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Many people seem to think that there is supposedly one correct way to write a resume and a cover letter, but nobody every tells you how to do it. I like to say that there isn’t one right way, but many right ways. My guiding advice is to consider who your audience is, and present your material in the same way that that audience likes to present information. Going for a graphic design job? You might want to make your resume more stylized and designed. If not, it will look like you don’t have a good eye for design. Want to be an editor? Better make sure that you are consistent in every part of the document. If you can’t do it here, how can you do it for them?

In working with people on resumes, I see a lot of different ways to present what you have to offer, and one thing that I see misused (in my humble opinion) is the bullet point. I cannot tell you how many people have come in to talk with me and said that they’ve always heard that you should only use bullet points on resumes. I think that this way of thinking really doesn’t serve the bullet point well, and diminishes it power. (This is similar to the argument that a resumes should always be one page). While in many circumstances this is true, it’s not always the case. It depends upon context, with the context here being the audience.

I like to say that a bullet has advantages and drawbacks. The advantage to a bullet is that:

  • It makes something stand out and say “Here! Look at me! I’m important!”

A bullet has a few drawbacks though:

  • A bullet takes up a lot of space
  • It’s indented
  • You waste space on short lines
  • You have bigger margins
  • Lines run over, Lines run over and then you have just one word on the next line
  • If everything is bulleted and is saying here look at me I’m important, nothing is saying look at me I’m important
  • Having too many bullets makes it seem like a paragraph that the reader has to sift through
  • I’ll just add a few more bullets here to hammer home the point
  • I’ll just add a few more bullets here to hammer home the point
  • I’ll just add a few more bullets here to hammer home the point

So if you made it through that example of Death By Bullet Point, you may or may not have seen the most important things to get across. To bring them out, I’m going to give them some space:

  • If everything is bulleted and is saying here look at me I’m important, nothing is saying look at me I’m important
  • Having too many bullets makes it seem like a paragraph that the reader has to sift through

Bullets are like salt in a dish: use them just enough to enhance the main dish. If you overuse them, it overwhelms everything else.

I like to say that the perfect number for bullet points is 3. People can only hold three thoughts in their consciousness at one time. Any more than that, and it just looks like a big paragraph that takes up a lot of space. It also helps you to mentally edit by thinking “Okay, what’s really the most important thing to get across?” That’s where bullets really shine.

So, what are the things in your life that deserve bullet points?

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Ken Mattsson

Ken Mattsson

Ken Mattsson

I am a career consultant who specializes in the connection between what your spirit wants to do in the world, and how to marry that to the work that you do in order to support yourself. While I work with people in all fields, I specialize in working with "creative entrepreneurs" and the LGBT community.

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