The K.I.S.S. Principal, applied to student resumes

Ever helped your students put together a resume? There are LOTS of places where things can go wrong.

And, the evidence tells us that employers spend around 6 seconds reading each resume.

So students need to:

  1. grab their attention fast, and
  2. not lose their attention due to simple errors

We believe the key to a successful student resume is keeping things simple.


The K.I.S.S. Principal

The K.I.S.S. Principal dates back to the 60’s, when the US Navy Engineers set out to design aircraft that could be repaired in the field by the average aviation tech with standard tools.

They needed to ‘Keep It Stupid Simple’ – to make it so simple to fix the aircraft if/when something went wrong that it wouldn’t matter if they only had basic tools and standard training.

Student resumes need to do one thing – convince an employer to offer them an interview.

Very few people are hired on the basis of a resume alone, so the resume is just a ‘foot in the door’ – the introduction and starting point for the recruitment process.

But writing a succinct, easy to read resume can be tricky, especially if your students have never put one together before.


The Anatomy of a Successful Resume

Simple resumes follow an expected pattern, which makes it easier for employers to make decisions about who gets to move forward. Every resume should contain the following:

Basic contact information
This should be right at the top and easy to spot. An address or location isn’t a must, but it can help put employers’ minds at ease to know the student lives within a reasonable distance of the workplace.

A short summary
Employers look for clues that tell them to keep reading, and a concise summary of the student and their intentions can get them past that crucial 6 second mark. It can be as simple as “I’m looking to start a career in…”; just make it easy for employers to see they tick all the boxes.

Skills and experience
Even if students don’t have any real-world employment experience, they can draw on experienced gained at school to demonstrate they meet the criteria. Soft skills like team-work and flexibility can also help get them over the line.

Including the contact details and information for at least two references can push a resume from ‘maybe’ to ‘next phase’. So encourage students to speak with teachers, supervisors and family friends, and ask permission to include them in a resume.

A note on references: There are two schools of thought when it comes to including references on a resume.

Some feel that they’re a waste of valuable resume ‘real-estate’, and that references are unlikely to be required until after the interview stage. Others believe offering references shows commitment and can help improve their chances.

We believe that students benefit from including references on their resume because it shows employers that there is someone responsible and competent who is prepared to vouch for the student.

Employers are often wary of time-wasters, and including references can show you are serious about your application, so we always recommend including a couple of references on student resumes.


How can you help you students create a winning resume?

There are loads of brilliant templates available that can help students craft their resume (even Microsoft Word offers resume templates), but they can often be complex to use and not aimed at Australian secondary students.

Students (and people in general) usually find it easier to answer a set of questions than to think of things off the top of their head. That’s why a multiple choice test is the ‘easiest’ form of assessment, and an essay is amongst the hardest.

So rather than just giving them a template, ask them to answer a set of questions:

  1. What am I aiming for?
    The answer to this one should go in the Summary section.
  2. What are my favourite subjects?
    Particularly useful for students who don’t have a lot to include in their resume, a list of favourite subjects can also prompt them to think of achievements they’ve had in those subjects.
  3. What have I done outside school?
    Encourage them to list everything, from volunteering at community events, to school holiday workshops, extra-curricular activities, and even events they’ve attended.
  4. Have I done any paid or non-paid work?
    They should list everything, including odd-jobs and babysitting, and they should also include their work experience.
  5. What am I good at?
    Give them a list of options so they can choose the ones they think they can claim, then get them to justify why they think they demonstrate that quality. Common skills include team-work, flexibility, persistence, IT skills, communication, collaboration, etc.

At Study Work Grow, we base our resume builder on a simple form that students can quickly fill in – it then uses their information to generate a professional resume with all the information employers expect to see from students.

It’s much easier for students to answer some basic questions about their skills and abilities, and because we take care of the formatting, their resume is guaranteed to look professional.

Our Super Simple Resume Builder has been around for a while, and thousands of students have used it to create their resumes, but now we’re working on a more comprehensive online portfolio for students.

Members can find the Super Simple Resume Builder here.

The Portfolio is currently in beta testing, and will be live in the next few weeks. Students will be able to quickly add items to their portfolio through their Study Work Grow account, plus we’ll send them reminders to add items throughout the year so more of the good things they do will be included in their portfolio and not forgotten.

We’ve taken the K.I.S.S. Principal and applied it to our resume builder, so any student can create a professional resume in minutes, even when they have very little experience.

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