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Resume Writing

Purpose of Course  showclose

Are you getting ready to apply for a job, or are you already seeking employment?  A resume (or résumé) is a brief written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience that you prepare as part of your application materials for a prospective job.  To ensure that your resume is read by the recipient, you will need a cover letter that markets your unique qualifications for the specified job description.  In the current global economy, it is essential for job seekers to optimize their chances of being considered and hired for positions that are well-suited to their qualifications and interests.  This course will help you effectively develop employment application materials for today’s job market by honing your resume writing skills, providing you with tools to create an impressive resume (or to improve the one you already have), and giving suggestions on developing an effective cover letter.  You will study different types of resume and cover letter formats that can be applied to various prospective employment situations and your own personal career goals.  You will undertake a critical assessment of the professional skills you already possess, brainstorm and apply the best ways to market these skills in your resume and cover letter, and enhance your application materials by using specific tips and techniques to make you more competitive for the job you seek.  By the end of this course, you will combine effective language and design elements to produce a polished resume and cover letter that can be tailored to each specific job application.

Course Information  showclose

Welcome to PRDV102: Resume Writing.  General information about the course and its requirements can be found below.

Course Designer: Mary Matera and Professor Abby Sharp

Primary Resources: This course is comprised of a range of different free, online materials.  However, the course makes primary use of the following resources:
Requirements for Completion: In order to take full advantage of this course on resume writing, we recommend that you view the course on Job Search Skills (PRDV101).  To successfully complete this course, please follow the instructions for each resource.  It is our intention that as you learn what the experts have to say, you will learn how to market yourself to today’s employers in a prepared, confident, and professional way.  At the conclusion of the course, you will be asked to complete a final exam.

Note that you will only receive an official grade on your final exam.  However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, it is recommended that you take notes on and work through all of the materials in the course.

In order to “pass” this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the final exam.  Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it.  If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.

Time Commitment: This course should take approximately 3 hours to complete.  Please plan any additional time for note taking and exploration of embedded links of interest to you.  Each unit includes a “time advisory” that lists the approximate amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit.  This should help you determine how to budget your time to complete each of the three units.

Tips/Suggestions: You may wish to compile a folder, either online or in hard copy, that contains information you obtain while progressing through this course.  These documents will help you organize your thoughts and plan your resumes and cover letters in the manner that is most efficient for you.  Many sample resumes and covers letters are included in the readings to inspire you with style and content suggestions.  Feel free to click on embedded links that are of interest to you.

 
A version of this course is also available in iTunes U.
Preview the course in your browser or view our entire suite of iTunes U courses.  

Learning Outcomes  showclose

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  • Describe the main function of a professional resume.
  • Identify the components of a professional resume.
  • Describe best-practice techniques for creating a professional resume.
  • Explain how to draft and produce a professional resume for both print and virtual distribution (through email).
  • Describe the main function of a cover letter.
  • Explain how to develop an effective cover letter to accompany a resume.
  • Identify effective language and keywords to use in a professional resume or cover letter, and describe template designs that will enhance and polish a resume and cover letter.
  • Explain how to tailor a resume and cover letter for a specific job. 

Course Requirements  showclose

In order to take this course, you must:

√    Have access to a computer.

√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.

√    Have the ability to install plug-ins or software (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash).

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (e.g., doc., ppt, xls, etc.).

√    Be competent in the English language.

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

√    Be knowledgeable about job search skills (recommended).

Unit Outline show close


Expand All Resources Collapse All Resources
  • Unit 1: An Introduction to the Resume  

    In this unit, you will learn about the function of a professional resume and the different types of resumes typically presented in today’s job market.  Also, you will learn about various formats in which to present a resume (e.g. a conventional resume, a functional or skills-based resume, a chronological resume, etc.).  Finally, you will collect information about your own professional skills and accomplishments in order to prepare for building your own resume later in this course.

    Unit 1 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 1 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 1.1 The Purpose of a Resume  
    • Reading: Penn State University: Joe Schall’s Style for Students Online: “Chapter 8: Resumes” (HTML)

      Link: Penn State University: Joe Schall’s Style for Students Online: “Chapter 8: Resumes” (HTML)

      Instructions: This chapter describes an effective resume as “…principally an objective summary of your skills and achievements, secondly a subtly clever argument that you are worth hiring, and finally a reflection of your individuality.”    Click on the link above to access “Chapter 8: Resumes.”  Read the introduction, and then click on “Writing the Conventional Resume” to read the chapter.  This chapter describes several types of resumes and offers samples of each type.  You might be asked, for example, to submit a Curriculum Vitae (CV) rather than a conventional resume for an academic job.  To learn more about the difference between a CV and a resume, study “The Graduate Student and Post-Graduate Resume” section and the sample link to view each type of resume.  You will also benefit from a list of common action words used to describe your job experience.  This chapter also covers the topics for subunits 1.2 and 1.3, as well as any inclusive sub-subunits.

