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Q:  Should My Resume Have Bullet Points or Paragraphs?

A: There is no one correct way to write a resume, and both bullet points or paragraph formats are acceptable. Whether you utilize bullet points, (short) paragraphs, or a combination of the two when formatting your resume comes down to two things:

  1. How much information do you need to include in the document?
  2. Based on the above, will  it be easier to read to bullet point or paragraph format?

You have roughly 7 seconds to establish a message and communicate your message in a way that leaves a lasting and positive impression with hiring managers. So the content on your resume – Experience, Skills, Education, Summary – needs to be easy to scan and read through quickly in order to avoid losing their attention and muddling your message among too much text.

When it comes to bullet points versus paragraphs on the resume, there is potential to go wrong in either scenario. If your information is ineffectively displayed in a lengthy list of bullet points, an overly-wordy paragraph, or any other format that doesn’t lend itself well to scanning through, your message will be lost and your audience will miss pertinent information that qualifies you for the role.

A good strategy is to condense your job description into a brief 3-4 line paragraph. When using a bulleted list, try to keep it between 5-8 bullet points, with each point ideally taking up no more than 1-2 lines.

Particularly when dealing with lengthier job descriptions and more detail, I find it effective to break up the next by utilizing a combination of BOTH bullets and paragraphs. Start off the description with a brief 1-2 line high-level summary of the role, followed by supporting bullet points around your specific responsibilities, contributions, and accomplishments. You may even decide to separate out your accomplishments into their own section beneath your responsibilities, and label it something like “Key Accomplishments” or “Select Highlights”.

You can find examples of each here.

Each resume is different and its content unique, and as such, your strategy will depend upon what type of layout you need to effectively get your message across without losing your audience’s attention.

You can have beautiful, expert written content that sings your praises and speaks perfectly to the job description, but if it isn’t easy to digest, it’s not going to be any more effective than a poorly written resume. This also includes the overall visual design and strategic usage of formatting elements.

What Next?

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