A common question job seekers have is whether to use resume bullet points or paragraphs on their resume. The short answer is that a resume should always be written in bullet points and not paragraphs.
Why are bullet points better than paragraphs?
A hiring manager only spends a few seconds looking at your resume, so you want to ensure it's easy to read and digest. The easier you can make the hiring manager’s job, the more likely they are to look favorably on your application!
A resume in paragraph form makes it too text heavy. It’s not easy to scan through a paragraph and pick out key information. Bullet points, on the other hand, tend to be snappier and easier to read at a glance.
In addition, bullet points force you to write more thoughtfully and concisely, preventing your resume from becoming bogged down in purposeless and irrelevant detail. When a reader is only spending a few seconds looking at your resume, it pays to lose the fluff and focus only on what’s important.
For these reasons, bullet points are considered the best way to write your resume.
Resume bullet points versus resume paragraphs
Let’s take a look at this advice in action. Here’s an example of a resume paragraph:
I was instrumental in the growth of XYZ, where I applied my vast marketing knowledge to grow sales and improve usability. I improved overall sales by 9% without increasing the marketing budget. I did this through A/B testing different landing pages and optimizing our paid advertisements. Changes in the landing pages were also instrumental to the increase in the overall conversion rate by 13%. I was also successful in securing press in high quality publications which saw an additional 300,000 website visitors.
And here’s an example of the same text, formatted as resume bullet points:
Increased sales by 9% without increasing the marketing budget, through paid advertisements and conversion optimization
Optimized paid advertisements and A/B tested landing pages, which resulted in a 13% increase in the overall conversion rate
Secured press in high quality publications, which resulted in 300,000 additional website visitors within 3 months
Collaborated with different departments to improve the effectiveness of our marketing campaigns
Which one was easier to read and digest?
Obviously, the bullet points are more reader friendly. Always write resume bullet points instead of paragraphs.
Can I combine both bullet points and paragraphs?
You can combine bullets and paragraphs, but only where you have a lot of relevant and useful information. In this case, it’s better to write a short paragraph of 2-3 sentences, summarizing the duties and scope of your role, followed by bullet points that showcase your accomplishments. Keep both sections short and punchy - around 4-6 bullet points is a reasonable guideline.
Here’s an example of how you could combine resume bullet points and paragraphs:
Supervised a team of 12 staff and managed a fleet of 8 vans. Controlled an annual budget of $150,000. Led by example to deliver customer service excellence and promoted team cohesion.
Won a $500,000 new contract by launching a new self-service concept that also reduced overhead costs by $5,000 per month
Negotiated with suppliers to reduce costs by $1 per item, resulting in a multi-million-dollar annual saving
Achieved 99% in an internal compliance audit, a significant increase from the previous review
Consistently exceeded challenging KPIs, including surpassing sales targets by 70% in Q1 of 2023
Are there exceptions to the rule?
While we advocate using bullet points for the Career Summary part of your resume, one section where paragraphs are normal and expected is the Professional Profile (also called the Summary). Here, your elevator pitch, showing you as a perfect match for the role, can be presented as a 3-4 sentence paragraph. It’s still important to keep this section succinct and punchy, but it’s considered resume writing best practice to present it as a short paragraph. Here’s an example of a Professional Profile written in paragraph form:
An approachable Technical Specialist, with an honors degree in Cyber Security and extensive technical knowledge. Quickly identifies IT problems and understands requirements to develop effective solutions in line with industry standards. Skilled at reducing costs and increasing efficiency through automation, adapting easily to changing market demands.
How to write resume bullet points
Use 4-6 bullet points
How many bullet points should you have on a resume? We advise around 4-6 per role. If you have a lot of information, create a master resume with all the bullets you can think of, then tailor the resume to individual jobs by deleting any that aren’t relevant to each specific application.
Start with a strong power verb
Although not always possible, you should try to start each bullet point with an attention-grabbing action verb to help highlight key accomplishments and relevant skills. For example, Managed, Trained, Executed, Reduced, Improved or Delivered. For more verbs to start bullet points for resumes, check out our post on some 101 awesome power verbs.
Make sure the first bullet hits the hardest
The first bullet point of each position should be your main accomplishment. You want to capture the attention of the hiring manager with a strong start and make them think “Wow!”
Use numbers to quantify your success and make your claims more credible. If you can add relevant dollar amounts or percentages, for example, to each bullet point, they will have a greater impact. Consider:
Increased sales of cookies and cakes
Increased cookie sales by 20% and cake sales by 15%, contributing to an overall improvement of $50,000 in annual revenue
In the second version, there’s no doubt about the impact you had on the company. In the first version, your contribution isn’t clear. Maybe you only sold one extra cookie and two extra cakes!
Don’t use periods
Do you put periods after bullet points on resumes? In standard English, bullet points are usually written without a period at the end. The only exception to this rule is if the bullet consists of more than one sentence - and you wouldn’t write long bullets like that on a resume, would you? Remember, a resume needs to be concise - that means you won’t need periods at the end of your bullets.
Tailor the bullets to the role
It’s important to make sure that the bullets on your resume are relevant to the role you’re applying for. That way, the reader can immediately see how you’d fit into their business and drive it forward. Let’s look at some examples of how bullet points can be tailored to specific roles:
Bartender resume bullet points
Launched a new cocktail night, increasing footfall by 30% on what was previously the quietest night of the week
Created a warm, welcoming environment by encouraging the team to interact with new customers and provide attentive service
Customer service resume bullet points
Increased customer satisfaction by 20%, as measured by surveys, by resolving their enquiries at first contact
Implemented customer service training across the team and provided upskilling opportunities to improve standards
Cashier resume bullet points
Processed transactions quickly and efficiently, enabling a greater throughput of customers per hour
Built long-term relationships with regular clients in order to retain their business
Project management resume bullet points
Delivered a new system implementation 2 weeks ahead of schedule, through meticulous planning and cross-functional collaboration
Project managed an office move to a new site, which was completed within a strict $10,000 budget and with zero downtime
Retail resume bullet points
Reduced excess stock holding by 40% by promoting slow-selling items and maintaining an accurate overview of inventory
Delivered a $25,000 reduction in staffing costs by rostering fewer staff in quiet periods
Sales resume bullet points
Secured a $300,000 contract with a key client by building robust relationships with C-level decision makers
Proactively upsold accessories to enable the team to achieve challenging weekly and annual targets
Server resume bullet points
Encouraged repeat business by providing fast, personal service, even at peak times
Increased revenue by 15% by promoting dishes with high margins and upselling drinks
Now that you know how to present bullet points on your resume, you’re well-equipped to create your own knock-out job search documents!
In a nutshell
Should you use bullet points in your resume? YES! Just to recap, use bullet points instead of paragraphs on your resume whenever possible, as it's more visually appealing, more reader friendly and easier for a hiring manager to skim through.
If you’re not sure whether your resume is presented in the best possible way to show off your skills and experience to a hiring manager, why not submit it for a free resume review? Our experts will tell you exactly what’s working and what’s not, so that you can present the best resume possible!
Good luck with your job search!
Jen David, Editor & Content Writer, Jen David, Editor & Content Writer
Jen David has been writing CVs since 2010 and is the founder of CV Shed. She has worked with clients in numerous industries and at all stages of their careers, from students through to senior executives of global businesses. She loves producing polished, focused CVs that appeal to both human recruiters and applicant tracking systems, enabling her clients to take the next step in their careers. Jen has written and edited numerous articles for publication on industry-leading job boards.