Most executive job seekers know the importance of resume bullet points. They know enough to include some in their resumes.
But all too often, they’re not very good bullet points. They’re just descriptions or statements that the job seeker stuck a bullet point in front of.
Their bullet points do little, if anything, to distinguish them from competing candidates.
Why use resume bullet points at all?
They perfectly fit with the mission of your resume:
“Always put yourself in the shoes of the people reading your resume. It should always be about how you will help the employer. Make it easy for them to quickly get to the information they’re looking for. Help them clearly understand the unique value you offer.”
Bullet points are concise and compelling stories that pack a punch in a minimal amount of space.
Recruiters and other hiring professionals can easily locate and zero in on these nuggets, without having to sift through your entire resume.
Their eyes are immediately drawn to the most impressive information about you.
Rethink your approach to resume bullet points
Bullet points are typically shining achievements of yours.
But instead of approaching bullet points as a testament to how much you’ve achieved in your career, it’s better to think of them as valuable contributions to your employers.
Get your ego out of the equation and focus on your ROI to your target employers.
After all, your resume is all about positioning you as a good fit for your target employers.
Show them that you are a good hiring choice, that you’re someone who will deliver on cutting costs, improving performance, increasing revenue, or whatever else the employer needs and wants from candidates like you.
So your resume bullet points should bring together these things:
- Contributions you’ve made to past employers that will resonate with potential future employers.
- How you made those contributions happen.
- Specifics (or metrics) indicating how much those contributions benefited the employer.
The second point above is all about your personal brand, or personality.
Employers want to get a feel for what kind of person you are. They want to get some idea of your leadership style and how you get things done . . . what you’ll be like to work with.
First things first, before writing your resume bullet points
Before you can write your resume bullet points, or any part of your resume, you’ll need to work on these things:
- Targeting: Determine which companies and kind(s) of jobs you will target
- Research: Determine why your target companies need you. What problems will you help them solve?
- Personal Branding: Define your personal brand around what makes you unique and valuable to your target employers
My proprietary worksheets for personal branding and job search will help you.
The idea is to weave together your hard and softer skills in short points that drive home the benefits you’ve brought employers in the past.
Storytelling helps you do that, and people relate and connect better with people through storytelling.
Perhaps the easiest way to write your resume bullet points in a storytelling manner is to use the Challenge – Action(s) – Result(s) exercise.
Key elements to compelling resume bullet points
Here are some things to keep in mind when you craft and use your resume bullet points:
Don’t rely on over-used clichés and generic keyword phrases to describe your value add. If the bullet point is generic and it could apply to any other candidate like you, it will not help differentiate you.
Pinpoint specific talents and areas of expertise of yours that set you apart from other candidates your target employers will be considering. And back up your expertise with specific examples of contributions you’ve made using your expertise.
Start with active verbs.
Along with conveying strength, active verbs at the beginning of your resume bullet points make your resume more ATS-friendly. Leading with anemic passive verbs like “helped” don’t indicate strong leadership or expertise.
Whenever possible use numbers and put them at the beginning of the statement, if possible. Metrics are the supporting evidence of whatever claim you made in the statement. And numbers jump out on the page, so they capture attention.
Use comparisons when you don’t have metrics.
Another approach, if you don’t have (or can’t use) metrics: Compare how a particular project or initiative worked before you put your hands on it, to how great it worked after you worked your magic.
Add some personality.
Bullet points are an opportunity to sync your hard skills with so-called softer skills. Include some vibrant descriptive words that indicate who you are and how you operate.
Include relevant keywords.
Your relevant keywords and phrases typically represent your areas or expertise or hard skills. They’re particularly important for the ATS-friendly version of your resume.
Be mindful of positioning.
Resume bullet points are not just for the Experience section. They also pack a punch in the resume Summary, at the top of the first page.
Don’t overdo it.
Too many items in a set of bullet points can be dizzying and difficult to read because there’s less white space.
- Use no more than 4-5 bullet points for each recent job and 2-3 for past jobs (depending on how recent and important the job is). You may not have space to include anything more than a brief description (if that), for early-career jobs.
- Use only 2-4 bullet points in a set, in the Summary section.
- Each bullet point should be no longer than 2 or 3 (short) sentences. Break up longer sentences into 2 shorter ones that flow easily.
- Stick to one particular point in each resume bullet point.
Examples of executive resume bullet points
Here are a few examples of bullet points I’ve written for clients:
For a Senior Operations Management Executive in Airline Maintenance & Engineering:
- Cut irregular operational costs on average $9M per quarter since 4Q2019. Elevated operational integrity to optimal levels. Our company experienced its highest and best performance ever.
For a Senior Change Management Executive in Transportation and Distribution:
- Drove record-level employee engagement survey results (up 11%). Cut customer failure rate by 60%. Preserved company culture, built trust and respect, and collaborated all the way down.
For a Global Cloud Computing & IT Operations Expert:
- Executed non-disruptive Cloud Platform Transition and ongoing L1/L2 support, mindful of our imperative “Every second the system is down during peak weekday hours, we lose $6,700“.