If you’re giving your resume a little facelift, it’s important to do more than a grammar and spelling check. (And ahem, send it to your five closest friends for review.) Additionally, it’s worthwhile to examine the formatting of your resume. And more specifically, how you’re using — or not utilizing! — bullet points.
As Amanda Augustine, the career expert for TopResume puts it: if the content is the king of resume writing, then the design is the queen. “How you format the information on your resume is just as important as the information itself,” she stresses.
Styling not only makes you stand out in a pool of applicants but illustrates strong organization skills and makes it more likely your resume will be read by recruiters and hiring managers. Here, we spoke with experts to discuss the underrated benefits of this approach:
They help to manage the length
Just because you could write a novel about your past work experiences, going into in-depth detail about your performance and impact at each company, doesn’t mean you should. Many people struggle with the editing part of resume writing since it’s critical to keep this record of employment to one to two-pages for most professionals.
When you use resume bullet points, you help limit your rambling, according to Anne Corley Baum, author, and the Lehigh Valley executive and vice president of distribution channels and labor relations for Capital BlueCross. By only having limited space per bullet, you make use out of each and every single word, and thus, only put the most impressive real estate on your resume.
They highlight your selling points
Augustine says bullet points are a great way to highlight the most critical pieces of information on your resume when used effectively. You should think of these points as your space to brag in a confident, assured manner, including brief information on accomplishments, awards, and other proof of your success. “Consider the bullet point to be a design element, allowing you to draw the reader’s eye to the details within your resume that best support your case for landing the job,” she adds.
They help you stand out
When a recruiter or hiring manager is seeking to fill an open position, they’re met with dozens — and sometimes hundreds or thousands — of applicants. So, catching their attention is necessary if you want to make it to the next round, and hopefully, snag the offer letter.
Baum says a well-written bullet point resume can help a candidate stand out in a big way. “Interviewers, in their search for the perfect candidate, must first wade through a vast selection of candidates to determine who to interview. A well-organized, bulleted resume lends itself to catching the attention of the reviewer and supporting the chances that the candidate will be moved forward in the process,” she explains.
They increase resume readability
When you’re reading a text of any kind, it can feel overwhelming to see endless paragraphs without any breaks. It causes our eyes to strain, and naturally, we lose interest and move on to something else.
Resume expert Wendi Weiner says that’s why bullet points make a huge difference: they are easier to scan, read and digest. As she puts it, the purpose is to play into the reader’s psychology and no overuse or underuse bullet points. Her recommendation is between four and six 6 points per job example.
“The key to remember is that the further back you go in the work history, the smaller and more dense info you provide,” she continues. “The goal is to leverage impact for the bullet points based on the value proposition. A polished bullet point that gives enough detail with substantiation can provide a clear impact and increase reader valuation of your resume.”
They show how you work
Your resume is the very first introduction a potential employer has to you, and it should be a representation of how you function as a professional. So, if it’s messy, confusing, and uses super-small font size and no clear flow? That’s how the hiring manager will assume you are with all of your work.
“When your resume is concise, organized, and conveys valuable information, you’ll demonstrate that you’re concise, organized, and deliver value on the job,” explains Jennifer Shryock, the founder of Rainmaker Resumes. “You’ll create congruence between the work you’re applying for and the work you’ve turned in: your resume.”
When using bullet points, aim for a resume that paints a picture of you ‘on the job’ at a glance’ by creating results envy. When you do this, Shryock says you’ll be called in for the gig. “Hiring managers will think, ‘We need results like those!’ Or, ‘If she can accomplish those results for that other company, I want to know what she can accomplish for us! Let’s schedule an interview to talk to her about how she can help us get results, too,’” she adds.
They achieve visual balance
As any designer will tell you, visual balance is vital. And though you may not think of your resume as a work of art, you should! Augustine shares a TopResume study found that recruiters favor resumes whose design strikes the right balance between content and white space.
“Bullet points are an effective way to achieve this visual balance,” she continues. “Instead of describing your work experience with dense paragraphs of text, write a short blurb that describes your role and responsibilities, and then use bullet points to call out your greatest, most relevant achievements while working in that position.”