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How To Teach Resume Writing

What is the trick to teaching resume writing to high school students or adults? In fact, what’s the best way to write a curriculum vitae for your own career needs? Well, whether you call it a resume like they do in North America, or a CV in a more European fashion, it is one challenging document to write!

How can you emphasize your best qualities while being completely truthful? What do you need to do to stand out? Well, based on my experience applying to many, many jobs in the multiple fields in which I’ve worked (business, marketing, administration, research and teaching), here are a few tips I’ve learned. I hope you find them helpful!

5 Tips for Writing Resumes


1. Your Name – Big & Bold

First of all, your name is the first item any reviewer is going to see on your CV. Be sure that your name is big and bold!  Center or left align your name, but have it yell “me!” when you see the page.  Remember, your CV is like a marketing document for one particular product – you! 

Of course, you should also have your contact information – at the very least your email address and telephone number. Some resume formats include an address, which is helpful when applying to jobs where being a local is important.


2. Formatting A Resume

While the experts vary in fonts they recommend in formatting a resume, my experience is that several fonts and styles work well.

  • In the past, I’ve used Times New Roman, Calibri and Cambria, although Calibri Light is my current favourite, in size 11 or 12.
  • Use headings, section breaks and bullet points to keep it neat!
  • Don’t make your CV more than 2 pages. Initial reviewers (usually the HR department, not your future boss), spend 1 to 2 minutes looking over your application the first time


3. Sections To Include


Now, this is going to depend largely on your field. Writing an academic resume, I’ve discovered, is not quite the same as writing one to apply for a marketing or business job. As a rule, you should include the following sections in a resume:

  • Education –  If you want to emphasize education over work experience, put this first. If not, swap the order. Include the name of your qualifications, where and when you received them, and additional information such as GPA if you believe it’s important for the job
  • Work Experience –  Usually, work experience should be presented in reverse chronological order (latest to oldest)
  • Volunteer Experience – Sometimes, this section is not relevant or necessary to the job. However, it does show that you are a well-rounded person
  • Hobbies & Activities – Depending on the type of position you are applying to, you may want to limit this to professional activities or organizations.


Be sure your students  really consider the type of jobs they want to apply to! A general resume format is okay to start, but it should be modified a bit for each application to really tailor it to the job.


4. Details – Situation, Task, Action, Result


Of course, details are important when describing your jobs, but your resume should still be easy to read. Remember, the goal of a resume is to get an interview. Highlight the most relevant points (3 to 4 per job, depending on how many jobs you’d like to include.

Use the Task-Action-Result Method to write your bullet points:

  • Task – What particular task did you do?   (E.g. Managed personal tutoring service…)
  • Action – What action do you want to highlight?  (E.g. created personalized lesson plans)
  • Result –  Try to use concrete results or numbers if possible  (E.g. resulting in satisfied clients and students who raised their grades from C to  B+ levels within the semester).


Remember, you do not need to include every job you’ve ever had!  If you’ve had several careers, as I have, choose the most relevant ones.  Alternatively, write about each job, but only highlight aspects that are relevant to the type of position you are seeking.

You have access to my printables library, right? The March 2017 printables will be out in about a week, and they will include a curriculum vitae planning template you can use with your students, complete with an editing checklist!


Free Printables Library

5. Editing

Editing is the most important part! Typos and spelling mistakes are unprofessional and completely avoidable.  In fact, this should also be double checked in a cover (or covering) letter, but that’s for another post! Editing your CV shows employers that you have attention to detail, professionalism, and organizational skills.  Don’t rush it!  Take your time and do a great job!

A Practical Peer Workshop


Planning a peer editing workshop for your class is an excellent way to practice resume writing skills. In fact, students will be able to really experience the way some resumes stand out, and others do not!  Have students bring in a draft copy of their curriculum vitae and a potential job they would like to apply for. Then, ask them to do the following with their partner’s CV:

  • Think:  Does the name stand out? How legible is the font? What was your first impression?
  • Find & Fix:  Typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors
  • Write down: 3 jobs that you think the resume would be a good candidate for, based on their writing.  Compare your list to the job posting that the student brought in to their resume. Do you think they would qualify for an interview? Why or why not?
  • Discuss:  Once both partners have taken a look at each others’ resumes and make their comments, have them discuss changes they should make to their next draft.

Well, I know that was a bit of a wordy post, but I hope my handful of tips are useful!  Please let me know in the comments below if you have any further tips you’d like to share with The Teaching Cove community.

Happy Teaching!




P.S.  For those curious about the photography, I took the main photo for this week’s post in a park in Norwich, UK in 2013.

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