Strengthening Your Resume Bullet Points By Answering Three Questions

This post is a continuation of the Graduate Assistant Blog Series featuring advice and perspectives from graduate students working in Career Services.  Below is a post from a current 2nd year Wharton MBA Graduate Assistant:

After many one-on-one resume review sessions with Penn undergraduates and a survey of Wharton MBA students, here are three key questions to ask yourself for each bullet point on your resume, typically in the Professional Experience or Leadership Experience sections. Please note, these questions are not always easy to answer and a thorough review of your resume with these questions could take an hour or longer. As always, when you’re working on your resume or cover letters, feel free to connect with Career Services – either 30 minutes by appointment or an offline resume review – to further enhance your application materials!

Question #1: Does this bullet point portray me as an active (or even better, a proactive) contributor or leader?

Highlight exactly what you did and how you went above and beyond in the roles you held.  Try to rethink bullet points in which you come across as passive (e.g., learning new skills, attending meetings or workshops) – unless it is essential to showcase in your application materials for the desired job.  To help with this, there are tons of resources online with active verbs to be used in resumes:
· Career Services list of Resume Action Verbs
·’s list of 195 Action Verbs to Make Your Resume Stand Out
· Forbes list of The Best And Worst Words To Use On Your Résumé

Question #2: Does this showcase the “what” and the “so what” of what I did?

This is a concept individuals may struggle with the most. On the “what” side, make sure to not be too vague. Instead of focusing on team accomplishments, highlight exactly what your role was, in appropriate detail. On the “so what” side, it’s critical to show the impact of what your work led to. What did your work impact? What did it enable, drive, or shape? What was the purpose behind what you did?

Question #3: Can I quantify the “so what”?

This is especially important for more quantitative industries where recruiters want to see a degree of comfort with numbers. Do this by thinking through what metrics of success were used (e.g., revenue or profit increases, cost savings, people impacted, money raised, events coordinated, new social media views or followers). It’s also always okay to use ranges.

By David Ross
David Ross Director, Undergraduate Career Initiatives