On a resume, bullet lists are a lot easier to read than paragraphs, so if you're already using bullet lists, you're ahead of the game. But don't get excited just yet. There are good bullet lists and there are bad bullet lists, and many of the resumes I see have baaad bullet lists.
What does a bad one look like? Here's an example:
- Manager of a 4-person team
- Writing of monthly reports
- Cost verification
- Trained new hires on safety
Notice how those lines are inconsistent and hard to follow? The first one describes the job seeker, the next two describe duties, and the last one describes a specific task? Fortunately, there's an oh-so-simple, three-step way to perfect your bullet lists and boost your resume's readability. And (bonus!) it takes only a few minutes.
TIP 1: Start each item with an imaginary "In this job, I…"
If you reword each line in the bullet list so that it completes the statement "In this job, I..." the list becomes:
In this job, I Managed a 4-person team
In this job, I Wrote monthly reports
In this job, I Verified costs
In this job, I Trained new hires on safety
Of course you wouldn't actually write
In this job, I! That's just to illustrate the concept.
When each line begins the same way, we writers call it "parallel construction." Parallel bullet lists are much easier to read and follow than randomly worded lists. And bullet lists on a resume should always start with an action verb in the past or present tense.
TIP 2: Don't overuse the same one or two action verbs
If you notice that several bullets start with the same verb (like Managed or Developed), replace some of the duplicates with a similar verb that means the same thing (such as Spearheaded, Oversaw, Established, or Headed). Need ideas? Pongo has a list of 50 action words that may help.
Tip 3: Don't water down your statements
Give yourself credit. Your resume is about showcasing what you did, not what your colleagues may have also been doing. Let's say you and two coworkers wrote a 22-page report. Instead of modestly saying you "Helped write a 22-page budget report" or "Co-wrote a 22-page budget report," say:
- Wrote 22-page budget report in partnership with two colleagues
Readers will notice the beginning of the line ("Wrote 22-page budget report") much more than the end of the line.
There you have it—Keep things parallel, avoid repetition, and take full credit. If you haven’t been doing those three things, do them now and you'll take your resume from good to great. And great resumes are the kind that lead to interviews!
Any questions? Post a comment below!
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