When applying for jobs, you should be focusing on the content of your resume — not on grammar. That said, there are a lot of hidden resume rules that aren’t always straightforward. Here, we demystify the rules about how to write your resume accomplishments and show you exactly how to avoid using personal pronouns on your resume.
What are pronouns?
Pronouns are words that you use refer to yourself or other people, including:
These are all useful and common words … in most situations. Resume writing is one notable exception.
Should you use pronouns on a resume?
In a word: No.
There’s no single concrete reason for it, but the convention for writing resumes is not to include pronouns. This means that the accomplishments on your resume won’t read exactly like normal sentences, and that’s okay.
It can feel a bit clunky to do this — especially when you’re first starting out — so here are some tips on how to get it right.
If you’re wondering whether to include pronouns in your resume accomplishments, upload it to the tool below — it’ll let you know if you’ve chosen appropriate instances to use pronouns in your resume and how best to present them.
Related: Should You List Your Preferred Pronouns on Your Resume?
How to avoid using pronouns on a resume (with examples)
Here’s how to write a natural-seeming sentence without using pronouns:
- Write down what you did, e.g. “I managed a team of 5 employees.”
- Take out any pronouns (I, me, my).
- Read over the new sentence to make sure it still makes sense, e.g. “Managed a team of 5 employees.”
- Voila! Now you have a brand new, resume-friendly accomplishment.
Here are some more examples of how to change sentences to remove pronouns and make them resume-friendly.
Take out “I” at the start of a sentence
This is the easiest way to remove pronouns from your resume. If your sentence starts with “I,” simply take out that word.
- Before: I organized an event with 10,000 attendees
- After: Organized an event with 10,000 attendees
Remove pronouns from the middle of a sentence
Make sure to look for other pronouns (my, we, us) in the middle of your sentences, too.
- Before: I built a Tableau dashboard to visualize our core business KPIs (e.g. Monthly Recurring Revenue), saving me 10 hours per week of manual reporting work.
- After: Built Tableau dashboard to visualize core business KPIs (e.g. Monthly Recurring Revenue), saving 10 hours per week of manual reporting work.
Remove references to a person, team, or company
If you spend a lot of time referring to “my department,” “our team’s project,” or “my company,” replace these with more neutral phrases like “a project” or remove them altogether.
- Before: I built a loyal brand following for my company by actively engaging potential customers daily through social network channels such as Facebook and Twitter, where my team had 100,000 followers.
- After: Built a loyal brand following by actively engaging potential customers daily through social network channels such as Facebook and Twitter (100,000 followers).
Split up multiple sentences into separate bullet points
If you find yourself writing whole paragraphs about what you accomplished, split these into smaller parts and make each one its own bullet point.
- Before: I managed a 5-member cross functional (product, engineering, sales, support) team and we coordinated with my company’s six business partners toward the successful launch of our e-commerce platform. I was promoted within 12 months due to my strong performance and organizational impact.
Managed a 5-member cross functional (product, engineering, sales, support) team and coordinated with six business partners toward the successful launch of an e-commerce platform.
Promoted within 12 months due to strong performance and organizational impact.
Why not to use pronouns on a resume
- It’s unnecessary — hiring managers already know you’re writing about yourself, so using pronouns doesn’t add anything useful.
- It’s repetitive. Instead of starting off every sentence with “I,” use different action verbs to vary things a little.
- It takes up extra space. Removing pronouns can make your accomplishments more concise and easy to read.
- It’s all about you — recruiters want to know what you can do for the company, not vice versa.
- More than anything, it’s an established resume convention. Using pronouns is so out of sync with resume norms that it’ll look weird to a hiring manager to include them.
Related: Improve Your Resume by Eliminating Adverbs
Exceptions to the no-pronoun rule
Resume summaries are not an exception to the no-pronoun rule. See our resume summary examples for how to write a resume summary without using pronouns.
The only real exception to the rule is when writing a cover letter. Cover letters are written in a more conversational tone, which means they follow different rules — it’s okay to use pronouns when talking about yourself in a cover letter!