Lists, Bullet Points & the Rule of Three: Resume Tip of the Day

I see a lot of resumes every day.

Working in Human Resources, recruiting, and intern programs I receive an average of 15 resumes a day for various roles. Generally I enjoy reviewing resumes; the potential wealth of information about a person that one can can get from a resume is exciting! Maybe it's the HR bug, but the prospect of a new hire or intern creates a positive energy buzz for me (and hopefully my fellow Eko Communications coworkers)!

There I am, all jazzed up to review resumes when simple, basic errors elicit a groan in disbelief. Many resumes that come my way are in need of attention and some quick TLC, so today's topic is "Lists, Bullet Points, & the Rule of Three."


According to our trusty friend Wikipedia:

The rule of three is a writing principle that suggests that things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things. The reader or audience of this form of text is also more likely to consume information if it is written in groups of threes.

I've always been a believer in odd numbers, but for resumes a minimum of three; it might be three bullet points, three skills, three programs used, etc. If you didn't do three things at a job or internship listed on your resume, then it probably shouldn't be on there in the first place.


An example of a resume with bullet point issues.
Bullet point issues can be easily resolved.


Since we're on this topic, bullet points should start with verbs. Strong verbs. Powerful verbs. Call-to-action verbs! No verb should be repeated in any bullet point on your resume. Stuck? Lists like "185 Powerful Verbs That Will Make Your Resume Awesome" is a great resource. Still stuck? Click to or grab a thesaurus and branch out your vocabulary.

While wandering through verb-land make sure your tenses are correct. Simply, are you still at the position? Yes? Then all verbs should be in present tense. No? Then all verbs should be in the past tense.


All bullet points should be aligned at the same indent, be the same size, and be the same font. Simple black bullets, while possibly more on the boring side, fit the bill just fine. Having more than two types or stages of bullet points is excessive, visually unappealing, and often difficult to process. Need more space? In Microsoft Word it is simple to move all of your indents back--it is not necessary to have them indented a half inch or more.


(A bit of humor never hurt...)
Leaving one or two bullet points to fend for themselves is never a good idea!

Part of formatting is also making the bullet points consistent in structure and punctuation. If you use a period on one, use a period on all of them. If one starts with a capital letter, they all do. Consistency in formatting shows a level of detail that most employers request in their job ads.

This rule of three is a personal preference stemming from a freshmen english class at McDaniel College and my art background where odd numbers were the right choice and three is the best.

I would love to hear from the LinkedIn community about any bullet point preferences or pet peeves!