Is Your Résumé Riddled With Bullets?

Posted on April 17, 2009. Filed under: Resumes | Tags: , , , , , , |

resumeby Stephen Van Vreede (@ITtechExec)

It is time to stand up for the bullet point

I review hundreds of résumés per month, thousands per year, and one of the main areas of formatting confusion has to do with the use of bullets. I see résumé after résumé with nothing but bullet points.

And I can’t fault job seekers on this one. Many of these résumés are written by certified professional résumé writers!

What gives?

It never fails that whenever someone speaks forth résumé advice, the context always seems to get lost somewhere in the execution. Someone, somewhere, who must have been in the know, said something like this: “Use bullet points in your résumé because they are a great way to add emphasis.”

And thus bullets have been splaying ever since!

First and foremost, people love bullets. And for good reason. They keep things quick and easy and are nicer to peruse than lengthy paragraphs. Second, people feel that when something is bulleted, it makes the statement seem more important. It tells the reader that in fact: “Hey, notice this point!”

The problem, however, is that a document full of bullets looks no more inviting to read than a document full of block paragraphs. And the idea that each bullet has something interesting to see gets convoluted when you are met with two full pages of them. All of a sudden you are saying that everything is of equal importance on the page, so instead of standing out, it now all blends together.

So what is a job seeker or a résumé pro to do?

Make your bullet points count!

Infuse short paragraphs saved for basic job descriptions (up to no ~5 lines in length), and then use your bullets to highlight your most important and pertinent accomplishments). I’m not sure you can put a limit on the amount of bullet points used per position, but 4 is a nice number to go by.

To give you a better visual of what I mean, look at the following two samples:

Sample 1

  • Led 40-person team to devise and execute strategies to transform city operations and community satisfaction.• Engaged residents and businesses through various mediums to identify and address needs.• Planned and managed annual operating budget and expenditures.• Directed citywide projects and improvement initiatives.

    • Overhauled 26 outdated ordinances, infrastructure, development standards, and financial practices.

    • Achieved significant reduction in risk and liability exposure related to OSHA violations, legal and zoning disputes, financial settlements, and procedural documentation.

    • Revamped billing and collection processes to improve cash flow, which enabled execution of 10% tax cut and subsequent re-election in 2006.

How do you differentiate from the list above what stands out as the main accomplishments and what are just basic job tasks?

Now look at the next sample:

Sample 2

Led 40-person team to devise and execute strategies to transform city operations and community satisfaction. Engaged residents and businesses through various mediums to identify and address needs. Planned and managed annual operating budget and expenditures. Directed citywide projects and improvement initiatives.

Key Achievements:

  • Overhauled 26 outdated ordinances, infrastructure, development standards, and financial practices.• Achieved significant reduction in risk and liability exposure related to OSHA violations, legal and zoning disputes, financial settlements, and procedural documentation.• Revamped billing and collection processes to improve cash flow, which enabled execution of 10% tax cut and subsequent re-election in 2006.

Now it is clear what the day-to-day focus was for this candidate and what were the main highlights.

Paragraphs need love too

I’m not sure where and when the paragraph started getting such a bad rap, but somewhere it started falling under the category of “bad” or “uninviting.” In Sample 2, if you had more context that you wanted to add or just wanted to break up the text a bit, you could do a really amazing thing: Hit Enter!

See what I mean:

Sample 3

Led 40-person team to devise and execute strategies to transform city operations and community satisfaction. Engaged residents and businesses through various mediums to identify and address needs. Planned and managed annual operating budget and expenditures.

Directed citywide projects and improvement initiatives. Proposed recommendations to City Council for approval. Created and facilitated financial training programs to disseminate best practices and standard operating procedures.

Key Achievements:

  • Overhauled 26 outdated ordinances, infrastructure, development standards, and financial practices.• Achieved significant reduction in risk and liability exposure related to OSHA violations, legal and zoning disputes, financial settlements, and procedural documentation.• Revamped billing and collection processes to improve cash flow, which enabled execution of 10% tax cut and subsequent re-election in 2006.

Is it still too much to read for your taste? We could certainly argue that. But at least the bullets mean something now. The document looks well organized and thought-out as opposed to just a laundry list of items.

So whatever you do, consider how you splay your bullets!

The ITtechExec Way

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