Help Wanted: Writing Professional Resumes
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In this series of seven class sessions, students will work through the process of creating a professional resume. With a special emphasis on helping students learn about resumes as professional documents, this lesson will discuss why writers create resumes, why they must consider the rhetorical situation of the resume, and why both content and presentation are so important in this type of writing. Students will analyze and critique existing resumes, create their own resume and tailor it to a real job posting, peer review resumes for content and presentation, and then present their resumes as professional documents to the class.
ReadWriteThink NoteTaker: Students can use this online tool to take notes and organize them into an outline format.
From Theory to Practice
Creating a resume is one of the first steps students take to prepare them for their future roles as professionals who know how to communicate in multiple contexts. The process of creating a resume asks students to begin envisioning themselves as professionals and calls upon them to understand a new audience for their writing: employers and other business professionals (see Dean 55-61). In her book Genre Theory: Teaching, Writing, Being, NCTE author and consultant Deborah Dean notes the need for educators to help students "understand the need to adapt writing to situations," and the complex tasks involved in responding to a job posting with a professional resume provide such a teaching and learning opportunity (5). As they learn about the dimensions of resumes, including their purpose, format, and language, students gain greater insight into the social dimensions of writing and have the opportunity to explore the "implications of choosing to follow or resist the expectations associated with [various] situations" (7).
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
- 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
- 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
- 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
- 9. Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
- 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
- Collect resumes and resume resources for students to explore and critique. (See Resources section.) Collect both effective and ineffective examples and prepare several to be shown on an overhead, LCD projector, or document camera.
- Collect back issues of classified ads/job postings prior to Session Four to ensure that all students have a job listing from which to work.
- Make sure students have access to computer labs for Sessions One through Six.
- Bookmark the Suggested Online Student Resume Resources.
- Prepare copies of all handouts for distribution in class.
- Test the Venn Diagram tool and the ReadWriteThink NoteTaker on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tools.
- Bookmark the ReadWriteThink NoteTaker for student use in Session Three.
- analyze professional resumes to learn what makes them effective or ineffective for an audience.
- analyze and describe the audience for a resume, noting its purpose and how the audience responds to the document.
- create a professional resume of their own using document and audience analysis, drafting, peer response, and revision.
- reflect on their writing process, noting how this assignment will be useful to them in their future writing responsibilities.
- Ask students to engage in a Think-Pair-Share activity by spending five minutes freewriting about resumes. They may write about their experiences with resumes and their perceptions of resumes, including resumes they have written, friends'/family members' resumes they have seen, what they know about them, why they are important, how they look, and what they say about the writer.
- Ask students to get into small groups to share their freewriting. Select a recorder for each group to take notes about what the group discusses to share with the whole class.
- Bring students together as a class and ask them to share each group's notes about resumes. The teacher or a class volunteer should make a list on the overhead or board for use later in the lesson process, especially as students are writing their reflective essays in Session Six.
- Project for students two or three sample effective resumes. Discuss the main parts of each. Explain that while each resume meets generally accepted criteria that suggest it is "effective," the effectiveness of any resume is situated within the context of the job posting and the demands of the given job or career. You will discuss this issue in more detail in sessions to come.
- Use the concrete examples to raise the questions to students:
- Why do we need resumes?
- Do all jobs require a resume?
- Why do some jobs ask for a resume and others do not?
- What does a resume say about a person?
- Why do we need resumes?
- Ask students to shift to their own search for guidance on resume writing by looking at available resources on the Internet. Direct students to the Suggested Online Student Resume Resources and give each student a copy of the Resume Writing Resources handout and go over its requirements. Students should review each site or resource by taking note of the kinds of help offered for beginning resume writers and keeping track of specific information they think will be important as they create their own resumes.
- For the next session, ask each student to find one additional resume help resource and bring it to class. Students should add this resource to their Resume Writing Resources handout. They may find this by going online to a search engine such as Google or Ask.com, by going to a career center and getting a pamphlet or booklet, or by going to a library and finding a book or article on resume writing.
- Build from the work of the previous session by showing students a few more effective sample resumes as well as some samples that are clearly problematic. Lead a brief discussion about the strengths and weaknesses students perceive in the various samples.
- Elicit from students the basic required sections of a resume: Objective, Education, and Work Experience. Ask students to brainstorm other sections that may also be important to include on a resume (Volunteer Experience, Special Skills, Awards Received, Certifications or Licenses, Involvement in Clubs or Societies, etc.).
- Ask students to consider the extent to which having the expected headings and format is enough to make a resume effective. While projecting an accepted "effective" resume, have half of the students quickwrite a job listing for which the resume is well-suited; the other half should compose a job listing for which the resume is ill-suited.
