How to write resume bullets that get you noticed and get you hired
Let’s be honest. Recruiters are a jaded bunch. They’ve read thousands of resumes and seen the same stale phrases over and over again. To say they’re hard to impress is an understatement.
But impressing them is not impossible. In fact it’s easy if you understand that what they’re looking for is proof. Proof that you will do a good job. Proof that you will deliver what they need. Proof that they’re not wasting their time if they interview you.
Show Don’t Tell
Fiction writers know this phrase. It’s a reminder often given by writing teachers and editors and it means that when telling a story, it’s always more effective to show rather than to tell. If a character is angry, it’s bad writing to say ‘he felt angry.’ It’s much more effective to say ‘he felt his jaw clench and screwed his fist into a ball.’
The same applies to a resume. Recruiters tend to skim over a phrase like “accomplished self-starter” because it’s telling rather then showing (and because they’ve read it a thousand times before).
Imagine if you replaced that jaded phrase with a series of stories (in resume bullet form), each of which showed you acting like a self-starter.
Suddenly your resume would have life. And the recruiter would have reason to believe what you’re saying, rather than just glazing over and skipping past the words.
How does this work in practice?
I sometimes receive before and after resumes from people who read my e-book and want to show me their new resume.
There are usually lots of changes, but the main transformation comes in the way the ‘after’ resumes focus on telling powerful stories that demonstrate impact. And they do so using resume bullets.
Here’s a recent example.
Sarah is a marketing director for a video game company. Her ‘before’ resume resume was very focused on her responsibilities. She described how she was in charge of print and web marketing and that this encompassed advertising, promotional events, social media, content marketing etc. etc. She said she managed a team of 4 and that she also managed a budget of $1M.
All this is nice to know, but it actually tells us nothing.
We know that Sarah is in charge of social media for example, but we don’t know if she does a good job. She may have been losing Twitter followers for all we know and the Pinterest page she’s been promising to set up may still not be done.
Rather than knowing what Sarah is responsible for, we need to know what she has actually achieved.
After learning about the importance of proof, Sarah rewrote her resume. This time, it included bullets like this:
- Took control of 14 disparate video game microsites, creating consistent approach that included email marketing and social sharing strategies; as a result, traffic has increased 245%, social sharing is on the rise, and we have a database of thousands of game fans.
She also described her work on the company’s website:
- Led major social media initiative, building strong presence on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest. Total social media fans/followers have increased from 1,200 to 54,350 in just 12 months.
Do you see how Sarah\’s resume bullets tell stories that demonstrate her ability to make an impact? And how powerful they are at selling her abilities?
But what if you can’t quantify your achievements?
Many of us work in jobs where it’s not always possible to quantify our impact. For example, if you design graphics for TV shows, you can\’t directly identify how much your work impacted ratings or profits.
The same applies in many professions. But just because your impact can’t be quantified, that doesn’t mean it’s any less valuable.
First, think beyond sales and profits and ask yourself if you have made a quantifiable impact in other ways. For example, an HR admin assistant who finds a more efficient way to do a daily task can quantify how many hours she has saved. Or a business analyst who streamlines processes might be able to say how much productivity improved.
But if there is absolutely no way to quantify your impact, don’t despair. Just describe it.
Here’s a sample resume bullet that does just that …
A manager takes over a department with very bad morale issues. He immediately takes steps to improve communication, and he begins to reward good work publicly. He also weeds out a couple of trouble-makers. Within a short time, the surly, depressing atmosphere has been replaced with an energetic buzz. It’s too early to see the results translated into financial terms but this doesn’t mean our manager can’t claim it on his resume.
It’s easy to get hung up on word choice when you’re writing your resume, but really it’s as simple as telling the story.
So our manager could say:
- Inherited toxic work environment and quickly improved communication and processes. Within a short time, many employees arrived at work smiling and laughter could be heard in the office; as a result, productivity improved greatly.
This is such a short story and yet it speaks volumes, and we can actually picture the changed work environment.
This isn’t easy but it is simple
Simply put, if your resume tells compelling stories of the impact you have made, recruiters will want to meet you.
Just remember what we talked about in Step 2 and keep the employer’s needs in mind when developing your stories. This way you’ll hit them with a one-two punch – impressive stories that directly relate to the problems they are trying to solve.
If you’re ready to transform your resume and would like to follow my resume writing system, check out the Blue Sky Guide to Resume Writing. It contains my entire resume writing approach and it’s laid out in easy-to-follow steps, with lots of real world examples. You’ll be amazed at the transformation!