How to make your graduate application stand out

Posted by Oliver Hogue on 03/03/2019
graduate engineer

Graduates face the age-old job seeking dilemma of applying for a position with the necessary qualifications, but no professional experience.

However, what many graduates forget is that their life didn’t start when they graduated. Apart from academic grades, there are many other experiences and achievements that can make a good impression on recruiters.

To find out how to write a great graduate application, Bluegum Resumes spoke to HR and recruitment professional Amanda Selleck.

Amanda is Talent Acquisition Project Manager at Transdev, one of Australasia's leading multi-modal transport operators.

She says there are techniques that give a graduate application a competitive edge, including emphasising passion over ability.

1. A reworked resume for each job

Although all graduates should already have a standard resume, Amanda says these must be reworked for each job application to be successful.

“The best resumes address why the individual is passionate about working in my organisation,” she says.

“Over the past few years there’s been a shift from recruiting solely for technical skills and high academic achievers to recruiting for soft skills and those that show passion and willingness.”

To convey this passion, Amanda says applicants should work out why they are excited to work for the company and convey that in their resume. In addition, if you mimic the language in the job advertisement, this flags to recruiters that you pay attention to detail.

2. Cover letters – passion trumps ability

Amanda describes cover letters as “tricky” and subjective to the recruiter assessing a resume. “I would say 50% of recruiters dismiss them,” she admits.

“However, my advice would be to utilise the cover letter to stand out. If 50% of recruiters are looking at cover letters and it gives you the ability to stand out from the crowd, why wouldn’t you put the time and effort into one?”

Like the resume, Amanda says the cover letter must be tailored to the organisation to which you are applying; and focusing on passion is the way to go.

“Traditionally, cover letters have focused on conveying what skills you have that would make you a great match for the role. I say scrap that," she says.

“I would focus on bringing your values to the table and addressing why you are passionate about working for that business. Passion wins over ability every time!”

3. Project work

Candidates lacking real-world experience can make the most of the know-how they do have by writing short descriptions of major projects worked on during tertiary study.

“This works particularly well for engineering students,” Amanda says.

“If you partnered with an organisation, then mention this also. They may have taken some of your recommendations on, which is a fantastic achievement!”

4. Part-time work experience

Amanda says students can fail to understand the importance of part-time work experience.

“While it’s not directly related to your study, it begins to tell a story of the individual,” she observes.

“At university you may have worked at Coles for five years as a checkout operator. Make sure you list this and think about any transferable skills this role has given you that would be relevant to the role you are applying for.

“For example, ‘customer service’ often translates well to ‘stakeholder engagement’. Plus, listing these part-time roles shows you’re able to juggle multiple commitments.”

5. University associations – and connections

Another great way to stand out is to list any volunteer experience you gained working in university associations.

“The skills you acquire working on a university committee translate very well into the corporate world,” Amanda says.

“Make sure you list any projects you worked on, and include budget responsibility, project management skills, funding gained and events managed.”

So, if you were a member of the Architects Society and organised events for which you enlisted guest speakers, include this in your application. It shows you have initiative – and could be a chance to drop a respected name or two.

6. Resumes that come to the point

Amanda offers another tip, not so much to make a resume stand out, but to make the recruiter’s job easier.

“Make sure your resume is in an easy-to-read format,” she advises, adding that on average a recruiter spends just 30-90 seconds reading a resume, so achievements must stand out.

“You should be able to scan the document quickly to get an instant idea of your capability. Always remember: quality over quantity. Only add information when you believe it adds value. Always ask the question, ‘How does this piece of information contribute to me being successful in the role I am applying for?’.”

7. Social media - convey your passion and values 

In today’s digital world recruiters have access to a variety of ways they can research a candidate, Amanda says.

“Once you submit any job application it’s highly likely a recruiter is going to Google your name and most likely your social media profiles will appear,” she advises.

“I highly recommend making sure your social accounts are appropriate and you are comfortable with a prospective employer viewing this information!”

One way to really get ahead online is to create a professional LinkedIn profile, she says.

“LinkedIn as we know is a professional networking site - think of it like your virtual resume.“

Amanda has an easy way to get started on LinkedIn.

“To get started you can easily mimic your resume. But make sure you once again convey your passion and values, as this is what enables you to stand out from the crowd - after all there is only one of you!”

Amanda says putting these tips into practice can help graduates to get those dream jobs. By emphasizing passions as well as abilities, and drawing on life before graduation, a more rounded view of the candidate comes into focus for recruiters.

Amanda Selleck Bio

A masters-qualified HR professional, Amanda has been working in the HR field for almost a decade. Amanda quickly found a love for all things talent management, working in various roles consulting, and supporting top 100 ASX listed companies. Her specialties lie in volume recruitment and innovative talent attraction and recruitment campaigns. Amanda is Talent Acquisition Project Manager at Transdev, a leading transport operator in Australia. In her downtime, she assists professionals with career and personal branding strategy. You can view her work at amandaselleck.com


Get in touch to discuss how we can help make your graduate resume stand out, or call us now on 02 8958 2140.