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Writing a Good Resume: Student Critique and Practice Exercise

Resume writing is an important life skill in today's fast-changing workplace. Where prior generations had one or two steady jobs in their lifetime, today’s workers can expect to have six to nine jobs before retiring. That’s why knowing how to write and maintain a clear, effective and professional-looking resume is key to achieving a successful career.

resume writing tips
Photo: Andreas Klinke Johannsen, via Flickr

To help students practice (and have a little fun), we provide two sample resumes for students to review. One comes from "Sally Sad," a high school graduate with little motivation, job experience or sense of professionalism. The other is from "Joe Graduate," a sharp student who graduated from a state university and has been active acquiring several skill sets.

Go over both resumes as a class. First, have students spend a few minutes writing down errors and needed improvements in Sally’s "bad" resume. (NOTE: Four typos were intentionally added in. Can students identify them?) As a class, list the problems on a dry-erase board or chart paper. 

Next, go over Joe’s "good" resume. Compare and contrast the two resumes, explaining why Joe's is better and writing these aspects and reasons on the board or chart paper. Students also can suggest improvements Joe could have made.

You may want to note that there is no single best way to structure a resume. Additional sections that could have been included in the samples are Computer Skills, Honors and Awards, and School Activities. (See the sample at the end of this guide.) Ultimately, the resume should be tailored to the specific job for which one is applying.

Here are some points to cover when reviewing the sample resumes.


Sally’s Missteps:

  • She has an unprofessional, cutesy email address.
  • The Statement of Objective and Summary are unprofessional and not workplace-relevant. Photography might be a skill for her, but she has not emphasized how she has used this skill professionally.
  • Time availability should not be included on a resume.
  • There are several typos (see highlights below).

    resume writing

  • She uses unprofessional wording (e.g., "awesome," "cool," "cute," "pics"), as well as inappropriate clipart and exclamation points, which have no place in a resume.
  • No date is listed for her high school diploma; there is no description of coursework that might be relevant to the workplace.
  • Her work history isn’t in order (jobs should be listed in reverse chronological order), and she included a questionable volunteer experience (cupcake tester) under Work Experience.
  • Her descriptions of past job duties fail to emphasize skills gained (e.g., "flip burgers and fill condiment containers"), and also reflect negatively on her customer service skills (e.g., "deal with annoying customer requests").
  • She includes information that doesn’t pertain to job skills (hobbies should only be listed if they are highly related to the job for which one is applying).


Joe’s Good Moves:

  • Based on his professionally stated objective, he listed skills that are relevant to his chosen career field.
  • He had no spelling errors or inappropriate/unprofessional wording.
  • He arranged his work history in reverse chronological order.
  • He described past job duties in a way that emphasizes his skills and leadership qualities.

 

Once students have completed their analysis of the resumes, go over best practices for resume writing. If desired, have students use the samples above and/or the sample at the end of this guide to write their own resumes. Ask students to pair up and critique each other's drafts.

 

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