by Michael Finney
I prefer to teach students how to create a resume that targets a specific position at a specific organization, so that when compared to the generic resume of other candidates, the targeted resume will stand out as superior and thus improve the student’s chances of getting an interview (the ultimate goal of the resume in my view).
Students in my Technical and Business Writing class start off by finding a current job posting from a job search engine that reflects their career goals. For example, if a student is pursuing a music production degree at ACC, I might suggest finding a current job posting for an audio engineer. And for those situations in which students don’t meet the minimum requirements listed in the job posting, I suggest finding a relevant internship, which typically has fewer requirements but still puts students in the field of their choice. The point is to get students to pursue jobs they really want so they will be motivated to do their best with the assignment.
I approach the resume as a two-phase assignment: (1) researching and gathering content, and (2) revising and formatting content.
The first phase gets students gathering information about the organization where they want to work, including mission statement and values, descriptions of products and services, and historical background. (This generates lots of information that could be used during an interview. Interviewers tend to be impressed by candidates who are well informed about the organization.) Then students focus on identifying key terms from the job requirements and matching those key terms to their own experience and education. This allows students to create a resume that includes the key terms from the job posting along with whatever experience and education they have that addresses those key terms. For example, if “Experience with Java” is a key phrase from the job posting, the student could list a Java class completed at ACC on the resume.
In phase 2 students focus on refining and organizing their content for maximum readability. To achieve this, I teach them how to develop parallel structure, descriptive headings, bulleted lists, effective white space, and other techniques. I also have students review several sample resumes to get ideas for layout and organization of content. Students learn to select their best content from phase 1; that is, the content that reflects their best qualifications relevant to the employer’s requirements. When I grade the resumes, I mark them up using Track Changes in Word so the students can easily comprehend my suggestions and corrections. Then I give them class time to incorporate my suggestions and raise their grade. During this workshop time in class I circulate through the classroom checking in on students as they incorporate final changes. I’ve had several students tell me they landed interviews and jobs using the resume they developed in my class.