Campus: University of Washington 

5. Developing Your Resume

Educator: Ana Wieman, Engineering Co-op & Internship Program Manager, Student Academic Services
Context: Out of class; Society of Women Engineers meetings
Keywords: professional organizations, resumes, internships/co-ops
Student Activity Time: 30 minutes

Students reviewed the resumes of other successful students and reflected on their own perceptions of what components are important for a successful resume.

Introducing the Reflection Activity

Composing a successful resume is an important skill for engineering students to develop and can be facilitated with support from their professional organizations and peers. In a professional organization meeting, students were invited to participate in a group activity to review peer student resumes, role-playing as an employer planning to select a candidate. After completing the activity, students reflected on the essential components of a strong resume and how to revise their own resumes with these components. The purpose of this activity was for students to reflect on their own resume development.

In the student organization meeting, the educator introduced the activity and separated students into groups of three or four. The educator then distributed three resumes to each group and explained this scenario:

You are representing your company at an on campus event to collect student resumes. In your team, review each resume and determine which candidate you will recommend for an interview based on their resume alone. Explain why you chose one and not the others.

The educator gave students about 10 minutes to review the resumes, select a candidate, and develop a rationale for their choice. The educator facilitated a conversation with the larger group about why various candidates were selected over others. After a sufficient report out, the educator revealed that each of the candidates received an internship with the resume used in the activity. The educator shared the companies and salaries that each student received. The educator provided additional tips about resume development and prompted students to consider the elements of their own resumes that were strong and the elements that could be improved. After completing the reflection activity, students were prepared to improve their resumes for a greater chance of success in earning an internship, co-op, or job.

 Recreating the Reflection Activity

Step Description
1 Separate students into groups of three to four.
2 Explain the scenario and distribute the anonymized resumes.
3 Provide students about 10 minutes to review the resumes and discuss in their groups.
4 Debrief the group on the kinds of internships that each resume won the students, the company name, and salary for each role.
5 Facilitate a group discussion about the important components of a successful resume.
In the words of the Educator: Tips and Inspiration

Withhold the impulse to spell it out for students. Try to be in the lesson with the students. There’s no exam, so students aren’t necessarily motivated to receive information that is simply presented to them. I try to avoid a situation where students feel as if I know everything and they know nothing. Since this isn’t a class with grades, helping them to discover it on their own matters. Some students are only looking for a simplistic formula for success (e.g., fixating on resume formatting), and this activity gets them to start thinking more substantively on their own about how to best represent themselves on paper. 

Share a few of the same resumes with students. One thing that is helpful is to have a few of the same resumes in the set that you use so that students can compare across groups. I collect the resumes back at the end of the activity, but during the discussion, it is helpful if everyone has seen at least one or two of the same ones. It helps students to articulate what stands out about the resume so that others have a point of reference. The range of resumes is also helpful, so that they can see people with different majors, more or less experience, better grades, and not so great grades.

What was the inspiration for the reflection activity? This activity really was a product of trying several different things over the years. After employers interview several students in a day, I ask the recruiters to separate the resumes they received for the job posting into two piles: good resumes and crummy resumes. I ask the recruiters to then tell me which students they chose to invite to an interview, and inevitably, they pick from both piles. Then I ask who they offered jobs to, and still they pick from both piles! When I asked why they hired someone with a crummy resume, the response is always that they are not hiring a resume or someone who can write a resume. That was the main point of the activity – that the hiring process is about employers looking for them as prospective employees, not just the resume. My goal is to change the way students look at the world. The job world is not just about right or wrong, or using a specific formula to get it exactly right.

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