All job seekers should be using bullet points for their resumes.
But how many bullet points per job on your resume is enough? When does it become too much?
Too many could make your application less compelling whereas too few could sell you short.
One thing that’s true though is that recruiters would want to know what makes you the most qualified candidate for the role. So, making your achievements and expertise clear is a key factor for a successful application.
Aside from how much you should include, there’s a right and wrong way of doing it, which is what we’ll be going through in this guide.
So, What’s Wrong With Using Paragraphs for Your Resume?
There’s nothing entirely wrong with using paragraphs. In fact, the place where it’s most appropriate is your summary section.
Unlike bullet points though, it can be difficult to find key details within the first few seconds. They take more effort to read through compared to a 1-2 line bullet point. Plus, you’re more prone to creating a two page long resume rather than keeping everything condensed into a single page.
Why You Should Be Using Bullet Points on Your Resume
There are three reasons why you should be using bullet points for your resume. Without them, it can affect what you write about and how you’re perceived by the hiring manager.
It Improves Readability
It’s not an essay or dissertation where there’s lots of chunky paragraphs.
The purpose of both your resume and CV is to provide a succinct overview of your career. Using bullet points adds structure so that this overview is organized. As opposed to big paragraphs, these are easier to read through at first glance.
It Makes Your Resume Concise
Bullet points are designed to get key information across to your reader.
In other words, they encourage you to focus on the important details without writing too much fluff. Sending a concise application that gets straight to the point can show three things:
- You’re respecting the employer’s time
- You have strong writing skills
- You know how to sell yourself
It Affects the First Impression
Hiring managers only spend a few seconds reviewing your application. If it’s written in large paragraphs, it becomes difficult to read.
When something looks difficult to read, it’s less likely they’ll want to invest more of their time and attention. In fact, it could affect the first impression because it may suggest you’re not capable of putting together an organized, concise resume.
How Many Bullet Points Should You Use per Job Under Your Work Experience Section?
A good benchmark is between 3-5 bullet points per job. However, you can use as few as 2 bullet points or as many as 12 bullet points for each position as long as it’s relevant to the job description.
The number of bullet points you use typically depends on:
- Years of work experience
- The relevance of job positions
- How important the duties and responsibilities are
Some companies may prefer seeing a good amount of certifications and qualifications alongside your experience. In this instance, fewer bullet points might be used to allow for more space in your resume.
To be more specific though, let’s go through some examples based on different professional levels.
Entry Level Job Position
Mid Level Job Position
The mid IT support technician resume template below keeps each bullet point one line long. However, the least amount of bullet points they’ve used for a job is two.
In contrast, the business consultant resume template below doesn’t list as many job positions. But, they’ve used up to 9 bullet points to describe their responsibilities.
Manager Job Position
The operations manager sample below keeps bullet points one line long too. For all job seekers even if you’re in a higher position, you’re better off sticking to quality over quantity. So, be picky with what you choose to include.
Senior Level Job Position
The senior full stack developer resume sample uses a different format to stand out. They’re also intentional with the job responsibilities they write about.
Executive Level Job Position
The chief marketing officer resume example below uses a significant amount of bullet points for the first two job positions. For jobs that are 5 years old or more, they’ve simply listed the role without any bullet points.
Underusing and Overusing Bullet Points
Aim for a minimum of 3 bullet points per job. If this isn’t attainable, then even 1-2 bullet points could be enough assuming it’s detailed.
If you have job positions from 5 years ago or more, you can simply list them without using any bullet points underneath.
What if you have limited or no work experience? How do you make your resume look more complete? Good news – there are format settings you could try to adjust such as your resume font choice and size.
On the other hand, it’s difficult to overuse them. There’s no issue even if it fills more than a third of your application as long as it’s useful to the employer.
In essence, use fewer bullet points for jobs that are less relevant. Likewise, use more bullet points for jobs that are more relevant. Most importantly, the question you should be asking yourself is if what you’re writing about is important.
Where to Use Bullet Points on Your Resume
It’s essential to use bullet points for the resume sections listed below. Otherwise, the recruiter could skip past key details. After all, they’re not reading your resume carefully. They’re mostly skimming through it.
Work Experience Section
This is the section where the majority of your bullet points should be in.
Not only does it highlight what tasks or responsibilities you excel in. It makes your skills and achievements more noticeable too.
Compared to the other sections, bullet points are used differently for showcasing your education. Their purpose here is to list the extra details side by side.
This includes the following:
- Institution name
- Date of graduation
On top of giving your qualification the spotlight, it saves space.
Additional Resume Sections
Bullet points are only used in additional resume sections if it’s being approached in the same way as your work history. Use them when you’re going more in-depth on something you’ve mentioned.
Or when you want to add a few extra details, use them horizontally. If not, then they’re not necessary.
When to Not Use Bullet Points For Your Resume
Some sections don’t really need bullet points since they’re only listing things as opposed to going in-depth.
Don’t get us wrong though. Bullet points can be used for some of the sections mentioned below for ATS resumes. The downside is that it uses up valuable space that could be saved for another section.
You wouldn’t want bullet points everywhere in the first place because certain details won’t stand out as much as they could.
Anyhow, let’s take a closer look.
Vertical lists take up more space. So in the resume header, the details are listed horizontally.
However, rather than using bullet points, resume icons are a good alternative. It’s a subtle element that highlights your contact information.
Resume Summary Section
The purpose of the resume summary section is to hook the reader in.
