CV writing styles: When ‘me me me’ is OK

There may be no ‘I’ in ‘team’ but there is also no ‘we’ in ‘recruitment’.

I often find when providing interview coaching that candidates are concerned about discussing achievements because they do not want to sound arrogant or self-centred. Of course this is understandable and very valid. But you should remember that when shortlisting and when assessing interview performance, recruiters are trying to establish your potential performance in the particular role. You have to give them the right information to go on.

No-one likes a person always talking about themselves and generally people don’t like showy behaviour, but when writing your CV and performing at interviews you absolutely have to make an exception.

This actually means learning a different way of communicating specifically for these circumstances. So you will write things on your CV that you would not write in other formats and you will say things in interviews that you would not say in other meetings.

Here are some things to consider when talking or writing about yourself:

Be honest

If you were part of a team that achieved something, that’s fine. We don’t always work on our own. State that you were part of the team. But then go on to outline your own particular role within it. As long as you made a significant contribution and you are clear what this was, this is good content to use.

Be yourself

As the often repeated reality TV mantra goes, it’s important to be ‘true to yourself’. But whereas on such TV programmes this is really just an excuse for inconsiderate behaviour, you need to be yourself in the sense of being authentic and showing a level of self-reflection.

What do you know about your fit for the role? Is it applicable to the selection criteria? If you don’t know what the selection criteria is then finding out would be a better starting point than applying your creativity to the unknown.

Show that you are considerate

Talking about yourself does not have to be done in selfish ways. Talk about what you have done for others, why, and what affect this had on the business. It’s all about balance.

Wording

It is OK to use ‘I’ on a CV. Just don’t use it too many times. You have to demonstrate that you can communicate effectively, so repetition of any sort is going to say the opposite.

I tend not to start a CV with ‘I’ though, because this forces you to be a little more creative.

Whatever you do, never write a CV in the ‘third person’. It just sounds weird. You want something much more personal and engaging and you want to avoid sounding quite so formal.

Graeme Jordan

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CV Writer and Interview Coach. Blogging about ways to improve your CV writing and job searching experience.