Resume and LinkedIn 1st Vs. 3rd Person


You might be guilty of making a fundamental flaw on your resume or CV that’s turning off employer’s from inviting you in for an interview; thereby curtailing your chances of employment. Many of the people I help construct resumes with come to me after first having had others write their resume and they are entirely unaware of this error.

So what’s the problem? The issue has to do with the inclusion of the letter, ‘s’ at the end of words which changes the resume from first person to third person language. In other words, instead of talking about yourself on paper, it now appears that someone else is talking about you; in short, you didn’t write your own resume. So what’s the problem with this you ask? If you didn’t write your own resume, the employer still doesn’t have a sample of your written communication skills and it may appear to them to be disingenuous; a falsehood or an attempt to come across as dishonest at worse. Honesty and integrity being two key values employers see as positive traits they see you now as lacking.

Look at these two bullets to describe customer service we might see on the fictional person Brenda’s resume:

  • Ensures excellent customer service
  • Ensure excellent customer service

The first bullet is in 3rd person language because what’s presumed to be the first word before the sentence is the word, ‘Brenda’. So it reads, ‘Brenda ensures excellent customer service.” This is what someone other than Brenda herself would say about Brenda, hence the 3rd person language.

The second bullet is in 1st person language because what’s presumed to be the first word before the sentence is the word, “I”. So it reads, “I ensure excellent customer service.” This is what Brenda herself would say, hence it’s in 1st person language.

That single, ‘s’ is a blatant giveaway to a trained and skilled company representative who is going over received resumes and shortlisting those to interview and those to pass up on. Look, the resume is supposed to be your personal marketing document; an example of something you’ve produced which is an example of your best work. After all, presumably you want to get to the interview stage and get an interview, so anyone reading your resume will guess this is the best example of your writing skills because there’s a lot riding on this resume for you and you’ve taken some time to carefully craft it and go over it for mistakes.

Now I don’t always know who has put together this resume when a person brings it to me for editing or a complete overhaul. Therefore I don’t know about the education, attention to detail, grammatical skills or experience of the person who penned it. What I do know is that the person sitting before who got that person to write it for them almost always is completely oblivious to the 1st vs. 3rd person writing, and when it’s pointed out to them, it doesn’t take long for them to see my point. In fact, most people look ahead and find other examples of 3rd person language in their resume. This is good, because by explaining the two writing styles, they are empowered to note these occurrences on their own and they avoid this mistake when penning their own in the future.

I have had conversations with some local and international interviewers on this topic, and I can assure you I’m not splitting hairs over some trivial matter. In the last week, 6 of these individuals have told me outright that if they read 3rd person language on the person’s resume, they immediately wonder about the validity of the information they are reading. They figure that if someone else did the actual typing, maybe that person actually came up with all the information too, so how close is what’s on paper with the person whose name is at the top of the resume?

The impact of 3rd person language could go as far as turning off the interviewer to the point they scrap the whole resume and move to another applicant.

Now, getting a professional to sit down with you and craft a resume is still an outstanding strategy to use when you want to apply for a job; a job you really want and therefore want to make a really well-tailored resume for. It’s up to you however to refuse to accept that document that ends up being produced without actually reading it and taking ownership for what’s on it. It never ceases to amaze me when I point out errors on a resume and the person comes back with a statement like, “I didn’t do it. I had it professionally done by someone else.”

Not only does the above statement tell me that the person shouldn’t have blindly trusted the ghost resume writer, it also tells me that they don’t understand that because it is their name at the top of the resume, they are responsible for everything on the page – including the content and the grammar of the writer.

Use first person language on your LinkedIn profile too, unless of course you want to come across as not having wrote your own content or having weak grammar skills. Sometimes it’s the simple things we overlook or don’t even know about that are hurting our chances.

So if you didn’t know before, now you do.

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