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Writing effective bullet points for a résumé

Writing effective bullet points for a résumé

Use bulleted statements throughout your résumé. Each bullet point should strongly communicate your qualifications and accomplishments which are relevant to the position. If you have only one bullet point in a section, find a way to incorporate it into another section.

Review the Major sections of a résumé for advice on writing bulleted statements in Job Objective or Career Goal and Summary of Qualifications or Skills Summary.

Any bullet point in the Work Experience, Volunteer Experience, Education, and Activities and Interests sections should begin with a skill or achievement action verb that will create a vivid image of your accomplishment. Use the job advertisement as your guide in formulating and choosing key words that are true to your strengths. Although 3-5 bullets are standard for each experience, employers often do not scan past the first three bullets - so be sure to prioritize and place the most important and relevant information first. If you engaged in an activity or used a particular skill only 10% of the time but it is very relevant to the prospective employer, list that bullet at or near the beginning of your bullet points.

Be concise and avoid repeating verbs. Please refer to the list of action verbs provided. Remember that all action verbs are not created equal! Verbs like “helped,” “assisted,” “participated,” and “worked,” although technically in the active voice, fail to provide a specific picture of what you have done, so avoid them wherever possible.

If you intend to use such words to show that your role was to participate in but not to lead a project, consider using other strategies. If you were one member of a two-person team, consider using “co-” as the prefix to the action verb describing your role (e.g., “Co-edited user’s manual”); if you were part of a team with 2+ members, explain your role and end by indicating that others were involved (e.g., “Edited user’s manual for XYZ software, as member of communications team,” or “Edited user’s manual for XYZ software, in collaboration with supervisor”). If, on the other hand, your goal is to hide the fact that your role was minimal, omit the statement.

You may find it helpful to think of the following three components as you begin to write bulleted statements:

Complete statement

  • Did x using y to achieve z
    (What) + (How) + (Why)
  1. What:what action you took, using a skill or achievement verb (e.g., designed)
  2. How: how you performed the task: a) actual tool or technique (e.g., using MS Access); b) role you played (e.g, as member of 5-person team); and/or c) using an adverb (e.g., effectively, accurately)
  3. Why: what result or outcome you achieved, quantified wherever possible (e.g., doubled speed of information retrieval)

Complete statement

  • Designed client database using MS Access; doubled speed of information retrieval


Although each bullet point should include skill and task components, always adding tools and results may be too lengthy. Try to include points that use three or all four components several times throughout your résumé, especially when demonstrating key achievements.

Because it is important to demonstrate productivity and achievements to prospective employers, begin some of your bullets with the outcome, using an achievement action verb. The above example would then read:

Complete statement

  • Doubled speed of information retrieval by successfully designing client database, using MS Access

When using both types of bullets (i.e., skill-first and achievement-first), begin your list with an achievement-first bullet for the greatest impact. Please refer to the list of Action verbs provided as a reference for both skill and achievement verbs.

Try to include points that use all three components several times throughout your résumé, especially when demonstrating key achievements. However, it will not be possible to include a result in all cases. The goal is to leave the reader with the clear impression that you are someone who can and does get results — and will for them as well.

Additional tips

When assessing your qualifications for a position in which you are interested and believe you can succeed, be sure to consider all of your experiences and what you have gained from them. Did you teach yourself a programming language? Have you attended an industry-related event? Paid work experience is not the only relevant experience that employers look for in résumés. You can demonstrate your knowledge, skills, and passion for the field in a number of ways including through interests, volunteer activities and education.

Also assess areas which you may need to develop. Would a course be beneficial? Networking, attending events, participating in webinars (many are free!), volunteering, and reading/research can all contribute to strengthening your résumé for future applications. Find a mentor in your field. They can provide helpful advice regarding beneficial events and activities to engage in to further your career development. The shape of employment is constantly evolving, which is why keeping your résumé up-to-date is so important for gaining interviews. But the résumé also evolves as you do.

Interested in learning more? Attend the Résumés, Careers and Personal Branding workshop to learn tips and strategies with a Career Advisor.

University of Waterloo

Centre for Career Development