      Reading this chapter should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.2 Types of Resumes  

    Note: This topic is addressed by the Penn State University material assigned in subunit 1.1.  In particular, focus on the links to “Writing the Conventional Resume” and “More Advanced, More Daring Resumes” from Joe Schall’s Style for Students Online: “Chapter 8: Resumes.”  Other types of resumes are described in the readings for the sub-subunits below.

    • Reading: Ohio State University Center for the Study and Teaching of Writing: “Writing an Effective Resume”

      Link: Ohio State University Center for the Study and Teaching of Writing: “Writing an Effective Resume” (HTML)

      Instructions: Read this article, which explains common mistakes in resume writing and teaches how to format resumes for web-based and paper-based applications. One common mistake is to assume that there is only one correct layout or format for a resume. A chronological resume is more traditional and lists job titles and dates in reverse chronology (most recent/current job first). A skills resume emphasizes your strengths by combining activities from various sources of experience, for example, school, paid jobs, volunteer work, etc. Your decision as to what format to use for a given target job will depend on your work history and the nature of your desired position. The article also specifies information to include in various parts of your resume. Note that this reading also covers topics outlined in sub-subunits 1.2.3 and 1.2.4 as well as subunits 1.3, 2.1, and 2.2.

      Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.2.1 Federal Resumes  
    • Reading: U.S. National Park Service: “Federal Resume Writing Workshop”

      Link: U.S. National Park Service: “Federal Resume Writing Workshop” (PDF)

      Instructions:  You may wish to apply for a federal job.  This article contains detailed information about how to ensure that your resume and cover letter meet the formatting and style requirements for this type of job.  Click on the link above to access the U.S. National Park Service website.  On the webpage, scroll down the alphabetical list of participant guides and click on “Federal Resume Writing Workshop.”  This PDF provides many examples of federal resumes and cover letters.  For this assignment, read only Module 2, “What Is a Federal Resume?” This module provides samples of several resume formats.  Reading any additional modules in this article is optional, but will be helpful if you are interested in applying for a federal job.

      Reading this article should take approximately 10 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.2.2 Conventional Resumes  

    Note: This topic is addressed by the Penn State University material assigned in subunit 1.1.  Under “Chapter 8: Resumes,” on the left of the page, click on “Writing the Conventional Resume.”  To view samples of conventional resumes, click on the link at the bottom of the page.

  • 1.2.3 Chronological Resumes  

    Note: This topic is covered by the Ohio State Writing Center article in subunit 1.2.  In particular, focus on the information below the heading “What Kinds of Resumes Are There?”

  • 1.2.4 Functional (Skills-Based) Resumes  

    Note: This topic is covered by the Ohio State Writing Center article in subunit 1.2.  In particular, focus on the information below the heading “What Kinds of Resumes Are There?” 

  • 1.2.5 Combined Chronological and Functional Resumes  
  • 1.3 Common Resume Errors  

    Note: This topic is covered by the Ohio State Writing Center article in subunit 1.2.  In particular, review the beginning of the article under the heading “Common Resume Errors.”

  • Unit 1 Assessment  
  • Unit 2: The Key Components of a Resume and Cover Letter  

    Now that you have an understanding of the basic function of a professional resume, you can focus on the key components of a resume in greater detail.  In this unit, you will study the kinds of content and categories often included on a resume and learn how the arrangement of these components can change based on the information and accomplishments you wish to emphasize to a potential employer.  You will consider which categories you would like to include on your own resume, and then you will draft your resume by listing your major accomplishments, professional skills, and other pertinent information in an organized manner under these categories.  In addition, you will draft a cover letter to accompany your resume.  Finally, you will explore some common design elements frequently used on a resume and learn about simple techniques for effectively formatting and styling a resume.  By doing so, you will lay the groundwork for polishing your resume in Unit 3.

    Unit 2 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 2 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 2.1 Anatomy of a Resume  

    Note: This material is covered in subunit 1.3 above.  See the Ohio State Writing Center article entitled “Writing an Effective Resume.” Scroll down to “Formatting Your Resume for Human and Electronic Readers” to learn the components, formats, and tips for resumes written for a computerized job application system, a web-based resume, and for resumes to be read by an actual human being!

  • 2.2 References  

    Note: This topic is covered by the Ohio State Writing Center article assigned in subunit 1.3, as well as Section 4.5 of Caroline Ceniza-Levine and Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio's textbook assigned in subunit 2.1.  For the Ohio State Writing Center article, scroll down to "References" for information about including professional and personal references -- people who will vouch for you to a potential employer -- on your resume.  References can also be typed on a separate page and presented to the potential employer whenever appropriate.  To create a separate list of References, see Section 4.5 of Caroline Ceniza-Levine and Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio's textbook in Subunit 2.1. 

  • 2.3 What Is a Cover Letter?  
    • Reading: The University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center: The Writer’s Handbook: “What Is a Cover Letter?”

