Make Your Fact Sheet
Resumes are an early step in any hiring process. Begin by creating a master resume to track your accomplishments. When applying for a position with a specific employer, tailor the resume to your relevant qualifications.
Use this page to learn how to build a resume that succeeds in Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and human reviews.
Polish the Writing
Formal and Factual Language
Once you have created your resume and built sections to create an initial draft, it is time to enhance the level of writing on your resume. Because your resume is a document that serves as your professional "fact sheet," it is most effective when it uses language that is formal and factual, as guided by business format writing.
To achieve this effect, we recommend that you omit personal pronouns (e.g., "I", "my", "me"), flowery adjectives (e.g., "great", "excellent", "amazing"), and obscure acronyms (e.g., "SRB", "CLAS", "AMA") unless they are common knowledge within the employer to which you are applying. For optimum results in ATS, we encourage you to use both the long form and acronym forms of keywords and phrases (e.g., “Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)” or “Application Programming Interface (API)”). It is also best to avoid informal phrases, so that your written communication appears as professional as possible.
Spelling and Grammar
Your resume is a professional representation of you on paper and it is often the first impression that an employer sees you through. If you are not careful to maintain strong attention to detail on your resume, employers may think that you are not going to be careful in the workplace, either.
Most word processing software has the ability to flag significant errors in writing, but they do not catch everything. Make sure that you have proofread your resume for proper spelling and grammar. Then, ask a friend or family member to review your resume. This is the time to be precise and exact; in competitive application pools, one misspelled word could be enough to discourage an employer from proceeding with your application.
Resumes adopt a variation of English grammar called "gapping," in which you omit smaller words (e.g., articles such as "a", "an", and "the") to get to the point more quickly. This creates a series of action-oriented statements instead of complete sentences, but each statement still needs to read smoothly with parallel structure. Consider how a complete sentence such as "I directed four of my team members to help promote the organization" can be made more concise and powerful with gapping: "Directed team of four to promote organization".
Gapping may be particularly challenging if English is your second language. If you would like to learn more, we recommend studying English grammar further through services such as UCSB Campus Learning Assistance Services (CLAS) to understand this with greater context.
Verbs are your tool to create powerful writing. Review your resume in search of weak or vague verbs (e.g., "is", "be", "have") and replace them with strong verbs that show a specific action. Be strategic in your choice of verbs, in order to match the energy of the position to which you are applying.
When reviewing your resume, read each of your verbs aloud from the top of the document to the bottom. What type of energy do they give? Adjust verbs as needed to communicate your accomplishments with intention.
To place your reader in the proper moment in time for each item on your resume, we recommend using the verb tense that matches the date of the experience.
Specifically, write in the past tense for past experiences (e.g., "performed", "coordinated", "served") and write in the present tense for present experiences (e.g., "perform", "coordinate", "serve"). Avoid the present participle tense, which places an "-ing" at the end of a verb (e.g., "performing", "coordinating", "serving"), thus making it more passive and obscure.