The Art of Resume Writing – should you listen to Google?

The Art of Resume Writing

Whilst browsing through social media at the weekend, I stumbled across an article by Bill Murphy Jr published on Inc.com, writes Matt Craven, Founder and CEO of The CV & Interview Advisors.

Now, I don’t know much about Bill and Inc.com, but it was quite an interesting piece about Google’s Recruiters recommending the XYZ formula on your resume to improve your chances of getting hired at Google. There were also several other recommendations that Bill mentioned that are worthy of analysis, comment and perhaps deliberation.

If you are seeking a job at Google then it makes sense to follow their advice, but if you are seeking a job elsewhere, there were a number of points that might do you more harm than good, writes Matt.

1. Formatting

According to Bill, Google recommends that resumes should be in PDF format. Interestingly, the rest of the global recruitment industry recommends Microsoft Word as the accepted modus operandi.

The first and main reason is that many recruitment systems (ATS and the like) cannot read the data in a PDF and therefore, your resume is unlikely to successfully pass through the recruitment software and be read by a human.

The second reason is that recruitment firms prefer a format that allows them to remove your contact details and put your resume in their own in-house template before sending it to their clients – if you send them a PDF, they are unable to do this.

Given their day job, Google’s recruitment software algorithms may be more advanced than your average ATS and able to read PDFs, but outside of a Google application, Microsoft Word is a much safer option. A PDF might make your resume look moderately more attractive, but if it doesn’t get read by the machines, it’s never going to get read by a human.

2. Keep it to one page

Apparently, Google prefer a one-page CV, unless you are applying for a technical or engineering position. This may be Google’s preference, and the one-page recommendation does get mentioned from time to time, but it’s largely an urban myth with little foundation.

Let’s face it, how can you make an informed shortlisting decision based on one-page of information, and why do hiring managers and recruiters check out job seekers on LinkedIn if they desire less information?

The purpose of a resume is to sell yourself, and one-page for most people would be hugely restrictive and inadequate. Two pages is definitely not an issue, and in many countries, even three pages is acceptable.

Now, I can’t vouch for the integrity of their research, but ResumeGo claims that recruiters are 2.3 times more likely to prefer a two-page resume than a one pager. I’m wholeheartedly in agreement that a slightly longer resume will serve most qualified and senior candidates better.

3. Using the XYZ formula

Google are describing a well-known formula for writing accomplishments that many resume writers call the ‘results first’ technique. It is widely acknowledged that accomplishments are the foundation of a successful application and Google’s description of this makes a lot of sense.

X is for “accomplished what?”, Y is for “measured by”, and Z if for “by doing what?”, so put in Google’s words, "Accomplished [X] as measured by [Y], by doing [Z].

Let’s have a look at an example:

“Reduced costs by 10% by leading a major cost rationalization program”.

You could also flip this around as follows:

“Led major cost rationalization program that reduced costs by 10%”.

Both would be perfectly acceptable, and your choice will depend on where you want to place the emphasis. Typically, it’s the outcomes that are the most important piece of information, but if you want to highlight the fact that you led a cost rationalization program because this appears prominently on the job description then a “results-last” approach might be more appropriate.

In fairness, we are splitting hairs and as long as you have packed your resume full of accomplishments, with tangible, measurable and statistical outcomes, you will have given yourself a much stronger chance of being hired, whether that be by Google or any other organization.

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