What To Put In Those Resume Bullets


All to often people make a mistake on their resumes having to do with the content beneath their past or present jobs. Many sit down in front of the blank piece of paper and say to themselves, “Now what did I do in this job?” and they start to put down whatever they were responsible for starting with the most important things. This sounds logical to most people but this isn’t actually what you should be doing.

That might be what you put down as part of your content on a LinkedIn profile, but when it comes to your resume, it isn’t. The right question to ask yourself as you start with your bullets is, “What did I accomplish in this job that is relevant to the job I am applying for at the moment?”

Of course this means you need to have a job posting in front of you in order to know what the employer is looking for skill and experience-wise, for this specific job. Sitting down with no job posting to look at and guessing what an employer might want is one of the biggest single errors I see people make on a daily basis. They sit at a computer making a resume and use their best guesses to anticipate what an employer might want to see, instead of first finding a job to apply to and removing the guesswork.

Now you and I could take educated guesses about what job applicants would need in order to be interviewed, and we’d hit some accurately while missing the mark on others. However, all the correct requirements are laid out in a job advertisement, so it makes far greater sense to look at the ad as we go back and forth between it and the resume. Not only do employers tell job applicants what they are looking for as must-haves, they do so in the order of importance to the employer.

Okay so what does this mean to you who are making resumes? Good question; let’s look at that. Now suppose you are interested in going for a job as a Landscaper with a total lawn care company. After reading the ad, you see you’ll be working pretty much alone, assessing lawns, making recommendations to homeowners for treatment programs to get their lawns healthy and keep them looking beautiful.

You’re at the point in your resume where you are listing your past jobs, and one of them was a few years back when you raised funds for a charity going door to door asking for donations. If you’re going about your resume like many, you’d ask yourself the wrong question, “What did I do?” and you’d say something where the emphasis is on raising funds going door to door. Yes that’s what you did, but how is it relevant to the job you are going for at the moment?

What if you said instead that you worked independently, engaged in conversations with homeowners, assessed their objections, responded with knowledgeable information, and obtained financial commitments which wold improve the health of those the charity worked on behalf of? See how the words, ‘independently’, ‘assessing’ and ‘healthy’ are now both in the job ad and your bullets?

Take a job at a gas station by way of a second example. While you may have taken money from customers and filled up the windshield washer reservoirs, that’s not very impressive to the employer even though it is what you did. A better strategy would be, (in the case of the Landscaper job above) to talk about your friendly service while working alone and the conversations you initiated, the recommendations you made to keep their cars looking beautiful and worry-free. Again the words, ‘beautiful’, ‘recommendations’ and ‘working alone’ match up with the ad.

When you use this kind of strategy, the reader makes the connection between what you did in other jobs and what you’ll do in the job you are applying for far easier. If you focused on pumping gas, changing prices when told to, processing payments and thanking customers, – while very much true, they aren’t things the employer has indicated they are looking for.

See how we have two different ways of listing what was actually done in the job and what was accomplished. This is why sometimes you don’t even note the things which were the most important in jobs you’ve done because they aren’t relevant to the job you are going for now. No instead, you might just be putting down things where your transferable skills are obvious and are more easily viewed as relevant experience to the new employer.

So many job applicants get frustrated with employers who won’t give them an interview where they can sell themselves in person. However, were you the employer, you’d only want to spend your precious time sitting down with people who were the closest to what you were ideally looking for in the first place – and this is why they want a resume.

So do you have to make a single resume for EACH job you apply to? One resume that is uniquely positioned to respond to EACH ad – even when the job titles are exactly the same? Yes you do; and believe me; you’ll spend less time making resumes and more time at interviews which by the way, is the very purpose of making a resume in the first place.

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2 thoughts on “What To Put In Those Resume Bullets

  1. This is great advice if you are responding to a job ad. However, it’s estimated that about 80% of jobs aren’t advertised. This is the hidden job market. If you are applying to an employer for one of these jobs you will have to make an educated guess at what the employer is looking for. Also, I would not want to apply for a job that didn’t utilize the skills involved in the most important duties of my previous jobs. You don’t stand much of a chance of being hired if you have no previous experience doing the job you are applying for or one very close to it.

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    1. Deb you really do need to get in touch with an Employment Counsellor in your local community and change your perspective. Just because you’re applying to a job that isn’t advertised you don’t have to resort to educated guesses. People every day apply for jobs that don’t use the skills they used in their previous jobs as well; especially when they are changing careers or going back to something they’ve done 4 jobs ago in their past. I fear your comments will be taken by some readers in the wrong context. By your own admission you haven’t worked in some time and you’ve disclosed your challenges in the past through your comments. If you really want to seriously re-enter the workforce, my suggestion is to move quickly and seek some professional guidance and support in re-launching your job search. You’re going to need to change your pessimistic attitude to one of optimism and when that happens, new opportunities are going to emerge.

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