Three Reasons to Use Lists on Your Résumé

Three Reasons to Use Lists on Your ResumeWhen you take a look at blog posts on a variety of topics, you may notice something: a significant number of the titles indicate that there is some type of list that can be found within the context of the post.

That’s not just an anomaly. Readers gravitate to lists for a variety of reasons:

1.  Lists are easier to read than paragraphs of text. Think about it this way: when taking inventory of what you need to buy at your next trip to the grocery store, how will you write down the items?  In a list.  Because reading:


is a whole lot easier than reading: bread, milk, eggs

And that’s not just a convenient anecdote. A post on Esquire highlighted a 2006 study that looked at how people read websites. Instead of left to right for each and every line, we take a couple quick left-to-right swipes across the page before skimming down the left side of the webpage. A perfect way to read a list!

2.  Lists convey information quickly. A well-crafted list can act like the Cliff’s Notes version of the information that that is to be emphasized. Even if there ends up being a supporting paragraph or two to flesh out the point, you can skim the main point to get the gist of what’s going to be said. Reading the details can come later when you have more time.

3. Lists stand out from other text. Whether numbers or bullet points are used, the fact that they are set off by something at the beginning of each point and they are indented from the regular paragraphs automatically draws attention to them.

There are many things out there to compete for an audience’s attention. Because of the previous three points (they’re easier to read, they convey information quickly, and they stand out), readers will, by default, gravitate to a list.

Translating Those Ideas to Your Résumé

HR and hiring managers don’t have a lot of time to go over your application materials, especially considering the amount of competition there is for each opening. With the whole first page of a résumé in front of them, where do you think their eyes will naturally fall?

That’s right — to the lists. And the rationale for why those lists will be read before your wonderful prose is exactly the same as it is for why readers like blog posts with lists.

So should you put everything in your résumé in a list format? Of course not – that would be overkill. Rather, be strategic in your use of lists. Enhance the readability and aesthetic appeal of your résumé with them. Use them to help your audience gain enough information in the first pass that they will put your application in the “To Be Further Considered” pile rather than the trash can.

Image courtesy of Carissa Rogers

Looking to update your résumé but don’t know where to start? Let’s work together for you and your success!

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