      Link: The University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center: The Writer’s Handbook: “What Is a Cover Letter?” (HTML)

      Instructions: Click on the link above and read this article, which offers helpful advice on how to “write a letter of application that introduces you, explains your purpose for writing, highlights a few of your experiences or skills, and requests an opportunity to meet personally with the potential employer.”  You can click on “content” and “format” to receive specific suggestions for this type of letter as well as sample letters.

      Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 2.4 Types of Cover Letters  
    • Reading: Penn State University: Joe Schall’s Style for Students Online: “Chapter 9: Writing Cover Letters”

      Link: Penn State University: Joe Schall’s Style for Students Online: “Chapter 9: Writing Cover Letters” (HTML)

      Instructions: Click on the link above and read about how to create an audience-friendly cover letter.  As an optional supplement to this reading, you may also choose to view the quintcareers.com site under “Self Study” at the bottom of the page.  This site offers samples of cover letters under the several different job headings and also provides many other resources for job seekers.  The site also offers templates to personalize your cover letters.

      Reading this chapter should take approximately 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 2.4.1 The Application Letter  

    Note: This topic is covered by the University of Wisconsin-Madison article in subunit 2.3.  In this article, the term cover letter is also referred to as a letter of application.

  • 2.4.2 Creating a Portfolio  
    • Reading: The BorderLink Project: “Get to Work!”

      Link: The BorderLink Project: “Get to Work!” (HTML)

      Instructions: Click on the link above to learn how to supplement your resume and cover letter with tangible evidence of your skills and abilities.  This article explains why a portfolio serves several functions.  For example, it can be helpful to organize your documents that you will use to persuade an employer that you are uniquely qualified for the job.  Additionally, you can provide actual samples of specific strengths you wish to stress to an employer.  The article provides tips to organize your portfolio as well as suggestions of what to include to demonstrate your strengths.  Helpful links are provided for examples of what to include in order to demonstrate skills, personal qualities, etc.

      Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Unit 2 Assessment  
  • Unit 3: Bolstering Your Resume and Cover Letter  

    In the final unit of this course, you will polish your resume and cover letter.  Even if you do not consider yourself technically skilled, you still can create an attractive resume by employing some freely available online resources.  You will examine ways to enhance your resume and cover letter and learn about techniques to make your application to each job as competitive as possible.  You will harness effective action verbs, keywords, and positioning (a formatting strategy for promoting your professional identity) to strengthen the language and organization of your resume.  You also will learn how to edit and review your resume and cover letter to ensure its quality.  Finally, you will learn how to tailor your application materials toward a specific job and identify the pitfalls to avoid when finalizing your resume and cover letter.

    Unit 3 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 3 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 3.1 Enhancing the Language and Style of Your Resume and Cover Letter  
  • 3.1.1 Action Words  

    Note: This topic is addressed by the Penn State University material assigned in subunit 1.1.  In particular, review the section titled “Common Action Words Used to Describe Job Experience.”

  • 3.1.2 Keywords for Scannable Resumes  

    Note: This topic is addressed by the Penn State University material assigned in subunit 1.1.  In particular, review the section titled “Computer Scanning of Resumes.”  To ensure that your scannable resume receives “hits” from the scanner, this chapter offers a “how-to” approach for successfully using keywords.

  • 3.2 Polishing Your Resume and Cover Letter  

    Note: This topic is addressed by the Penn State University material assigned in subunit 1.1.  In particular, review the section titled “Quality Checking Your Resume.”  This chapter stresses the need to ensure that the content, format, and final presentation are representing you well.  Probably the best advice given is to have your resume and cover letter proofread by other trusted readers who will give you honest feedback about their impressions.

    • Reading: Rockport Institute: “How to Write a Masterpiece of a Resume – Part 4”

      Link: Rockport Institute: “How to Write a Masterpiece of a Resume – Part 4” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read “Part 4: A Few Guidelines for a Better Presentation.”  This article provides information on how to write “powerful but subtle advertising copy.”  Your goal is to have a prospective employer immediately reach for the phone to invite you to interview.  You do not just want the reader to be informed; you want them to be “interested and excited.”  Note that you have already read Part 2 of this article in sub-subunit 1.3.5.  Optionally, you may wish to read any additional parts of this article that are of interest.

      Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.3 Putting It All Together!  
    • Reading: GreatSampleResume.com: “Great Sample Resumes”

      Link: GreatSampleResume.com: “Great Sample Resumes” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to obtain free sample resumes, templates, and access to a free resume builder.  Sample resumes are categorized by job title and by industry.  To write your own eye-catching, professional resume, select several sample resumes from the lists that may be of interest to you for ideas about formatting, descriptions, etc.  To write an accompanying cover letter that is worthy of your new resume, see sample cover letters under the “Other” heading.  These cover letter examples are categorized by industry/profession.

      Now you are ready to apply your new skills to formulate a winning resume and cover letter!  Take some time to explore the sample resumes and cover letters on this website, and then work to revise or build your own resume and cover letter.

      You should dedicate approximately 30 minutes to exploring this resource and working on your own resume and cover letter.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Unit 3 Assessment  
  • Final Exam  

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