Preparing to write the 21st-century résumé

Instructors: The Word table at the end of this post is designed to help students complete the below pre-writing tasks. You can assign its completion as homework or as an in-class activity.


Writing your résumé is one of the most fundamental and important tasks you will do throughout your working life. Before you do, take time to understand this important document and read about best practices and résumé conventions in your business communication textbook. You can also visit your campus career center or look at the helpful resources provided by the Purdue Online Writing Lab.

Like all good writing, résumés require careful thinking before composing. This activity will help you gather the information you will need to write both a traditional résumé and a technologically enhanced, 21st-century version.

Part 1. Pre-write

Using the table your instructor distributes, list your skills, talents, abilities, and interests in the first column. Skills can be divided into hard skills (tangible, often technical skills that depend on acquired knowledge, such as learning a programming language, operating a machine, or calculating payroll) and soft skills (abilities that include people skills, communication skills, creativity, a positive attitude, and other intangible character traits).

In the second column, list your employment history, including jobs, volunteer work, community service, any achievements, and awards. Write the name and location of the organization, dates you worked, and your title, as well as accomplishments and tasks.

In the last column, list the jobs you aspire to, either in the short term (summer job, internship, volunteer position) or in the long term, or career fields in which you might be interested.

Part 2. Draft a traditional résumé

Use the information you’ve written on the table to create a traditional résumé, dividing it into customary sections (i.e. education, work experience, skill summary, etc.)

Part 3. Create a technologically enhanced résumé

Return to the table you completed and mark every item that could be showcased or illustrated using audio, video, or other technology. For example, musicians could imbed an audio clip into a résumé, writers could link to their written work, and chefs could refer to recipes or imbed a video of a cooking demonstration.

E-Portfolio Pre-Write Table


Employers Want New Hires Who Can Chitchat

Employers Want New Hires Who Can Chitchat

It’s well and good for a new-hire to be a whiz at coding or analyzing data, but possessing social skills is becoming just as important.

Social skills are the ability to interact and communicate with people verbally and nonverbally through gestures, body language, and even physical appearance. Unfortunately, it’s a set of skills employers are not finding in their millennial and Gen Z hires.

Social skills are particularly important in today’s workplace, say experts, because jobs requiring social interaction are on the upsurge, while the number of less social jobs is decreasing. The reason makes sense. As artificial intelligence takes the place of many positions requiring repetition, people who can interpret others’ feelings become more valuable. “There’s no way to program a robot to figure out when a customer has had a bad day,” says Prof. David Deming of Harvard’s Kennedy School.

Just as important are social niceties once taken for granted. Employers complain that many of today’s employees are unskilled at knowing when to shake a hand or even how to. Some organizations have found it necessary to create training modules to teach young employees how to converse casually. It’s no surprise such training is needed, considering the number of hours the younger generations interface with smartphones rather than humans.

With Bank of America training employees to show empathy, medical clinics using online courses to help workers learn to deal with touchy conversations, and Subaru creating a development program that covers topics such as punctuality and wearing appropriate attire, it’s clear employers need workers who can socialize and show human emotions. Just as clear is the fact that those who can demonstrate such skills will be in high demand.

From The Wall Street Journal


  1. Why do you think young people may not possess the social skills that were taken for granted in past generations?
  2. Can you identify a list of social skills that would be worthwhile to develop to make you more marketable?
  3. Why is it so important to look someone in the eye when shaking hands?


Help Students Showcase Skills with an E-Portfolio

Today’s job seekers need to market themselves with a variety of materials: several résumés in different formats, a LinkedIn page with a fleshed-out profile, and a professional social media presence.

Another potentially useful tool for job searchers is the e-portfolio, a collection of digitized materials that give viewers a snapshot of a candidate’s work and showcase an individual’s talents and accomplishments. Often e-portfolios link to copies of original work such as written communication and examples of graphic or film projects.

Teaching students to put together an e-portfolio works well in the business communication classroom. For instructors, it provides a venue in which students can rewrite graded work so it is polished for a professional audience. E-portfolios also appeal to students, especially those about to embark on their job searches, and that buy-in helps students dedicate themselves to producing their best work.

Below are some teaching tips for linking this important element of the job search to an e-portfolio assignment. Note: The skeleton assignment at the end of this post is designed to be adapted to individual instructors’ needs.

Discuss the relevance of e-portfolios. Regularly remind students that the work they do for the course can be used to demonstrate their written communication skills to a potential employer who may want to see a writing sample. Stress that these skills are on employers’ wish lists for new-hires.

Show samples. Project samples of recent graduates’ e-portfolios, which are easily found online. (After initially teaching the assignment, instructors can use their own students’ samples.) Discuss the elements that make e-portfolios valuable to a potential employer and the kinds of samples that best illustrate a candidate’s qualifications.

Create in-class activities. Teaching the e-portfolio lends itself to group work. Students can find samples online and discuss their pros and cons. Groups can work together to isolate the categories of samples they want to include on their individual sites. Instructors can use class time to help students sign up for free templates and guide them through registering and choosing a template.

Add an e-portfolio assignment. Consider including a final project that showcases students’ rewritten work uploaded to an e-portfolio. These rewrites can be graded or not, depending on course design, but requiring students to think through the process of what to include and rewriting previous assignments can only reinforce learning outcomes in the business communication classroom.

No doubt students today face daunting preparation as they ready themselves for a job search. Adding an e-portfolio to their arsenal further arms them with cutting-edge materials to improve their odds of success.

E-Portfolio Skeleton Assignment