Take Resume Bullet Points from Boring to Bold in 4 Steps
If you feel like your resume isn’t showcasing your accomplishments as well as it could, follow our four-step process to spice up your bullet points.
By: Daniel Lorenzo | Marketing Director for Let’s Eat, Grandma
Is your resume not getting you any interviews? Have you gotten feedback that it’s not engaging? Not sure how to make it look truly impressive?
We need to talk about your bullet points.
A great resume isn’t just about what job titles or companies you have on it. At the core of every job-winning resume are a few impactful bullet points under each job that prove that you’re qualified.
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Regardless of your experience, you can write bullets that illustrate how you successfully applied the skills that the recruiter wants to see. We’re going to share with you the four principles that our professional resume writers have used to create impactful bullet points for over 3,000 job seekers.
But first, an important reminder:
Before we break down exactly how to write your bullet points, you need to make sure you understand the foundational principle of all great resumes:
A great resume does not describe your responsibilities for each job — it showcases your accomplishments.
Your resume is a sales pitch for your abilities, not a book report on your entire career. If all it does is list your day-to-duties in each job, it’s not a resume at all. It’s, well … a job description! And that won’t impress anyone.
Remember that, for the most part, a hiring manager can infer your responsibilities from your job title. I see that you were a barista, you don’t need to tell me you made coffee drinks.
What recruiters want to see throughout your resume (from the very beginning) are tangible accomplishments that are relevant to the job they’re hiring for, whether these are from a paid job, internship, or volunteer experience. This means you want your accomplishments to prove that you got things done with the skills you’ve mastered, and that you’ll do the same in the job you’re applying to.
The Four-Part Bullet Point Formula
So once you have your mind set on which accomplishments to showcase for each job, how do you turn those into bullet points on your resume?
Every bullet point has four essential parts. Here’s what the formula looks like:
(1) Active Verb + (2) Contribution and Skills Used + (3) Result
(4) Add Metrics to Contribution and/or Result
We’ll break down each step in detail by giving a makeover to the same mediocre bullet point throughout. You may have a ho-hum bullet on your resume like this hypothetical IT manager:
- Responsible for overseeing team members to complete data migration project
It leaves me begging for more details. What was the size of the project? How did it affect the company? Why was this different from any of the projects that the other 250 applicants managed?
Let’s revamp this bullet together.
Part 1: Active Verb
Every bullet point needs to start with an active verb.
Why? Because verbs are exciting. They quickly and clearly put the focus on your unique actions, rather than on the functions of the job title.
Active verbs cast you as the star of your resume and start your bullets with a bang. Plus, when every bullet starts with the same part of speech, the consistency makes it easier for a recruiter to quickly scan the resume in under 30 seconds, which is what they do instead of reading every word.
It’s important to use strong, varied active verbs and avoid weak ones. If you need help finding the right word, check out this list of synonyms for common active verbs that our professional writers use.
Let’s see what that bad example looks like with an active verb:
- Responsible for overseeing Directed team members to complete data migration project
We’re nowhere near done yet, but see what an improvement even that small adjustment makes? The lackluster bullet is now more active and easier to read — it cut three words down to one!
Part 2: Contribution and Skills Used
This is the meat of the bullet, where you describe what you actually accomplished and what skills you used to get it done. It’s crucial to integrate the skills mentioned in the job description in your resume, and this is an easy way to do so.
Remember, while this can be about something impressive that you did on a regular basis, it shouldn’t just describe your day-to-day duties.
For example, if you’re a social media manager, “creating daily Facebook posts” isn’t a good contribution to mention. Your job title makes it obvious that you do that. Instead, try something like “implemented new strategy of creating and posting original memes.”
Your bullet should also focus on how you contributed to the project in question, without too many details of the project itself. You should give context, but remember that you only have one to two lines for a bullet here. If you’d like to explain in more detail how a project was important, elaborate on it in your cover letter.
- Directed team of IT specialists to complete major data migration project using Microsoft Active Directory
Now we’re getting somewhere! Notice how adding specifics made the bullet more impressive? Mentioning that you used Microsoft Active Directory turns this into an example of your mastery over a particular skill mentioned in the job description. And by specifying that it was a team of IT specialists, we’ve shown exactly who you were in charge of. If you led a team of people from multiple departments or job functions, that’s even more impressive.
Part 3: Results
It’s time to add the most important part: the results that your contribution gained.
Results are the “So what?” factor. Without results, your reader will be left asking “So you worked on this initiative … so what?”
How did your contributions affect the company? How can you prove that your work made a difference? Results provide evidence that your work was meaningful and that it will be again when this company hires you.
Not every bullet will have an obvious result. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Sure, you might not be as lucky as someone working in sales who has dollar amounts directly tied to their efforts, but there are other ways you can demonstrate your impact on the company.
Did you make any processes more efficient? Did you save money by using less of a budget than usual? Or by completing a project quicker than expected? How about those employees whose performance you improved?
Let’s revisit our bullet point and answer “so what?”
- Directed team of IT specialists to complete major data migration project using Microsoft Active Directory, enabling use of new platform for employee user accounts
OK, this is good. But we can make it even better — you guessed it — with metrics.
Part 4: Metrics
Ready to put the finishing touch on an excellent bullet point? Here we see the beauty of quantifying. Adding metrics to both your accomplishments and contributions makes your bullets more tangible, scannable, and overall effective.
Metrics in Contributions
Metrics are important in giving scope to your contributions. They clarify the amount and nature of the work you put in, which can be impressive in itself.
- Directed team of six IT specialists to complete major data migration project using Microsoft Active Directory, enabling use of new platform for employee user accounts
Now the hiring manager knows the size of the team, which could be larger than what they assumed. You can also quantify things like the budget you managed or the amount of raw data you worked with.
Metrics in Results
It’s also crucial to add metrics to your results to make them more tangible.
- Directed team of six IT specialists to complete major data migration project using Microsoft Active Directory, enabling use of new platform for 1,500 employee user accounts two weeks ahead of schedule
Wow! Now I’m impressed. Finally, it’s clear that you didn’t just competently ensure that other people did their jobs. Your leadership skills advanced a project that improved the lives of a ton of employees even sooner than was expected. You didn’t simply do the duties of the job, you nailed an important project, which sets you apart from the other candidates.
Again, not every result will have a dollar sign or a percentage, but you can still quantify it. The example above gives evidence of an accomplishment by showing an impressive timeframe and a number of people affected; you can also do this by showing an increase or decrease in a number of resources, employees, etc.
It’s also effective to showcase your performance metrics, like website pageviews, improvement on test scores, or a reduced number of customer complaints or helpdesk tickets.
Bonus: The eye is drawn to numbers on a page, so all metrics — much like those consistent active verbs — make your resume more scannable.
Great Bullet Points Land Jobs
Writing a resume isn’t so mystifying after all, is it? By using these four steps, you’ll show off tangible accomplishments and stand out from the crowd.
Start writing better bullet points, and you’re on your way to landing a job. But there are other parts to a great resume. Don’t forget to tailor it to every job posting, optimize your skills section, and cut down on anything that’s not relevant.
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