“Decoding What Recruiters Are Looking For In A Resume”; Nora Hamada with Recruit Rise (Video + Transcript)

April 11, 2024

Nora Hamada (Recruit Rise Founder) will lead a dynamic session on elevating your resume to captivate recruiters. Tailored for those with specific job targets, this talk ensures attendees leave with actionable insights for immediate application. Learn how to showcase your impact on a company’s bottom line, making it a standout feature. Leave with a toolkit to transform your resume into a compelling narrative, setting you apart in the competitive job market.


In this ELEVATE session, Nora Hamada (founder of Recruit Rise) highlights the basics that a recruiter will be looking for on a resume, such as education, skills, and experience. She provides a practical exercise for analyzing job descriptions and identifying patterns to tailor resumes accordingly. 

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Nora Hamada ELEVATE use data to make your accomplishments more credible

Transcript of ELEVATE Session:

Nora Hamada:

My talk is on what recruiters are looking for on a resume, and if you’re here in attendance today, it’s probably because you’re on an active job search or about to kick one off in the short term. Welcome, and I hope you have a pen and paper and ready to take notes. Who am I? Angie gave my bio, so I’m going to skip this one. But hello, nice to meet you.

Expectations for this talk. This talk is for people who already have a good idea of what job they want. If that’s not you, if you’re still figuring out what next step you want to take, this talk is probably not the best fit. So just letting you know that in terms of expectations.

My objective is to make sure that you all leave by the end of this conversation with actionable takeaways that you can do on your own time. And then we’ll have a practical exercise that we go through together at the end of the talk. So we’ll go ahead and get started.

First I’m going to go over the basics, just following best practices. Likely you’ve heard all of these before, but I’m just going to run through them just in case something seems new to you.

Use the standard resume format. I know that there are a lot of resume templates out there that are very fancy and creative, but it’s much easier if it’s just a PDF file. That’s what I always recommend.

Make sure to highlight your relevant experience. If you’ve done a lot throughout your career, maybe an untraditional path, I think about what jobs you’re applying for and how your experience aligns, and make sure to highlight the most relevant experience. We’ll go through that in detail later on in the talk.

I can’t stress this enough, please double check, triple check for errors, spelling errors, grammar errors. It does not look good if there are multiple spelling errors in a resume, it definitely comes across as a yellow or a red flag.

And again, just going to run through these really quickly before we dive into the meat and the potatoes of the talk. I’ve seen six, seven-page resumes. Please don’t do that. Just distill down your experience to one page if you can, two pages maximum.

Recruiters are looking at your resume for seconds. They’re skimming for information that they’re looking for to make sure that it’s a good enough fit to keep reading and spending the time investment to do that.

One page makes it really easy to skim. Same with hiring managers. It’s a lot more friction if it’s a lot longer and hard to parse. We live in the digital age, so make it easy for people to connect with you online. Include your LinkedIn URL, especially great if you have common connections, and your email.

This is a good segue for my next little check mark here, which is, you may not want to list your phone number, and I’ll tell you the reason why. If you are on job search sites like Indeed and Monster and all of those, if you list your phone number publicly, you will get unsolicited calls.

What’s great is that there are tools out there: I use something called OpenPhone, and that allows you to create a phone number for a specific purpose like a business, or in this case, job search that you can then get rid of at the end once you get into your next position. Definitely, this is just my opinion, but I think it’s great to just have a box with a skill section in it.

If you’re an engineer, for example, just highlighting right away, making it super obvious that you have practice in specific programming languages, or if you’re a designer, what tools you’ve used in your jobs, just making it really easy for someone skimming your resume to see that super clearly and decide to keep reading if it’s relevant that you need certain skills to be qualified for the job.

Listing education could help or hurt. There is a very strong education bias in the tech industry. I don’t agree with it, but it is what it is. It’s out there. You should be aware of it. If you have that competitive advantage, I would definitely list that toward the top of your resume. If you don’t, it’s fine, but just something to think about.

The reason I put that it could hurt potentially is, I’ll give you a specific example. In my career, I’ve worked with a lot of different people in their job searches, everything under the tech umbrella, designers, product managers, engineers, et cetera.

