1st Vs. 3rd Person On Your Resume


Somebody out there may have strong objections with my opinion about today’s blog. However I also know there are some people who will see themselves in the topic and perhaps considering changing their habit of framing resumes in the 3rd person.

For those who might be wondering what I’m even talking about with 1st and 3rd person, what it means is are you writing about yourself, (1st person) or does your resume appear to be done by someone else talking about you, (3rd person).

Here’s a concrete example pulled from a resume so you can see the point I’m making:

1st person: “Work well with others”
3rd person: “Works well with others”

The only difference in the two lines is the addition of the letter, ‘s’ in the first word in the sentence. In grammatical terms, there’s two implied words – one in each sentence that make all the difference. In the first sentence, “I” is implied, as in the statement, “I work well with others.” In the second sentence, “I” won’t sound right, but the word, “He” or “She” does, thus becoming, “He/She works well with others.”

So what’s the big deal? Well to a trained professional at the employers end, they are often looking at the resume as an example of what YOU can produce. If it is stated in the 3rd person, it becomes apparent you didn’t write your resume, and therefore you’re presenting yourself as marketed by someone other than yourself. And then there’s a leap some employers will make from this to seeing you as disingenuous, false, misrepresentative, and your credibility comes into question. All this from the addition of the letter, “s”?

As tough as that sounds, and maybe even as unfair as that sounds, there’s only one thing worse, and that’s flip-flopping back and forth between 1st and 3rd person on your resume; and your resume is your own personal marketing document. What you are now communicating with this error, is that you a) don’t realize you are doing this, or b) know you are doing this and couldn’t care less about fixing it. And if you are this sloppy on something important to you like your own resume, imagine how sloppy you’ll be in you come and work for me!

This error, which is a red flag to a trained resume expert, betrays the intervention therefore of a third-party. Now I’d argue that getting the help of a professional resume writer should perhaps be viewed as a smart thing on your part, where you’ve recognized that someone could do a better job of representing you on paper and you’ve taken them up on this. And were this always the case, you wouldn’t see this glaring error often.

But you see when people seek out help from someone else with their resume, they often don’t go to a resume professional. Too often it’s their mom, sibling, daughter, brother-in-law, friend, neighbour etc. Just because that person; whoever they are, is good at whatever it is they do for a living, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they have the skills necessary to compose a strong resume. Their errors and shortcomings will become yours.

And if you can barely use a computer, or you have trouble with keyboards and it would take you days to type your resume, I can see the attraction in getting someone; anyone, to do the thing up for you, especially if it’s free. But is it free? How much will it really cost you in the long run if you aren’t getting interviews with your poor resume? Jobs you may well be entirely qualified for may not be offered to you because on paper, you don’t come across as well as you could.

Now not everybody must pay for a resume done by a professional who does them for a living. So this isn’t a commercial pushing you to pay for a resume professional. This is about a single resume-issue that you can benefit from knowing about. There are many resume issues both big and small that mark the difference between a poor resume, a good resume, and a winning resume. If this is truly only one very small but important part of a resume and you didn’t even know the difference before reading about it, imagine the other things on a resume that might send messages to an employer you never intended!

Need another quick example of something small that you might want to look at on your resume if you got someone else to do it for you or used some old out-of-date template? Okay, look at your contact information way up at the top of the resume. Just before your phone number, do you have the word, “Phone”, as in “Phone (786) 663-9112”? Do you have the word, “Email” just before your email address? Get rid of these. Any employer can tell a phone number or email without you tipping them off.

Just a couple of very small but important items that will help you craft a stronger resume that better presents yourself.

Cheers!

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6 thoughts on “1st Vs. 3rd Person On Your Resume

  1. What is a trained resume expert? In my 27 years in recruiting and outplacement I use to train managers at companies’ on how to read resumes. I have never come close to seeing a trained? resume reader either in management or in HR.

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    1. Thanks Russ for adding to a conversation that I think is significant to have. Your 27 years training Managers on how to read resumes is substantial and certainly qualifies you to have quite an informed opinion!

      I’m surprised you haven’t run in to people over your years who portray themselves as, ‘Resume Experts’. I know I encounter them all the time. No matter however. Why even yourself, as someone whose been training others on how to read them for almost three decades would certainly come to mind as someone who must surely know a great deal about what employers look for, and how the marketing helps or hinders a person in the interview aspirations.

      A trained resume expert need not have a formal degree in resume writing, but certainly may have a wealth of experience accumulated over time which should not be dismissed and discounted. HR personnel usually don’t have the resume technique down pat as you assert, and there I agree with you. Their expertise is in other areas.

      There are some who doubt the existence of the ‘resume expert’; and I’ve run into many masquerading as such. But they’re out there Russ!

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    1. Linda I’d say it’s time to get that resume looking at by a professional (namely me). Of course I’d want to know if the resume is getting you interviews and if so, how many vs. how many you’re sending out.

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  2. I am a technical illustrator and people want to see what I can do. Is it okay to put that in the text of my resume or how do I handle it? Thanks for the help, I have been using the third person and I am going to change.

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    1. Glad to hear you’ll make the transition to first person in you resume Randy. As for your question, by all means you should identify yourself as a Technical Illustrator (use capital letters as I have because the title is a proper noun). You’ll want to indicate that you have a portfolio of some of your work in order to demonstrate your skills and abilities.

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