Not to be a downer, but most job postings receive an average of 250 applications per role. This might seem like a depressing number, but it’s important to keep the competition in mind.
Why? Because it reminds you that it is worth putting that extra time into your application (even if you’d rather be doing something else).
As a professional resume writer, there is one change I’m always recommending to my clients: perfecting their bullet points.
Strong bullets will spice up your resume and help ensure that your content actually showcases your strengths, not just the boring tasks that you were assigned. And that’s what’ll help you stand out to hiring managers.
Here’s how to do it:
Do Lead With What’s Most Important
Hiring managers skim your resume bullets, so you want to have the most important information first. Since we know that the eye scans downward, following this rule will increase your odds that these crucial details will be seen. For example:
While both of these bullets are impressive, the first bullet provides a broader description of the individual’s responsibilities and role within the organization, so it makes sense that it’s placed above one that’s narrower in scope.
To decide how to order your bullets, ask yourself: If the hiring manager could only read two on your list, which two would you want him or her to read?
But, Don’t Forget to Add Background
While you do want start off with a bang—you don’t want to do so at the expense of context that help the hiring manager understand why what you did was so impressive.
It’s much more effective if the first bullet also provides an overview, be it on the type of company you worked for, the scope of operations, the yearly revenue, or the number of clients served.
Here’s an example of a resume bullet dives right into the responsibilities without first providing context:
That sounds pretty good—but it’s even stronger with additional context:
This makes your impact that much clearer, which is especially important if the companies that you worked for are not super well-known. So, don’t skip over the big picture. Lead with it, and then delve into the nitty gritty.
Do Explain Your Impact
You know that a good story includes who, what, where, when, and why (and how). And that’s true for your resume, too.
No one wants to know just what tasks you performed. They want to know why it was important and who was impacted. Let’s look at two different bullets:
While this effectively addresses the “what” it doesn’t address who, how, or why. When you incorporate this information, your bullet should look more like:
Many resumes look like long lists of tasks. You really can make yours stand out by simply adding information about your results. Company accomplishments count, too (just make sure to list them the right way).
But Don’t Overdo the Details
More is definitely not more. In other words, while some additional information adds value and interest, you don’t want to get carried away. For example, there’s no need to include every department that you collaborated with.
By picking and choosing where you throw in details, you’ll show what you’re capable of accomplishing—without boring the hiring manager.
If you want to add an example within a bullet, keep it to a maximum of three items. Go beyond that and your reader’s eyes will start to glaze over.
I don’t expect you to add brainstorming resume bullets to your list of hobbies. However, if you’re willing to put the time in to make them stronger, your application will be more memorable. And the more memorable you are, the stronger the chances that you’ll be called in for an interview.
Photo of person on computer courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.
Andrea Gerson is the top-ranked resume writer in New York City, with over eight years of experience helping professionals find clarity, confidence, and a renewed sense of energy around their work. As founder of Resume Scripter, she has provided expert guidance and support to more than 3,500 clients from organizations including Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Bloomberg, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase, the United Nations and The Red Cross. She's led workshops and webinars on interview preparation, job search methods, resume development, and career planning strategies, and she has a particular specialty guiding early and mid-level professionals toward career fulfillment.More from this Author