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Crafting Content-Rich, but Concise Bullet Points

By Tina Harney

Often students or alumni will come into our office for a resume review and either have a paragraph listing what they did in a position or bullets listing strictly what they did in that role – a task or accomplishment they achieved. I used to do this, too. I had a career as a tax accountant for six years and even had two jobs in that field. This meant my resume must have been fine, right?

I was actually really missing out on what makes up the “meat” of my resume. After I landed a graduate assistantship in the Center for Career Development at the University of Connecticut for graduate school, I realized how much easier I could make it on employers to find what they are looking for and to connect my experiences to their requirements. During thoese two years, I was introduced to the What, How, and Why Model of approaching bullet points. In order to clearly explain your experiences, achievements, or what you have learned, I think it is important to prove you have the skills you claim. I recommend including these three elements into each bullet point as much as possible:

  • What did you do? – It is helpful to begin by simply making a list of what you did during that particular experience. What tasks or responsibilities did you complete?
  • How did you do it? – Next, for each task list out how you completed it. This will likely be through a transferable skill or a specific program you utilized.
  • Why did you do it? – To provide your reader with context, briefly explain why completing the task was important. Depending on the intended audience of your resume, you could frame it as why it was important to the customer or client served, the organization you were working with, or your personal growth and development.
Here are a couple examples to showcase how to combine all three elements.

Bullet Point Exercise:

 What did you do?
 How did you do it?
 Why did you do it?
Situation/Task/Responsibility  Transferable Skills/Action Taken
Processed gym memberships
 Administrative & Interpersonal skills
Increase sales for the gym
 Designed marketing materials
 Used Adobe Creative Suite - InDesign and Illustrator
 Attract new customers & advertise workshops/events

Build Your Bullet Point:

  • Processed Gym Memberships utilizing administrative and interpersonal skills to increase membership and revenue overall by 5%
  •  Designed custom marketing materials using InDesign and Illustrator to attract new customers and advertise over 20 workshops and events

Of course it is always important to be specific and quantify where possible, focus on the results and impact of your work on your workplace, and still be as concise as possible. I usually have my clients draw 2 lines line down the middle of a piece of paper making 3 columns. Write the position title at the top, then begin listing the situations, tasks, and responsibilities in the first column. Once this is complete, consider the transferable skills or programs utilized to complete each task. Then, go back and answer the “Why” for each task. After all of these are completed, it is easier to see overlap, the ability to combine tasks, or at least begin to talk through and formulate your concise bullet point statements.

Do not forget to begin each bullet point with a strong action verb and vary these so you do not repeat any of them on your resume. There are plenty of great lists on the internet, so utilize your resources to find them.

Now that you have some fantastic content to work with, you can organize, structure, and format your resume so it is easy to read and follow. Remember to tailor it to each position description…but that topic is best saved for another article! Best of luck!

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