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Graduate: Resume advice

Graduate: Resume advice

 Graduates are leaving vital details off their resumes because they don't think they're important.

Emails to Ask Kate have repeatedly demonstrated that grads don't rate work experience unless it directly links to their chosen field. Wrong. Employers welcome the fact that grads have worked at all.

An email to Ask Kate from "DU", a statistics/mathematics major at Monash University, is typical.  While studying at Uni, he spent five years working in a pharmacy but was worried he had nothing to include on his resume.

"Would I even bother adding my previous work experience as they would probably read it and think, 'irrelevant' or this guy should have just studied to be a pharmacist," he wrote.

The answer to "DU's" question was "absolutely", said Ben Reeves, executive director of the Australian Association of Graduate Employers.

Mr Reeves said work experience of any kind provided a grad with referees, a track record of punctuality and reliability, teamwork, problem solving skills and people skills such as customer service.

"If you are going to university and the only thing you are doing is studying and completing assignments then you are not going to be as employable as someone who is doing other things," Mr Reeves said.

Mr Reeves said it was not enough for a grad to say they gained an important workplace skills such as "team work" or "problem solving" while collaborating on a uni assignment with other students.

Working with a team in the workplace provides experience dealing with people of different backgrounds and ages. Problem solving is on the spot and  often without a prior reference like a text book or lecture to draw on.

Drawing from real life experiences also sounds better in an interview. If you have been a member of an organisation like Scouting Australia; Surf Life Saving or you worked a charity, or held a part time job in retail or hospitality think of real life examples you can use. Hobbies and sports also count particular if you were a team captain and you had to select who would play or what strategy to adopt to win the game. Being a member of an orchestra, a rock band, a debating team or a sports team would also provide good experiences to draw on.

Mr Reeves said when selecting grads, employers were looking for three things:

Academic results

"And that means doing the right degree and doing well," Mr Reeves said.

Work experience

"A job that provides experience looking after customers, working in teams and in just developing good work habits like turning up on time," he said.

Extra curricular activities

"This helps an employer get a sense of a person's initiative and drive. Hobbies, interests, sports, playing in an orchestra - these are things people choose to do, they are not made to do them," Mr Reeves said.

"What an individual chooses to get involved in says a lot about their initiative, energy and their interest in the wider world. It also says something about their willingness to get involved and their desire to achieve things."

"Even a part time job gives a person responsibility. He or she might be opening and closing the store or doing the banking. They could have then moved up the responsibility chain to be a team leader or shift leader. Employers will want to see that detailed on a resume."

"Many graduates are living under the false impression that the only thing that matters is academic results," Mr Reeves said. "This is not true. Let's say you have two candidates. The first one has received 98.9 in their TER and then high distinctions at everything at uni but no work history, no involvement in extra curricula activity."

"The other candidate had a TER of 85 and achieved a credit average in university but they worked in a chemist but were in debating society, an orchestra, a team of volunteers then that is the person who would get the job."

"I have done a lot of recruitment in different places including the UK and Australia and the candidates who get short-listed are the ones with interesting backgrounds," Mr Reeves said.

For more useful tips read the other stories in the Job Hunting Strategy section.