As a career coach, I’ve worked alongside recruiters and heard their complaints as they review resumes. I remember one squinting at the screen as she tried to read a resume with tiny font, and another telling me she doesn’t even consider a candidate if she sees typos in a resume or cover letter.
And 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.
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’s a comprehensive guide to capitalization on your resume to help you figure out what to do about...
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.
Proper Nouns and Formal Names
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
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:
Cities and States
Always capitalize cities and states when you list your location in your contact info and the location of a company or school. Make sure to also abbreviate states. For company info, for example, you might write:
Acme Industries | Seattle, WA
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, and more. So you’d write:
- Scheduled social media content as a marketing coordinator with Acme 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:
Acme 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 you’d write:
- 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.
General Industry Sectors
Do you work in the pharmaceutical industry? Keep it lowercase when you’re writing about industry experience. So at the start of a resume summary, you might say:
Project manager with experience in the pharmaceutical, medical device, and biotechnology industries.
Project manager with experience in the Pharmaceutical, Medical Device, and Biotechnology industries.
Seasons are not proper nouns so they should not be capitalized unless they are at the beginning of a sentence or you’re listing a season as your dates of employment (e.g., for an internship). But you should always capitalize days of the week and months, since they’re proper nouns.
Here are two ways to list dates of employment at the top of a job or internship entry:
But if you’re referencing a project you completed in the spring of 2021, resist the temptation to write “Spring 2021.”
- Completed a major software implementation over the course of spring 2021.
Education and Institutions
Always capitalize the name of a university or learning institution. For example, no matter where on your resume you mention it, you’d capitalize the first letter of each word in, say, Harvard University, Michigan State University, or University of California, Irvine.
But if you’re using the word “university” in a sentence by itself, it shouldn’t be capitalized. For example:
- Oversaw outreach to 30+ university partners to build a robust internship program.
Degrees and Fields
At the start of your education entries, capitalize the degree you earned (e.g., Bachelor of Arts, Master of Science). But like the name of a role, you don’t need to capitalize degrees if you’re mentioning them within a bullet or elsewhere (e.g., bachelor’s degree). You can also always use the abbreviated version, which gets the appropriate capital letters no matter where it appears (e.g., MA, JD, PhD).
Similar rules apply to subjects and fields as to roles and degrees: When listing your education entries, you should capitalize the subject or field you studied. Here are a couple of examples:
New York University
MA, English Literature
University of Texas
Bachelor of Science, Sociology
However, if you choose to list completed coursework with your degree or otherwise mention subjects you studied or researched, the fields wouldn’t be capitalized—unless they include a proper noun or name of a language or country:
- Completed coursework in comparative literature, American studies, French, and history.
Initialisms and Acronyms
If you use an initialism (pronounced as letters) or acronym (pronounced as a word), 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.
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 can be 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.