Personal branding: Should you talk about yourself in the third person?
Mar 28, 2022
In the ever-evolving world of online job hunting, candidates are constantly seeking ways to stand out from the crowd. We all want to craft the most memorable profile, be remembered, and score that gig. So might referring to yourself in the third person be the strategy for you? If it works for “This guy”, LeBron James, might it work for you too?
To explore third-person writing and its use within personal branding for job hunters we spoke to Lida Citroën, award-winning personal-branding and reputation-management expert, and Salina Yeung, LinkedIn expert and personal-branding coach. So should you write about yourself in the third person when creating your personal brand? And what are the benefits of the third-person voice? Let’s find out.
Writing for personal branding
Over the years, the ways in which we look and compete for jobs have changed significantly. Yet the biggest difference, as our experts indicate, is that job hunting has become personal. “Thinking back even 10 years, LinkedIn was just a job platform. Now it has become more individual, and more emphasis has been put on personal branding,” said Salina Yeung. “All you need is to show up online. And to show up online is to talk about your own story.”
“Showing who you truly are as a person, as well as a candidate, is key nowadays,” said Lida Citroën. It’s time for job seekers to focus more on personal branding—but with the right strategy in mind. “It’s about what you can bring with your personality, and how the company will benefit from having you.”
The way you choose to write about yourself shapes how others perceive you. “Use the power of writing for your personal brand,” said Yeung. “Make sure your LinkedIn summary really gives others a taste of the wonderful world of you. Because no one else should tell your story but yourself.”
So how does third-person writing work in the field of personal branding? Can it give you a more memorable profile? Make you stand out? The short answer to all of these questions is… It depends.
Use the third voice if it feels natural
When building your profile, you have to know exactly what kind of person your brand will represent—and plan your strategy accordingly. “The only person
you want to portray through your personal brand is who you truly are,” said Citroën. So find a writing style that lets you describe your true self.
“Most of us find writing about ourselves in the third person just awkward—we prefer the first person. But if using the third voice feels natural for you, then use it. But remember that your third-person description has to reflect your personality.”
Maybe you feel more comfortable when writing about yourself in the third person, or perhaps the third voice can help you paint a more objective picture of yourself. The most important thing is to stick to what feels natural.
Consistency is key. “Your resumé, your LinkedIn profile, your cover letter—all of them should be written in the same style and present a clear idea of what kind of person you are,” Citroën said. So if you decide to go for the third person, use it for all of your personal-branding elements.
“If you decide to go for the third person, use it for all of your personal-branding elements.”
Achieve a sense of authority with third-person writing
For Citroën, third person adds a layer of dissociation. “It makes your profile seem more out of reach, more distant.” There are very specific cases where that distance can enhance your brand.
“If you’re applying for more senior and higher positions in environments where such posturing is seen as valuable, then the third voice might be for you,” she said. In fields such as law, finance, and investment banking, recruiters might be more likely to appreciate profiles that exude a sense of authority and professional distancing. If you’re striving to build a career in these areas, then third-person writing might help your brand stand out.
“Third voice can also be beneficial if you have a business page on LinkedIn dedicated mainly to your company and your role in it,” said Yeung. “That way, you can clearly describe what it is that you do and what services your business provides. If you’re a CEO or an influencer, then third-person writing could be for you. But for people in lower positions or for job seekers, I would advise sticking to the first person.”
“if you have a business page on LinkedIn dedicated mainly to your company… or if you’re a CEO or an influencer, then third-person writing could be for you.”
Honesty and intimacy—what personal branding is really about
Third-person writing might seem tempting, but if posturing and pomposity are not feelings you want to evoke, consider sticking to the first person. “For those applying for junior- or entry-level roles, or those in more creative or socially driven fields that require soft skills, it is always better to apply in the first person,” said Citroën. Trying to convey your personality and your eagerness to do the job through third-person writing will most probably make your profile sound unnatural, awkward, or vague.
“For those applying for junior- or entry-level roles, or those in more creative or socially driven fields… it is always better to apply in the first person.”
Leverage the personal angle and build your brand around it. “Recruiters really enjoy looking at applications that are written a bit differently,” said Yeung. “They have to read hundreds of resumés and cover letters per day, so make sure you write yours in a way that will not leave any doubt about who you are.” Find something that will make your application stand out—and remember that 43% of recruiters said third-person writing in cover letters was a pet peeve.
“Talk about something that makes you truly you,” said Yeung. “You can write about your hobbies, your personal online presence, or your social skills. How can they add value to you as an employee? An insight like this will make
your profile much more interesting.” Citroën also underlined the importance of seeming approachable and respectful towards recruiters. “When sending a cover letter, addressing it directly to the recruiter by name is much more valuable. It instantly allows you to build that intimate connection between you and your potential future interviewer.”
Third-person writing in personal branding—the dos and don’ts
Still not sure which writing style you should choose for creating your personal-branding profile? Here’s a summary of the benefits of using both third- and first-person writing.
Do use third-person writing if:
You feel more natural talking about your accomplishments and experiences that way.
You intend to create a feeling of authority.
It is seen as valuable for the company or the role.
Don’t use third-person writing if:
Writing about yourself in the first person feels more comfortable and natural.
You want others to get a taste of how you communicate.
You want to show you’re approachable and open to connections.
Generally, writing in the third voice can make people seem distant, dissociated, or out of reach—which is not the image you want your personal brand to reflect in a market full of recruiters seeking approachable candidates. That’s not to say that third-person writing should never be used for personal branding on social media—but it has to be executed strategically.
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