Why the First Person Resume is Disrupting Recruiting
Published in The Wall Street Journal Experts Blog October, 2, 2016
Say goodbye to the traditional, third-person résumé. The first-person résumé is the wave of the future.
It needed to happen.. The typical résumé is boring and often meaningless, largely because it is written in the disembodied third person. The trend toward first-person résumés, in which candidates forge a connection between themselves and their potential employer, is one way job applicants are breaking through.
As a former human-resources executive, I spent years reviewing résumés that were startlingly similar. I’ve learned that every candidate is a “proven leader,” an “energetic and charismatic team builder,” in possession of a “bottom-line focus.” Every sales rep “consistently meets and exceeds quotas,” while every marketing professional “conceives innovative strategies.” I’ve even seen this exact language on a medical office receptionist’s résumé. (“A proven leader of what?” I inquired. “And how can you substantiate that?”
But the first-person résumé not only puts some specifics around experience that would otherwise be indistinguishable from other candidates, but it also provides a glimpse into each candidate’s personality. Note how the summary of this marketing professional differentiates the job seeker’s unique value proposition:
Before: A creative, results-driven and energetic marketing professional with 10+ years of extensive media experience in the television sector; capable of delivering comprehensive knowledge of the latest media trends and consumer habits; thrive on the challenge of short timelines and last-minute changes. Strong ability to guide and train teams on how to best connect and grow a business’s marketing campaign. Bilingual: Spanish/English.
After: I am a Senior Media Buyer with extensive experience in unwired advertising strategies for Fortune 100 companies. Contract negotiation is a core strength; I have achieved significant profitability by bringing on new business and re-negotiating terms to address shortfalls. An effective manager with P&L accountability, I improve employee retention through training and mentorship. Being bilingual in Spanish, I forge productive business relationships with the growing Latino demographic.
The concept of personal branding made clear how job seekers could differentiate themselves from the competition. By functioning less as a chronological history of employment and more of a vehicle for establishing one’s brand–hopefully one that would resonate with targeted employers–first-person résumés establish a candidate’s distinct signature.
I first tested the concept in early 2015, soliciting feedback from recruiters in my LinkedIn network. Their responses were unconditionally positive. Recruiters enjoyed being able to get a feel for the person behind the credentials, and their comments ranged from, “It’s always seems weird for candidates to refer to themselves in the third person,” to “it’s the digital equivalent of an elevator speech–I immediately get who this person is and whether or not this résumé deserves a deeper look.”
As of now, first-person résumés stand out to recruiters not only for their added value, but because the format is still relatively new. However, even if first-person résumés become the norm, candidates are still differentiated.
So far, candidates in creative fields have been more receptive than those in law and finance to converting to a first-person approach, but candidates in more traditional fields are coming around. As the proportion of millennials in the workforce grows, the first-person résumé speaks to the global trend toward individualism, a sensibility that values the individual over a series of job functions.
Job seekers may actually find it easier to develop their résumé in the first person by simply “talking” to their target employer using simple, non-hyperbolic language. “Show, don’t tell,” is the strategy to employ here, so directly under the summary, curate a list of specific accomplishments that demonstrate the traits the candidate wants to be known for. For example, rather than saying, “I’m a team player,” a short bullet that describes how they achieved consensus in a difficult situation tells the story without hackneyed language.
First-person résumés are disrupting recruiting because–for a change–they serve the needs of both recruiter and candidate. Recruiters benefit from being able to get a sense of the person behind the credentials, so that they can screen for character traits as well as concrete skills. Meanwhile, candidates are able to succinctly tell their unique story and establish their value.