How important is it to use ‘I’ not ‘we’ on a CV?

Everything I read about CVs says it’s important to say ‘I’ and not ‘we’, but I was only part of a team that achieved what we did. If I say ‘I’ all the way through, I won’t be being honest. How do I deal with this?

Getting over the guilt

It’s normal to feel guilty about saying ‘I’ all the time – it’s hard to say: ‘I did this, and I achieved that’ when you were actually part of a team. There are two really good reasons for losing any squeamishness you have over using ‘I’.

The first is at the top of your CV. This document is about you, not about your team.

The other is that ‘we’ can be the kiss of death in an interview. An astute HR rep will question every use of ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ because it raises the suspicion that you were only peripherally involved in what was achieved. So, finding a way of using ‘I’ can make the difference between a positive interview and a defensive one.

Keeping it real

So, how do you give yourself credit, and still keep it honest?

First, figure out exactly what you contributed to what was achieved. Then work out a way of explaining that in context. For instance, if you were the manager of a team that devised a way of reducing workload through better training, ask yourself why your team thought to do that. Did you challenge them to do so? Did you set up a pay-off? Did you contribute ideas, or facilitate the generation of ideas? Or did you simply foster an environment in which innovation is rewarded? Now create a sentence that starts with ‘I’ and says what you did: ‘I challenged my team to find ways to reduce workload. I supported their chosen option to improve training, and they reduced repeated work by 25% in 3 months’. Now it is clear what you contributed, and what was achieved, but you have not stolen anyone’s glory.

Be specific

Try to avoid saying: ‘I was part of a team that delivered a successful bid’ – this is too vague. Try to be specific, eg: ‘I ensured the commercial viability of a major bid by working through the financials, with the result that a contract worth £30m a year is consistently profitable at 30%’. This approach works well, no matter what your role was. Even if you just ensured it was complete, signed off, typed up and proofread, you can say: ‘I assembled, quality-checked, ensured sign off and delivered the final version of a major bid, now a contract worth £30m a year’.

Be proud of what you contributed

The trick is to isolate your contribution and bring this to the fore, without losing the size and importance of the whole deliverable. In this way, you can always take your own credit, without taking anyone else’s.

October 22nd, 2010 | Category: Uncategorized, experience, job role, skills, stand out, work experience | No Comments »

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