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A Recruiter’s Guide To Writing A Resume

A Recruiter’s Guide To Writing A Resume

At NikeNKE +3.3%, the team I led was responsible for hiring 40,000 people a year. In my previous role at Levi’s, my team delivered approximately 20,000 hires a year worldwide. In the 20 years that I’ve been leading recruiting teams, I have seen a very large number of resumes, hundreds of thousands of them over the course of my career. Although there is no one correct way to write a resume, there is a framework you can follow to ensure yours is amongst the best of the best.

What Should My Resume Look Like?
This is such a subjective question: If you ask five different people, you will get five different answers. Your resume has two primary audiences: the recruiter, and the hiring manager. The former might spend a maximum of twenty seconds looking at your resume, and the latter perhaps up to a minute. Therefore a clean, unfussy, format that helps them absorb the most critical information is always going to be the safest bet. Both Canva and Word have great (free) templates that you can use as a starting point. There is no need to pay for a custom template.

How Do I Make My Resume ATS Compliant?
The applicant tracking system is the (very basic) software that recruiting teams use to manage inbound applications and outbound candidate communication. Many of the major ones still in use today were built during the Clinton administration, and therefore are not much more than a digital filing cabinet. Even the newest systems have little in the way of automation, and none of them yet use AI in any meaningful way. Therefore, if your resume is easily readable by a human being, you’re in good shape.

How Long Should My Resume Be?
In the U.S., the conventional length is one page, though increasingly we’re seeing up to two pages, but anything beyond that is superfluous. Allowing six bullet points for each role that you’ve held in the last decade, and then simply listing roles from the previous decade(s) enables you to condense a career of any length into one or two pages.

It is useful to think about space on the page as precious real estate – are you maximizing the return for how you’re using that space? A great way to save space is to turn each company that you’ve worked at into a hyperlink, so that recruiters and hiring managers can easily navigate to the homepage of brands and businesses that may be unfamiliar to them. You may want to still opt for a short anchor statement “a non-profit with ~300 employees in the healthcare sector,” but the hyperlink can do most of the heavy lifting.

What Should My Resume Say?
The biggest mistake is to use all the available real estate focusing on responsibilities – the best resumes give equal space to results. Using the six bullet points per role framework, use your first three bullet points to succinctly describe the size, shape and breadth of your role. That might include size and seniority of the team you managed “led a team of 30, with six senior managers as direct reports.” Or the breadth and complexity of projects you were responsible for “delivered complex, cross-border, multi-lingual, roll-outs to a large customer base.”

After you’ve described the nature of your role, the next three bullet points need to describe the results you delivered in that role. Ideally these results are quantified with a number or a percentage. The X-Y-Z framework is helpful for crafting the results section: accomplished “X” as measured by “Y” by doing “Z”:

“Delivered double digit revenue increase by reducing overall ad spend by 20% and increasing conversion by 30%, through a new customer journey”

Repeat this formula for every role you’ve held in the last 10 to 12 years, which for most people will be roughly three roles. Broadly speaking that’s a total of 18 bullet points, which will take up about two thirds of your available space.

See Also

What Happens If The ATS Rejects My Resume?
Some applicant tracking systems have a parsing functionality that “reads” your resume and populates fields in the database. To revisit my earlier point that the ATS is often legacy technology, it is fair to say that the quality of this parsing can be somewhat mixed (you may find the prefilled entries don’t match your resume in a logical way). When this happens just delete everything, then manually re-enter most recent employer and most recent job title, as that’s the only thing the recruiter sees. Save your resume as a PDF so that the people looking at it (recruiter and hiring manager) see it in the format you intended.

How Do I Know If My Resume Works?
Ask friends and family members to read what you’ve produced – your goal is to convey to someone unfamiliar with your industry exactly what is you do, and the results you achieve while doing it. You should avoid company specific acronyms and jargon at all costs, so having extra sets of eyes will help catch this. Think of your resume as the entry ticket into the recruiting process – is what you have written compelling enough to get you in?

A well-written resume, with an equal balance of responsibilities and quantified results, should mean you’re in good shape for the majority of roles you’re applying to. Put another way, if you’re having to make constant rewrites for each role you’re applying to you either have an issue with your search strategy, or with the core content of your resume.




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