How The Letter ‘S’ Reveals You On Your Resume


Many people these days seek out the advice and consultative services of career counsellors, professional resume writers, job coaches and advisors. Many more don’t unfortunately, and in competitive job markets, you increasingly need every advantage you can muster to be ultimately successful. So if you are seeking or currently getting this kind of support, I sincerely applaud you.

I would offer you a piece of advice myself however, and that is to carefully scan your resume, cover letter, or any other such document you receive before getting up and walking away. While you might not want to have your need to look over the documents misinterpreted as mistrust or suspicion when talking about the quality of the work done, you name is all over the document.

Let me share with you how the letter, ‘s’ for example can expose you in ways you would not normally suspect, and if pointed out to you for the first time in the middle of an interview, could undermine your confidence completely. It has to do with first person versus third person language.

You might want to pull out your own resume as you read this, and see whether or not this common mistake is actually in your own resume. If it is, my suggestion would be to correct it before you hand out a further resume.

Let’s take as an example, the resume of a Personal Support Worker, where the bullet in question speaks to the persons ability to provide respectful care and the residents right to living with dignity. Examine this statement:

  • Respects residents rights to receive care delivered with compassion to preserve dignity

Okay, so do you see anything wrong with the above statement? While it may or may not be obvious to you, it may be a telling sign to the person reading the resume that you didn’t compose the resume yourself. This may or may not be an issue for you, but it might suggest that not only this one line but the entire document was done by someone else, and that could throw your entire authenticity out the window.

By adding the ‘s’ to the word, ‘respect’ what is inferred is another word, ‘she’ or ‘he’. So it reads, ‘She respects residents rights….” This is the third person language I referred to earlier. It’s as if there is a third person present talking with someone else about you.

First-person language is achieved and is the best practice by eliminating the letter, ‘s’ from the word. So it should look like this:

  • Respect residents rights to receive care delivered with compassion to preserve dignity

With the exclusion of the letter, ‘s’, what is now inferred as you read it is the word, ‘I’ as in, “I respect residents rights…” While the word, “I” should not be used on the resume itself, it is inferred by the reader, and when in first-person language, it rings with authenticity, as you made that statement rather than someone else making that statement about you.

If you were with a group of people and someone said something to the group about what you believe, you might find someone speak up and say, “Really, I’d like to hear that directly from him.” When you say things yourself, it becomes easier to either be believed or revealed depending on the confidence with which you state it. The same is true in this case with the written word versus the spoken word.

So why am I bothering to share this tiny bit of advice with you? Especially if you have had your resume produced by a professional? The simple reason is two-fold; 1) I’ve seen the best of resume writers make this error from time to time, but more often the case, 2) I’ve seen people update their resumes after having them done professionally and make this mistake without even knowing they’ve made it.

Now here’s another leap that some readers will make when they are looking over your resume. Should they find such a mistake, they may go ahead an make some assumptions about you, your education level, your proofreading, your attention to details etc. How ironic if the job calls for strong attention to details and you have mistakes in your document.

It is precisely because your name is at the top of a resume that you should carefully go over your document while still in the presence of the person who is crafting it with you. Find a mistake for example, and you can correct it immediately. There are many people who will present themselves as resume writing experts, and like any other occupation, there will be among them, the good, the great, the average and the poor.

I would like to think that if I were paying someone to help me with the crafting of such a vital document, that when all was said and done, not only would I have the completed resume, but I’d also have an understanding of WHY it was made a certain way, and HOW it was done so I could make revisions in the future on my own. More to the point, as your name is at the top, you should be comfortable asking some questions about anything you’d like clarification on.

Did you find the ‘s’ on your own resume where it should be left out? A small thing perhaps in the grand scheme of things, but critical nonetheless.

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