CV tips – first or third person?

Three reasons you shouldn’t write your CV in the third person…

What does Brand think about writing a CV in the third person? If you asked Brand this question, Brand may reply that Brand finds it a little off-putting to read someone’s name so many times on their own CV… Even typing that sentence was exhausting!

As recruiters, we like to tell ourselves that we are fairly intelligent, and yet our mind can’t come up with any ways in which third person is more effective than first.

1.Third person is SO confusing…

We estimate that around 10% of all CVs that we receive at Brand are written in the third person. Upon reading these CVs our first thought is often that perhaps the candidate started their CV with a testimonial… but then we read on. And get highly confused as it becomes clear that they either got somebody else to write their CV, or they have made the decision to roll with it. In some disciplines, this may be deemed the best way to write a CV, but in our opinion, marketing and PR are not amongst them!

2. Your CV should be about you selling yourself

Although as Brits we sheepishly shy away from it, a CV is all about selling ourselves. We have to represent ourselves in a way that is accurate, positive and appealing to whomever ends up with the pleasure of reading it… We all know that we have achieved some amazing things, and if asked at interview about them, we could reel off ‘this result’ and ‘that success’. So why on your CV would you write it in a way that takes the credit away from you? CVs are about using your initiative to describe yourself in original, truthful words and really focus on the differences you have made for your employers. By using third person, you are implying that you are not willing to shout from the rooftops ‘I DID THIS! AREN’T I BRILLIANT?’, albeit perhaps a tad more discreetly. (Read more CV Tips)

3. The first person comes far more naturally

When she starts writing her CV in the third person, I should not then half way through start talking about myself in the first person… Often when writing in the third person, people end up flipping between the two as it just does not come naturally for us to talk about ourselves as though we are someone else. As you can tell, we advise to always write your CV in the first person, however if you do want to write it in the third person make sure that you stick to this, and keep it consistent.

The honest truth is that both hiring managers and recruiters want a simple, honest CV and we get confused by anything else. Standing by our earlier point, we are intelligent – promise!! Ultimately, clients are using your CV to judge your suitability and whilst they may think you are quirky for using third person, more often than not, they will lean towards the candidates whose CVs are easier to digest. This might seem straightforward, but why shouldn’t it be?

Brand advises looking on their website for more tips and advice on CVs, interviews and more

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Note: This post originally published in July 2015 and has been reworked to include additional content.

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11 Comments

ann martin

I found this very useful as I am returning to work after approx 10 years. My adviser said I should write my cv in the third person which I found contradictory to what I used to do as a recruiter. Thank you for putting my mind at rest that 1st person is fine.

Reply
Alana Walden

Thanks for the comment. I’m glad you found the blog to be useful Ann! We always recommend writing a CV in the first person and it seems like your experience in recruitment supports that!

Reply
Reg

Hi Alana,

I have spent years trying to write the perfect CV as the 3rd person and found you struggle to put punch and structure to it. I could never really sell myself properly and this was so frustrating. I was always told the formal way was the only way as the 3rd person and never as the 1st.

I am going to change my CV and see how this differs from my current experience of next to no response.

Thank you for this tip and will provide an update if I notice a change in response from Jobs/Recruiters.

Reply
Alana Walden

Hi Reg,

Thank you for your comment, and for reading the blog.

I’m glad you found it to be of interest, and that it has inspired you to re-write your CV. We have some more CV tips which you may find useful here: https://www.brandrecruitment.co.uk/candidates/cv-tips/. Good luck with your job search, it would be great to hear how you get on with the new CV style!

Kind regards,
Alana

Reply
Patrick Key

Such a great article! Also, I think is really good idea to have someone who helps you in your resume writing. Resume writing is very important task. If you want to show your skill so at first your need write a great resume. My university teacher recommended me Top5resumeservicereview.com for write a greatest resume.

Reply
I Am A Science Lady

I’ve seen job advertisements requesting CVs written in the third person, and I wonder where this requirement comes from? It seems a bit clunky and pompous, and just an unnatural way to describe one’s qualifications & experience. Is it a fad, or are there any good reasons to write a CV in the third person?

Reply
Jon

Only thing I could think of for why third person would be required is if the company is using some sort of resume scanning software that looks for key words. The name probably gets filtered, as well vs. the letter ‘I’. Just a guess though!

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Jorble Kramboff

I think about it this way: Imagine your C.V./resume is a voice discussing you with your potential employer. Had you rather it come from yourself (e.g., “I did this, that, etc.” Or had you rather it be more like another person (third party) who can speak to your strengths?

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Sharon

Thanks for this, I’m beginning to think it’s only appropriate to write your CV in the third person if you dissociative personality pathology 😉

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Eleanor Freeman

As a careers adviser and recruiter also, I find CVs written in the 1st person to come across mostly as amateurish. The constant, ‘I am’ this and ‘I did’ that, becomes tedious and does not sound professional. A CV is a document to ‘sell’ your achievements and experiences, with the goal to secure an interview. It is at that interview stage that you can add your personality to the application, as it were. But saying all this, it is useful to hear other people’s opinions on this.

Reply
Alana Walden

Hi Eleanor, thank you for sharing your opinion and experience too. That is an interesting point of view.

Reply

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