Standing Out: Utilising Bullet Points in Your CV

Everyone has been guilty of under or overusing bullet points and getting the balance right can be the difference between engaging the hiring manager in your accomplishments or having your CV swiftly left to one side. Remember, it’s your CV and you need to be comfortable with it and should ignore any advice you don’t like.

To begin, let’s quickly hit the dictionary: a symbol, often a small, black circle, used in text to show separate things in a list.

Please note that nowhere in the definition of the bullet point does it say it is ESSENTIAL to list any and all of your lists in Bullet Point format. You can also play around with alternatives to the common black dot format to separate out maybe key skills at the start of your CV, and bullet points in your employment section.

  • The Bullet Point is there to keep
  • Content readable, increasing the engagement of the reader.
  • Its meant to help you get your message across in a clear and
  • Concise way

The Bullet Point is there to keep content readable, increasing the engagement of the reader. Its meant to help you get your message across in a clear and concise way.

See what I did there… This doesn’t mean you need to, or should, list how you photocopied something for Karen in accounts simply because you know how to click the bullet point button. We want to pique the readers interests with accomplishments, relevant experience and how you went above and beyond. The definition also allows you to group related information into one bullet point – a bullet point does not need to be just one sentence.

Some of the best CV’s I have seen have not used any bullet points, and instead separate out key information into 2 / 3 sentence sections, covering the employment period in around half a page of space.

Generally speaking, and in my humble opinion, a mix of both a paragraph to give insight into your general role then followed by Key Achievements or a shortened list of projects or larger piece work you have worked on is the best way to capture the attention of your hiring manager or HR.

Being able to succinctly educate the reader on relevant and to the point information is already showing your potential future employer an insight into your communication skills, and how you will process information for distribution.

From my old days working in Investment Banking, I attended a course on communication – and one of the take home points they emphasised is as follows.

If you have more than 6 bullet points, one or all of the following is true:

  • You probably don’t need all the bullet points you’re currently using
  • You may need to combine some of the bullet points into more concise sentences
  • You may not need to use bullet points at all in this case

So how can this practically be applied? Lets take an example of underusing Bullet Points (this has been taken from a candidates CV I received previously, and the CV was 1 page in length – it did not leave my inbox until it had been fully revamped):

Product Analyst, Company X Date – Present

Analyst working in a variety of roles as a consultant to a wide array of customers. Work has included scrum master, product owner, business analyst and data analyst.

This description is extremely short – gives no indication of customer type, skills utilised, product types or listing any actual achievements. Instead, we can give a clearer picture as follows:

Product Analyst, Company X Date – Present

Working as a product analyst with a focus on E-Commerce platforms for a variety of customers, I have taken on full responsibility for projects involving up to 20 members of multiple business units, and budgets of up to £30mln

  • Able to operate as Scrum Master, Product Owner, Business Analyst and Data Analyst
  • Industries covered include Automotive, B2B, FMCG and Challenger Bank
  • Comfortable interacting with both corporate and consumer user groups to ensure product has been fit for purpose
  • As product owner, have been instrumental in launching new to market products with over 1 mln users internationally

We have a succinct display of current skillset, show adaptability and a results driven focus, and allow the reader to understand what’s been achieved in metric terms. If we reach interview process, we’ve given enough detail to explore in conversation further. As a rule of thumb, I would rather give more detail than less as long as its relevant.

A key point to note at this stage is that if your job title has been standard, you should assume that the day to day tasks which would usually be expected of that position can be expected to have taken place – and the day to day “Business As Usual” can be summarised in 2 or 3 sentences. If your role didn’t necessarily have “interesting” projects or expand beyond the day to day duties, maybe include how you made them more efficient or productive. As any Chief Financial Officer will tell you, everyone loves anyone who can shave off a few days from your end of month / quarter process.

Cheat Sheet:

  1. Remember to centre your key achievements around your input, and listing metrics and time frames unless privileged information is fine.
  2. If you don’t have a key achievements section for each role, try it with bullet points!
  3. If your struggling to think of projects, and stuck with just day to day, think in terms of efficiency, increased responsibilities and quality of work improvements instead
  4. Ask an ex colleague what the best piece of work they think you have achieved whilst working together
  5. Try not to go past 6 Bullet Points if you can help it.