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There Are 3 Kinds of Resumes. But Top Recruiters Say They Want to See ‘Format Number 3’

The other two formats leave recruiters wondering: ‘What the heck did she actually do there?’


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Not long ago, I explained why Google greatly prefers applicants whose resumes use the X-Y-Z formula to describe their experiences -- and why job seekers who don’t use that formula greatly diminish their chances of getting an offer.

However, it’s clear that there's an even more fundamental problem before we even get to the formula. It also makes it much harder for top companies to identify great candidates from among the millions (literally, millions) who apply.

Writing for Business Insider, Rachel Premack interviewed Amazon's recruiting manager for university programs, Celeste Joy Diaz, about what she thinks is the single biggest mistake that Amazon applicants make.

It turns out Diaz agrees with the top Google recruiters, along with many others at top companies. It all comes down to a basic misconception about what a resume is supposed to do, and therefore what successful applicants choose to include.

1. Headline-based resumes.

At the outset, there are three types of resumes for our purposes. The first is what we will refer to as title-based or headline-based resumes.

In short, title- or headline-based resumes are ones that, as Diaz put it, list the places you worked and the job titles you had, but provide little information about what you actually did in those positions.

“Titles are great, but we want to understand what was the project you owned, what was the scope of a project, and what did you accomplish,” Diaz told Business Insider.

If you’re a well-credentialed job applicant reading this, you might be aghast that people do this. But if you’re involved in hiring, you'll be nodding your head as you see the complaint.

Perhaps the charitable explanation for why people make this mistake is that they’re slavishly trying to keep their resumes to one page -- which is admittedly part of what the top Google recruiters suggested, at least for all non-technical positions.

Or else, the applicants assume that their former positions are so well-understood that further exposition isn't needed.

However, doing this makes you look risk looking like a seat-filler at your previous jobs, and suggests that the pinnacle of your achievement in previous positions was simply getting hired.

None of these is a good look. And none is likely to result in an offer.

2. Responsibility-based resumes.

A step up from title- or headline-based resumes are responsibility-based ones. Here, at least, applicants explain what the roles they held at previous companies entailed.

However, we’ve all known people who were theoretically responsible for things, but didn’t actually live up to the responsibility. At best, a responsibility-based resume brands you as a middling, average, “do-what's-required” player.

Here are a few bullet points written in the responsibility resume style. If you’re on the fence, anything that starts with the words “responsible for” or similar language probably falls into this category:

  • Responsible for audience growth for three newly launched websites.
  • In charge of managing five other workers at remote location during business hours.
  • Tasked with assessing different vendor offers and making sound decisions to help the company achieve its goals.
  • Assigned to assist customers who called into support to better understand our products, solve problems, and increase future sales.

You can see where this is going. Basically, responsibility-based resumes are a list of cut-and-paste job descriptions.

3. Achievement-based resumes.

When written correctly, achievement-based resumes are the ones that get applicants noticed. These are the ones written with the recruiter or hiring manager or future boss in mind, because they provide clear, measurable descriptions of your outcomes.

This is what Google is really getting at when its top recruiters suggest: “Accomplished [X], as measured by [Y], by doing [Z].”

Let’s just rewrite those four examples from above to show it in action. You'll notice that for readability's sake, sometimes this will actually come across as Y-X-Z or Z-Y-X or other combinations. The key is simply to include all three elements:

  • Grew website digital audiences from zero to 15 million visitors per month by running effective marketing campaigns and recruiting 45 new high-performing writers.
  • Saved the company $9 million in five months by reviewing current technology vendors, renegotiating five neglected contracts, and replacing two legacy vendors.
  • Increased sales by 9 percent MOM for the seven months I was in charge of a five-person team, by implementing advance scheduling and friendly internal competition to improve team's morale.
  • Achieved 98.5 percent customer service “5-star” reviews in my team by rewriting call scripts and empowering team members to make any “good faith adjustment” under $50 without escalation.

The applicant’s goal is to leave a hiring manager thinking something along the lines of, “Wow, if she increased sales by 9 percent at her pervious company, I wonder if she could do the same thing here?”

Juxtapose that against the other formats’ inevitable questions: What the heck did she actually do there?

And you can see why Format 3 will always be the winner.

Bill Murphy Jr. is the founder of Understandably.com and a contributing editor at Inc.com. Contact and bio at www.billmurphyjr.com.

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This post originally appeared on Inc. and was published October 14, 2019. This article is republished here with permission.

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