(AW + T) + R = BS

By Garrett Secor posted 07-09-2019 07:49


Bulleted statements are a foundational piece to a great resume. Attempting to highlight relevant skills, getting past application tracking systems (ATS), and enticing employers enough to invite you for an interview without bullet statements, is as difficult as trying to catch fish without bait on a hook. To ensure the best bait available is being used, I focus on bulleted statements the most when working on resumes with students. However, I also struggle with bulleted statements the most when working on resumes with students. This is because I have noticed it is more likely a student will lack the ability to produce an impactful bulleted statement, than it is for a student to have this ability. Thus, when students are unable to write impactful bulleted statements, I struggle to help them create bulleted statements that that highlights their relevant skills, is ATS friendly, and will impress employers. 

On one hand, I can easily write bulleted statements for the students I see who are unable to do so themselves. I have done this in the past and have found it to be beneficial for me and the student. It was beneficial for me because it made for an easier appointment and it provided more time to discuss other questions or concerns the student may have. It was beneficial for the student because they are walking away with a competitive resume (increasing their chances to get an interview for whatever they are applying for) and they were able to get more of their questions or concerns addressed.

On the other hand, writing bulleted statements for students has the potential to set them up for failure. Setting students up for failure is something I never even thought of as a possibility until a conversation I had with an employer. An employer was telling me a story about a student they interviewed recently for one of their internships. The employer was talking about how they were impressed by the student’s ability to articulate their experiences on their resume.  I was happy for this student until the employer told me the student ended up being a disappointment because they were unable to match the level of articulation demonstrated on their resume in person. Once the employer said the student’s name, I immediately knew who it was because I had recently worked with them on their resume, and I had written the bulleted statements on that student’s resume. Ever since I heard this, I stopped writing bulleted statements for students, and that’s when my struggle began. 

When I first stopped writing bulleted statements for the students I saw, it was very difficult for me. I was challenged by the long silent pauses that would occur as I would “patiently” wait for students to think of another way to say “I served tables” or “I work with a team.” In order to help students improve their ability to write impactful bulleted  statements, I would ask them reflective questions, provide examples, and/or get them to think about what they did differently. As time went on I discovered some of these strategies worked really well, but some students still struggled to create their own impactful bulleted statements.

After some self-reflection, conversations with co-workers, along with reading blogs and posts on the NACE Community website, I decided to try using a formula for bulleted  statements. The formula for bulleted statements I decided to use is (Action Word + Tasks) + Result = Bulleted Statement.  I decided to emphasize the action word and task component by encasing them in parenthesis since the result is not always available. However, the result is significant to prevent a resume from focusing too much on tasks and not enough on accomplishments, which is why I included it.

Examples of bulleted statements I have used to help students implement this formula on their own can be seen below. Since bulleted statements can be written in multiple ways, it is important to note that this formula is very fluid, meaning that each component can be expanded on or diminished in order to maximize the bullet statement.  

  • Examples
    • (Prioritize {Action Word} multiple tasks in a fast pace environment {Task}) to meet weekly deadlines {Result}
    • (Collaborate {Action Word} with multidisciplinary healthcare team {Task}), optimizing patient care and outcomes {Result}
    • (Used {Action Word} an excel spreadsheet {Task}) to organize and interpret data, identifying daily goals met and missed {Result}

This formula has become a key tool for me and others in the office when it comes to helping students write bulleted statements that highlights relevant skills, is ATS friendly, and will entice employers enough to invite applicants for an interview. 

The main effect of my changing my approach is that I am not always able to finish the resume within the allotted time. This presents some pros and cons with the pros being it forces students to create the remaining bulleted statements themselves and encourages students to come back again to finish their resume. The cons to this being I no longer have eyes on the finished product if the student does not come back, potentially harming the student's chances at getting an interview, and representing Florida Southern College in a negative way. The other con is, with more students coming back for a second time, it reduces the amount of time available for first-time students to see us. At this point the cons appear to be insignificant, as most students either email us their completed resume and request feedback or schedule another appointment. 

 As fellow career service professionals and employers, the significance of impactful bulleted statements is well known. What is not always well known is the process taken in order to create those impactful bulleted statements. As someone who excels in this area, I can write bulleted statements that will highlight skills, is ATS friendly, and will impress employers for people nonstop.

But as the old saying goes “give someone a fish, feed them for a day; teach someone to fish, feed them for a life time.”  By changing my approach and teaching students “how to fish” I am creating more opportunities to establish a meaningful connection with them, supporting their development, and increasing their ability to speak about past, current, and future experiences.

NACE college members can download an article, Add Power to Your Resume With Bullets, to use with students.



09-09-2019 10:45

Thank you for your examples.  I hadn't thought of it like the employer explained to you, but I can easily see it happening. I am going to try your approach. Thanks for the tips.