How to Nail Your Graduate Resume – Part One


At Select Resumes, we often hear from, for instance, nursing and teaching graduates, worried about to nail their graduate resume and who want to apply for their first qualified job or graduate program, but fear they have little to show on their resume by way of experience. The fact is, they have built up plenty of tangible experience by way of practicum teaching or clinical rotation nursing placements, and this is as relevant as any paid work. Conversely, some graduates have built up a lot of employed work experience but do not know how to express it clearly. But it really does not matter where you fall on the spectrum, as long as your resume captures the employer’s interest and makes a great first impression. 

The first thing you need to consider is focussing your message. Before you start writing your resume, you need to decide what you actually need it to say. Many graduates simply start writing with no clear direction, filling in whatever they feel works best as they go along. This is understandable to an extent; this is most likely your very first resume after qualifying, and you have no yardstick to work against. But a resume without a purpose is like a badly-written story – it just leaves the reader confused about the point of it all. How you focus your resume will depend on the graduate program or job and industry you are applying to, as well as what you want the recruiter to pay attention to.

Now let us take a look at the ordering of the headings. Of course, your contact information should be at the top of your resume. As usual, you should place the Summary as the first heading on your resume. Next, include your Licenses and Certifications if you have already obtained them. However, if you have not already obtained them, then you may want to push this heading farther down the list under your Clinical Rotations or Placements.

Next, include your Education followed by your Clinical Rotations/Placements. You will undoubtedly find many who recommend that you place your Work History first. Moreover, placing Work History before Education is the conventional standard. As a result, it is difficult for some to trust the advice that recommends placing Education first. So, here is our supporting argument…

As a new grad, you may not even have work experience. If you do, it is most likely that you do not have applicable work experience and even if you do have applicable experience, it is most certainly not Registered Nursing work or qualified teaching work experience. 

Nail Your Graduate Resume

Moreover, your new-grad resume should quickly convey that you are a new grad. There is no point in trying to hide this fact. If employers are considering new grads for an open position, then recruiters and hiring managers are going to be receptive to your situation. If they are not considering new grads for the opening and are instead requiring experience for the position, then they are not going to be receptive to your situation. 

So, once you have the format of your resume sorted, it is time to target roles and programs. A good idea is to look up ads for similar positions and see if you can find overlapping requirements, skills, or key phrases in the job descriptions. This will give you an idea of the points that recruiters will be keeping an eye out for. Quite often, graduate programs will be full of tips and hints on what they expect to see your resume and cover letter. It is definitely worth your time to reads through these suggestions. Next, list down the phrases and terms that keep popping up in the position description and use them to help you work out what information to include and how to express it in your resume. This will help you showcase skills, qualifications, and experience that specifically match the employer’s requirements.

Your educational profile should be leveraged to the fore to show that you have completed – or about to complete – your degree or diploma and are ready to enter the workplace.  Make sure you state your degree title and the university correctly. We suggest that you highlight your academic achievements by providing some detail about your course major, key subjects and any good results or substantial projects you completed. If your degree is completed, list four to six main subjects, the ones for which you achieved the best results, and the ones most relevant to the position you are applying for. Do not include your transcript unless asked to do so.

Your placement and practicum experiences could well be your only practical experience in your chosen field. But this is not uncommon, and it is perfectly acceptable to draw upon these experiences in detail when outlining key achievements. In fact, you may want to consider putting in at all any work experience that is not related to your chosen field. Of you are a new graduated Registered Nurse, for example, you may want to consider whether it is worth adding your experience as a shop assistant at the local supermarket. 

In our next blog article, we will look at more tips on how to nail that graduate resume.  

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