It includes a short passage of text that summarizes your career highlights and professional strengths. Alternatively, it’s used to showcase your career objectives.
You’re not going into detail since your resume sections do that for you. Here, you’re only making statements about your expertise.
This is another section where you list things horizontally.
Bullet points aren’t necessary though. Instead, categorize your skills into groups and simply list them. When you’re writing a range of skills, it adds specificity and makes them easier to identify.
Additional Resume Sections
If you’re not explaining something more thoroughly or adding extra minor details, then bullet points aren’t necessary here.
The Best Practices for Using Bullet Points on Your Resume
We’ve discussed how many bullet points you could include and where they should be used in your resume. Now, how exactly do you use them?
There are 8 best practices – keep reading on below!
Only Use Them Where It’s Necessary
They’re essential for your work experience and education section. Not for the other parts of your resume. However, the description for older job positions from 5 years ago or more can be omitted.
If you’re only listing feats without going into detail, then bullet points don’t need to be used.
Start With Action Verbs
Each bullet point underneath the job should begin with an action verb.
The right words get your readers engaged once their eyes land on them. Once it gets their attention, they’re more likely to finish skimming the sentence. Moreover, it encourages you to be concise since you’re getting straight into the action.
Focus on What’s Most Relevant
You don’t need to list everything you possibly can. Quality is more impactful than quantity.
Only the most crucial information should be included. If it’s not relevant to the job description whatsoever, you might be better off leaving it out. Then, you’ll have the space to write about something else that’s more important to the hiring manager, e.g. certifications and qualifications.
If you’re writing as much as possible, you’re likely to include fluff, which makes your application less compelling.
Focus on Workplace Achievements
Focus on what you’ve achieved in the workplace. It makes you look more credible and positions you as an expert since you’re someone who brings results.
Let your actions speak for themselves. It’s more powerful than simply talking about the job responsibilities because they’re trying to find out whether or not you’re the most skilled person they could hire.
That said, don’t forget to use data and statistics.
The only thing to watch out for is the wrong buzzwords.
These can make an impression but if you’re using words that are often overused, it’ll have the opposite effect.
Show Professional Development
The standard resume format is the reverse chronological structure. It emphasizes career progression and professional development.
There are exceptions though. It’s not mandatory to list the descriptions of your work experience based on time order. At times, you can list based on what’s most important first to the least important.
Keep it Simple
The best answer is usually the one that’s simple.
Make each word count. Don’t overcomplicate things. Picking your words intentionally gives your voice a stronger effect. Besides providing a better reading experience, it also demonstrates efficiency since you’re not overwhelming the reader with information.
Don’t Exceed Two Lines
Bullet points are meant to be succinct. Long descriptions make your application look cluttered and less readable.
Generally, you should aim to keep bullet points one line long. If it can’t be helped, then two lines are the max. Otherwise, it’s not so different from writing paragraphs. So as you’re editing and proofreading, see how you could rephrase and cut unnecessary words out to save space.
How to Not Use Bullet Points on Your Resume
There are common bullet points and resume writing mistakes made by job seekers. Avoid these 3 errors to ensure you send an impressive application.
Spam, Spam, and Spam
Don’t spam bullet points for the sake of quantity. It can make your resume less impactful, especially when it’s not useful to the reader.
If you’re trying to fill as much space as possible, adding fluff and irrelevant descriptions isn’t the best answer. Rather than forcing yourself to write more, reconsider your resume font or even the resume formats as a whole.
Leaving Space Between Each Bullet Point
Bullet points should be under one another. Leaving a huge gap between them takes up space, so then you wouldn’t be able to write as much as you could. It could also affect the flow of your application as there’s a gap between each sentence.
The only exception to this is when you’re using bullet points horizontally.
No Numbers or Data
The results of your work speak louder than countless duties and responsibilities the employer is already familiar with.
You don’t have to blatantly say you’re skilled at something to let recruiters know you excel in that particular area. If you’ve achieved something from doing that task really well, your skills will show through the results. It’s more compelling when they learn about your skills this way too.
Therefore, you should use numbers and data whenever possible. If you can’t, use specific examples to back up your claims.
Not Satisfied With the Bullet Points You Wrote?
You probably know it could sound better if it’s phrased a different way.
Even though it’s at the tip of your tongue, you’re struggling to get the right words out…
Instead of rewriting it numerous times to figure out what it is you’re trying to say, why not generate sample sentences automatically to help save time?
In other words, try using Rezi’s AI bullet point editor.
It’s designed to make you look like the best candidate out of all your peers. By following the best practices, you can rest assured that you’re sending over an application that stands out and gets your hiring manager’s attention.
Here’s how it works:
- Sign up for a free account on Rezi
- Click on “Create New Resume”
- Complete the fields provided
- Go to a resume section, e.g. work experience
- Write a simple bullet point about what you did
- Highlight the sentence and press “rewrite bullet”
- Choose the suggestion you’d like to use
Or watch the short clip below to see how it works!
You’re not limited to a certain number of bullet points. It all depends on the context.
Here’s a few reminders:
- Older job positions exceeding 5 years can be listed without any description underneath
- 1-2 bullet points could be enough as long as it’s useful
- Up to 12 bullet points are tolerable as long as it’s useful
Focus on what you’re capable of accomplishing and the areas where you excel the most as opposed to just listing out all the things you’ve done in the past. Give your employers confidence that you’re the person they need who can bring value and results.