During the last few years, I've had the opportunity to counsel students concerning their resumes. One mistake that I find they make on their resumes (especially those students who don't have a strong paid work background) is that invariably they fail to include every skill they possess on their resume.
For instance, a few weeks ago, a student who had just completed my Introductory Java class, asked me to look over her resume. I read it twice, and she obviously sensed something was wrong.
"There's no mention of your Java skills," I pointed out.
She explained to me that she didn't feel it appropriate to include a mention of a skill that consisted only of classroom learning (this in spite of the fact that she was head and shoulders the best student in the class).
I disagreed; pointing out that the mention of any skill on a resume, even a skill that hadn't been fully 'tested' in the workplace, is something that a prospective employer should know about. Let the prospective employer make the decision as to how much weight to place in a 40-hour Java class. Who knows? Perhaps they have a critical Java need to fill, and your 40 hours is 40 more than anyone else they have right now.
Of course, it's also important not to overstate your skills. Classroom skills are not the same as skills learned on the job, and that's why I advise my students to prepare a Skills Assessment Grid as the last page of their resume. With a series of rows and 5 columns, list EVERY computer-related skill you possess, and rate it with a grade of between 1 and 5 like this:
1.) Classroom/Self Learning
2.) Less than 1 year of work-related experience
3.) One to 2 years of work-related experience
4.) Two or more years of work-related experience
5.) Expert. Possess Certification or have taught the subject matter
You'd be amazed at how quickly a recruiter can 'eyeball' this Skills Assessment Grid, and see exactly what skills you possess. More importantly, it gives you a chance to mention every skill you have -- even if they were not necessarily picked up in the workplace.
Written by John Smiley, MCP, MCSD and MCT, author, and adjunct professor of Computer Science at Penn State University in Abington, Philadelphia University, and Holy Family College. John has been teaching computer programming for nearly 20 years.
John Smiley is president of Smiley and Associates, http://www.johnsmiley.com/smass/smass.htm a computer consulting firm located in New Jersey.
This was first published in August 2000