S.W.E.A.T It Out: A Guide For Job Application Documents

By Dr. Jacoba L. Durrell

The National Career Development Guidelines (NCDG) call for career professionals to teach students to assess their strengths, skills, and interests (NCDA, 2004). Students often struggle, however, to assess these characteristics and articulate who they are to employers. College students need to highlight their competencies in resumes, cover letters, and interviews. Yet students often inadequately recognize and articulate their experiences and skills gained during their academic studies (Gray & Koncz, 2023). Researchers have identified the significance of self-competency in career development (McDow & Zabrukcy, 2015) and how structured self-reflection enables students’ ability to construct positive career identities (Dachner et al., 2021).

Introduction of the Model

Given students’ inability to articulate their qualifications and the value of meaningful reflection (Dachner et al., 2021; Gray & Koncz, 2023), Point University (a private college in the southeastern United States) purposely deployed the S.W.E.A.T model to improve students’ career competency. Beginning as a resume workshop for students, career services now introduce the model to new students during orientation and first-year courses. The center also partners with other college departments to have them inform students of the benefits of using the S.W.E.A.T method and to encourage contact with the career center. In addition, the model is also readily available online to provide immediate support and accommodate students' demanding schedules.

The Breakdown of S.W.E.A.T

Career development models that provide individuals with frameworks to understand their career paths and employability skills are crucial for success in the job market. The S.W.E.A.T model enables students to visualize their strengths, weaknesses, experiences, accomplishments, and targets. Through strength-based analysis and holistic career integration assessment, students develop self-efficacy and job application documents while they demystify the search process (Hansen, 2001; Schutt, 2018; Toporek & Cohen, 2017). The S.W.E.A.T model consists of five self-assessment sections (see Figure 1 for the framework of the model):

  1. Strengths: Identifies and acknowledges the soft and hard skills
  2. Weaknesses: Identifies the skills that need improvement. It can involve acquiring new skills, education, and training that are needed to reach the target.
  3. Experiences: A record of work history and practical skills
  4. Accomplishments: Showcases achievements obtained in experiences. It can involve accolades obtained during community service, education awards, and extracurricular activities.
  5. Target: Lists the career goal, aspiration, or objective

This self-awareness is valuable in various stages of the career development process and serves as a guide to developing personalized resumes, cover letters, and elevator pitches. By applying the S.W.E.A.T model, individuals can create a personalized strategy to reach their career goals and effectively articulate their experiences during the job search process.

Figure 1

S.W.E.A.T Model

Durrell Figure 1


Figure 2

Using the S.W.E.A.T. Model to Create Job Application Documents

Durrell Figure 2

Creating Documents

Students can use the S.W.E.A.T. technique as they prepare to highlight their qualifications. Figure 2 shows how the model can be used. The top two sections (i.e., strengths and experiences) provide a list of skills and experiences for a resume objective or summary statement. The strengths section maps to the resume sections labelled highlight, skills, qualifications, or education. The experiences section provides the work history for resumes. Students can use the accomplishments section to highlight achievements in work or community services. The right two sections (i.e., experiences and accomplishments) provide reflections germane to the body of the cover letter. If students need to draft an elevator pitch, they can use the strengths, experiences, and accomplishment sections to develop a synopsis of their personal history. The weakness section will not be used in any application documents, yet it enables students to acknowledge areas of improvement, barriers, or benchmarks needed to reach their target.

The Analysis

Two of the National Career Development Association's (NCDA; n.d.) 12 career practitioner competencies for facilitating career development are career development models and employability skills. Practitioners who use the S.W.E.A.T model can provide a holistic career reflection and minimize the time needed to draft job-specific application documents. The S.W.E.A.T model and analysis align with NCDA’s career development and employability competencies because the technique results in new insights about one’s accomplishments that individuals can use to develop an action plan for reaching their career goals.

S.W.E.A.T analysis implements the four phases of computational thinking: decomposition, recognition, abstraction, and algorithm design (ISTE, n.d.).

  • Decomposition (Strengths and Weaknesses) breaks down concerns and determines goals outlining positive skills that contribute positively to goals and recognizing challenges.
  • Recognition (Experiences and Accomplishments) provides the knowledge, skills, and abilities of one’s experiences and discovers any habitual patterns or successes.
  • Abstraction (Weaknesses) lists any of the obstacles that prevent one from obtaining your goals or challenges that may hinder success.
  • Algorithm design (Target) develops a strategic plan that leverages the strengths, experiences, and accomplishments and addresses the weaknesses to achieve the target.

Job application documents and the ability to articulate one’s strengths are essential skills to gaining employment. Career services professionals are positioned to teach students to assess and describe who they are (NCDA, 2004). Self-reflection and guided prompts, such as those reflected in the S.W.E.A.T. model, elicit learning. Coherent models bring consistent engagement and education to career services programs.



Dachner, A. M., Ellingson, J. E., Noe, R. A., Saxton, B. M. (2021). The future of employee development. Human Resource Management, 31(2). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hrmr.2019.100732

Gray, K., & Koncz, A. (2023, April 27). The job market for the class of 2023: Key skills/competencies employers are seeking and the impact of career center use. NACE. https://www.naceweb.org/about-us/press/the-job-market-for-the-class-of-2023-key-skills-competencies-employers-are-seeking-and-the-impact-of-career-center-use/

Hansen, L. S. (2001). Integrating work, family, and community through holistic life planning. The Career Development Quarterly, 49(3), 261-274. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1002/j.2161-0045.2001.tb00570.x

ISTE. (n.d). Computional thinking competencies. https://iste.org/standards/computational-thinking-competencies

McDow, L. W., & Zabrucky, K. M. (2015). Effectiveness of a career development course on students’ job search skills and self-efficacy. Journal of College Student Development, 56(6), 632-636.

National Career Development Association. (n.d). NCDA facilitating career development training and certification program. https://www.ncda.org/aws/NCDA/pt/sp/facilitator_overview

National Career Development Association. (2004). National career development guidelines framework. https://www.ncda.org/aws/NCDA/asset_manager/get_file/3384?ver=7802067

Schutt, D. A. (2018). A strength-based approach to career development using appreciative inquiry (2nd ed.). National Career Development Association.

Toporek, R. L., & Cohen, R. F. (2017). Strength-based narrative resume counseling: Constructing positive career identities from difficult employment histories. Career Development Quarterly, 65(3), 222–236.  https://doi.org/10.1002/cdq.12094



Dr. Jacoba L. Durrell, GCDF, is the Professional Learning & Career Services Director at Point University in West Point, Georgia, where she also serves as the Deputy Title IX Coordinator and Principle Designated School Official. She holds a Ph.D. in Career and Technical Education, a Master of Education in Business and Marketing, and a College and Teaching Certificate from Auburn University, a Master's in Public Administration, and a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Troy University. She is a member of the National Career Development Association, where she serves on the Higher Ed Constituency Committee and Advisory Board, and NACADA, where she serves on the Career Advising Steering Committee. She is a published author, and the creator of the S.W.E.A.T analysis and model with experience in experiential learning, micro-credentials, career development and advising, first-year experience, international students, and student-athletes.

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1 Comment

Heather Maietta   on Friday 05/03/2024 at 08:22 AM

Thanks for the practical, helpful coaching tool! Easy to use and versatile. -Heather

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