For engineers specifically, there was this kind of common trend where sometimes hiring managers would see that engineers had MBAs, and then the question would come up of like, “Well, does this person really want to work as an individual contributor or are they trying to get a job as a product manager?” That question came into play of like, “Well, is this job really for them? Is this the path that they want to take?”

Questions will come up that people have and they’ll just make assumptions. Those are things you want to think about too. Is your resume telling the story that you want to create? And if you think those questions might come up, really trying to tell your story in the right way so it doesn’t even … I guess no one has a specific assumption that may or may not be true. You’re already telling your story the way you want it to be told.

Keep your best information at the top. The most recent experience is what you want to be the meatiest, I would say, if it’s the most relevant for the jobs that you’re applying for. The top of your resume is prime real estate, so I would definitely put your strongest assets there. Again, these are probably things you’re aware of, but….

I’d recommend starting bullet points with action verbs in your experience, talking about your experience. I just put an example there, like grew our user base 75% in one quarter – that is a very clear and concise sentence, easy to read, very clearly tells, “Hey, this person is capable of doing customer acquisition, like helping with customer acquisition and growing our user base.”

Then the next point is, use data to make your accomplishments more credible. You want to show people that you can do the thing with numbers. Quantitative data and metrics makes that more salient and credible in a hiring manager and recruiter’s mind.

We’ll pause there and we’re going to get into the practical exercise. If you have a pen and paper handy, I’d recommend taking notes, and then we’ll leave room for questions at the end if we have time. Because this is such a short talk, I might be running through something quickly, so feel free to ask me at the end if you want me to go into more detail about it. So we’ll go ahead and get started.

I get a lot of questions about how to put together a resume, and this is a simple trick that I like to use. In this example, I’m going to use a growth product manager role just as a hypothetical example in this scenario. Say you’re a growth PM, that’s the job that you’re looking for.

For this practical exercise, I would recommend taking 10 job descriptions. I just found 10 using this site called Levels.fyi that you may or may not be familiar with already. And I took 10 job descriptions that fit a narrow scope. I was looking for growth PM positions at tech startups and specifically high growth tech startups and in a certain locale. At the location, I would say it doesn’t really matter that much, but it could potentially.

The more narrow your scope, the better. And you can try this at home after the talk with the job descriptions that you have in mind for your next step.

Find the patterns. All of these job descriptions likely have things in common. What are they? That is your job to figure out, so you can feed it into ChatGPT. That’s what I did, and I just double checked it to make sure that it was correct because it is not always 100% accurate.

The common patterns that were found in these 10 job descriptions were that, there was an emphasis on having qualifications around these items like conversion rate optimization; collaboration across teams, dealing with all these different stakeholders like marketing teams and engineers and customer support teams, things like that; data-driven decision-making, making sure that there was an emphasis on using data analysis and experimentation to influence other people and to drive decisions to be made for product.

Strategic leadership, shaping user journey was really common and leading growth strategies. A customer-centric focus, talking about the customer journey, understanding that customer journey and prioritizing that customer experience was a common thread among these job descriptions.

Continuous iteration and experimentation came up a lot, involved running experiments and testing hypotheses, iterating on features to improve outcomes and achieve growth goals. Metrics ownership, driving those KPIs and growth metrics that the company had set with that product manager’s influence.

Once you have that, once you have those patterns and have a really clear idea of what those are, and you will notice patterns, believe me, then you can take your resume and say, “Okay, what am I missing here? What’s not on here that I found in the patterns and what is?”

For the ones that you already have in your resume that fit, maybe talk about them, you might decide, okay, based on how I was talking about them on my resume versus how these things were coming across in the job descriptions, you might want to change the verbiage to match the kind of wording that was used in the job descriptions, or keywords, for example.

Ten if you don’t have some items that you saw as common patterns, that’s your chance to either say, “Actually, I do have this experience and I need to tell my story to convey that I have these qualifications.” Or if you don’t have those things, decide, “Okay, how can I maybe bridge the gap there?” Maybe with supplemental education, maybe pet projects that you can do on the side if you have the time. There are a whole host of things that you are able to do that you can do within your control.

