By: Daniel Lorenzo, Blog Manager for Let’s Eat, Grandma
Are you worried about a boring temp job taking up valuable real estate on your resume, but don’t have much other experience? Did your “comprehensive multimedia” internship mostly involve getting coffee, but now you have to make it look like you ran the company? Have a relevant volunteer experience, but you’re not sure how to make it look important? What are you to do?!
The bacon is in the bullets.
Resume bullet points, that is. Just a few for each job. Quick, yet descriptive.
Effective resume bullet points will perfectly elaborate on your why your accomplishments are impressive without losing your reader’s attention. They can sell any experience, no matter how unimportant you think it sounds.
Writing strong resume bullet points is a delicate art, so check out this guide for writing ones that don’t suck. Follow our advice, and you’ll have a resume that makes sweeping floors sound like you engineered the Hoover Dam.
THE RESUME BULLET POINTS FORMULA
Less-than-ideal resume bullet points are common, and look like this:
“Managed accounts for major clients.”
…okay! Doesn’t exactly make you jump out of your seat, does it? Try this on:
“Managed 25 high-profile accounts to increase Q2 sales by 40%.”
Notice the difference?
Great resume bullet points have 3 key parts that will make your resume stand out, with one extra special sauce that you can glaze over the whole enchilada after you’re done (Sorry. I’m getting hungry thinking about that bacon line from earlier.).
Step #1: Verbs
Firstly, always, always, always start each bullet point with an active verb – past tense if the experience is over, present tense if you’re still doing it.
Work is about doing stuff right? That’s way better than not doing stuff (despite what John Mulaney may tell you).
Look for a verb that sounds dynamic, but still accurately describes your efforts. There are tons. You find lists of them from any college’s career service department, or scattered elsewhere across the internet.
“Designed and implemented an Excel database…”(…I made a spreadsheet.)
“Collaborated with a team to revise…”(Anytime you said “Okay, I’ll just make a Google Doc and invite you guys.”)
“Planned and executed a campaign to…”(You can plan and execute anything. I “planned and executed” breakfast this morning.)
Step #2: Quantities
Words get old. Gimme NUMBERS! They’re just like letters, but more fun! And they stick out on a page like a sore thumb.
Secondly, you have to be very specific when explaining your experience to prove to the company that what you did was impressive. They won’t just assume you worked hard – you need to show them.
Think as hard as you can, dig through your files, and find some kind of number or percentage for every task, even if you worked in something without any data or statistics.
“Administered services to 120 guests…”(I volunteered at a homeless shelter for 6 months. Nobody cares if I gave a grumpy man his insulin every night, but 120 men?! That’s at least something to think about.)
“Planned a national conference with 3,000 attendees…”(As long as it wasn’t the Fyre Festival.)
“Used Adobe Premiere to edit over 50 videos…”(Even if they were each only 30 seconds long.)
“Drove sales up by 10% over Q2 using…”(Salespeople have it easy…)
Step #3: Results
Or number of lead acquisitions! Or campaign goals achieved! Or research produced! Whatever!
The final part of a good resume bullet point is the “so what?” You’ve shown the company exactly what you did, now prove that it worked, and that it will work again when they hire you. Notice that I didn’t say “if.” 😉
Much like Step 2, this step will require some digging, but you can find something that’s measurable. They don’t have to be numbers or percentages, but offer some kind of tangible phrase that shows an effect from your cause.
“Rigorously enforced shelter rules to ensure a safe and recovery-conducive environment.”(I just made sure the place didn’t burn down!)
“Implemented a new World History curriculum for 3 AP classes, increasing number of students with AP test scores of 5 by 200% from last year.”(And we all remember, it’s pretty hard to cheat on an AP test.)
“Analyzed 400 protein samples to contribute to research for a thesis on cell regeneration published in a national peer-reviewed journal.”(Obviously you’ll know the name of the journal. I don’t know science, okay? Fight me.)
Special Sauce: Extra Keywords
So you did all three steps, and your bullet point probably looks something like this:
“Planned and executed an innovative marketing campaign across 5 social platforms that increased lead acquisitions by 50%.”
Great job! This is a perfectly fine resume bullet point. However, you should still always scan your bullets to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.
If you can find a way to work it in without awkward phrasing, this bullet could be a perfect opportunity to stuff your resume with extra instances of keywords from the job description.
For instance, if the job description mentions that they want someone “proficient in marketing software including Hootsuite,” you can dial in a little extra mustard just by adding:
“Used marketing software including Hootsuite to plan and execute an innovative marketing campaign across 5 social platforms which increased lead acquisitions by 30%.”
It may seem obvious that you used the program, and it might be in your Skills section already. But that one little extra mention of Hootsuite might mean the difference between getting past the ATS stage, or getting shut down by a 21st-century corporate Gandalf.
BUT WHAT IF I “DIDN’T DO ANYTHING?”
“But Daniel,” you’re thinking, “my last job sucked! They barely gave me any responsibilities! How do I write a strong resume bullet point when all I did was twiddle my thumbs?”
I feel you. Unless you’re applying for the World Thumb Wrestling Championship (an actual thing), a mundane work experience certainly presents a challenge for your resume.
Whether an internship that wasn’t what it was cracked up to be, a boring on-campus job we needed to pay the bills, or a toxic office environment that made it impossible to thrive, we’ve all had something less-than-stellar on our resume that we have to sell.
My advice: Trust the formula. Dig, dig, dig through your mind and think of anything notable that happened at that job. Then write it all down. Start converting what you wrote into sentences, and your sentences into bullet points. Don’t be afraid of sounding buzz-wordy – you’re in the business of selling yourself, after all.
Made posters for lame events for the Student Life office. → Created up to 3 office deliverables/week to target students and increase event attendance.
Ordered paper. → Maintained appropriate inventory of office supplies to ensure smooth facilitation of the program.
Answered phones, took messages. → Relayed important communications in a timely fashion to executives to ensure smooth operation of the program.
See? If you think hard enough, you can elaborate on just about anything. Pandering as they seem, these follow the formula, and can even show off your soft skills, too.
That second one shows you’re dependable, and the third shows you’re organized!
IT WORKS FOR ANYTHING
Or, maybe you’re breaking into a new career, and you’re self-conscious about having been a receptionist, a waiter, or a retail clerk while looking for a new job. Don’t worry!
The above method of digging and elaborating works for any experience. “Menial” jobs like those actually teach a lot of skills that are hard to come by, so you definitely did something worth writing about.
Check out how I listed my college barista experience on my resume:
I thought it would be impossible to make a year of pouring drinks between classes sound good, but it was involved work! And as such, there were things to write about that made for decent resume bullet points. I couldn’t do much quantifying, but I was able to prove that I…
- Handled stressful situations
- Interfaced well with strangers to sell product (and not all of them were nice!)
Plus, here’s a secret. That refugee employment program you see up there? It was a piece of cake. That happened over 2 days, and took up maybe 3 hours of my total time on this green Earth. I nearly forgot it happened until I wrote this. But by mentioning it, I’ve given more evidence that I’m flexible and an excellent communicator!
All from a $9.50-an-hour job that just helped me pay rent.
LOCKED AND LOADED
So there you are, the magical formula for resume bullet points! Now get out there and get some bullets in your resume!
If you want to run your bullet points by us, or if you need more help, sign up for a free career score and phone consultation from Let’s Eat, Grandma. Our certified experts will grade your resume (and cover letter!) with our proprietary 30-factor system and ensure your bullets are in top shape.