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In CVs or on Linkedin profiles there are often spaces dedicated to past experience.

In those sections, one is supposed to describe what work he/she did and what skills he/she acquired on previous workplaces/projects.

In this context, is it better to describe the experience in a personal or impersonal way?

A personal way (e.g. first person) underlines the subjects:

Project X

While assigned to Project X, I've learned how to mix dangerous chemical ingredients in a cauldron to bring out their hidden potential. Eventually, along with my team, we pushed further the research on superhuman abilities.

An impersonal way, to my understanding, underlines the skills acquired:

Project X

Manufacturing and treating of dangerous chemical ingredients. Testing of superhuman abilities in a controlled environment. Eating of snacks in the down times.

  • 2
    with unemployment at 3.8%.. you can go with EITHER approach ... – ashleylee Mar 20 at 17:14
  • 3
    the key thing problem these days isn't getting offers.... but getting a good salary. – ashleylee Mar 20 at 17:20
  • The "personal" one is sooo much better. – Cyn Mar 20 at 22:56
  • 1
    @Cyn to be fair, I'd like to work in the superhuman abilities field. – Liquid Mar 20 at 23:09
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    Depends where the resume is going. Most resumes are (initially) read by software, not humans. One advantage of b) is it's 30% more concise (36% if you remove the superfluous "of"s and "in downtime"). – smci Mar 21 at 0:29
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While I get the feeling this might get deemed "opinion based" I've reviewed a few hundred technical CVs in my time (for my sins) so here goes nothing!

Personal

Use of "I.." or "My role.." type statements a) humanize you so the person reading the CV can see you as a human being rather than just the CV and b) they tie the achievements to you. Impersonal does emphasize the skills but that's what a Skills section is for. When describing the experience you want to emphasize the person getting that experience (i.e. the person whose CV it is).

PS: If you ever want a friendly eye casting over your CV there's usually someone in Workplace SE chat who'll take a look for you.

10

I would skip the poetry, but use the personal approach.

Project X

I had several duties on this project. My primary responsibility was mixing dangerous chemicals in a cauldron for various experiments, including an attempt to liquefy kryptonite. In my second year on this project, I joined a team devising new procedures for testing the limits of Spiderman's strength, and how far Batman can throw a Batarang. We also attempted to test the upper limit of how much marijuana Snoop Dogg can smoke, however, due to experimental design errors, we failed to find a definitive limit.

I have read many resumes; and I find this "formal personal" approach the easiest to read.

  • Man, that Snoop Dogg research does sound hard. – Liquid Mar 28 at 13:14
3

The personal style has one big advantage, especially for people who are a bit shy about "selling themselves".

If your sentences start with "I", they are (by definition) about what you actually did.

In the impersonal style, it's easy to slip into describing what your team, or your employer, did (e.g. they made $$$$ selling this wonderful world-leading product that was developed while you worked there), but missing out on what you personally contributed to that success story - and your personal contribution is the only thing that readers of your CV are interested in.

In the OP's examples, the "impersonal" version doesn't actually say anything about what the OP. For all the reader knows, he/she just cleaned the office floor once a week - and someone processing a stack of job applicants, who only has an hour to scan through 50 such CV's isn't going to see anything there that grabs his/her attention.

(If you think processing 50 or even 100 CVs in a hour "isn't fair" on the applicants - well, life isn't fair, and that's often what happens.)

1

A common convention is to use the personal approach but skip most first-person pronouns to avoid repeating them too much:

  • Determined how to mix dangerous chemical ingredients in a cauldron to bring out their hidden potential.
  • Pushed further the research on superhuman abilities.

Too many “I”s is unpleasantly repetitive and can sound vain.

  • Going out of your way to avoid using pronouns makes the text harder to read and bit vague in tone about whether you were the one doing these things. – Ville Niemi Mar 21 at 1:18
  • @VilleNiemi Depends on how exactly it’s organized. If it’s bullet points, then not starting each one with “I” is certainly the way to go. If it’s a short text, a different approach could make sense. Either way a possibility of having too many “I”s is something to keep in mind. – Roman Odaisky Mar 21 at 1:35
  • Yeah, I could see it working with bullet point. And you are absolutely correct about avoiding too many of any word in a fairly condensed text. Your answer just doesn't make those valid points clear IMO. Maybe edit your comment into the answer? – Ville Niemi Mar 21 at 1:42

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