How to use bullet-points on your resume (and what not to do)

How clear job targeting and a full reorganization afford a hospital director new opportunities in executive-level health care positions.

Carla Fore, a registered nurse and hospital manager who holds an MBA and a master’s in organizational psychology, has always tended to her own resume over a 30-year career.

“I have updated my resume every year and have always done it myself, since I also write,” Fore said. “But after a recent layoff in April, my CV seemed really piecemeal and patchwork. I had been told by recruiters that I was a classic case of ‘death by bullets.’ ”

Fore said she was also concerned that her old resume made her look like she’d changed jobs incessantly, particularly at one hospital where she’d actually been given a host of interim director-level positions.

“They kept bouncing me all over the place,” Fore said. “I was gaining a ton of management experience across almost every department in the hospital, but it looked like I was job-hopping every few months on my resume.”

“Carla had a 100 percent bulleted resume over five pages,” said professionally certified resume writer Andrew Pearl, who works with Ladders. “It needed major reorganization as her resume went back to 1979… All those bullets had the effect of giving almost nothing any emphasis.

“It’s like landing a plane on an airstrip at night,” Pearl said. “Having some separation between the lights allows for the runway to be seen more effectively.”

Pearl used Fore’s old resume as the basis for the new one. Because Fore had been diligent about putting quantifiable numbers, percentages and results in her old resume, he didn’t need her to complete the worksheet he often uses to help clients fill in the blanks. But Pearl did not hesitate to reorganize, cut and refresh a new resume for Fore that played up her aspirations for a job in hospital management and administration.

Multitasker vs. job-hopper

So how did Pearl address the perception that Fore couldn’t stay in one job for long ? Better organization.

“You have to assume that the people reading your resume have a short amount of time,” Pearl said. “So you link the responsibilities together under one company heading, give a short paragraph attached to each job title — with the most important results as the first few bullets — and keep it quick. And you emphasize the job target you are going after first.”

In this case, it was for a lateral position as director of emergency services.

“The job target is key,” Pearl said. “I always start with the target. In this case, Carla wanted to emphasize her management experience.”

In addition, Pearl stressed how including a short paragraph under each company she worked for sets the context for showing results. “You want to succinctly give a general premise for the company: who you managed, how many people, why you were hired, what was the day-to-day environment,” Pearl said. “You are setting up a narrative that you then reinforce in the results-centered bullets. It’s a one-two punch.”

Fore has been tremendously pleased with the results. She received the new resume in late May and already had four interviews by the second week in June.

What most impressed Fore about her new resume?

“The Areas of Excellence, ” she said. “They took everything I had wanted to say and boom! — three lines near the top that summed it all up… And I was really happy with the language used, with words like ‘bolstered’ and ‘spearheaded’… The new CV is so much better.”

Pearl said the Areas of Excellence section Fore likes so much helps break up the page visually, locks in some scannable keywords and plays on how people really read.

“It’s like a newspaper with its organization,” Pearl said. “When you have something to latch on to while you are reading, you will go there.”

“The thing is that I was initially targeting other director of emergency positions,” Fore said. “But after the new CV, I am getting recruited for positions two levels above director — positions like chief nursing officer and CEO. It’s something I’ve never, never seen before.”

It doe sn’t hurt that Fore is willing to relocate from New Mexico to almost any warm state in the U.S., nor do her credentials, experience and tenacity.

“A professor of mine once said something in a class, and I now take it as my personal philosophy,” Fore said. “‘Change is inevitable; struggle is optional.'”