So you’ve read lots of resume advice, and you know that your resume needs strong, results-focused bullet points. But try as you might, you don’t really know how to write those bullet points. I sympathize – it’s very hard to write about yourself in this way. Most of us have been taught to be humble and modest about our accomplishments, and now suddenly we’re required to brag about them. It feels very uncomfortable.
As a professional resume writer, I use a simple formula for getting my clients to open up about their successes and I know it will help you too.
The C.A.R. formula for resume bullet points
At first, I don’t want you to worry about writing resume bullet points. Instead, focus on just developing stories of your work successes. This takes the pressure off because you’re not worrying about finding the right words – all that’s important is to write your success stories.
The formula for writing your stories goes like this:
First describe the challenge. This is the situation that needed addressing. It may be a problem (something went wrong) or an opportunity (you spotted a potential improvement that others hadn’t identified) but either way, it’s your starting point.
Next, describe the action you took. This is where you talk about what you did to solve that problem or capitalize on that opportunity.
Finally, you outline the result. This is the outcome of your actions and, if possible, it should be presented in terms of numbers, so that your impact is clearly understood. (For example, “my change led to a 5% sales increase over the next few months.”)
However, including numbers won’t always be possible. If that’s the case, just describe the result in words (for example, “the customer was completely satisfied with my solution and wrote a thank you letter to my manager.”)
Here is a sample story to show you how this works in practice.
Challenge: My boss was brilliant but quite disorganized and had fired a few executive assistants because things kept falling through the cracks. I think the problem was that the other assistants weren’t assertive enough.
Action: I asked for two daily meetings, one at the start of the day and one at the end. I promised my boss that if he gave me this time I would make it pay for him. And it was true – by meeting twice a day, I was able to stay on top of everything. I also took over his calendar, and attended many of his meetings. In this way I always knew what was happening and what needed to be done.
Results: About two months after I started, my boss called me in and gave me a raise. He said his work life had never been easier. His wife also called to thank me because he was getting home earlier. The errors and missed deadlines almost completely went away.
Now turn your stories into resume bullet points
Once you’ve written four or five strong stories for each of your positions, you need to condense each one into a concise bullet point that tells the story.
Make sure that the challenge is included as this gives context, but be sure not to sound too negative.
Let’s have a look at how this works in the story above.
- Earned a raise and thanks from the CEO after taking charge of his hectic schedule and ensuring smooth organization. Completely eliminated missed deadlines within 3 months.
Notice how this bullet point doesn’t describe the CEO negatively (no mention of his disorganized management style) but still gets the point across.
Here’s another example, this time of a sales rep who took over a region with slumping sales.
- Grew sales 15% in just 4 months, reversing long-standing sales decline by personally meeting with each customer, identifying business needs, and using solution-selling techniques.
Do you see how the challenge is included (long-standing sales decline) but I led with the result as it’s the most impactful part of the story.
In most cases, it’s best to lead with the result in this way.
This simple formula makes bullet points easy
Taking the time to write out your CAR stories will make all the difference when it comes to developing strong resume bullet points that really pack a punch. For more tips and tricks to spice up your resume, be sure to sign up for our free resume writing e-course. You’ll learn many of the secrets we use to create killer resumes for our clients – and you won’t have to pay us a penny!