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Why You Should Avoid Personal Pronouns in Your Resume

Crafting the perfect resume is vital to showcasing your many skills and demonstrating them clearly to prospective employers. Just as important, however, is to remember what not to include.

Personal pronouns (the I, we, me, my variety) run counter to the well-established traditions of resume writing, and for good reason. They can slow the eye, clutter paragraphs, and draw too much focus on you, the applicant, rather than your skills and achievements.

resume background with the words "Avoid Personal Pronouns In Your Resume"

According to the top career resume branding services in Colorado., "pronouns serve a variety of roles and can even work to your advantage when included in the right places. Rather than understanding this exclusion as a blanket rule, it’s far more beneficial to know when and where to include them and why".

Let this article be your guide in doing just that.

What Are Personal Pronouns?

Simply put, personal pronouns are the pronouns you would use when writing or speaking in the first person. These include pronouns that refer to:

  • The self e.g., I, me, my

  • A group e.g., we, us, our

Pronouns that refer to others (he, she, them, etc.) are associated with second and third person writing and speech.

English is a language that loves to include pronouns in most sentences as a clear way to identify subjects and objects. While other languages, like Japanese, often obscure or imply pronouns, English makes direct use of them.

Personal Pronouns as Gender Identity

In a modern context, “personal pronouns” as a term has also taken on another meaning: a way for someone to express their gender identity. Someone may choose pronouns that align more closely with a traditionally male, female, or neutral subject. Sometimes it can be a mix of all three.

This trend of self-identified pronouns is more popular and visible with younger generations, and 35% of Gen Z youth state they know someone who prefers non-binary pronouns. It’s not uncommon to see a written name ending with personal pronouns on an online account, e.g., John Smith (he, him, his).

The push in the LGBTQ+ community is unfortunately hindering job seekers future career opportunities. But how? Regardless of what is displayed by the main stream media, most hiring managers see personal pronouns usage in a resume as a major warning sign to not hire that person, or even call them for an interview. The reason is simple, those that deem personal pronouns and sexual preferences as important over career experience and education are not focused on the bottom line - company profits and success.

Man in suit with head down and briefcase and the words "Using Personal Pronouns You're Not Getting Hired"

Why Pronouns Don’t Work in a Resume

The first thing you’ll notice if you’ve ever researched or had to sift through piles of resume's is how many of the best examples don’t include first-person pronouns. Their inclusion has become something of a conventional taboo, akin to starting a sentence with a conjunction.

So, if you came across a section like this:

  • I managed a dynamic team of 30 members in a fast-paced sales environment.

  • I facilitated communication between departments.

  • I was in charge of the schedule for XYZ organization.

  • I organized meetings and quarterly reports.

Your toes began to curl, didn’t they? How did it get to be this way?

There’s no one hard and fast reason that pronouns came to be frowned upon in resumes, rather a host of them. Let’s look at some of the major offenders.

They’re Repetitive

English isn’t a language that does well with repetition. Repetition is awkward and an eyesore. Combine this with the need for brief bullet points in a resume, and you have no chance to flesh out sentences and remove pronouns naturally. What’s more, English needs clear subjects and objects in a sentence, which means that many of your achievements and skills will get repetitive without proper curation.

There’s only so many times an eye can read a sentence beginning with an “I” before getting tired.

Man holding womans hand bowing to her and his head is a Question Mark symbol

They’re Bulky

Brevity is the sole of a modern resume. Denver resume writers will tell you to fit the most you can into the least possible, optimizing the right words for SEO and keeping the word count short.

You need to do more with less, and pronouns won’t help you there.

Pronouns hinder the readability and brevity of a resume, becoming unnecessary fluff that an eye will pass over on the way to more relevant keywords. What’s more, a hiring manager knows a resume is about your skills, experience, and achievements and won’t need to be reminded of this every few words with pronouns.

They Distract

Resumes differ from other forms of writing. Unlike novels or blogs, they are often scanned over quickly, by human eyes and AI tools, to identify key information and phrases that pertain to the vacancy being offered.

Qualifications are what matter in a resume, and so they should take center stage.

Your resume will likely be one of thousands that have to be sifted through. The faster you can convey key information to your prospective employer, the better.

They’re Too Direct

Some fields, like academia, see direct writing as too passionate and partial, and value the detached neutrality of indirect writing and speech. If you’re applying for a post with similar goals and values, too many profiles may convey a directness and insertion of self that some employers may see as counterproductive to their own goals and aims, consciously or unconsciously.

They May Cause Discrimination

In the case of personal pronouns as a gender identifier, it’s important to know that while many companies and countries are openly supportive of LGBTQ+ rights, the hiring managers and actual people are not. What the CEO's says to the press for the sake of shareholders vs what they truly believe in their hearts are actually divided. The inclusion of preferred personal pronouns can be a double-edged sword in some contexts and can lead to both conscious and unconscious individual and organizational bias when hiring.

Imply Your Pronouns

An ideal workaround to the need and the problem of pronouns is to either use indirect speech (which itself can be quite wordy and laborious) or imply them. Implied first-person pronouns are an effective way to make your resume seem short and punchy while still adding a personal and direct touch.

What’s more, it also draws more focus to the active verb of the sentence, by placing it at the start. This makes it easy to convey key information quickly and effectively:

  • Coordinated a professional team of 30 salespeople.

Is a much more effective sentence in a resume than:

  • I coordinated a professional team of 30 salespeople.

Where Pronouns Work: Cover Letters and Headers

Before you rid your resume of every last pronoun you see, it’s important to know that there are some areas where they are preferred, namely cover letters and resume headers.

While a resume is the best place to demonstrate hard skills and achievements, even the most neutral type of IT resume writing benefits from the injection of personality that comes with a cover letter or resume summary. This is a commonly accepted, and indeed encouraged, way to demonstrate what makes you suitable for the job while simultaneously showing your personality.

An easy way to inject personality is to use pronouns, putting a face (as it were) to the skills. Your cover letter or header is a good way to be personable while still being professional and formal.

A resume demonstrates how you will work, while a cover letter demonstrates what you’ll be like to work with.

Design Resumes Right

It’s important to have professionally written or personally crafted resume that demonstrates skills first and foremost, without inserting pronouns that slow the reader’s eye and distract from the important information.

That said, it’s important to know when to use them to let the person behind the paper shine through. Your personality may win in the interview, but you should first grab the attention with what you’re good at.

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