Do You Know What You Should and Shouldn’t Capitalize on Your Resume?
As a career coach, and executive recruiter I have worked with all kinds of hiring managers and heard their complaints as they review resumes.
I remember one manager squinting at the screen as she tried to read a resume with tiny fonts, and another telling me she doesn’t even consider a candidate if she sees typos in a resume or cover letter.
I’ve reviewed thousands of resumes myself over the years and seen clients make large and small mistakes that can hurt their chances at landing an interview.
One thing I frequently notice and fix while editing resumes is words that are capitalized even though they really should be lowercase. For example, I’ll see clients share names of departments they’ve collaborated with or various job titles within their resume bullets, all capitalized. It’s just not necessary! Sometimes candidates are trying to indicate that something is important or they simply don’t know the rules around capitalization on a resume. But they don’t need nearly as many capital letters on their resumes as they think—and neither do you.
As an executive recruiter and career coach, I’ve reviewed thousands of resumes myself over the years and seen clients make large and small mistakes that can hurt their chances at landing an interview.
Does it really matter if you go overboard with all those capital letters? Yes! Recruiters and hiring managers look for consistency and attention to details as they review resumes. You can show them that you are detail oriented by finding and fixing these types of capitalization mistakes on your resume.
Here are a few of my capitalization pet peeves.
How do I Use Bullets Correctly?
The first word of a bullet or sentence should always be capitalized. This might seem obvious, but don’t overlook it! Starting a sentence with a lowercase letter looks unprofessional. Also don’t capitalize your entire line that is a bullet point.
Don’t do this:
- developed marketing plan for fast-paced manufacturing firm
- Designed and implemented a campaign for non-profits supporting our area of interest
Are Proper Nouns and Formal Names Always Capitalized?
These are nouns that represent a specific person, place, or thing and should be capitalized. This is important! Proper nouns and names account for most of the capitalization on your resume. For example:
- George Washington
- Fifth Avenue
- Museum of Modern Art
What is Appropriate Capitalization of Company Names and Software Tools?
As proper nouns, the names of companies and software tools typically get a capital letter, unless they’re written in all lowercase letters or all caps by the company itself. Usually, companies only use this kind of unorthodox styling for logos, but occasionally it carries over into regular text.
Do you use Microsoft Excel? Adobe Photoshop? Make sure they’re capitalized, whether they appear within a bullet or are listed in a skills section. I always look up the name of a software program to see how the company writes it, and then follow that. Make sure you also pay attention to caps in the middle of a name, or lowercase letters at the start, like:
How Can I Delineate Roles, Departments, and Teams?
These should be lowercase in most places on your resume, including within your resume summary (if you’re using one) as well as your bullets or other descriptions of work experience, education, volunteer work. So, you’d write:
- Scheduled social media content as a marketing coordinator with Fallwell Industries.
The only exceptions are when you name your role at the start of a job entry and if you’re putting a title at the top as a resume headline. For example:
Fallwell Industries Marketing Coordinator (January 2014–July 2017)
The same goes for departments and teams. If you’re listing out departments you worked with, you don’t need to capitalize those. That’s probably one of the things I fix most frequently.
So, do this:
- Collaborated with engineering, marketing, and sales to make product improvements that incorporated customer feedback.
- Collaborated with Engineering, Marketing, and Sales to make product improvements that incorporated customer feedback.
Should I Use Initialisms and Acronyms?
If you use an initialism (pronounced as letters, like “FBI”) or acronym (pronounced as a word, like “ASAP”), make sure you spell it out first, and then add the shortened version in all caps in parentheses to ensure you get through an applicant tracking system (ATS). Here are a couple of examples:
- Acted as subject matter expert (SME) in a complex software implementation.
- Used search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to improve website visibility and increase traffic to the site.
Even if an initialism or acronym is widely recognized—most people would immediately know what NASA refers to, for instance—there’s still a chance an ATS won’t recognize it. Spell it out first and then you can use the abbreviation from then on.
When is it Appropriate to Use All Caps?
The only other times I’d suggest using all caps on a resume, besides abbreviations, is for your name at the very top of the page and for section headings. It’s a personal preference, but I like the look and it helps those sections stand out. For example, you might make your section headings:
EXPERIENCE vs. Experience
EDUCATION vs. Education
SKILLS vs. Skills
Grammatical errors and small inconsistencies are deal breakers for some resume reviewers. Over-capitalization might not be the biggest offender, but let’s make sure it doesn’t exclude you from being considered for potential jobs.
I can help you make those final, polished touches on your new resume. Email me and attach or embed your resume, or schedule a call with me so you can walk me through the work you’ve already done.