Use of Personal Pronouns in a Résumé

To make a short story long:

(With profound apologies to Rudyard Kipling.)

So now I’m updating my résumé, and I’ve run into a bit of a quandary. Last time I worked on it, back in the Dark Ages, I was given to understand that using a personal pronoun was absolutely verboten; but a couple of items in my recent history just sound clumsy as all hell unless I do just that. I’ve checked a number of web resources, but they don’t seem to care one way or another. That being the case, there’s only one thing to do: throw myself on the mercy of the Dope. So, is the rule I was given lo these many years ago still in effect (if it ever really was), or is it all a load of bushwa?

Thanks(!) in advance for any and all guidance.

I say there is no reason for having any "I"s or "My"s on a Resume. Of course you did whatever it is that’s on your resume, because if you didn’t, well, then why the heck is it on there? Easier just to drop them:

I was responsible for spanking monkeys, riding llamas, and singing with Elephants.

[li]Responsible for spanking monkeys, riding llamas, and singing with Elephants[/li][/ul]

I would either not use them, as in **treis’s ** example, or write strictly in the third person about yourself.

Mr. CookingWithGas was responsible for spanking monkeys, riding llamas, and singing with Elephants. He accomplished all three simultaneously on one occasion. This earned him great acclaim from his executive management.

I agree that you should not write a résumé in the first person, regardless.

As for referring to other people besides yourself with personal pronouns, I doubt that is what you’re asking but I can’t imagine why you would need to.

I think the biggest reason to write in the third person is that it makes the reader think someone is talking about you - and it makes the information seem more objective.

If you write in first person, it often comes across like you are bragging or name-dropping or just being a bit obnoxious.

Another vote for still avoiding personal pronouns. Starting each bullet point with the now-legendary action verbs gets you off to a good start.

Spanked monkeys in compliance with ISO 9000.
Increased departmental llama-riding capacity by 15%.
Sang with multinational team of elephants. Received Grammy award in 2001.

People really do that? I can’t imagine how you would be able to do an entire Resume in 3rd person. Wouldn’t all the "Mr CookingWithGas"s get distracting after a while?

In all my years of recruiting I have never seen a resume written other than in the first person. I imagine I have read many hundreds. I would consider it weird to see someone write about themselves in that way.

Point(s) taken. Out they go. I have to reorient my thinking — the object of the exercise isn’t literary elegance, it’s to get the relevant information communicated in a (reasonably) effective manner. So it’s off to rewrite.

treis, how the hell did you know what my job entailed? (But we’re still working on the ISO 9000 certification.)

Can you give an example?
The reason I ask is that I’m having a hard time imagining an entry on a resume that would require use of the first person singular. I think what may be going on is that you are (understandably) getting thrown off by the conventions of resume speak. It probably feels unnatural to you since, as you say, it’s been a while since you had to deal with writing a resume.
I second what treis and Harriet the Spy said.
Here’s what I would do. On your first pass for the resume, just go through and write it the way that feels natural to you: “I revamped our network architecture to work with our Tokyo and New York offices. I implemented a three tier customer support network.”
Then, on the second pass, just go through and strike out all the pronouns:

  • revamped network architecture to work with Tokyo and New York offices
  • implemented three tier customer support network

Writing a resume is like any other writing project. Do a shitty first draft just to get everything down on paper. Don’t worry about format. Just get the words down on paper.

Then go back through and revise.

My experience as a hiring manager:

I skim looking for the things I want in a programmer - and I don’t give a rat’s behind if people use personal pronouns or not.

Maybe it is more important in non-technical jobs, but as a software manager, I just want someone who has the background I need.

That surprises me. In the last 20 years of hiring I have seen just about everything, including a resume for a “softwear engineer” and a QA candidate who “pays close atention to detail.” I’ve seen first person, third person, and no person. First person resumes are the rarest I have seen, and I have read hundreds, maybe even into the thousands.

I guess there are different approaches to this. I actually don’t care what person they write in. However, if someone has the “right background” but writes a shitty resume then I’ll be concerned about how he communicates and how organized his thinking is, regardless of how many languages he can list.

Come on you stole that from my post to this thread Work Jokes - Does Your Job Have It’s Own :

Someone recently applied for a job with our team. In his application he emphasized his capacity to maintain quality standards because of his attantion of details.

When checking something for someone else now it has become the standard response, “Joe this looks OK to me, good attantion of details,” or “Joe these numbers don’t agree with the report we did last month. Come on man, attantion of details.”

Mind you Americans send “thank you for interviewing me” notes which in Australia would cause you to be culled even if you had been the best interviewee.

I updated my resume recently and also had difficulty describing some of the more recent things. I don’t think the reason was pronoun usage though. I had trouble with verb tense. All of the old stuff was, of course, in past tense. But I felt that if I continued using past tense, then it sounded like I was no longer employed. But everyone I asked to proofread said that it gave an uneven sound to use both tenses.

Why would that cause you to be culled?

Because everyone I know who sits on interview panels thinks that it is really creepy, akin to stalking or arse kissing. I asked lots of people when I first heard about it here and universally people thought it cast the sender in a poor light.

Arse-kissing has been raised to a high art form in the U.S. :smiley:

Wow. If I got a resume in the third person I think I’d throw it away without even considering the person. Or I’d frame it and pull it out whenever I wanted a good laugh. “Look at the resume this dumbass turned in…”

I’m definitely in the “use first person” camp. It just sounds so much more natural.

I’m getting my MBA and the Career Center advocates using the “no person” or “implied first person” tense. The reader assumes it is you.

Rarely do we see this on the first day of a new hire-

Boss: Ok, Johnson. I need you to disengage the reactor and re-configure it.
Johnson: I cannot do that.
Boss: But you resume said…
Johnson: HEY! You didn’t see MY name on that bullet item, did you?!
Boss: You’ve got me THIS time, Johnson!

Pretty much like these items. One tip, though. Don’t use past tense if there is anything current about the item.

For instance, you would put “Received Grammy award in 2001.” in past tense, as it was a one shot deal. But, if you still have the possiblitiy of spanking a monkey, put “Spanks” and not “Spanked.” Don’t want to look like you are so out of practice spanking a monkey. (Although, in this case, it is like riding a bicycle!)

One final tip. Quanitify results whenever possible. Don’t just say “Did this and saved the company money.” Say something like “Did this which provided a 12% savings in shipping” or “$800,000.”