First person or third person in resumes

First published in Cynopsis Classified Advantage

OK this is a controversial one. Goodness me a lot of hot air and opinion and conformity and so-called best practice rules and heaven knows what else surround the topic of resumes. But still there are so many dreary, uniform, uninformative and obfuscatory resumes in the world.

I know, I know, you want to optimize your resume for search engines – well go ahead and do that and let the matching begin – good luck with that. Let me know how it goes.
But when there is going to be a human being involved, appeal to their humanity. Most often they are looking not just for someone who can do the job but also for someone they can face running into at the salad bar.

They are looking for a person who can rock the job. So be a person. Show some humanity in your resume so that the reader will think – this person has such great energy and passion. They should get a feeling that you like what you do and are proud of your achievements. They should want to meet you. Wouldn’t that be nice?!

I’ve been asked whether it’s acceptable to write a summary for one’s resume in the first person or should it be in the third. As far as I’m concerned the answer is whatever makes sense, feels comfortable and communicates what you want to communicate. Here is the response I recently gave a senior executive who asked if it was acceptable for him to use the first person:
“It is acceptable to me. I believe it is more engaging to a reader – implies more passion and commitment on your part. After all you are presenting yourself. It makes it more active = less passive. Makes me feel there’s a person in there.”

The response from that executive was: “I think you nailed the issue: how will it be perceived? Historically i have always looked at it from the perspective that it’s just business, not personal. So I’ve always removed that kind of stuff…but then I haven’t been hitting it out of the park lately so it’s time to try something different.”

So don’t give in to conformity if that doesn’t convey who you are. And do remember that if there is a person reading the resume then they are likely to be seeing very many almost identical resumes – all conforming to some imaginary set of rules. Be the standout: whether in the first person or third, be the person who moves them to action.