Graduate positions: where do you start?

By Tessa Shaw

The Melbourne Business School Student Association (MBSSA) hosted a sell-out event with a panel of Human Resources experts who shared their top tips and what to expect when applying for graduate positions.

Melbourne Business School (MBS) students were invited to a professional development event last week, hosted by the Melbourne Business School Student Association (MBSSA). The evening’s panellists and HR professionals, Selina Reid (BP), Maddi Roulston (EY), Caroline Chu (NAB) and Vanessa Tieppo (Telstra) explained the four areas of recruitment from an insider’s perspective.

Here are some of the top tips that were shared from the evening.

Creating an effective resume

Reid assured students that any degree is valuable. Your resume should clearly present who you are, and powerful language can make a huge difference in convincing the recruiter on whether or not you stand out. Reid recommended thinking about how you phrase your experience – for example, ‘dealing with customers’ versus ‘promoting a fantastic customer experience’. Students often have little to no work experience, so it is important to include a personal statement that explains “the course of your life” and why you are applying, and interning is therefore also a bonus. In fact, at BP, interns are often hired into graduate roles. “We have had the chance to get to know them extensively, and ultimately, this leads to cost-saving benefits when considering hiring and on-boarding processes,” Reid explained.


  1. Pay attention to details: grammar, spelling, dates
  2. Account for unemployed periods; for example: travels
  3. Clean, uncluttered layout: white space is good
  4. Research the values and key skills held in high regard by the company, and show how you are able to demonstrate that you have these

Online Applications

“Treat your online applications seriously, and remember that they are separate from your resume,” Roulston said with emphasis to the audience. “This is looked at either before, or aside from, your resume. Your online application should include everything that is relevant – don’t leave anything out just because you think you have listed it on your resume.”

She also recommended taking the time to do research into the role and company to find out what the most desirable skills are for a candidate to possess. Because graduates have very little work experience, it is important to decipher what transferrable skills you have. “Even if you’ve only ever worked in a fast food chain for work experience, that counts as possessing customer service skills and could show that you are service-oriented,” explained Roulston.


  1. Pay extra attention and be detailed in answering your motivation to show your understanding of the role, passion in the area and why you feel your values and the company’s are aligned
  2. Beware of potential ‘Copy+Paste’ errors (e.g. applying for a role at EY, but saying you are passionate about the values at Deloitte is one way to not get an interview!)
  3. Include extracurricular activities that show you are well-rounded: skills gained from attending university events and work experience
  4. Introduce perspectives that show why and how are you unique
Selina Reid from BP, who shared that she had seen some interesting skills listed on resumes including 'Indian head massage' - and probably best left out as it is not relevant to most business-related graduate positions.

The Interview Process

Chu has interviewed hundreds of candidates, and her top tip? “Don’t make any stories up. It’s obvious when you’re lying!”

“An interview will typically go for between 30 and 60 minutes,” she said. “This is the time when you are being judged on whether you are going to be a motivational fit for the employer, so be prepared with examples that are relevant to the questions being asked.”

She stressed that a good interview is conversational and one that is guided by the interviewer leading the direction, and the candidate speaking for roughly 80% of the time.


  1. Find out how the interview will be structured beforehand so you are able to prepare well
  2. Research and prepare: Whirlpool is great for insights into what some typical questions are
  3. Be fluent with your key skills and examples of how they are relevant to the role
  4. Use the STAR method

Assessment Centres

As the first face-to-face opportunity between you and the organisation, presenting professionally is important. Tieppo shared that this was the point where you would be observed and judged on a number of behaviours, mainly how well you work in a team, and your leadership skills. She highlighted that on top of showing how you problem-solve and work in a team, you should also be mindful of not getting distracted (turn off that phone!) and paying attention to the instructions given.

“There are lots of people watching you!” Tieppo warned. “And you can’t really prepare; but you can keep lots of things in mind that will help ensure you have made a good impression.”


  1. Dress professionally
  2. Pay attention to how your skills in leadership, teamwork, communicating and problem-solving can be displayed
  3. Be inclusive by asking for another person’s input, especially someone who seems shy – it shows you are perceptive to the people around you and want to engage and provide opportunities

Education and Professional Development

Finally, we asked Chu for her opinion on the value of a Masters degree. “During the selection process, a Master’s degree definitely demonstrates mastery and an extra level of dedication to a candidate’s chosen area of profession,” she said. “While we consider candidates with various levels of educational backgrounds, there are certain specialist roles where possessing that Master’s degree will be highly regarded.”

Reid added to this, saying, “It’s not always about your grades, too. We weight both IQ and EQ, and award extra points for different things in both areas!” She recommended highlighting participation in activities that develop your skills outside the classroom.

Nicola Rossdale, current Master of Management (Marketing) student, said the event surpassed her expectations. “I was quite surprised how useful and relevant the information was. I now feel more confident applying for jobs as I have a better understanding of what recruiters are looking for," she said with a smile.

"A small but insightful tip I had not thought about, but discovered at the HR event, was that usually online applications are checked first- so if they don’t like your application they won’t read your resume. Include everything!"

Students at MBS have the opportunity to attend a wide range of professional development programs organised by both MBSSA (read about the current MBSSA President’s vision for 2017) and the Faculty of Business and Economics’ Student Employability and Enrichment team (see: TRAPT Melbourne visits The Spot). To support their ongoing learning in extracurricular activities, students are encouraged to participate regularly.

Selina Reid
L-R: Vanessa Tieppo, Caroline Chu, Selina Reid and Maddi Roulston.