How to Write Bullet Points for A Technical Resume
It can be hard to think up the bullet points for your past experinece. Here's the easy way to do it.
A great technical resume is mostly composed of bullet points. That means perhaps ⅔ of your resume will be used to list your career accomplishments. For most engineers, it feels challenging to summarize your entire career in 10 or 25 bullet points. With a little guidance, however, and some focus on what’s most important, it’s pretty easy to get right. Let’s review your best approach for handling bullets on a technical resume, which is how Leet Resumes handles bullets when we write technical resumes for experienced technology professionals for free.
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 technical resumes.
Bullet Point Styles on Technical Resumes
Most technical resumes default to event-based bullet points. It’s easiest because it mirrors your experience, and how you think about your past work. You shipped, migrated, 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 shipped, migrated or launched something. When you don’t provide details, it makes it difficult for a hiring manager to understand how much better you are than the average developer. Event-based bullet points leave it up to chance that a hiring manager will pick you from the pile.
- Improved availability by xxx%
- Reduced latency by xx %
- Improved security by releasing xx features
- Deployed xx clusters, reducing maintenance costs by yy %
- Identified xx items for improvement in existing systems
- Improved system by increasing xx, reducing yy, optimizing zz items
- Hired xx engineers
- Built system that replaced manual system, saving xx days work annually
- Fixed xx bugs
- Refactored system to be 10x scalable
Performance-based bullet points are the most effective style of bullet point. Performance-based bullet points use the Action - Number - Method pattern. 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.
- Responsible for
- Attend scrum meetings
- Participated in retrospectives
- Performed code reviews
- Conduct testing
- Assigned tasks to staff or peers
Another common bullet point style on technical 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 have no ability to understand that you are a better and different talent.
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 scrum testings, ran unit tests, or did code reviews. Those are really considered to be basic behaviors that any experienced technology professional has done.
Because this style is ineffective at getting your resume selected for an interview, you should avoid using the Administrative style bullet point.
- Promoted to / Selected to join
- Transferred to
- Assigned to
- 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 engineers 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 technical resume, use the Action - Number - Method pattern, and prefer performance-based bullet points. This combination is most effective at getting your resume selected for interview requests, and getting you ahead in your career.
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