Iterative Design and Your Resume

Iterative design of your resume can…help you to develop the strongest possible document for your search.

The term iterative is commonly used in design circles; it is defined by Wikipedia as “a design methodology based on a cyclic process of prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining a product or process.”  Stretching this definition just a bit, I think that it has great value to you as a job seeking candidate when you are preparing your resume.  Your resume  is the prototype of your “product”; the content of job descriptions in your field(s) of interest is the test; and your analysis of connections between the two (should) lead you to refine your document for your target market.  Iterative design of your resume can therefore help you to develop the strongest possible document for your search.

A resume by its nature is a recitation of your history – your education, experiences, acquired skills and how you’ve applied them, and most likely brief descriptions of projects or responsibilities.  You may have a very nice version prepared – your stellar education (you’re at Penn, after all!)…lots of interesting details of projects and experience…a great lay out with chronological organization…and something that’s easy to read.   However, when you’re reaching out and applying to opportunities of interest, it’s quite possible that your history, however detailed or nicely presented,  may not be a direct match to your interest area (well, unless you’re an accounting student with accounting internships who wants to be an Accountant – and in that case, good for you!)  If you think, however, that your major doesn’t match your future job title, then you may be very well served by seeking out “tests” for your resume – use PennLink, other job boards or an aggregator like or to find a few opportunities of interest to you.

Closely review the responsibilities and qualifications of your selected role.  If, for example, a position requires a candidate with strong written and verbal communication skills, you’ll want to go to your draft and ask yourself, “Have I included information on how I demonstrated and applied my communication skills wherever possible on my document?”  If you have descriptions of a course project – have you detailed how you developed and presented that project in 20 minutes using a succinct 15-slide presentation deck and to an audience of 30+ students and faculty?  If you used email or any other kind of collaborative software (Google Docs might be one to consider) as a significant communication tool in working on a team project, have you included that?   I could continue with examples, but I hope by now you see the value of this exercise, or perhaps now have a name to assign to what you’ve already been doing.  If the latter is the case, again – good for you!  However, if you’d like assistance in this process given your individual resume and interest areas, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of us in Career Services!