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Don’t let resume become a list of vague bullet points

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By Eve Nicholas
Herald Columnist
I love lists. They are great for organizing, prioritizing and -- let's face it -- remembering the nitty-gritty details of daily life. But I'll be the first to tell you that lists don't belong everywhere. In some situations, they can be downright detrimental.
Throughout my experience in working with job hunters, I have learned that lists are probably the most ineffective strategy for presenting information to employers. This kind of uninspired presentation can wrench the life out of a resume or online profile. And ruin your chances at a really great job.
Even so, job seekers continue to submit documents that resemble data sheets or inventory checklists. They name a company, jot down a job title and then display a procession of bullets that seems to drag on for miles.
Here's the thing. Employers aren't going to slog through a tedious list of bullets to find the hidden treasure. Either you send a great document -- one that seizes their attention and inspires hiring managers to call you for interviews -- or you don't. Remember that you have just a few seconds to make an impression. What's the best way to get through the door? With a plain, uninteresting list? I don't think so.
If you currently use a list-only resume, I urge you to rework the text and formatting until you have a well-crafted marketing document in your hands. One that excites readers about your background. Makes them sit upright in their chairs, reach for the phone and schedule an interview right away.
Don't get me wrong. I am not suggesting that you eradicate lists completely from your personal marketing materials. On the contrary, a few well-written, strategically placed bullets will draw the reader's eye to certain details. Like the time you saved a million-dollar customer from leaving the company. Or the way you avoided three rounds of layoffs and kept a faltering business running until its last week of operations.
In my opinion, the most powerful resumes combine short paragraphs with concise, crisp bullets. I like to use short blocks of text (3-4 lines) to provide an overview of responsibilities in a given position. Then, I carefully craft 3-5 bulleted statements that showcase stand-out accomplishments for each job.
Some job-seekers cram dozens of achievements into their resumes. They forget that their documents are supposed to intrigue employers; not overload them with information. Only include relevant, noteworthy facts. Save everything else for your interviews.
Here is a sample job description for a building services foreman: "Supervised maintenance and janitorial crews in creating a safe, clean environment for tenants and guests. Prioritized and managed installation and repair projects. Controlled the annual budget." I try to develop a succinct, pared-down paragraph that highlights the essential aspects of the job.
Then, I write bulleted statements that accentuate special accomplishments, like this: "Improved safety by replacing a hazardous fire escape and designing a new policy for monitoring smoke detectors." Or this: "Cut costs by 15 percent through skillful purchasing and contract negotiations."
This resume-writing technique allows you to use formatting choices, not just content, to emphasize your key selling points. Employers will scan the page (or screen) as quickly as they always do. But now you hold the reins by directing their attention to your most impressive and valuable achievements.
Eve Nicholas:
Story tags » JobsEmployers



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