The best resumes and cover letters are written with the reader in mind. We talk a lot about telling the reader only what they need to know; now we’re going to look at making sure it’s read. To do that, we have to understand the concept of “reader investment.”
Each resume requires an investment of time from the hiring manager. They have just so much time and patience to spend on each page that they must be choosy in their selection. Their initial skim of the document determines whether they’ll make that time investment.
Wading through big, clunky paragraphs is annoying so it’s easier to skip over them. You do it all the time, probably on this blog. If this post was one big block of text, you might opt to scroll down the page looking for a more accessible entry. Bullets jump out and grab you, so do bolded sections or headings. How many of you read that bolded paragraph before you read the entry?
Ask yourself, “how much reader investment does my resume require?”
- Do you have paragraphs more than three lines long in the top portion (the sales zone of a resume)?
- Are there strings of more than four bullets?
- Do your grouped bullets relate to each other?
- Are the results at the end of the sentence rather than the front?
- Were you more likely or less to read these bullets if they were clumped in a paragraph?
A clear presentation of low investment bullets, headlines, and short paragraphs wisely using bold, italic, and/or small caps does two things: 1) It will more likely be read, and 2) will require less white space. Keeping things concise does not mean you present less. In fact, you can present a lot more steak if you cut out the fat.