So contractors, should a CV ever be written in the third-person?

The topic of having a CV written in third-person perspective reared its ugly head (from all perspectives!) recently, and caused a right old ding dong online.

The ‘He’ and ‘She’-led CV was passionately discussed on its own perceived strengths and weaknesses, and then had its qualities pitted against that of the traditional CV mode – first-person perspective, writes Matt Craven, founder of The CV & Interview Advisors.

First, second, third -- explained

Before I wade into this quite divisive topic, please note that for all things CV, whether it’s coronavirus-inspired or not, or just a CV query you’ve got as lockdown lifts, I’m hosting a free ContractorUK webinar on Monday June 29th.

Now back to Matt Craven and his thoughts on third-person CV writing. Well, to do this topic justice, Matt will clearly define what he means by third-person writing – although I think you’re already getting the gist! A look at both first-person and second-person perspectives is worthwhile too.

First-person uses pronouns such as ‘I’ and ‘my;’ second-person uses pronouns such as ‘you’ and ‘yours,’ and third-person writes from another person’s perspective i.e. as an outsider looking in, using pronouns such as ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’ or ‘they’. To avoid pronouns, it can also use the person’s name.

So, which of these styles is correct for a CV? The answer is none of them!

A CV should be written using ‘implied first-person’. If you were on the first-person side of the argument, you are closer to victory, as implied first-person is a form of first-person writing, but with a fundamental difference – there are no pronouns whatsoever.

Some people mistakenly call this the ‘third-person’ through a misconception that there are only two options and if it’s not first-person using ‘I’ and ‘my’, it must be third-person.

The reason a CV should be written in some form of first-person-style is because you are writing about yourself, but by leaving out pronouns i.e. using the implied first-person style, your CV will sound less repetitive, less “me, me, me” (or “I, I, my” to be precise) and it simply feels more grown-up, and more professional-sounding to the reader.

Exceptions to the rule

Having said all that, there are circumstances where true first-person is appropriate. LinkedIn reads much better when the first-person style is adopted, and one-page executive biographies can garner a more personal feel by gently using the odd ‘I’ and ‘my,’ here and there.

In addition, writing in the implied first-person can be tricky if you are not used to it, especially when you are also striving to write in an active voice using ‘tight writing’ (more technical CV writing terms I’m afraid!). Personally, I would rather see a well-written first-person CV than a badly written implied first-person attempt.

I hope that the above provides insight, rather than inflames the debate further! But whatever perspective you settle on, make sure your CV represents your personal brand and provides evidence that you can deliver busines benefits for your clients.

Want a higher rate?

Personal branding is fundamental to selling yourself and you should be developing your own contractor business in the same way that most companies develop their brand and identity.

As mentioned at the outset, I will be running a webinar on June 29th on this very topic including how to leverage thought-leadership to win more work at higher rates. You can find out more here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6719347961680189708

Thursday 18th Jun 2020
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Written by Matt Craven

Matt is the Founder of The CV & Interview Advisors and Linked-In-Credible. He is considered to be a thought-leader in Personal Branding and is regularly engaged as a public speaker to deliver advice and guidance to global audiences on all things related to CV authoring, career advancement, LinkedIn, personal branding and thought leadership.
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