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Should I use paragraphs or bullet points on my resume?

Kevin from the University of Texas at San Antonio asked:

When highlighting experiences on my resume, should I summarize them in a paragraph or use bullet points? Which is recommended when going to a career fair?

Hi Kevin –

Great question, but one that does not have a single answer which can be applied to every resume in every instance.

In my opinion, the most important factor to consider when trying to resolve the “paragraphs vs. bullets” debate is your audience:

Present your information in a way that is reader-friendly

You want to make all resume content as reader-friendly as possible.  The easier it is for them to get to know you, the better chance you have of being considered.

Bullets usually work when you have a lot of ideas/accomplishments/unique statements to present, paragraphs work when you have fewer messages to present.  Present your information in a way that will allow readers to get to know you quickly.  The more time they have to invest in a specific section of your resume in order to understand it, the greater the chance they are going to give up and skip to the next section; whether that means jumping from one bullet to the next, from one paragraph to the next, from one complete resume section to the next, or from your resume to the next person’s resume!

Remember, you are not writing this resume for yourself. you are writing it for the reader.  Make it easy for the reader to get to know you and what you offer.

Let me give you a few examples:

Paragraphs are used below, because the amount of information being presented is relatively small and focused.

paragraph sample 2

Paragraphs are used in this example, as well.  Note that each paragraph begins with an action verb and each highlights an accomplishment.

paragraph sample

Bullets are used below.  The statements are brief, but each one is unique.  The bullets help create a list of qualifications.

bullet example

Bullets are definitely the right call for the example below.  Each bullet contains a key accomplishment/qualification that would be obscured if all of the information were provided in one large paragraph.

bullet example 2

Remember, resumes are marketing documents, not informational documents, and you need to be prepared to discuss everything that is on your resume with potential employers.  If you are not ready to have that conversation, it won’t matter whether you used bullets or paragraphs on your resume!

Hope this helps,

matt-signature

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