Monday, November 04, 2013

Re-Writing Resume Tips
--My BCQ Article is Out—

Many universities offer some version of a business & technical writing course that I teach. At my university, I am the coordinator of all sections of this course, as well as an engineering version of this course, and these courses serve approximately 1,250 students annually.

But more importantly than that, I work with a group of students who go onto the job market each year, and I watch them get jobs. I also participate in their college education when they are asking questions about resume writing (and paying attention to the answers this time). Instead of preparing a resume for class, they are preparing the one (or two) that matters.

Together, we discovered that the resume advice written 20 years ago may not apply right now. Or, the resume advice needed right now isn't located in any textbook. The problem is that textbooks and tradebooks have not updated resume guidelines.

For instance, we love to teach a section on the "scannable" resume, but who uses this kind of resume? As my son might say, "Who cares about it anyway?" Research shows that companies really don't, for the most part, and even if they do, no one knows when to send a scannable resume vs. a regular resume. Why not make one resume and stop talking about the "scannable" nonsense?

Second, resumes aren't sent to employers via mail much anymore, so how do employers receive them? Many resumes are read on-screen first, so shouldn't we write a resume that is screen friendly?

I decided to try to answer the question: What are best practices for resume writing in 2013?

For advice, I turned to research about how people read on screens as well as research about what employers want. My findings are reported in an article, "Updating Best Practices: Applying On-Screen Reading Strategies to Résumé Writing,", which is now online and will be published in Business Communication Quarterly.  I chose to send this article to BCQ because researchers in business communication and technical communication read this journal. I appreciate the reviewers and the editors at BCQ as well as the production team for working with me on this article.

During the final editing process, an editor—even after having read this article many times—made a change on one of my resume examples. I chuckled when I saw the suggested edit because it confirmed what I found when I started this project: What we believe to be true about resume writing is ingrained and automatic. I pointed out the error and I hope the editor chuckled, too. It’s difficult to change something we have believed for our entire professional careers.

One of my reviewers said I’m going to make some people in technical and business communication angry because I cite textbook pages and authors’ names. But I hope these authors think of this as a collective miss. All of us--faculty in technical communication, faculty in business communication, career centers, trade publishers offering books about resumes--we all teach resume writing as if we are on auto-pilot, and my point is that we need to re-evaluate the resume writing practices that have become outdated as technology changes.


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