Get Hired with an X-Y-Z Resume

For soon-to-be college graduates, the job search is a daunting task with many uncontrollable variables. No matter the amount of careful preparation, great students can still be overlooked for reasons unknown. One way to ensure students set off on the right foot in their job search is through an expertly crafted resume.

Creating a captivating resume means honing in on specific achievements, which can be a tricky task for some. But the careful guidance of career services can take resume writing from unnerving to enlightening.

The X-Y-Z format

There are many formulas for successful resume writing. Google, one of the most coveted employers of our time, recently shared a guide to creating stand-out resumes for those interested in joining their team. Google touts the X-Y-Z resume format, describing it as accomplished [X] as measured by [Y], by doing [Z]. Better shortened to the X-Y-Z resume.

Essentially, this format is an easy-to-read, concise, and practical way to get to the heart of an applicant’s achievements. Soon-to-be college grads, however, don’t have as many accomplishments to go on when detailing why they’re a good fit for a role.

Here’s how you can help students stand out by creating an accomplishment-focused resume using the X-Y-Z resume format:


Evaluate experience and measure accomplishments 

Now that the student has had the opportunity to evaluate their experiences — the X in this resume-writing equation — it’s time to measure them (the Y). This measurement should feature a numeral to ensure quick understanding from the recruiter or hiring manager. Have your student go through their list of experiences or accomplishments and take them to the next level by adding a measurement for success, which will eventually lead them to Z.

On their resume, your student may have listed their elected position as the recruitment chair of a sorority. Push students to take accomplishments like this to the next level by honing in on numerical measurements for success. Here’s an X-Y-Z resume format example:

  • Good: Recruitment Chair, Alpha Chi Omega
  • Better: First sister selected as recruitment chair two years in a row based on the development of a highly successful recruitment program.
  • Best: First sister selected as recruitment chair two years in a row based on the development of a highly successful recruitment program that increased recruitment 45% in one semester.

The added details of measurement and comparison will focus your students’ efforts on finding ways their work sets them apart from other candidates. With an X-Y-Z mindset, even seemingly small accomplishments can turn into so much more.

Formatting is everything

When laying out an X-Y-Z resume, students need to focus on providing a brief look at all they’ve accomplished. Your students may run into trouble when it comes to the detail and length of what they’re trying to express. This is quickly fixed through careful formatting.

Students should use a bulleted list format for their experience section. Each point should start with an action verb such as createddesigned, or developed — these words provide immediate clarity for the reader and help accomplishments stand out.

Again, sentence structure in the X-Y-Z format should look like this: action verb, achievement, measurement, detail of what you did to achieve your goal. The data and comparisons provide context and flow. Here’s an example of correct formatting:

  • Received employee of the month three times in 2019 for excellent customer service skills and achieving a 100% satisfaction rate on 50 post-transaction customer surveys.

Students should also customize their resume for each job they apply for. This may include reorganizing their experience section or adding and removing things that may be more relevant to a role.

Overall, the X-Y-Z resume format will help your students stand out from the crowd and provide a quick understanding of their various achievements.



Val Matta

Val Matta is the co-owner and leader of business development at CareerShift, a comprehensive job hunting and career management solution for companies, outplacement firms, job seekers and university career centers. You can connect with her and the CareerShift team on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, LinkedIn.

By Val Matta
Val Matta Co-owner