August 13

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Resume bullet points: 5 important rules you should follow

Resume bullet points can be your best friend or your worst enemy when you are trying to secure an interview. Here are 5 things you need to know about how to use them – and not use them - on your resume.

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Most people use resume bullet points for 2 very good reasons.

First, they are perfect for drawing attention to a particular section.

And second, they provide a great structure for recruiters and hiring managers to speed read the information they are looking for.

But there are some important rules when it comes to the content of your resume and how both humans and ATS reacts to them.

5 Resume Bullet Rules to Follow

rule
1

Be Selective

We don’t want to see them in every single part of your resume.

They should only be used to provide focus in 3 areas – duties, achievements and qualifications if you have an extensive list.

 I’ve seen resumes that are full of bullet points.

 Bullet points from top to bottom.

 From page 1 to page 5.

 From page 1 to page 20.

 We have heard of death by PowerPoint – this is death by bullet points!

Using bullet points for every section defeats the purpose of helping important information stand out.

rule 2

Keep them balanced

You definitely should use them for duties and achievements, but take care to have the same number for each position.

 I generally advise 6-10 duties and 2-5 achievements depending on your skill level and experience.

 This looks professional and organised and ensures each role is fully explained to the reader.

 Remember though that you only need to go back over the last 10 years with this system, otherwise you will have an overly long resume.

 Just put your other positions as lineage.

rule 3

Choose the right style

When you come to the style of the bullet point itself, make sure you are being sensible and consistent here too.

 Always opt for a plain design such as a small circle or a small square.

 Stay away from ticks, and arrows and fancy icons.

 ATS has no problem recognising standard bullet points but when you start to add design things can go horribly wrong.

rule 4

Ensure consistency

Whichever standard design you use, stick to it and don’t mix and match.

 It always looks awful if you use different styles of bullet points in each section.

You may think it helps to make certain aspects stand out but it just looks unprofessional.

rule 5

Stay clear of numbers

These can cause real problems.

 As soon as we use numbers with a bracket or a dot there is the chance that ATS will have an issue.

 Especially if you use them everywhere.

 Some resumes I have seen use numbers from the beginning to the end in a sort of report style.

 Don’t do this.

 Keep to a recognised format that both humans and ATS can understand.

 No one section of your resume is more important than another so don’t tell the ATS otherwise.

 You want every part of it working perfectly for you.

 Further, numbers may also interfere with the grading systems some ATS uses too.


Key takeaways

So in conclusion, only use in some parts of your resume – not everywhere.

 

Use them in a balanced consistent way.

 

Don’t use fancy bullets or icons that can confuse ATS.

 

And never use numbers.

 

If you use them in this way they will be your best friends rather than your worst enemy when you next apply for a job.



Amanda Datchens

About the Author

A career coach, headhunter, and entrepreneur, Amanda has founded and been involved in developing multiple companies known for innovative HR and recruitment solutions. Originally from London but now in Queensland, Australia, she is the co-founder of Real Life Career Advice and the Hi Vis Hub.

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