what resume advice do high school students need?

A reader writes:

I am an AP Spanish teacher, which provides me the opportunity to teach a wide variety of topics to students who are generally very motivated. Right now, we’re talking about jobs, and we’re moving into our “mock interview” phase, where the students get to play both the interviewer and interviewee. To prepare for this, I have the students write resumes. I show them my own (picking out the areas where I could improve, too), and then have them prepare their own, which they have to tailor to match the “job” for which they’re interviewing.

I’m wondering about what information I should ask for them, because many of them have so little experience actually working. Generally, they’re writing functional resumes, since they may only have had one job in the past, if that. I’ve told them to jettison the objectives (which I’m sure will spark a riot in the English department, where they also work on resumes), and we’ve talked about avoiding photos (even though they see them on the Spanish examples). We’re working on vocabulary that is dynamic and makes their responsibilities stand out. Is there any information that I’m not providing that I should? Even though these resumes are in Spanish, I’d like to think that these skills will be applicable later on in life.

I love that you’re doing this. There needs to be a lot more of this happening, especially from people who know to say no to objectives.

Now, as for advice … In general, like most hiring managers, I’m not a fan of functional resumes … but I think it could make sense for an exercise with high school students, since it’ll get them thinking about what skills and achievements they have to offer, in a way that a more restrictive chronological resume format might not.

More than anything, I’d emphasize the importance of listing not just duties but accomplishments — talking about what they brought to a job (or a school project, or volunteer work, or whatever) that someone else in their role might not have. In a field of roughly equally qualified candidates, why should an employer choose them? What is about their work ethic or their efficiency or how they’ve used their intelligence or their initiative that makes them a good choice? At at this age, you’ll also probably need to tell them how to figure that out, since it’s one of those things that isn’t clear at all until you’ve had enough work experience to understand what separates a good performance from a bad one, and a great performance from a good one. The more you can help them understand that, the better — especially because it might shape not only their resumes, but their actions on the job.

You could also talk to them about what a hiring manager looks for when evaluating a resume — emphasizing that we don’t care about creative designs or fancy fonts; we care about having a clearly organized, concise, easy-to-scan document that puts the information we want in the places we expect to find it.

And if lack of content is a problem, since they have little to no work experience, you could suggest that they create a resume for their future selves — for instance, the resume they’d like to have by the time they graduate from college. Not only would that give them some content to work with, but it might get them thinking about how they want to be spending their time between now and then, as well.

What other advice do people have? What do you wish someone had taught you about job-hunting when you were still in high school?

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