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How many bullets should you use in a job description? Does your job posting have too many bullets?

Great questions. I’ve been asked a bunch of these job description bullet-related questions. I did my best to answer those and more below.

It’s all the best practices I know about the most effective use of bullets in job descriptions.

Note: I use the terms “job descriptions”, “job postings” and “job ads” interchangeably in this article. 

Enjoy!

1. Why Use Bullets in Job Descriptions?

The purpose of bullets is to help your candidate to keep reading through your job ad. Bullets help draw the reader’s eye. And they reduce word count (since bulleted text can be shorter than a full sentence).

 

2. Should All Job Postings Have Bullets?

A job posting doesn’t HAVE to have bullets. But if your job ad is at least 200 words long, it likely needs at least one section of bullets.

That’s because a reader’s eye needs a healthy distraction after about 150 to 200 words of reading sentence-only text.

 

3. Bullets Versus Paragraphs in a Job Description?

You can use bullets for any section. And you can use paragraphs for any section.

The sections that make the most sense for using bullets are the ones that have items that are easily listed. Here are the main sections to use bullets in when posting a job:

  • Responsibilities
  • Requirements (Must-Have)
  • Requirements (Nice-to-Have)
  • Compensation & Benefits

 

4. How Many Bullets Should I Use in a Job Description?

The optimal # of bullets for most sections is 6 to 10, according to Ongig’s internal research via our clients using Text Analyzer. That maximizes the reading of your job ad and apply rate.

There are times where just 3 or 4 might make sense and other times when 11 or 12 bullets is best (e.g. a list of requirements for a technical job).

A case for fewer bullets can be made if you want to attract female candidates.  Harvard Business Review’s Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They’re 100% Qualified cited an HP Study about how women only apply if they meet 100% of requirements (whereas men apply if they meet only 60%).

So women might be deterred by too many bullets in your must-have requirements.

Hubspot did something clever here (see Your Job Descriptions Are Hurting Your Hiring Pipeline). They softened up their language for some requirements (making them “nice-to-have”) so their new bullets read more like:

“familiarity with..”
“bonus points for”
“working knowledge of…”

And, instead of looking at the # of bullets, you might examine the % of your overall content you use for bullets.

The optimal amount of a job description that you should bullet is 33%, according to How to write a stellar job posting using real hiring data (Textio’s’ Allie Hall).

 

5. How Long Should Each Bullet Be in a Job Posting?

A good rule of thumb is that a bullet should be 14 or fewer words (that’s the best length for comprehension, according How to Make Your Copy More Readable/American Press Institute study ).

Apple, well known for its ads, averages 14 or fewer words per sentence; and your bullet should be shorter than a sentence (because you can avoid words like And, But, Because, etc.).

That’s why I recommend 14 or fewer words on average in a bullet.

Just don’t be too long.

As Robert Bruce of Copyblogger wrote in 8 Quick Tips for Writing Bullet Points People Actually Want to Read:

“Long, complex bullet points would defeat the purpose of writing bullets at all — to keep your reader moving through your copy.”

 

6. What Punctuation Should I Use for Job Ad Bullets?

You can use different punctuation approaches for your bullets…just be consistent.

Here’s some advice from Grammarly’s Karen Hertzberg in How to Write Powerful Bullet Points:

  • If the text of your bullet point is a complete sentence (or multiple sentences), use capital letters and punctuation.
  • If your points are not structured as proper sentences, you don’t need to end with punctuation.
  • Capitalization is a style choice—with sentence fragments, you can choose to start each with either upper- or lower-case letters.

The key is to be consistent across your bullets. Don’t mix and match.

 

7. Bonus Job Ad Tip: Keep Your Bullets Symmetrical

Symmetry in job postings? Sounds like an oxymoron for some of us, right?

Brian Clark gave me this idea in his Little Known Ways to Write Fascinating Bullet Points.

“Keep your bullet points symmetrical if possible; meaning, one line each, two lines each, etc. It’s easier on the eyes and therefore easier on the reader.”

What Brian means is that when, for instance, a candidate reads a job ad, there is a certain symmetry to it.

Compare the bullets of these 2 job ad sections:

At Mynd we are obsessed with:

  • Playing like an ‘A’ team
  • Delivering great service
  • Innovating at every corner

versus this:

At Mynd we are obsessed with:

  • Playing like an ‘A’ team
  • Delivering great service
  • Innovating at every corner. By innovation, we mean that we are trying to be pioneers in our new industry. We are literally creating a new market.

Isn’t the first set of bullets easier on the eye? The first is more symmetrical (because it has 3 consistent one-line bullets). I recommend each bullet take up just one line for the best symmetry.

 

Why I wrote this?

Ongig combines best practices with artificial intelligence to give you Text Analyzer, the job description writing software platform. Please click the demo request button on this page if you’d like to learn more.

 

by in Writing Job Descriptions