Are Resume Bullets Really Important?
By Liam Hickey, Guest Contributor
Resumes. That’s what you want to read about, because it helps to get a good job, but your resume is missing something. You want to find that missing piece that will transform your resume into one that gets the interviews you want. So today, I will tell you about that missing piece. This will help you compete, because most people are doing this wrong … or rather they don’t know how to do it right: resume bullets.
(NOTE: This is for applications with regular companies. US government applications are very different.)
Most of us—me included—learned how to write resume bullets by copying the style from job announcements, that is, simply writing down the tasks we did at each job. WRONG. This is only part of it.
“Results” and “accomplishments”
Let’s look at the psychology. It’s just like dating. A man wants certain things in a woman, and a woman wants different things in a man.
When applying for a job, you want to know if you can do the job (a task breakdown, the job description). Employers want to know how you produce results. They want to know that you can:
- reduce their stress,
- make their customers happy,
- help them go home on time,
- save money, or
- increase sales.
That’s the bottom line. When you hear people talk about “results” or “accomplishment-based resumes,” this list is what they mean. So, how have you done some of these?
Numbers get attention!
Knowing what makes for a good “result” is important, but there is a second key element to writing interesting resume bullets: numbers. Numbers provide detail. Detail gets the readers to imagine you doing these things. This makes you a real person within their imaginations. The more real you seem, the better your odds of getting interview phone calls, because most of the applications will be glossed over.
Why else are numbers important? They make the eye stop … and read. Have you heard that recruiters spend about 6 seconds looking at typical resume? It’s because they are looking at 100 or 200 resumes that are just a bunch of black and white blah, blah, blah. They are not really reading the resumes at this point. Use lots of numbers, and they will actually read your resume. Why? In a sea of black and white, digits stand out.
Put it All Together
The formula for writing resume bullets is:
Bullet = Results + Task
A formula needs numbers! You will need to do some research with past coworkers and managers, records from past jobs, and your own memory. (Estimates are fine, as long as they are realistic.) Ask yourself these types of questions:
- How many orders did I fill? How frequently? (per 4-hour shift, per week, per month, etc.)
- How much were the orders worth? (typical amount or a range)
- How many customers did I work with? How frequently?
- How many people were on my team?
- How much did I help increase sales? (an amount or a percentage)
- How much money did I save for the business?
- How much time did I save? How frequently?
Here’s an example:
I had to spend about 3 hours twice a week transferring information from a database into a specific Excel spreadsheet. It was a pain, but it was necessary. We had 8 people installing new computers every day for almost 3 months who depended on this spreadsheet. A colleague of mine created an Excel macro to automatically move the database information into the spreadsheet.
Here’s his resume bullet for that accomplishment:
- Reduced workload by 6 hours per week for 10 weeks by writing an Excel macro that helped coordinate 8 people upgrading 1,200 computers
When you are done, your resume should sound impressive. That’s the point. Besides, if you brag about yourself using facts, it’s not really bragging.
See more about effectively using resume bullets in my follow-up article, Think Like a Manager: Resume Bullets Part 2, appearing on August 11, 2014.
Liam Hickey is a career coach, English teacher, writer, and editor. For over 15 years, he has helped candidates find career opportunities, write resumes, and prepare for interviews. He has written a book on job searching—Hold My Hand! … and find me a job (forthcoming)—and started his own business. He now helps business executives and other professionals improve their communication skills for international business and careers.
The initial version of this article originally appeared in DC Life Magazine, April 2012, pp. 20 – 21. http://issuu.com/
Liam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image courtesy of phasinphoto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net