It’s important to remember that companies care about their bottom line. Corporations care about profits, they care about making more money and saving money. It would be helpful to tell your story in a way that shows them that you can make an impact on what they are likely to care a lot about, these two things.

In that growth PM example, you can demonstrate, “Hey, in my experience, this is how I’ve contributed to building a large user base and making the company more money through that top of funnel, driving customers, driving new users, or perhaps really helping with customer retention, user retention, and thereby saving the company money on customer acquisition costs.”

These are things that are definitely going to really wow someone, and you might have a competitive edge against other applicants if you can really demonstrate your aptitude for certain things that are going to make them believe that you can help them make more money or save more money.

I’ll pause here and let you guys ask some questions. I’ll stop sharing my screen and show my face again. There we go. Okay. So yeah, any questions? Let’s see. What is the best way to highlight relevant experience? Okay, so there’s a little bit more context from Eileen here. What if you’re applying to a job, but the most recent jobs are not the most relevant jobs? Okay, can you share an example of a resume format that would help highlight the roles that are more applicable even if they’re less recent? This is hard because it requires a lot of context sometimes, but if the most recent jobs are not the most relevant, then I would put the most detailed … So I’ll try to give an example here.

Again, just using the growth PM example, if you’re a growth product manager and those are the jobs that you’re looking for, but perhaps you’ve had to take a job recently or a contracting experience recently that was kind of a shift away from that, and no shame, it’s a tough market right now, then I would definitely make sure to keep that experience minimal on your resume and put a lot more detail on the most relevant career experience that you’ve had for the jobs that you’re applying for. You really just want to condense your experience down again to that one page ideally and tell your story the way you want it to be told. Sorry, just quite a morning for me already.

Let’s see. Can you share an example of a format? Yeah, it’s hard without a specific context. I’m going to come back to that Eileen, and if you want to message me directly, I can spend some time with you. Okay. So Eva has a question.

What are your strategies to stand out when more and more candidates are using AI bots to submit resumes, resulting in recruiters getting a thousand more resumes? Yeah, that is a really big issue right now.

Here’s the thing. I’m going to share how AI gets used on the other side with recruiters.

The way that I’ve seen AI tools commonly used right now for recruiters’ positions is that they typically use AI for contacting candidates, finding candidate, sourcing. Whereas when looking over resumes, even at big companies like TikTok for example, they will take the time to go through every single applicant, really truly, or if they don’t have the time for whatever reason, then they’ll use their applicant tracking system to look up specific keywords.

This is where that practical example of finding those common patterns and seeing what likely comes up will help you decide, “Okay, what sort of verbiage do I want to include on my resume that matches that or emulates that?” so that those common keywords that might be really important in the job come up when recruiters are having to look through their database and say, “Okay, I need someone with user optimization experience, or something, or having a specific tool that they’re familiar with, like Figma,” or whatever it might be, just highlighting specific keywords in that batch of resumes to have that person, the most applicable candidates come up. But yeah, it’s a lot more work on recruiters’ plates right now because it’s just a ton of applicants coming through more so than in the past. It doesn’t mean that all fit though. There’s a lot of noise, there’s some signal, but there there’s a lot of noise.

I hope I’m pronouncing your name correctly. How do you keep best information at the top, especially if the layout is chronological? Yeah, that’s also a really good question. Again, everybody’s story is different, everybody’s competitive advantages are going to be different, but using the education example, again, I don’t agree with this, but there is an education bias that’s out there. If you went to a top 10 computer science school or something, and if you’re an engineer, I would definitely put that at the top, or perhaps you were … Oh, I think we’re at time already. But if you were a YC founder, you might want to highlight that right away in the top and have that in your bio. Okay, I’ll stop there, Angie.

Angie Chang:

No worries. Thank you. This was really helpful. I especially liked the insight about AI and how things are working today. But yeah, this was a really great talk, and I’m really excited to see you. Thank you for sharing all of your knowledge, and we will see you in the next Elevate session.

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