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Writing Your Resume: Bullet Points Vs. Paragraphs

Author: Micah May 20, 2010 Resume Tips 2 Comments Tags: Tags: , ,

Resumes are tough to write. A lot of time is spent trying to come up with points that will look great to employers and help you get called back for an interview. Trying to put those accomplishments, skills, statistics, etc. into words is an uphill battle. How do you describe your experiences at a job in a way that is going to get the employer’s attention?

As you write your work history you will have to come up with the best way to share your experiences at the job. You have two basic options:

  • Bullet Points
  • Paragraphs

Traditionalists will recommend bullet points – and, to be fair, so will the writers of Everyday Interview Tips – but there will be times that writing paragraphs can be beneficial.

Bullet Points

The best way to display your work history is with bullet points. Bullet points after each job allow you to state exactly what you achieved/performed at the job in a manner that draws your attention. Eyes tend to look directly at bullet points naturally. You also do not have to worry as much about being a good writer. Your bullet points should be written like so:

  • Increased sales by 357% within three fiscal years.
  • Restructured sales department to improve efficiency.
  • Organized companywide changes in sales strategy.

Notice there is no “I.” You are not explaining what you did. You are stating it in a way that is in the employer’s face. If they read your resume, they will read your bullet points, and these bullets are going to impress employers.

Paragraphs

Paragraphs are not nearly as effective. They tend to be boring to read, and the power of your statements gets lost within the prose. Look how the same bullet points above would appear in paragraph form:

When I was working at SalesCompanyCorp, I increased sales by 357% within three fiscal years and completely restructured the sales department to improve overall efficiency. I also organized companywide changes in sales strategy.

ZZZZZZzzzzzz. Boring. Also, the longer your paragraphs are, the less likely the hiring manager is going to read them. So why do paragraphs at all?

There is some value to paragraphs, and that value occurs when you are both:

  • Good at Writing
  • Without Any Real Accomplishments

When your work history does not contain any impressive jobs, or you didn’t work in a role that allowed you to have any real effect on the success of the company (for example, it was your job to simply check the status of products – useful, but only a small role in the huge company), there are very few ways to make an effective bullet point. Instead, you may wish to go to paragraph form:

While employed at TechCorp, my ability to analyze data and coordinate projects were constantly tested. Every day it was my responsibility to ensure that each project was on schedule, while adapting for any unforeseen problems and adjusting procedures to bring the projects back up to speed…

This paragraph makes your job sound more glamorous, and though it doesn’t draw the eye toward it in the way bullet points do, it should still be an effective way of writing your work history for any employer that is willing to take the time to read it.

Which to Use

If you do not have much to say about your previous place of employment and you are able to write in an engaging and intelligent way, paragraph forms may work to your advantage. For all other applicants, especially those that are not 100% certain their writing is top notch, you should use bullet points in your resume.

Take Away Interview Tips

  • Use Bullet Points in 95% of All Resumes
  • Consider Paragraphs When You are a Quality Writer Without Much to Say in Your Work History.

Related posts:

  1. How Bullet Points Should Appear on Resumes
  2. 5 Resume Design Tips
  3. 7 Resume Red Flags
  4. Free PDF – Free Resume Writing Tips Available for Download
  5. Does Your Resume Hold Up Under Quick Scrutiny?

Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. Karen says:

    how do you write this in a bullet point?

     I am a senior vocal major attending the “Fame” School, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts carrying a dual course load of study split between academic and conservatory vocal training. Current GPA 3.74%.

     I attended Northwestern University’s National High School Institute (NHSI) Theatre Arts and Musical Theatre Extension, summer 2010, with full scholarship. Recipient of the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Foundation award for academic excellence.

     Since 2007, I studied classical voice and musical theatre at the Manhattan School of Music (MSM) Precollege Division: a highly competitive and professionally oriented Saturday music program. Full 4-year scholarship. Recipient of the 2009 Carl Owen Memorial Award for artistic achievement. Current GPA 3.69%.

  2. Micah says:

    Hi Karen – The key is to not write complete sentences and use terms like “I.” Also, as with any resume, each of the points you listed will have its own section. For example, you will have an education section and list the high school specifically, then follow it up with bullet points underneath, for example:

    2006-2010 Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art Diploma

    * Completed dual course load between academic and conservatory vocal training.
    * Obtained a GPA of 3.74
    * Earned full scholarship to Northwestern University’s National High School InstituteTheatre Arts and Musical Theatre Extension

    etc. Try to come up with at least 3 bullet points each, but no more than 5. Do so for each school. If the MSM program and NHSI program were in association with your high school, then list them under the high school subheading. Usually it is unnecessary to list your GPA, even though it is as high as yours, so that will save you some space. The other accomplishments should speak for themselves. Anything you cannot place in the resume can also go in your cover letter.

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