Revamping Your MBA Resume, Part 7: Bullet Point Basics

While the overall format and headings of your MBA Resume provide structure and ensure readability, the bullet points describing your responsibilities and accomplishments are really the meat of the document (or the tofu, for our vegetarian and vegan readers). Admissions readers and hiring officers will look to your bulleted content to learn about your overall responsibilities and on-the-job accomplishments, their judgments about which will inform the interview process.

Naturally, in addition to being one of the most important components of the document, bullet points can also be fairly challenging to write. We find that having a structure or template of sorts can cut down on the ambiguity (and anxiety) involved in this task, and so here are some guidelines for writing effective bullet points.

First thing first: every single bullet point should begin with an active verb (i.e. words like “coordinated” or “conducted” rather than “was” or “did”)—ideally a different one for each bullet point. A Google search for “resume action verbs” will yield a veritable smorgasbord (with abundant vegetarian options) of verb lists to help you write about your work in descriptive and active terms. Avoid phrases like “was responsible for” or “duties included” at all costs; at worst, these make your job sound like drudge work, and at best, they say more about your job description than your actual performance. Turn these lists of things you had to do into more straightforward statements about what you’ve done; you weren’t “responsible for oversight,” you simply “oversaw.”

Your first one or two bullet points under each job should describe your day-to-day responsibilities in general terms. It’s also helpful to provide some background information about your team structure and larger organization, as you don’t know how familiar an admissions reader will be with your company. A formula for your first bullet may read like the following:

  • “Provided x service and conducted y and z analyses as part of a #-person team in the marketing department of a large IT consulting organization specializing in a and b”

You get the idea. Your second bullet point might then detail another area of responsibility, or elaborate on how your work fits into the larger picture of the organization. Who uses the information you produce in y and z analyses, and to make what kinds of decisions? How is your provision of x service important to the organization’s operation and goals?

The best job description bullet points are so informative that the reader can develop a mental image of you on the job, as well as a sense of where you fit into the organizational structure and even the larger industry. In the MBA admissions process, this is especially helpful in getting admissions readers and interviewers to see the connection between your existing skills and knowledge and your proposed post-MBA goal: one of your major tasks in the application process.

Your next 1-4 bullet points (as we established last week, more recent positions should have longer and more detailed descriptions than those further in the past) should detail specific accomplishments that resulted in some kind of positive impact on your organization or its clients/partners/other stakeholders. We’ll follow up next week with some tips for identifying and describing these accomplishments. In the meantime, revise those job descriptions, eat your leafy greens, and do some brainstorming about what you’d like to highlight.


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