure that you can clearly connect these personal attributes to a particular professional example. You’ll need to be able to demonstrate an instance when you were persistent or demonstrated compassion that connects to the job at hand.
Determine your reasons for applying.Itemizing your reasons for applying to a particular organization or company will help you identify how your skill sets, goals, and experience align with those of the organization or company to which you are applying.
- Questions like these will get you started:
- When did you become interested in this area and what has motivated your interest and reinforced your belief that you are suited to this field?
- How have you learned about this field? Was it through courses, journals, seminars, work or other experiences, or conversations with other professionals?
- Questions like these will get you started:
Consider whether photo and video content is a possibility.If the testimonial will be submitted online, you may be able to include unique content in your testimonial. If you're applying for a job in a creative field, finding a way to include photos and videos can benefit you. If you're applying for a job as a makeup artist, for example, a few photos of your past clients or a link to your website could help you stand out. If you're applying for a job in film, see if you can include a link to any videos you've produced online.
Developing the Specifics
Answer the questions that are asked.If you are writing to several organizations, you may find questions in each application that are similar. However, craft a personal testimony for each application. You want to make sure you address any specific questions about your qualifications.
- If slightly different answers are needed, be sure to create different statements for each application, and make sure your answer fits the question being asked.
- You may not need to rewrite your entire statement for each organization or position, however. Start with small changes, such as changing your wording to echo the job advertisement.
- You may find that there are overlaps between the questions you need to answer for each statement. In this case, you can reuse sections that you have written for a previous testimony. Just make sure you change the name of the organization or company.
Research a company's ethics and culture.The organization or company to which you are applying wants to know that you are interested in them. They might even ask you to address this question in your personal testimony. Do some research to find out what sets them apart from other organizations and make your writing reflect that research.
- Even if the company or organization does not ask specifically why you are interested in them, your writing should demonstrate your interest. You can do this by including examples and evidence that would be important to them and which are suggestive of what you can do for them in the future, if offered the position.
- Specify qualifications you have that would make you a good fit. For example, say you did Peace Corps after college and are applying for a political science master program focusing in international relations. Talk about what you learned about issues in other parts of the world during your service.
Find the right approach for your experience.If you are like many people, your life story may seem to lack excitement. Figuring out a way to make it interesting becomes the big challenge. Finding an angle or providing a storyboard is vital to a quality personal testimonial.
- Think about what's unique about you. If you were to define yourself as a person, what experience would you draw upon to do so? Maybe your family has a long background in grassroots political action. You've done campaign work for every election since you were seven.
- This story could be a great start for a personal testimonial for a job in politics. You could start off writing something like, "I say, without exaggeration, that I've been involved in the Democratic process since elementary school." You can emphasize your lifelong commitment to politics, bringing up related education and work experiences as you go.
Be specific about your qualifications.Do not simply state that you would make an excellent doctor, sales manager, or graduate student. Instead, back it up with specific reasons and evidence. Your desire to become a lawyer, engineer, and so forth should be logical, the result of specific experience that is described in your statement.
- What makes you a good candidate for a particular position? This is your chance to brag. Bring up past work experience and any awards or honors you've received. Talk about your publications, if you have them.
- Go into detail about your skill set. If you're applying for an administrative position, include your typing speed. If you're applying for a software company, list all the softwares and computer programs you're proficient in running.
Use evidence to show your talents.Backing up your claims with concrete evidence helps you persuade your audience. This also gives them reasons to trust you and believe what you are saying about yourself. It's okay to brag a little in this section. This is your chance to prove yourself.
- For instance, if you claim that one of your strong qualities is your leadership ability, give details about work where you have taken on a leadership role and state how your leadership was integral to the success of the team. If you won any awards for leadership, state them.
- If you have worked in a managerial position, state how many people worked under you, and give an example about an initiative that you lead. Emphasize the outcomes of that initiative and link it to work that you could do in the new position for which you are applying.
- Use current examples and data.For instance, if you are using a percentage of quarterly profit increases to demonstrate your business savvy, use the most recent data available to you rather than the profit increases from ten years ago. If you use dated data, your potential employers might wonder if you are avoiding a discussion of your current productivity because your numbers are low.
- If you are including testimonials as evidence, use ones from experts in your field. For example, say you're applying to a nonfiction graduate program. Mention that John D'agata reviewed your senior thesis and include any positive comments he made.