- Have students share these divergent job descriptions and facilitate a brief discussion on the central importance of the job listing in assessing a resume's overall effectiveness.
- Inform students that they will now be forming professional writing groups of three or four students. Tell students they will work with these groups for the duration of the lesson, serving as professional reviewers and helping each other with writing and reviewing their resumes. (Teachers may choose to divide students into groups based on their career interests.)
- Ask students to go to their groups and, with reference to the sample resumes from this session and last, produce a list what makes a resume different from other types of writing they have seen or used in the past. Ask them to consider abstract issues such as audience and purpose as well as concrete issues such as content and form.
- Ask students to share their lists with the class. Discuss how resumes are a genre of writing known as professional writing. Make a list on the board or overhead listing the differences between professional writing (including resumes) and other types of writing. You may wish to use the Venn Diagram tool to facilitate this process. Share with students that these are elements they will need to know when creating their own resumes.
- Now ask students to get out their new resume help resources and Resume Writing Resources handout they were assigned to bring. Ask them to compare their resources, noting what each source says that is similar to or different from the other sources. Ask groups to create a list of their own resume-writing tips and share these with the class.
- Collect the Resume Writing Resources handout and tell students that for Session Four, they need to search newspapers, local career sites, Monster.com, or Careerbuilder.com for job listings that interest them. They need to bring three potential job listings to class with them for the that session.
- Inform students that during this session they will begin drafting the outline of their own professional resume. While the specifics of the resume will be tailored to the job posting (see Session Four), students will create the basis for the more specific resume in this session.
- Remind students of the typical sections of a resume from the previous session and share with them the importance of descriptive action words in these sections of a resume. Give them the Resume Action Words handout and ask them to add to it as they review various resume resources.
- Use the Resume Action Words handout as a segue to the overall requirements for the resume assignment. Distribute the sample Professional Resume Rubric and discuss the requirements for a strong resume. For now, focus on the elements that the group has already discussed, but assure students that other elements will be covered in the rest of the process.
- Direct students to the ReadWriteThink NoteTaker where they can begin typing the sections of their resume, including bulleted lists of the tasks/actions they did while in the jobs they have had. Show students the Using ReadWriteThink Notetaker to Draft Resumes handout and ask them to refer to their Resume Action Words handout as they draft. Stress to students that they cannot save their work in this interactive tool.
- Using ReadWriteThink NoteTaker, they should include all major section headers and then list information within these. Emphasize to students that the resumes they create may have fewer items in the Work Experience section at this time because they are new to the job search. Instead of focusing on what experience they do not yet have, students should try to think about all the special skills or volunteer experiences they have had and include those.
- At the end of class, have students print their progress so far, as work cannot be saved with the ReadWriteThink NoteTaker.
- Students should continue drafting their resume sections at home, adding notes to the printout from the ReadWriteThink NoteTaker.
- Remind students that for the next session, they need to search newspapers, local career sites, Monster.com, or Careerbuilder.com for job listings that interest them. They need to bring three potential job listings to class with them for the next session.
- Ask students to get into their professional writing groups and share the job postings they brought to class. Have back issues of job listings on hand for students who do not come prepared; forgetful students can also engage through the additional listings group members brought.
- Students should describe their posting and share why they chose those job listings, what qualifications the jobs require, and for which they are most qualified at this time.
- Remind students of the importance of the job posting by referring to the activity from Session Two. Project a sample job listing that might appeal to the students in your classroom. Walk students through the parts of the posting, including the ways in which it describes the company or organization, the position, and the qualifications a person needs to have.
- Share with students the importance of addressing these items in their resumes as much as possible and provide examples of how students can do this based on the sample job listing you post.
- Remind students about the importance of audience in writing a resume and that the job posting essentially tells the writer what the audience/potential employer wants to see in the resume. Their task is to match their experiences to the listing, using language precisely and honestly.
- Place students back into their professional writing groups and ask them to review their job postings carefully, highlighting information that will be important for them to include. Ask students to find and highlight key words and ideas that their job postings state are important (for example, themes such as good communication skills, working as a team, good organization skills, etc.).
- At this point, ask students to choose the job posting that is best suited to their current experiences and most closely matches their interests and goals.
- Students should return to the printed resume drafts they created using ReadWriteThink NoteTaker and look for ways to blend the employer-desired skills with their own experiences. Encourage them to add action words and specific phrasing from the job posting and/or to include a section on special skills or activities they have that reflect what the employer wants. This will help them tailor their resumes to that audience. (Students may need additional help from the instructor in order to see how their experiences can be made to accommodate an employer's wording.)
