Recently, I was reviewing resumes, cover letters and doing some interview preparation for job seekers at a job fair.  Although the age of the participants skewed a bit older than most of these events, the employment hopefuls were as diversified in their skills, experience and positions of interest, as would be expected. But one of the things that many of them had in common was the inability to convey their strengths and experience without saturating their documents with the words “I” and “My”.  And too many “I” and “My” statements cause I Fatigue!
Keep in mind that all of job search – resumes, cover letters, interviewing and networking – is really all about how your skills and experience meet the needs of the employer!  Or, to paraphrase JFK’s inaugural speech, “Ask not what the employer can do for you. Ask what you can do for the employer.”  All your documents and responses must be focused on how you can fulfill the employer’s needs!
Certainly, your first instinct is to provide answers and information that begin with, or include statements such as: “I did such and such.”  “I’m good at …”  “My experience has taught me …”  “While I was at Company X, I generated …” But when you do use these phrases the reader of your resumes and cover letters (the employer!) sees that your focus is only on you and not what benefit you can provide the prospective employer.
These types of statements don’t always communicate how you use your particular skills and knowledge and their relevant benefits to the employer’s needs. Therefore they make it harder for the reader to extract pertinent information about your experience and its applicability to the job being offered.
Here are some examples excerpted from actual resumes and cover letters of too many “I” and “My” statements, and suggestions on to rephrase them to keep the emphasis on the job and employer.
Example 1:    (cover letter)

Instead of this: I will bring my qualifications and professional knowledge to your organization, including my expertise in product production and marketing.

Try this:  The qualifications and professional knowledge gained over 10 years at Company X, can be integrated into your organization’s culture, and will include expertise in product production and marketing that will support your initiatives.

Example 1 isn’t too bad.  But one “I” and two “My” in two lines of text is a bit much. The second version is certainly more assertive, albeit wordier.

Example 2:    (resume)

Instead of this: I worked closely with the development departments and I helped ensure that our plans and tactical calendars were synergistic.  I wanted to avoid personnel and budgetary conflicts or compromise of messages.

Try this:  Worked closely with the development departments to ensure that our plans and tactical calendars were synergistic, avoiding personnel and budgetary conflicts, or compromises to the important messages of our campaigns.

Example 2 has too many sentences beginning with “I”, with the suggested version brings those multiple thoughts into one cohesive and connected thought.

Example 3:    (cover letter)

Instead of this:  I was responsible for the expansion of a start-up support services firm.  I grew the company from 10 to 200 + workstations.  I was then able to provide multilingual services to Fortune 500 companies.

Try this:  Being responsible for the expansion of a start-up support services firm empowered me to grow the company from 10 to over 200 workstations, including providing multilingual services to Fortune 500 companies.

In example 3, again there were too many “I”, and the stated actions come across dryly.  But since the accomplishments were interrelated, the second version conveys more strength and conviction in what the applicant can do.

In each example the emphasis is on the accomplishment, not the candidate!  Remember that you’re not trying to dissociate yourself from the work, but you are trying to tone down the ego part of selling yourself.
It may be possible to write a letter about yourself without using “I” or “My”, but you don’t have to!  Don’t eliminate “I” and “My” entirely, just reduce their usage from dominant to occasional, and try to avoid using them at the beginning of too many sentences.  It will cut down on the I Fatigue suffered by hiring managers and improve your chances of being considered a serious candidate.
For more tips about job search, and how to improve the readability of your documents, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com

By Hank

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