Why active verbs aren't enough for MBA resumes

If you've followed best practices for your MBA resume, whether you're graduating or 25 years out, it may not be enough to create a truly effective and powerful resume that helps market you to future employers.

A great professional resume is composed primarily of bullet points. That means about 2/3 of your resume focuses on your career accomplishments. For most of us, summarizing our professional life in 10 to 25 bullet points feels like a ridiculous task - several years or decades boiled down into just a handful of points?

But as with any great marketing, you need to focus on the benefits to your buyer (your future employer, boss, or the HR / recruiter that you work with), rather than focusing on how you are going to get your whole experience into a couple pages. Let’s review your best approach for handling bullets on a professional resume, which is how Leet Resumes handles bullets when we write free resumes for experienced professionals.

Your Bullet Points Should Emphasize Your Accomplishments

A resume is only used in a career context, not in your homelife, hobbies, or friendships. That’s because a resume is a commercial document with a commercial purpose - to help you get your next job. And the way a resume helps you get our next job is by generating interview requests.

It’s purpose is not to catalog your entire career, it’s not to explain why you left each job, it’s not to describe every project you ever worked on, it’s not even to make you feel good about yourself, although it might.

A resume exists to persuade a hiring manager or a recruiter to select you for an interview from the pile of resumes they are reviewing. And the best way to generate interview requests is to appeal to your future boss or hiring manager’s need to solve a problem. And the best way to demonstrate your ability to solve problems is to write effective bullet points that use numbers to quantify your accomplishments. Quantified accomplishments are superior to opinion-based accomplishments, catch the recruiter's eye more easily, and set you apart from the other resumes in the stack.

Let’s review some different types of bullet points commonly seen on professional resumes.

Bullet Point Styles on Technical Resumes

Administrative

  • Responsible for
  • Managed
  • Attend scrum meetings
  • Participated in
  • Performed
  • Conducted reviews of
  • Assigned tasks to staff or peers

The most common bullet point style on professional resumes is the listing of administrative duties and responsibilities. These are often copied and pasted directly from job descriptions. Perhaps that’s why they’re so popular – it’s the lowest effort way to create a resume.

Unfortunately, they’re also very ineffective. Hiring managers are familiar with job descriptions - after all, they’re the ones writing them! So if your experience looks like every other job description and resume they’ve seen, they won't understand how you're better at doing those duties and responsibilities than the next candidate.

In addition, listing basic administrative duties such as these don’t help you stand out. Your resume is not going to be selected from a stack because you attended planning reviews, worked with the CFO on budgets, or did cross-training in other areas. These kind of routine corporate behaviors shouldn't have a place on your resume because they don't help differentiate you from others.

Because this style is ineffective at getting your resume selected for an interview, you should avoid using the Administrative style bullet point.

Event-based

  • Shipped
  • Launched
  • Developed
  • Wrote
  • Presented

Another common bullet point style is event-based - sharing the events that have taken place in your corporate life. It’s easiest because it mirrors your experience, and how you think about your past work. You presented, discussed, debated or launched something.

The limitation of this bullet point style is that it does not tell a hiring manager or future boss how well you did the job. After all, everyone who showed up to work presented, discussed or launched something at some point in their career. When you don’t provide details, it makes it difficult for a hiring manager to understand how much better you are than the average professional. Event-based bullet points leave it up to chance that a hiring manager will pick you from the pile.

Performance-based

  • Improved profitability by xxx%
  • Reduced waste by xx %
  • Improved user satisfaction by releasing xx features
  • Grew clients by xxx names
  • Shrank expense by $xx while keeping delivery consistent
  • Hired xx headcount leading to zz growth in the business
  • Improved system by increasing xx, reducing yy, optimizing zz items

Performance-based bullet points are the most effective style of bullet point. They combine an action indicating a change in state, with a specific objective numerical value indicating the scale of the change, and a method by which the change was effected, typically highlighting your skill in doing so.

Performance-based bullet points tell a more complete story to the hiring manager as she is reviewing resumes. By detailing your past performance, it’s easier for her to estimate how you might contribute to her team in the future. It’s easier for her to understand that performance is important to you, and the types of performance improvements you’ve created in the past.

As a result, when screening resumes, performance-based bullet points with numbers get picked more often.

Organizational

  • Promoted to / Selected to join
  • Transferred to
  • Assigned to
  • Joined
  • Worked on

Finally, there is the Organizational style bullet point. These are commonly used to explain how you ended up working on a particular project. With one exception, these, too, should be avoided.

Organizational bullet points put too much focus on the configuration of your work in a prior company. As a result, they do little to explain why your work is relevant to the hiring manager, or why he should select your resume for an interview.

Every company has its own method for assigning, transferring or matching professionals to required work. It’s probably different than the one used at the company you’re applying to. As a result, they tell the hiring manager relatively little about you, your capabilities, or your performance.

The one exception is “Promoted / Selected to Join.” Promotions and competitive selections do explain something about your performance to a hiring manager. They inform that the people who know you best, and who worked with you most closely, decided that you were ready for more responsibility. And that fact is helpful in getting your resume selected for an interview.

So when it comes to bullet points on your professional resume, prefer performance-based bullet points. They are most effective at getting your resume selected for interview requests, and getting you ahead in your career.

If you’d like Leet Resumes to write your professional resume for free, please sign up.