- For the next session, students should have all major sections of their resume completed (including bulleted action items) using the draft from ReadWriteThink NoteTaker. They should bring them to class along with their printed job description.
- Students should get out their printed sections of their resume and bulleted action lists as created in ReadWriteThink NoteTaker. In their professional writing groups, students will exchange their resume draft notes and their job posting with the others. Students will review each group member's resume draft notes, asking questions that will help their classmate revise. Use the Resume Peer Review Guide to facilitate this process.
- Give students time on the computers to work with their resume notes in a word processing program such as Microsoft Word. Students may choose to use a resume template available on Word, or they may choose to create their own format for their resumes. Teachers may need to spend time showing students how to use templates or help them create a resume format without a template.
- As students revise and organize this draft of their resumes, the teacher should move around the room, conferring with them individually about the changes they are making and asking them to describe how their resume is tailored to their professional audience.
- For the next session, students should complete typing their resumes and bring a printed copy to class for a visual analysis day.
- Begin the class by asking students to freewrite for five minutes, reflecting on their experience so far drafting their resumes, finding a job posting, and tailoring their resume to that job.
- Following that, ask them to find a partner who is not from their professional writing group and share with that student the experiences they wrote about. Each student should ask their partner at least two questions about their experiences. Students should write these questions down on their freewriting note pages and then respond to them in writing. These notes will be used by students when they draft their Analyzing Your Writing Process Assignment to accompany their final resume.
- Bring the class back together and begin a discussion about the visual design aspect of resumes. Reconnect with students' earlier comments about how resumes are different from other types of writing. It may be helpful to refer to the list students made in Session One.
- Discuss the importance of the visual layout of resumes and how the look of a resume works in conjunction with its purpose, to provide employers a quick impression of the author and his/her ability to perform the duties and succeed in the job. Also discuss how students can make their own resumes stand out while still working within traditional resume format guidelines.
- Ask students to return to various resume resources, including books, articles, or online sites and find two additional resume writing sites and gather ideas about the visual presentation of resumes. Refer them to the Suggested Online Student Resume Resources if necessary. After reviewing this information, students should return to their professional writing groups with at least three ideas for how to design the layout of their own resumes.
- Bring the class back together and ask students to share what they learned about the visual design of resumes. Ask other students to act as recorders for the class.
- Give students time to return to the computers and work on the design of their resumes using what they learned from the class discussion.
- At the end of the session, introduce the Analyzing Your Writing Process Assignment, telling students that in addition to submitting their finished professional resumes and job postings, they will also write a reflective essay documenting their writing process and explain what they learned about creating a professional resume. See the Analyzing Your Writing Process Assignment. This assignment should be completed after the presentation.
- For the next session, students should bring their completed resumes to class.
- Students should take out their finished resumes. Allow students about 5 minutes to review their resume so that the information is fresh in their minds for their presentation to the class.
- Each student will come to the front of the class and share his/her resume, describing his/her process for creating it, what job it is tailored for and how it is tailored for that job, what he/she likes about the resume, and how he/she might continue to revise it. (The student should be able to show the resume to the class using a computer [for an electronic version], a document camera [paper version], or an overhead projector [transparency version]. If only an overhead is available, the teacher may need to allow extra time for preparing resumes as overheads to show the class.)
- Following each student's presentation, the class will be allowed time to ask the presenter any questions and present their suggestions for revision. The number of days devoted to presentations will depend on the size of the class.
- Remind students to complete the Analyzing Your Writing Process Assignment for submission at the next class meeting.
- This lesson can be extended and enhanced by inviting local business owners or human resource representatives to the classroom to discuss their experiences in writing job listings and reading/reviewing resumes.
- Partner with other teachers or departments in your school and arrange a job fair in your gymnasium or auditorium. Invite local businesses to send representatives to serve as resume reviewers and mock interviewers.
- This lesson can be extended to include more time spent on resume design, including designing scannable resumes.
- Some entry-level jobs require the completion of an application but not the submission of a resume. Acquire applications for jobs in your area and share these with students, noting how having their resume makes for easy completion of most applications. Further stress how the resume writing process prepares students for interviews by getting them to think about their experiences, skills, and strengths.
- Students can visit these Web resources to learn more about writing a resume: Writing Your First Resume, General Technical Writing Guidelines, Monster.com Student Resume Tips, and Resumes—What Not to Do.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Make sure that students are making adequate progress on the project by checking work completed at the end of each session and offering additional guidance or support when necessary.
- Use the sample Professional Resume Rubric to assess finished resumes and reflections.
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