The Passive Voice: Should You Use it In Your Resume? By Jeremy Cyrus 08/01/2012
The passive voice is a well-known enemy of sharp, crisp, forward-leaning prose. As its name implies, it suggests passivity, or state of being acted upon rather than acting. This is not the impression most of us are trying to convey as we draft a resume. But a desperate search for an alternative can sometimes lead to tangled, clumsy sentences that wrap around our feet and trip us up. How can we avoid the passive voice without turning a resume into a confused mess?
The Passive Voice and Your Resume
First, what is the passive voice? It’s the simple difference between these phrases:
Had responsibility for handling multiple projects
Was relied on for on-time delivery
Was the direct manager of central operations
Had full responsibility for the maintenance of services
Handled multiple projects
Delivered units on time
Directly managed central operations
How to Remove the Passive Voice
1. First, distrust and reexamine every use of bland terms like “was”, “is”, “did”, “has” and “had”. Replace these terms with real verbs like “managed”, negotiated”, “provided”, “created”, and “launched”.
2. Using direct pronouns to refer to yourself in a resume (I, me, my, and mine) can be awkward, so removing the passive voice can sometimes leave a confusing gap where the subject of your sentence should be. This is where good resume editors earn their pay, but if you can’t afford one, don’t fear. Just take a breath, delete the tangled sentence that’s driving you insane, and start over. (Meanwhile, free online resume services like FreeResumeBuilder.org can help).
3. If in doubt, shorter is better. If a certain phrase sounds weak, but you aren’t sure it’s technically guilty of the passive voice, see how many words you can cut out of the phrase while still expressing your thought. Like the active voice, fewer words often make a sentence feel crisper and tighter.