Should You Write Your Resume in 1st or 3rd Person?

There are voices in your head, competing for your attention all the time. They’re trying to sneak onto your resume.

So which one should you listen to? Should you be “I” or “she” or “he”?

One of the first decisions you need to make before starting to write your resume is whether you want to write in the 1st or 3rd person.

Throughout the few past decades, there’s been an ongoing discussion about which voice to use in your career documents.

And HR expert’s views have been changing, too, taking different sides every time.

But don’t worry, we’ve sorted this issue out for you. Here’s the contemporary approach to the dilemma of writing your resume in the 1st or 3rd person.

First person, third person and pronouns

The secret to a fresh, outstanding resume is to remove the pronouns entirely.

Pronouns are redundant. Try it for yourself—get rid of all instances of ‘I’, ‘he’ or ‘she’ from your resume. It won’t change a thing. Their use is implied and everyone will know who you’re talking about.

What’s more, pronouns take up a lot of space on your resume that you could fill with verbs and adjectives instead. Without them, your resume can start to breathe more freely and make your skills and experience shine.

Let’s take a look at an example:

  • First person: ‘I managed a stock room of 20,000+ items.’
  • Third person: ‘He managed a stock room of 20,000+ items.’

Sure, you could get away with either of the two. On the other hand, there are just too many reasons that make them useless in modern resume writing.

Third person feels rather strange. When was the last time you’ve heard someone refer to themselves as “he”, “she” or…”Mike”? 😅

When it comes to the first person, using it you can easily come across as a bit boring, repetitive or egocentric.

Now remove the pronouns:

  • ‘Managed a stock room of 20,000+ items.’

Wow! Can you see that? This phrasing is far more effective and concise.

You can avoid the inevitably repetitive pronouns. And the whole resume will, in turn, read far more naturally.

By using this approach, you’ll soon be able to craft short, succinct bullet points speaking of your past achievements.

What if you still want to use pronouns?

But even after reading all this, it might be too hard for you to say goodbye to your pronouns.

That’s perfectly fine. You just need to stay aware of their function.

You should definitely feel free to write your resume in either first or third person. Both of them are acceptable but they can be tricky to work with.

First things first. If you do decide to use a pronoun, be careful to follow suit and use the same pronoun throughout your resume.

Consistency is key. Jumping from 1st to 3rd person pronouns—and leaving them out from time to time too—can easily result in not getting invited to a job interview.

First person

Using the 1st person to talk about yourself sounds very logical. It’s also more direct, engaging and personal.

But as soon you’ve used the word “I” once, it becomes really tricky.

If you want to stay consistent, you’ll have to start repeating yourself—or come up with very innovative ways to keep your I’s in check. 

Last but not least, use 1st person pronouns sound informal, even unprofessional.

Which means that unless you’re applying for a highly creative position, you should steer clear of using it at all.

Third person

Third person is accepted as a standard resume convention. Looking a bit too formal, it keeps your resume impersonal and reduces the chance of sounding too egocentric.

This style also creates the distance necessary to enable the HR manager to focus on your skills and value rather than your personality.

If you decide to go with 3rd person, however, don’t use your name to say things about yourself. Starting off with “Shervin is an expert in…” will come across at best strange and at worst slightly creepy.

After finishing your resume, read it aloud for yourself and try to evaluate the tone of its voice.

If it makes the impression that you wrote your resume as a testimonial or if it sounds like you’ve got somebody else to write your resume, the work is not over yet.

Back to basics

At the end of the day, it’s facts that matter. Everybody knows you’re going to talking about yourself in your resume. So using a pronoun feels just like bringing sand to the beach.

The plain truth is that HR managers and recruiters crave for a simple, honest resume. They’ll always lean towards candidates whose resumes are easier to digest. And the fewer pronouns there are, the less time they’ll have to spend reading it.

A standout pronoun-free resume will focus on content loaded words such as nouns, verbs and adjectives. Anything else is an obstacle that recruiter’s eyes will have to jump over.

This is why you need to weed out any confusing or unnecessary elements and keep only those that are there for a reason.

Let’s sum it up

This article has brought light to a couple of pain points in a job seeker’s resume. If you decide to put them into practice, you’re sure to become a well-versed resume creator with an impeccable career document in your hands.

Here are 4 basic rules for a simple but powerful resume:

  • Write in the past tense.
  • Focus on things you have achieved.
  • Write in the 3rd person but eliminate any pronouns.
  • Use short bullet points to strip out any unnecessary fillers words.

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