I don't understand why but I feel arrogant or ambitious when I use a simple sentence in active voice using "I" especially while I was writing my college essay or curriculum vitae e.g.

"I managed a team." "I wanted to become successful."

This could also be limited to past tense. How could I re-phrase these such that the tone doesn't seem arrogant? Is it just me?

  • 11
    Don't try to be humble on your CV. It's actually good that you write in the first person and use the active voice. The CV is about you, your past achievements, your knowledge, your career. It's natural that you use "I" many times. Compare: (1) I managed a team, (2) A team was managed by me and (3) Managed a team. It's the first one that emphasizes "you". And that's the goal of your CV.
    – b.roth
    Commented Nov 29, 2010 at 9:20
  • Well, I understand the point of an active voice but is there any way to rephrase it without the arrogant tone or should I select my diction more carefully?
    – Gio Borje
    Commented Nov 29, 2010 at 9:29
  • 3
    Just a side note about feeling arrogant/ambitious. If you want the job (or whatever the CV is for), then your goal is to be truthful so the people to whom you submit it can decide if you might fit their needs. Being truthful is not the same as being arrogant, if in fact you do have the skills & experience they seek. Arrogance would be to say, I am better than all other candidates (how would you know, since you haven't seen their CVs?).
    – kajaco
    Commented Nov 30, 2010 at 0:46

3 Answers 3


Short answer:
Sense of self and ownership

In the college essay, you sell your opinions. When you say, "I think that...", "I believe that...", it signifies your conviction about the topic. If you feel that you are using "I" repeatedly that it becomes boring, you can shift with a strong, convincing statement. Right now I'm listening to Ziggy Marley's

Love is my religion.

I think that he was convincing enough with that line alone.

As for the curriculum vitae, I concur with @Bruno's comment. And I would like to add more. A CV is all about selling yourself. Since it's all about yourself, there is no need to say "I" for every accomplishment. Several of the following types of phrases would be very convincing.

Managed a $100,000 project from planning to turnover

Using "I" can be limited to the objective or narrative summary section. Even the narrative summary section can be written in the third person.

EDIT: Strong, convincing statements aren't necessarily wrapped in single sentences. One way I might do it is this. Imagine yourself being in the Jedi Council debating whether Anakin should be trained:

Yes, he may bring balance to the Force. He may have high levels of midi-chlorians. The Force is strong in him. But does that necessarily add up that he should be trained?


Then follow it up with your arguments,

I sense much fear in him. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to...

You probably know the drill :). There are many ways of getting your point across convincingly. It just takes practice and lots and lots of reading.

  • I can see how I can use varied sentence length to create subordination (like Zigg Marley's quote) but are there other techniques I could use for a "strong, convincing statement"?
    – Gio Borje
    Commented Nov 29, 2010 at 9:40
  • 3
    +1 for using Yoda in an example of proper English usage. :)
    – Marthaª
    Commented Nov 29, 2010 at 15:30

I have read hundreds of CVs in my past position, the thing was looking for was precisely what the applicant had done. If they said "My team did X" the I pretty much assumed that the applicant had nothing to do with it. If you have done X, then you should state this in an unambiguous manner. That being said, "I was the best manager in history" may sound a tad arrogant whereas "Under my management, team output was increased %137" is just stating a fact.


I share your concerns about the use of 'I' in this context. As a workaround I use bullet points as this form allows me to write:

ACME Industries 1989-2001.

  • Managed a team of x.
  • single-handedly redesigned and implemented y.
  • developed z for my pointy-headed boss.

Etc. etc. without requiring the use of 'I'.

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