When and How to Use Bullet Points in a Cover Letter (with Example)
Need a new way to structure and focus your cover letter to impress the hiring manager? Check out this guide on the option of using bullet points (featuring an example of a bullet point cover letter we wrote.)
By: Alexis Sicklick | Resume Writer for Let’s Eat, Grandma
Structuring a cover letter is very similar to writing that classic five-paragraph essay in middle school and high school. You need a strong opening, three solid points to discuss, and a clear closing.
That’s it. Easy, right? You’ve done this a million times before.
Why does the task suddenly seem so daunting now? It must be because this may be your only chance to tell your story to a potential employer, and you want to be as clear as possible about why you are the best candidate for the job. While there are a few approaches to writing a cover letter, we are going to focus on the value of bullet points.
Before we delve into the details, take a look at this short video of Ross from F.R.I.E.N.D.S.:
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He is in a high-pressure situation as well, but due to a lack of clear, organized points, he rambles on without responding to the question at hand until the very end. This is definitely not what you want to do.
Of course, the poor format of this conversation leads to great comedy, but it also demonstrates the value of lists and outlines, especially when conversing with someone else.
Remember, the cover letter is not for you. It is to help your recruiter learn about who you are, so you should make it as easy as possible for them to identify your top credentials in the shortest amount of time.
Why use bullet points in your cover letter?
Bullet points serve the same purpose on a resume and cover letter from a design perspective, but they are not as limiting in this “essay” context.
Instead of two-liner phrases that quickly highlight a key aspect of your job as on your resume, bullets in a cover letter are the content paragraphs, and they are full-blown explanations providing all the necessary details to make that point as valuable as possible.
But they are not just paragraphs with bullets next to them. They start with a keyword or phrase that is clearly mentioned upfront and then expanded upon in about three to four sentences.
Their purpose is three-fold, as seen below:
Bullets produce a strong visual outline for the cover letter, creating a clear path for readers (and the writer when drafting it; see below). They won’t have to search to find out what makes you special — you are presenting it to them on a silver platter.
Use the main point of the ‘paragraph’ as a headline for the bullet and emphasize it with bold font so the recruiter’s eyes are drawn right to it.
If you aren’t sure what aspects of your career to feature, narrowing the choice down to the top three for bullet points will help you focus the direction of your letter. Often, one skill/accomplishment is an umbrella for one or more skills, so you will still be able to showcase the breadth of your capabilities, only in a more concise and direct format.
And remember, the cover letter is just a sampling of your career, so you don’t need to discuss every aspect in depth. Think about what achievements or obstacles are the most meaningful, impressive, or formative, and focus on presenting them in the most comprehensive manner.
Don’t forget to tailor your cover letter to the job description as well! Bullet headlines are a great way to utilize ATS keywords without them seeming out of place. And use the same phrasing from the description too — ATS will quickly identify that you do in fact have the desired experience, and you will be recognized as a strong candidate.
An Example of a Great Cover Letter with Bullet Points
Ready to see an example of a bullet point cover letter? Here’s one Let’s Eat, Grandma wrote for a real client (click to expand):
‘To sum up,’ bullets in a cover letter are an ideal tool for any type of reader or writer. They designate certain words or phrases to not only become the matchmaker factor but also to become flashes in memory, reminding the reader of who someone or is and why they are so significant.
The concept is almost like putting together a grocery list for your roommate or significant other. You need to list the product upfront, then elaborate on its special features to make it even more obvious as to what the right item is. You don’t start with a description and just assume they will be able to figure it out on their own — you specify it since you won’t be there to actually guide them, leaving no room for misinterpretation.
Or, think about it like a menu. There needs to be a reference point so that the diner, server, and chef can all be on the same page about what dish is ordered and what is included. Thus, a name is clearly defined and formatted to stand out, and it is followed by an articulate description so the guest understands the chef’s vision. The server, like you in a job interview, will expand upon anything that demands additional description. But in order to get to that point, the menu needs to draw the guest in from the start, just like your cover letter!
Ultimately, if you can ease the job of recruiters at all, they will be thankful and inclined to find out more about you. First impressions matter, and this is the moment where you need to encapsulate all that you are worth into one quick, initial glance.