Just to be clear, first person is usually used to write about yourself. “I did that, those skills are mine”, whereas third person usually relates to someone else – “He did that, those skills are his”.
On the face of it, it seems obvious which you should use; it’s your career, so you’d write in the first person, right? Well, not necessarily. Let’s take a look at the various arguments in each case.
First person on your CV
Writing your CV in the first person is probably the most natural approach. After all, it’s your CV, explaining your career and your successes. “I am a successful Sales Executive” sounds reasonable and is easy to write. It’s also more direct and personal. This appeals to the recruiter as a human being and presents you as a real person. If you want to present the reader with an impression of the person behind the career, this is a sensible approach.
However, there are drawbacks to this approach. Once you’ve said “I” once, you’re going to have to repeat it. A lot. “I did this, I did that, I did something else”…it soon starts to sound boring and egocentric. It’s also mainly used on the most junior CVs. This might not help if you’re trying to progress up the career ladder.
Third person on your CV
Third person writing is the conventional way of writing a CV. It brings a hint of formality, making the document appear more polished and professional. There are benefits to writing your CV like this – after all, business is not personal. A recruiter wants to hire someone who can deliver the right results for the company, so a less personal style enables the reader to focus on the value you can add rather than your personal attributes.
On the other hand, writing in the third person can feel somewhat unnatural and takes a bit of getting used to. You’ll have to work hard on maintaining consistency throughout the CV if you’re not used to writing in this style.
The expert’s advice?
At CV Knowhow, our CVs are written in the silent third person. You’ll find this is the standard approach, particularly once you’re past entry-level roles. The silent third person eliminates pronouns, enabling you to write more concisely, with less repetition, in a more professional tone.
As an example:
First person: I am a successful Sales Executive specialising in educational textbooks.
Third person: He is a successful Sales Executive specialising in educational textbooks.
Silent third person: A successful Sales Executive specialising in educational textbooks.
Third person on your LinkedIn profile
The benefit of writing your LinkedIn profile in the third person is that, if you’ve taken our advice above, you can often copy and paste your CV directly into your profile. You’ll need to be extra careful, in this case, to ensure that your CV doesn’t contain any commercially sensitive information that your current or previous employers may not want plastered all over the internet.
However, by doing this, you’ll miss an opportunity to tell potential employers something new and interesting about you, that didn’t feature on your CV.
First person on your LinkedIn profile
CV Knowhow advocates a first person approach for LinkedIn. After all, it’s a social media platform and therefore a more relaxed way of communicating than a CV. It’s fine to let your personality shine through more here, as the very essence of LinkedIn is networking. Make your profile stand out and present yourself as an approachable and open person by using the first person style to wipe away the formal and impersonal style of your CV.
The golden rule
Whichever style you select, keep it consistent. Choose first or third person and stick to it through the whole document. Switching between the two styles is sloppy and confusing – not the impression you want to create!
If you’d like the experts at CV Knowhow to check through your finished CV for you, why not take advantage of our free review service?
About the author: Jen David has been a CV Consultant since 2010 and currently works for CV Knowhow, the UK’s leading career and CV writing consultancy. She has written CVs for thousands of job seekers from all industries and at all stages in their career, from students to senior executives. Jen aims to add value to CVs, enabling her customers to increase their chances of securing an interview and progress in their chosen career.