Resume Writing Conventions

Resume Writing Conventions

The Three Rules That Only Apply to Resume Writing

Resume writing conventions are the writing rules that apply specifically to resumes. A set of conventions that, in some cases, disregard grammar rules.

This article explains some accepted resume writing conventions with examples, offers alternatives and advises on the best approach.

First Person Implied

Using first-person implied is standard resume writing practice. First-person implied is when you write in the first person and omit personal pronouns.

In resume writing, personal pronouns are considered redundant because it is understood by the reader that your resume is about you.

To demonstrate, here is an achievement statement is written in the first person:

  • I managed a divisional-wide restructure, introducing an integrated team structure to better meet service delivery objectives. As a result, my team achieved a 30% increase in customer service ratings.

This is the same statement written in the first person implied:

  • Managed a divisional-wide restructure, introducing an integrated team structure to better meet service delivery objectives and achieved a 30% increase in customer service ratings.

As you can see, using first-person implied can help to keep your writing concise. It also avoids repeatedly commencing statements with ‘I’. Instead, you can start each statement with a dynamic verb.

The first-person implied, however, is not the only acceptable approach.

Personal pronouns are no longer banished from resumes. Instead, personal pronouns commonly appear in resume profile sections. You may also use them to describe your professional achievements.

I use examples that demonstrate both first-person and first-person implied throughout this website, as either is acceptable.

Your resume should have an authentic voice. So, the best approach is the one that feels genuine for you.

A combination of first-person and first-person applied is also acceptable. For example, using personal pronouns in your profile section and first-person implied for your achievement statements. Just be sure to use first-person implied consistently for all your achievement statements.

Related: First Person Resume Example

Abolish Articles (a, an, the)

Another resume writing convention is to omit articles such as ‘the’, ‘an’ and ‘a’.

The idea is that by writing super succinctly, you ensure employers can quickly understand your resume and you can utilise the saved space for more compelling content.

Here is an achievement statement with articles:

  • Implemented a three-year commercial strategy, and within the first six months, revitalised the portfolio and reversed a two-year share decline.

Here is the same statement with articles removed:

  • Implemented three-year commercial strategy; within first six months revitalised portfolio and reversed two-year share decline.

You can see that removing the articles adds additional impact. And while, in this example, the difference is marginal, indeed, over an entire resume, you could save some space.

Again, both approaches are acceptable. The primary consideration should be that your content is easily read and understood. If removing articles impacts the clarity of your writing, you should leave them in.

Short Sentences (Fragments are Fine)

Resume conventions allow short sentences and even sentence fragments. A sentence fragment is an incomplete sentence, missing a subject, a verb, or not expressing a complete thought.

Sentence fragments are not grammatically correct; however, you can achieve short scannable statements for your resume.

Resume Conventions in Action

To demonstrate each of these conventions in action, here is an achievement example from the resume of a Business Advisor for Ernst & Young:

  • I redefined the strategic direction for a mid-sized engineering service business. I worked with the leadership team to define a three-year vision.  From here, I built out strategic imperatives and developed an operational plan. Individual performance plans were linked to the operational plan. 

After applying resume conventions, you have:

  • Redefined strategic direction for mid-sized engineering service business. Worked with leadership team to define three-year vision.  Built out strategic imperatives and developed operational plan. Individual performance plans were linked to operational plan. 

You could take this further. Here is a more concise statement:

  • Shaped strategic direction for mid-sized engineering business. Partnered with leaders to set three-year vision. Developed aligned operational plan and linked individual performance plans.

Here is another example from a Resort General Manager:

  • I achieved approval for $300k capital expenditure to resolve hotel deficiencies impacting guest experience and hotel operations. I presented to decision-makers with influence to secure capital expenditure approval. The improvements, including new connected rooms, achieved a 35% increase in bookings.

After applying resume writing conventions, you have:

  • Secured $300k capital investment for hotel improvements via persuasive business case. Achieved 35% booking increase.

This one, from a Customer Service Manager, has already had some resume conventions applied:

  • Implemented changes to correspondence processes that resulted in $100k savings annually. Replaced costly and labour-intensive written correspondence by identifying process that could be automated and introduced an online system for communicating with customers.

Here is the improved, less wordy, version:

  • Saved $100k annually by overhauling customer correspondence processes. Introduced automated online system to replace labour-intensive manual procedures.

As demonstrated, these resume writing conventions can help you achieve a more succinct and scannable resume.

If you are preparing your resume, you may find the articles below helpful. Alternatively, you can contact me here, I can write your resume for you)


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