Explore English grammar to find the best wording for your CV

There are so many things to consider when you write your CV. One of the first considerations is the tone and style. As part of that, you'll need to address a key question: should your CV be written in the first or third person? In this article, we'll look at definitions, pros and cons, and best practice. You'll have a CV to be proud of in no time. 

What do first person and third person mean?

Before we get on discussing whether a CV should be written in the first or third person, let's look at a few, important definitions. 

What does first person mean?

The first person is used when you're talking about yourself. If you're writing in the first person, you'll be using words such as “I,” “me,” “my,” and so on. Some examples of sentences written in the first person are: 

  • I prepare invoices and send them to clients

  • Resolving customer complaints is one of my responsibilities 

  • Colleagues ask me for help because they know I will always share my expertise

What does third person mean?

When you use the third person, you're writing about someone else. You'll be using words such as “he,” “she,” “they,” “theirs,”, or someone's name. Examples of sentences written in the third person include:

  • He delivers first class customer service

  • She resolves automotive faults and carries out repairs

  • Fred oversees the IT helpdesk

What is the silent voice?

When we use the silent voice (also called the implied voice or absent voice), we omit the pronoun (such as “I,” “she,” “Christina”) that tells us who is being spoken about. For example:

  • Write comprehensive reports and analysis (silent first person)
  • Delivers parcels within strict deadlines (silent third person)

Should a CV be written in the first or third person?

Now we're clear on definitions and meanings, let's apply them to CVs. In fact, there's no hard and fast rule. That said, it's generally considered more professional if a CV is produced in the silent first-person voice

Why write your CV in the silent first person

Consider these benefits: 

  • Less repetition: If you write in the first person, you'll find yourself repeating the word “I” a lot. I do this, I do that – I, I, I! 
  • More personal: If you write in the third person, it can sound like your CV is written about someone else – “Cassandra is a dynamic sales manager. She consistently exceeds her targets.” 
  • Concise and punchy: On a document where space is at a premium and you need to make an impact quickly, cutting out unnecessary words can help you to keep your writing snappy.

The drawback of writing in the silent first person, however, is that it doesn't come naturally to most people. In that case, should you use “I” in your CV? If you're struggling to create a CV in the silent first-person voice, it's fine to write in the standard first person. You can use “I” in your CV, but you may just need to muster all your writing skills to ensure you don't overuse the word.

Why avoid using the third person

Refrain from using the third person – your CV should be about you and your skills, so writing about “him” or “her” or using your own name can sound quite jarring. 

Also, use full sentences

All that's not to say you don't need full sentences for your CV. Beyond removing the pronouns, you should use full sentences throughout – even for bullet points. Partial sentences, such as “invoicing” or “contracts” aren't helpful, because they don't explain what you actually do. Every sentence should contain a verb (a “doing word”) to show your contribution, as well as a positive result if possible. So instead of the vague “contracts”, you could write: 

  • Negotiated robust contracts that resulted in a 30% cost saving

  • Agreed vendor contracts that improved supplier performance by 25%

  • Managed compliance with third party contracts to avoid significant penalties 

Expert tip: Read more about including achievements and positive results in this blog.

Examples: CV sections written in the first person 

Some strong examples are always helpful in understanding the best way to write your CV. Let's take a few key sections in turn:

How to write a profile for a CV in the first person

As your elevator pitch, right at the top of your CV, the profile will set the tone for the rest of the CV. No pressure, but you need to get this “about me” section in your CV right! Here are a couple of personal profile examples that you can use as inspiration for your own CV.

In the silent first person:

A commercially astute and driven Head of Operations, with a background in family law. Focused on formulating strategies and initiatives to improve customer service, whilst reducing costs and generating new revenue streams. Confident negotiating contracts, building diverse teams, and promoting process improvement. Embraces digital change and transformation. 

In the first person:

I am an approachable Customer Success Team Lead, specialising in client retention, renewals, and revenue growth. I build trusting relationships with clients and colleagues alike and confidently present at Board level. I am recognised as a supportive leader, who provides training and coaching to ensure best practice across the team. Data driven, I am able to provide analysis that supports new revenue growth strategies. 

How to write work experience for a CV in the first person

We've seen some examples above for bullet points, but let's pull everything together with a subheading, a role outline, and some achievement-focused bullet points so that you can see how to write the experience section in the silent first person.  

Head of Training, ABC International Ltd

2020 - 2023

Led a team of 20 Trainers, Tutors and Subject Matter Experts and promoted a learning culture. Managed a learning and development budget of £8 million to deliver global learning in 10 languages on digital learning platforms.

Key achievements

  • Reduced annual training costs by 77%, by replacing an expensive training platform with a new system across multiple countries
  • Delivered a 15% increase in trainee satisfaction by leading a multinational team from the UK, US and India to improve the quality of training operations and programmes internationally
  • Improved employee satisfaction by 40% and learning outcomes by 33% by leveraging data analytics, resulting in 16,000 certifications annually

How to write education for a CV in the silent first person

The education section of a CV is one time when you don't have to worry about full sentences. You can simply state the level, the subject, the institution, and the year of each attainment – no worrying about pronouns here. For example: 

  • BSc (Hons) degree in Computer Science specialising in AI, University of London, 2024

What tense should a CV be written in?

Finally, let's consider which tense to use on your CV. We recommend the present tense for an overview of your current responsibilities and the past tense for achievements and overviews of previous roles.

Use the silent voice for a professional CV

So, should a CV be written in the first or third person? While the first person is a perfectly acceptable option, we recommend the silent first person for a truly professional, best-practice CV. 

We understand that writing a CV can be challenging. When you've finalised your master document, why not send it to the experts at TopCV for a free CV review?

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