Resume Language

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A resume is a written document much like a report, email, or essay. It has specific language requirements you should follow. Here are some language tips to ensure your resume is grammatically correct.

Verb Tenses

You should only have two verb tenses on your resume: simple present and simple past. Use the present for jobs you currently have and the past tense for any other jobs you no longer work at. Here are the two examples:

  • Answer telephone and email inquiries (Current job)
  • Answered telephone and email inquiries (Past job)

Never use any other verb tense. This keeps your resume simple and easy to understand.

Parallel Structure

Each point in a bulleted list must have the same grammatical structure. Take a look at this example:

  • Managed a team of 12 cashiers
  • Responsible for opening and closing the store

Can you see the problem? These two statements are not parallel. The first starts with a verb (Managed). The second starts with an adjective (Responsible). This creates confusion and makes it harder to follow. The easiest way to fix this is always begin with a verb, like in the correct example below:

  • Managed a team of 12 cashiers
  • Opened and closed the store

Use action verbs.

Now that you know to start each point with a verb, make sure you are using what are called action verbs. These show a specific action you did, as opposed to verbs like get, make, do, or be.

Concise Writing

You need to write as concisely as possible. Remember, hiring managers take only a few seconds to look at your resume, so any extra words are only going to get in the way of your great experience. Here are some tips to help you shorten up your writing for your resume. You should notice some of these tips are different than standard business or academic writing.

Avoid personal pronouns.

You don’t need to include “I” on your resume. It is redundant and takes up extra space. So instead of:

  • I taught grade 7 and 8 science classes

You can write:

  • Taught grade 7 and 8 science classes

Your resume is all about you, so there is no reason to include “I”.

Limit your articles.

You don’t need as many articles (a, an, the) as normal writing. Removing them can make your points quicker and easier to read. Here are some examples:

  • Managed the marketing department and oversaw a budget of $500,000

You can remove the articles here to make it shorter:

  • Managed marketing department and oversaw budget of $500,000

This makes your writing a little snappier and crisper. It also leaves the focus on your experience, where it should be.

Avoid adverbs.

These little words love to sneak into resumes. We naturally want to impress, so we use adverbs to do that. Here is a common mistake:

  • Produced budget reports promptly.

Although you may want to show you finish your work on time, you don’t need to do that on a resume. First of all, what does promptly even mean? One hour, three weeks? Adverbs alone or vague. You could use numbers instead:

  • Produced budget reports in 24-36 hours

Another problem is that these impressive adverbs are often a simple requirement of the job. Shouldn’t you always complete a report on time? You won’t impress an employer by showing you do the basic expectations of your job.

Also watch out for adverbs of success, like successfully.

Avoid extra language.

Cut out any words that aren’t absolutely needed. Especially watch out for extra phrases at the end of your points, like in these examples:

  • Assisted store manager with payroll when requested
  • Completed sales reports as needed

These phrases don’t do anything for your resume. Take them out.



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