IBM 8-bar logo Career Readiness Toolkit for Teachers

How to build a standout resume lesson

60 mins

3 Activities

Grade 9-12

Low threshold, high ceiling

Common Core Standards

English Language Arts College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards For Reading and Writing

India Miles from Open P-TECH

Lesson approved by India Miles

India spent years teaching teenagers and college-level students, and also worked as an Assistant Principal in Dallas—and she approved this lesson.

You'll need

Stopwatch / timer

If you’re here, it means you’re looking for ways to teach your high school students professional skills. This 60-minute lesson plan has everything you need to teach your students resume-writing skills so they can write resumes that grab employers’ attention and, most importantly, lead to interviews.

It includes materials, learning objectives and standards, activities and instructions, and student handouts. We also recommend tech tools that you can use to make the learning experience fun and interactive for your students.

Learning objectives

  • Students will learn about the importance of tailoring their resume to their audience.
  • Students will draft a resume for a fictional student in response to a sample job posting.
  • Students will write accomplishment statements they can use on their resumes.
  • Students will learn about three common resume formats, and how to choose which format is best for them.
  • Students will draft a complete resume they can continue to refine and tailor.
  • Students will gain confidence and feel more comfortable about drafting and tailoring resumes for future job applications.

02Warm up

Warm up
Get students warmed up and ready to tackle the next activity with a quick Do Now and Debrief, and Framing to help them understand the importance of resume building.
Do Now

5 min

When students enter the classroom or sign into class online, project the slide that asks the following questions. You can also use a collaborative tool like Padlet and post the question there:


What is a resume anyway? How are they used and why do they matter?

Debrief Do Now

5-10 min

Invite students to share out. If you use Padlet, give students the opportunity to read each other’s responses before they share. If you’re teaching in person, you can cold call or ask for volunteers. Online, you can ask students to type in the chat box. As students are sharing, note patterns that come up in their responses.


Once several students share, emphasize that a resume is a document that helps potential employers understand who you are when applying for a job:


“You might think that your resume’s goal is to win you a great job. That’s true in the long-run. But in the hiring process, a resume’s greatest impact comes when you first apply for the job. That’s when a company decides whether you’ll be one of a very few applicants who are invited to a job interview.”

Framing: Why do we need to learn this?

5-10 min

It’s important to format your resume in a way that allows recruiters and hiring managers to easily scan and identify your qualifications as they pertain to a specific job opportunity. They’re looking for one thing: how precisely your resume matches the requirements of the job they want to fill.


Recruiters spend an average of about six seconds reviewing a resume before making a decision to: a) continue reading, b) maybe save for later, or c) abandon and move on. And in some companies, the “person” measuring how well you match up isn’t a human at all! It’s a computer program on the lookout for key words and phrases.


Your resume needs to make a great first impression and fast. How can you write a resume that will help you get in the door? How do you get started?


Optional: You may want to show this video clip (5:54).

03Pick an activity

Pick an activity

04Cool down

Cool down
Whether you did one activity or all three, give students the opportunity to reflect and set goals afterwards. These self-assessments will also help you figure out what you need to do next to help them meet the learning objectives/grow stronger resume skills.
Here are some suggestions:

No matter which activity you did, give students the opportunity to reflect and set a goal for their next steps. These self-assessments will also help you figure out what you need to do next to help them meet the learning objectives and grow stronger in resume-writing skills. Here are some suggestions:


You can use a tool like Mentimeter or Poll Everywhere to do a pulse check. Ask students on a scale of 1-5 (1 not confident, 5 ready to tailor their resume now), how prepared they feel to draft and tailor their resumes for potential employers. This information is also helpful for you, as you can use their responses to think about how much more guidance they need and whether or not you want to dig deeper into this skill.



Create a Google Form that gives students a place to reflect and set a goal. Here are some questions you might include:   


  • How prepared do you feel to draft and tailor resumes for potential employers?
  • What aspect of the resume-writing process do you feel most confident about?
  • What part of your resume do you want to work on next?
  • What do you need more help with?


Encourage students to continually assess their resumes, and adapt them as their goals change and as they gain experience. Remind them to consider format and content. Here are some questions they can ask themselves:


  • Will my resume stand out in a pile?
  • Have I considered the employer’s perspective?
  • Have I shown the employer I can do the job?
  • Do the headings I use and their order reflect what is most important to the position?
  • Do my bullet points include details about the quality and impact of my past work—the “So what?”
  • Can I say the same thing with fewer words?
  • Is it free of spelling and grammar errors?
  • Have I asked someone to proofread it and offer feedback?
  • Is my name and key contact information up-to-date and clearly visible on every page?
  • Is the text (font and size) easy to read?
  • Is there enough white space?
  • Is my formatting consistent?