Many people who write resumes have an inclination to capitalize damn near everything. Perhaps they think that by capitalizing words, those words, or the functions they represent, become more important; ergo, the person becomes more important. (Did I just use the word ergo? I did, didn’t I? Smack me if I ever do that again.)
Back to capitalization
So THE CAPITALIZERS—Their Resumes End Up Looking Like This, instead of like this. It Makes It Damn Difficult To Read When The Wrong Words Are Capitalized. I Have Nothing Against Capitals, But You Should Only Use Them Where They Belong. AND DON’T EVER USE ALL CAPS. IT’S EVEN WORSE.
Here are some real examples:
- Vast experience working with Quality systems and Regulatory filings…
- Worked with Clinical, Regulatory, Marketing, and Operations managers to facilitate…
- Responsible for the execution of Process Qualifications/Validation protocols and reports.
- Managed four Project Managers and a Project Coordinator.
- Implemented and executed Corrective Action Plans in Manufacturing and Quality Systems allowing the company to emerge from Consent Decree and resume distribution within 9 months.
In the examples above, none of the words should have been capitalized, except the first words of each sentence. This can be confusing, especially when dealing with a resume. Here are a few rules of capitalization. There are plenty of others, but these cover most of what you’ll experience when writing a resume.
- The first word in a sentence and/or the first word of a bullet point.
- Proper nouns.
- Names of universities.
- Degrees obtained.
- Company names.
- Titles of jobs you held.
- Specific department names.
- Days of week, and months (but not seasons).
- Names of cities, states, countries, and languages.
- Brand names—Coke, Chevrolet, Microsoft Word, Vaseline, Xerox…
Let’s look at examples of the list and clarify a few things.
Degrees—when used to cite what degree you obtained, or if it’s a proper noun in itself, you capitalize. So, BA in Economics is in caps, but if you refer to it later and mention, “…I studied economics in college…” it is not capitalized. You would, however, capitalize it if it were Spanish or English.
Titles of jobs—when used specifically, as when you list your job title, it is capitalized, but if you were to use it generically in a sentence it’s not. So, your title at XYZ Company was “Sales Representative,” when you list it on your resume in the Work History section, but if you mention it on your cover letter like this, “…worked as a sales representative at XYZ Company…” you would not capitalize it.
Department names—this is perhaps the most confusing area, and it can get downright baffling. If you are referring to a specific department name, for example, “…the detective worked in the “Homicide Department,” it would be capitalized, but you’d write, “…he was a homicide detective,” without caps.
Industries—this is one that far too many people go overboard with. They write things like, “…experience in Pharmaceutical industry, or Semiconductors, or Automotive, Aerospace, Film, Computer… industry.” None of these should be capitalized in this context.
There are a lot more areas that might be questionable. If you need references, I’d suggest checking out sites like Daily Writing Tips or Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips, or The Associated Press style book.
No one is going to trash your resume over a few mistakes in capitalization, but when the mistakes keep piling up, and a gatekeeper is on her 100th resume of the day, it’s easy for her to get frustrated. Overuse of capitalization makes a resume difficult to read, not to mention it looks plain silly.
Many people scoff at articles like this, dismissing the advice with a “things like that don’t matter,” attitude. But put yourself in a gatekeeper’s role. You’ve looked at all of those resumes, seen hundreds, if not thousands, of mistakes for the day—wouldn’t it be refreshing to read a resume without mistakes? It might even make you take notice of the person who wrote it. Maybe read with more insight. Pique your interest in what they’ve done. After all, if they can write a resume with no mistakes, maybe they can do other things the right way.
And please keep in mind, unless you’ve found a back door into the company or some other way to avert the screening process, that gatekeeper is your ticket. She’s the one—the only one—who can let you in the door.
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