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“Should You Use First Person in a Resume?” — The Answer

“Should You Use First Person in a Resume?” — The Answer

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First-person point of view, or POV, is a powerful writing style to use, especially when talking about oneself.

Many autobiographies are written in the first person, detailing events and achievements in one’s own life.

Resumes are basically autobiographies of a person’s working life, so do the same rules apply? 


“Should you use first person in a resume?”

You should not use first person in a resume. It is very uncommon to refer to oneself directly on a resume, so resumes written in that style may stand out as odd and distasteful. Resumes should be written without use of any personal pronouns, a style that can be difficult to master. 


First person, second person, third person – Three big mistakes

It’s not only the first-person point of view that should be avoided on a resume but second and third-person as well.

Resumes are always written in a formal voice, while all other styles of writing will sound childish or immature to the reader. 

Let’s look at these different writing styles to ensure that none of them appear on your resume.

First-person POV: A style of writing reliant on I, me, and my types of pronouns. 

  • Example: “I trained a team of 25 employees in security protocol.”

This type of writing is the most misused. It feels natural to use “I” pronouns when talking about oneself, but it comes off as informal, as if you are speaking to a friend.

Second-person POV: A style of writing reliant on “you” pronouns.

  • Example: “You wrote in your job posting that you were looking for an experienced bartender.”

This type of writing should never be on a resume. Speaking directly to an employer through your resume comes off as pretentious, as it is only supposed to be an outline of your skills.

Resumes should only be talking about you and your accomplishments.

Third-person POV: A style of writing reliant on he/she/it pronouns.

  • Example: “References: John Smith – He told me to apply for this position because of a recent opening.

While you may need to reference others when writing a reference section on a resume, it is informal to refer to other people as he or she in formal writing.

If necessary (and it isn’t typically), you should refer to others by name only. 


Why it is bad to write a resume in the first person

While it is important to stand out among other applicants, it is obviously a bad idea to stand out because of a mistake on your resume.

Writing without pronouns is one of the base structural rules that all resumes follow, with other examples being to limit your resume to two pages or to use a regular font

Even if the grammar and content of the resume are sound, breaking a basic resume rule such as the point of view is akin to handing in a resume printed on pink paper.

The employer will be left to wonder why you made such a choice and will question the applicant’s decision-making skills. 

Deviating from these base rules it makes a resume seem off, as if the writer does not understand how resumes are typically put together.

The content of your resume should contain sufficient information to make you stand out among other applicants, so focus on content individuality rather than structural individuality. 


Formal writing voice – the key to a great resume

The style which should be adhered to on a resume is called the “formal writing voice.” This is a style of writing that doesn’t use personal pronouns and is very important to learn when entering the working world.

All resumes should be written in this way without exception. 

Formal writing uses no personal pronouns at all, which is a style that many struggle to get used to.

Sentences may sound or look odd when written this way, as it is very different than how people speak when talking to another person. 

Some also refer to this style of writing as “half-sentences” on a resume because the sentences written without a designated subject sound incomplete to inexperienced writers. Bullet points on a resume are often written without periods for this reason.

Let’s look at some examples of formal writing voice:

  • Led a team of 20 employees in completing construction according to the client’s schedule

Usually, one would see an “I,” “he,” or “they” at the beginning of such a sentence.

When writing resumes, it is left off. The reader already knows who the person is referring to, so this style saves space on a resume. 

This style of writing can become trickier when writing a summary or goals section, as these places are written using periods and longer sentences. Despite these sections being more thorough, they are still written without pronouns. 

An example of such a section is as follows:

A self-starter and dedicated employee with over 8 years of experience in an office setting. Can type over 150 WPM and can multi-task well while ensuring accuracy. Was awarded employee of the year for three years. 

This style takes a lot of getting used to, so it is an excellent idea to give your resume to an experienced colleague or friend to check for errors.

Having a single personal pronoun in a resume will stand out as a glaring error to an employer, so be sure to revise once you are finished writing the base content. 


Cover letters: the exception to the rule

Resumes should never be written in first-person POV, but cover letters should be.

A cover letter is meant as a more personal introduction to an applicant. Therefore, the less formal style of writing fits well. The use of first-person allows the writer to use I, me, and my in their sentences. 

The do’s and don’ts of a cover letter are plentiful, but using first-person POV definitely falls under the “do’s” category.

This gives an employer insight into why you personally wish to work at their company and why you believe yourself to be a good fit.

The use of formal writing in a cover letter isn’t unheard of, but many employers prefer to know applicants a bit more personally through the use of first-person POV.