As you’re writing your resume, it’s important to focus on what you’re including – your introductory summary, skills, career history, education, certifications, etc. – but you also need to be strategic about how you’re presenting your information. This leads to questions like:
Should resumes use bullet points or paragraphs? How many bullets should be on a resume? What are some resume formatting tips job seekers should follow to get noticed?
With various resume builders and templates out there, it can be hard to know for sure which layout is best. So we asked Jenna Sylvester, one of iHire’s certified resume writers, to weigh in with their expertise.
“Paragraphs and bullet points each have their place on a resume,” said Sylvester. “In fact, using both gives your resume visual interest and helps break up information in a readable format. What I recommend is using bullet points only for the key details you want to highlight – like quantifiable achievements and major accomplishments.”
Here is an example of how to use paragraphs and bullet points strategically in your career history section. First, day-to-day duties and responsibilities are outlined concisely in a paragraph. Then, directly beneath, bullet points highlight key accomplishments from that role. When a hiring manager initially skims your resume, their eyes will go to your most impressive details first.
“If you use bullet points for everything on your resume, nothing will stand out,” added Sylvester. “If you only use paragraphs, your resume will look more like an essay than a marketing document meant to showcase your career.”
The better way to think about this is how many bullet points per job should be on your resume. Limit your list of achievements to six bullet points, otherwise you’ll run the risk of overwhelming the reader.
“If you have a lot of accomplishments, want to highlight an achievement from further back in your career, or recently held a position that isn’t relevant to your current goals, consider using a hybrid resume format with a ‘greatest hits’ section on the first page,” recommended Sylvester. “You can pick and choose what to emphasize.”
Additionally, aim to keep your bullet points to one or two lines and your paragraphs to around six lines. Regardless of the format you use, your resume should be skimmable. Include what’s necessary to paint a full picture, but be sure to cut out “fluff” and redundancies.
Now that you know when to use resume paragraphs and bullet points, here are some additional resume formatting tips to keep in mind:
Looking for more resume writing help? Check out our resource center for resume advice and templates for job seekers of all experience levels. If you’re interested in working with one of iHire’s certified resume writers, learn more about our services and view before/after samples here.