What is "resume English," and where should I use it?

To save space for quantitative data (#, $, %) and qualitative details (first, youngest, only, best), I encourage you to use "résumé English" in your resume and application data form short answers. 

What is "résumé English" and how do I use it?
  • Remove articles 'a', 'an', and 'the'
  • Delete all subjects 'I' and personal pronouns (we, they, etc.)
  • Cut helping verbs ('is,' 'was,' 'were')
  • Use verb tenses in the past, except for your present job. Example: Conducted routine inspections of on-site equipment
  • Remove periods (.) since you are not writing proper English sentences
  • For applications forms: If you have enough characters to add a period at the end of every short answer, then I suggest that you do so. On the other hand, if you don't have space in some places to include a period, then I encourage you to omit them everywhere
  • Remember to use power verbs

  • Change all number words (five) to numerals (5)
  • In essays, write numbers as words if below 10 (except $ or %)
  • In resumes and application data forms, however, you can ignore this "rule" in order to save space that is better used for impressive details that show quantifiable results ($, %) and qualitative impact (first, youngest, only, best)


Thanks to my AIGAC colleague Laura Freedman, who shared some great advice regarding numerical abbreviations in resumes.

How to use abbreviated numbers in resumes for international MBA programs and companies

PREFERRED BY INSEAD (and understood / acceptable at any top MBA program)
(from the CV self-review style guide INSEAD gives to incoming students)

Suggested numerical abbreviations:
  • k for 1,000 (thousands)
  • mn for 1,000,000 (millions)
  • bn for 1,000,000,000 (billions)
  • tn for 1,000,000,000,000 (trillions)
For Indians – avoid lakh and crore. For Japanese – avoid "man" (万). These terms suggest you're going to have difficulty adapting to an international corporate environment.

For currencies - we use currency code, but for major dollar denominations, we prefer US$ and SG$, CN$, AU$, and NZ$. The $ next to the number makes it easier to distinguish the currency from the number and is a symbol most people recognize, e.g., US$30k vs. USD30k, or CN$60mn vs. CAD60mn. Note that a common error is USD$ - either D or $ is fine but using both is not.

For other currencies, I prefer £ and € to EUR and GBP for readability. € is unique to Euro, and £ is dominant enough that nobody is going to mistake the currency for e.g. Cypriot pounds (unless you are from or worked in Cyprus, in which case it's best to use GBP for clarity).

As a general rule, convert currency amounts to US$, since it's a universally understood international currency. It's also OK to use the currency for the market you are targeting, recognizing that that signals you want to be in that market. Best to avoid other currencies. Most prospective employers (or B-schools) are not going to understand PEN40mn (Peruvian Nuevo Sol), or DZD246mn (Algerian Dinar), for example.

More tips on how to write numerals here

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