Overview any specific knowledge you have that would be useful to the organization.The middle section of your statement might detail your interest and experience in your particular field, as well as some of your knowledge of the field. Be as specific as you can in relating what you know about the area. Use language the professionals use in communicating this information.
- Use jargon here that is relevant to the position. Make sure you use jargon correctly, so you look like you have in-depth understanding of a particular field. For example, say you're applying to a graduate program in English literature. Talk about what genres of literature you're most interested in studying, and the type of analysis that most interests you. Are you interested in post-colonial studies, feminist studies, postmodernism, for example?
- Highlight your most relevant work experience. If you are applying to work in a biology lab, don’t tell them about volunteering at the local animal shelter. Describe your work experience in a biology lab and emphasize an important discovery you made or skill you gained.
Include a story.People are naturally drawn to stories. If you can find a way to incorporate a brief story in your testimonial, this can help set you apart. Make sure you pick a story that highlights what you can bring to an organization. Talk about a time you resolved a conflict at work. Discuss a personal triumph that changed your attitude for the better. Make sure the story is appropriate, however, and try to avoid anything that could constitute over-sharing.
Polishing Your Personal Testimony
Find creative ways to set yourself apart.If your statement is fresh, lively, and different, you will be putting yourself ahead of the pack. If you distinguish yourself through your account, you will make yourself memorable.
- Find ways to write with attitude. It's okay to be a little creative in a personal testimonial. People reading through testimonials likely sift through hundreds each day. A fun opening line can really set you apart. Let's return to the example of applying for a job in politics. You campaigned with your family when you were young. Try opening with something like, "Picture a 4 foot tall 8 year-old passionately handing out yard signs to middle-aged soccer moms in a typical Midwestern neighborhood. There you have my introduction to the political process in America."
- Address possible objections. This can set you apart. Imagine what hesitations a reader may have about you. For example, "I may come off as a bit young or a bit naive, but I believe my youth only reinforces my passion and energy for politics."
Make sure your opening paragraph is solid.The opening paragraph is generally the most important. It is here that you grab the interview panel’s attention or lose it. This paragraph becomes the framework for the rest of the statement.
- Try for a fun and attention-grabbing opening line. Do not begin with something that sounds too generic. If you wrote something like, "I'm a 27 year-old content marketer looking for fresh experience," try to rewrite it in a more entertaining, energetic fashion. For example, "I've been in love with the world of marketing since finishing college 5 years ago, and I'm ready for some fantastic new challenges."
- Read through your opening paragraph several times to make sure there are no typos. If readers are shifting through hundreds of personal testimonies, a typo is a good reason to discard one. Make sure you whole statement, but especially your opening paragraph, is typo-free.
Cut any irrelevant information.Be sure that every example and every sentence connects to the questions or topics you need to address in your personal testimony. Cut out any extraneous information.
- It would be a good idea to return to the job advertisement as you read through your testimony to remind yourself of the key words and phrases you highlighted. Check that everything in your statement connects to the topics and requirements you noted earlier. Delete anything that does not relate.
- Delete any references to experiences or accomplishments from high school or before unless you have just graduated from high school.
- Look for anything that could be interpreted as possibly controversial—anything, for instance, that suggests a particular religious or political affiliation.
- In general, don't include personal information such as your age, marital status, or race, unless it is relevant to the job position.
Stick to the word requirements.Never go over the word limit; be as concise as possible. Going over the word limit shows a lack of consideration for the time constraints of the person reading your document and also suggests that you can’t get to the point in an efficient manner.
Proofread carefully.Type and proofread your personal testimony very carefully. If your work includes typos or grammar errors, the person reading your document will think you are unprofessional. You want to be sure to make a good impression, even before people meet you, by submitting a polished testimony.
Have someone else read your work.Regardless of how good of a writer you are, asking someone else to read over your testimony will help you catch any remaining typos or errors. Ask a friend or family member with good writing skills to help you.
- Alternately, pay a professional editor. Spending a little extra money on polishing your personal testimony might just land you your dream job!
- Focus on your core abilities and positive attributes.
- Keep it clear, succinct, and to the point.
- Focus on specific accomplishments.
- Don't go over two or at most three pages in your statement.
- Try to commit your statement to memory. You never know when or where you might meet a potential employer.
Sources and Citations
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