Bullet points are an integral part of both résumés and cover letters. It brings this series of blogs on topic to a close. If you haven’t had a chance to read these, here they are:

Part 1: Bullet point overview
Part 2 Short bullet points (five words or less)

This blog, Part 3 will focus on best practices when writing long bullets points. Long bullet points generally comprise a list of associated statements that educate the reader about your qualifications.

The biggest surprise about résumé readers

While researching the résumé process we use at Forward Motion, I spoke to over 50 résumé readers. The list included HR generalists, recruiters, managers, and final approvers. Each person had agreed to meet with me and give me feedback on the cover letters and résumés that I brought in. I am truly indebted to them for their feedback and willingness to share their expertise and their hiring processes.

When I met with them, I brought sets of paper with me. Each set focused on one specific element on the résumé (e.g. bullets!). Oftentimes, I brought the same information, formatted three or four different ways. Depending on the element in question, I would give them seconds to glance at the information and then get their feedback and ask questions. Other times, they might take a minute. It was RARE that they took more than a minute!

The study on long bullets was fascinating and I’m presenting some of the results in this blog.

Here’s why your résumé gets abandoned:

Principles regarding Long Résumé Bullets

Here are the first principles every jobseeker must learn:

  • Readers do not read from top to bottom, when reading your résumé.
  • Readers do not read left to right when reading your résumé.
  • Readers “graze” through the page, stopping when something catches their eye—therefore, every word should contribute value and catch their eye.
  • Credibility is earned through the careful selection of quantitative and qualitative information.

Guidelines for Long Résumé Bullets:

Every one of these bullets are CRITICAL to keep your reader reading your résumé.

MakeitSimpleButSignificant copy

  • Meaningless information will terminate the reader’s interest in you.
    Example: Led a team of five employees.
    Better: Led a team of five, including accountants, actuaries, and call-center managers.
  • Everywhere the reader looks, there has to be compelling information—no exceptions. (And this should help every jobseeker reduce the word count for their résumé!)
  • Bullets should be one liners. Really? Yes…when the density of information is high (full of industry lingo) it slows the reader down. Short sentences work! Remember that your reader is moving at light speed.

    Can you slip in a 2-liner? Yes. But I suggest that it be surrounded by three or four one-liners.

  • Divide long bullets and separate the Results statements because…
  • Readers will likely read your Results statements first. They should be short and quantitative. If they find something they like, then they will look for the bullet points that created that result.


Who reads long bullet points?

Generally speaking, long bullet points come later in your résumé and include the details for the hiring manager, colleagues, and oftentimes, the final approver.

Here are your readers and their needs as they read your long bullet points. The bold font specifically applies to your long bullet points.

  • ATS: key words, education, specific experience, certifications
  • Recruiters, HR:
    • Are you qualified?
    • Do you have the core competencies?
    • Can your résumé be passed on to the hiring manager and final approver?
  • Manager(s)/Executives:

    • Can this person do the job?
    • Do they have relevant experience?
    • How long will it take them to bring value to the team?
  • Colleagues:

    • Can this person do the job?
    • Do they have relevant experience?
  • Final approver:

    • Has this person been carefully vetted out?
    • Will s/he be a positive asset to the company?
    • Will s/he represent the company in a positive light?

The long bullets in your résumé are critical and should meet all the requirements outlined in this blog.

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Master these skills, differentiate yourself, and stay ahead of the curve.

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