What To Know Before Approaching Graduate Nursing Programs

Your success in gaining a spot in a graduate program role will largely depend on the resume, cover letter and selection criteria you submit as part of your application. These documents are an opportunity to showcase your knowledge, skills, expertise and experience, and it is important that these documents be tailored to your specific goals and circumstances.

Before commencing your application, it would be recommended to research and understand what is involved in the application process for the specific organisation you are applying for. It is important to read and re-read the application and keep to the employer’s submission requirements. This can include information that needs to be addressed including resume and cover letter length, qualifications and registration. We have compiled the main aspects of what to implement in your own nursing application documents below.

Applicant Tracking System (ATS):
Many government departments and healthcare employers now use automated computer software known as Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to collect, sort, scan and rank job applications. There are multiple considerations when compiling a resume to increase your ability to pass through ATS to reach a Hiring Manager. These include not using a graphic design style resume, fancy characters or fonts, add pictures, images or videos and don’t include charts, tables or graphs. Make sure you keep your resume simple with a minimalistic look and feel, create your document in Microsoft Word, and use Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman or Verdana fonts.

Resume basics to consider include formatting in traditional reverse chronological order, use consistent fonts, headings and format, and try to keep your resume to a 2-3 page length. When writing your resume, check that it is free from repetition and duplication, that relevant key words are included throughout, and ensure your resume is free from spelling and grammatical errors.

A nursing resume will have different types of heading compared to a standard resume and these include:

  • Professional Summary: Highlight professional achievements, qualifications and relevant industry experience, personal attributes – aim is to differentiate yourself from others – highlight unique strengths and skills
  • Qualifications: List nursing relevant qualifications – trim down or omit others
  • Professional Development/Training: Detail recent PD you have undertaken – focus on relevance to the role
  • Memberships/Registrations: Memberships of any nursing relevant associations, including AHPRA
  • Clinical Placements: For new or recent graduates, list clinical placements completed in reverse chronological order
  • Employment: List nursing relevant employment, trim down or omit out of industry positions
  • Community Involvement/Voluntary Roles: Outline any nursing relevant voluntary, unpaid or community work completed
  • Referees: 2 – 4 referees, all work related and have supervised you in a nursing capacity

Cover Letter:
When composing your cover letter, some essentials to consider include:

  • Read through the job advertisement to determine requirements
  • One page maximum unless specified otherwise
  • Typical cover letter layout- list the date, personal details top right, address contact person (‘Recruitment Team’, ‘Hiring Manager’ can be used if no contact person)
  • Be consistent by ensuring the font and style matches your resume
  • Ensure key words listed in the job advertisement or position description are referenced throughout, and tailor your letter to the role with evidence and examples and address all requirements

Selection Criteria:
Selection Criteria are the skills, attributes, knowledge and qualifications that the employer has defined as being essential for satisfying the requirements of the job and can be found in the Position Description.

One of the most common ways to address selection criteria is by using the STAR Method. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. The STAR Method is a framework to help you prepare, reflect and compile responses to selection criteria. It is widely used across graduate nursing applications both in written process and in behavioural interviews, and it enables you to provide evidence-based examples of your clinical experience and skills.

Some of our top tips for addressing selection criteria include:

  • Use recent examples of clinical situations – the older they are, the less accurate/reliable they are
  • Keep it role relevant – use examples from clinical placements (same level)
  • No hypotheticals – need evidence-based examples of a specific point in time you have demonstrated a behaviour, skill or attribute
  • No waffle – get to the point and trim down wordiness
  • Don’t be vague ‘I would do this’ ‘I should do that’ – what ‘did’ you do?
  • Drill down to the specifics – avoid sweeping statements – the panel want the details
  • Ensure that your criteria response answers the question that is asked and brings relevant aspects of that scenario to the forefront

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