Disarming a Bullet-Riddled Resume | Ladders

By highlighting every line in his resume with a bullet point, Kevin Kennedy made sure none of his accomplishments stood out.

Disarming a Bullet-Riddled Resume

By highlighting every line in his resume with a bullet point, Kevin Kennedy made sure none of his accomplishments stood out. Enter certified professional resume writer with some fresh ammo.

Kevin Kennedy’s old resume was difficult to read. He had some great material buried deep beneath a two-page pile of verbiage that included more than 40 bullets. At first glance, it wasn’t even clear what Kennedy did for a living – something to do with sports and marketing. If I was going to help Kennedy, my top priority for his new resume was to select his top accomplishments and present them in an easy-to-read format.

Priority #1: Quickly announce who you are

Kennedy’s new resume takes control of the reader’s first impression – and quickly provides direction and context – by adding three missing elements:

  • Headline: Vice President of Marketing (telegraphs his objective)
  • Positioning statement: Sports and Events Marketing Branding Publicity Promotion
  • Career summary: This section supports his current objective by quickly sketching his successful career arc and highlighting some career awards and accomplishments. Now that we’ve provided some context, all the details under “Professional Experience” make sense.

Death by bullets

When writing a resume, a bullet point should be reserved only to emphasize a significant accomplishment or award, or highlight a list of keywords.

Problem: Kennedy’s old resume made ample use of bullet points – a whopping 42 of them in just two pages. That’s what we call “death by bullets.” With that many bullet points scattered across the page, absolutely nothing in the resume stands out. Worse, the bullets weren’t even aligned correctly – just tightly squeezed into a massive, uninviting block of text.

Solution: The new resume summarizes each of his jobs with a short paragraph (just one or two lines) and then uses bullets sparingly to showcase his accomplishments and highlights.

Use subheads to keep the reader on track

Kennedy’s second job, “Impact Sports & Entertainment,” lasted for six years, which is a relatively long stretch within a resume. To keep the reader on track, we organized his six years of accomplishments into three categories: “Sponsorship Marketing,” “Cause Marketing” and “Event Marketing.” Now the reader can quickly scan those six years, see everything in context and take note of his many accomplishments. The old format buried six years of his best information under one ugly pile of verbiage.

Quickly summarize older experience

Resume clients often focus on length. They’ll ask, “What is the correct number of pages?” The key question isn’t page count; it’s word count. Kennedy’s original resume packed more than 1,000 words into two pages by using tiny text (10-point Arial) and squeezed out all the white space. Because the 1,000 words are hard to read, it’s highly unlikely anybody would.

In order to fit all the important material comfortably within two pages, we made some editing decisions. First, we summarized the older jobs and grouped them. Next, we deleted his job at Coca-Cola (1994) because it was quite old and lasted only six months. Unlike a formal job application, you have room to eliminate jobs that lasted less than one year and fell earlier in your career. (Click here to read more about when you can leave short tenures off your resume. )

His new resume cuts the word count to about 800, increases the font size, and alternates paragraph and bullet-point styles. The final result is an easy-to-read, two-page resume that showcases his top accomplishments and should open new doors for interviews.

Donald Burns

Donald Burns

Donald Burns is a certified professional resume writer who specializes in resumes for C-level executives and senior managers in marketing, sales, operations, and high-tech. His career background includes electrical engineering, marketing and journalism.

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