One of the mistakes I see a lot of job seekers make is writing a resume with large blocks of text. A resume is a summary of person’s career and potential. It isn’t a biography. Unfortunately, some job seekers write with large blocks of text that are more appropriate to a book and than a resume.
In the Military Resume Benchmarking Report we released this week, we reviewed the text block size of military resumes. We found nearly 70% of the resumes utilized short bullets for writing about their experience. This is a great style for a resume.
For the research report we looked at three styles – bullets, short paragraphs and long paragraphs. Resumes with long paragraphs had text blocks that were more than a third of a page long, with some paragraphs approaching a full page. Short paragraphs had more than five sentences but were less than a third of a page long. Bullets were typically one to two sentences long, but could be up to five sentences.
Short and concise bullets make a resume easy to scan and read. Many hiring managers will scan your resume first. This initial look may only last 15 to 30 seconds. The goal is to decide if the resume is worth reading closely. If your resume is written in large blocks of text, a hiring manager may not read the most significant elements. Using bullets can direct the reader to focus on the most important information.
When writing with bullets, consider using titles for each bullet. A title can highlight an important concept and draw attention to the bullets that are the most important. Most resumes write bullets like this:
- Implemented a project resulting in $200k in savings
- Led a quality improvement program, reducing defects by 40%
- Revised production scheduling procedures, improving on-time shipping performance from 96% to 98% while cutting inventory levels by 15%.
Adding titles can highlight the accomplishments and draw the reader’s attention to the bullets:
- Reduced Costs: Implemented a project resulting in $200k in savings
- Improved Quality: Led a quality improvement program, reducing defects by 40%
- Improved On-Time Performance: Revised production scheduling procedures, improving on-time shipping performance from 96% to 98% while cutting inventory levels by 15%.
By adding the titles, the bullets have a clear purpose. A hiring manager can scan just the titles and get an idea for the job seeker has done.
One caution with adding titles, bolding and other style devices that emphasize information is to use these devices infrequently. There are a few job seekers that go overboard and end up bolding or italicizing almost everything. This defeats the purpose. If everything is emphasized, then nothing will stand out.