Millennials & Healthcare: One Critical Resume Mistake to Avoid, by Dr. Josh Luke

It is the time of the year that new grads start ramping up the job search and dressing to the 9’s for more interviews. As a healthcare policy faculty member at the University of Southern California, I discuss this with my students each semester and several have shared that this was one of their favorite discussions of the semester because it’s a position they had not heard prior.

And you know I love to write about Millennials and the importance of understanding millennial values! Well, here is some advice for millennial graduates!

There is one critical resume mistake that healthcare candidates make routinely.

I just can’t let this summer interview season pass without getting something off my chest. There is one critical resume mistake that healthcare candidates make routinely.

And it’s not just healthcare. New grads are very proud and want to share what they have recently accomplished. Whether undergrad or graduate students, it’s quite an accomplishment to add to your resume that you just completed a degree.

But before I share this one critical mistake, I have a question I would like each of you to ponder: Is your graduation year being listed on your resume hurting you or helping you? Only you know the answer to that, and it can work either way. So here is my first suggestion. Leave your graduation year off of your resume altogether. If nothing else, what a great talking point for your initial interview. That is, if you have a well-thought out talking point to spin the graduation year in your favor.

Since I am known for long-winded stories and my goal for this article is to stay short, I will get to the point now. As a ten year hospital CEO and now public speaker educating Fortune 500 companies and mid to small sized businesses on how to reduce healthcare spending by 30% a year, I have a major pet peeve when it comes to resumes.

It’s really simple. If the first section under your name is titled “Education”, then what you are telling me is that your education is the best qualification you have to offer me. Don’t get me wrong, I teach at the University of Southern California. If you are not getting a 3.8 in high school it’s likely you need not apply to USC. So when I see a resume with “USC Graduate” listed, no doubt I am impressed.

“…this tells me that the work experience you have is not relevant. It is as simple as that.”

However, regardless of your institution, when education is the top item listed on a resume it tells me that the work experience you have is not relevant. It is as simple as that.

I’ll pause for impact here.

You would be amazed at how interesting and important candidates can make an internship, apprenticeship or part-time job sound. Remember, it’s the organization that the candidate worked for that is most impressive in most cases, not the title of their position.

Interestingly, I have learned that universities throughout the country have resume workshops for graduation candidates and that these students are almost always told to list their education first. Regardless of how reputable the institution is, by listing your education first, even if it is a graduate level degree, you are diminishing any value your prior work experience has.

Please don’t argue with me on this, I am the guy on the other side of the desk. Almost ten years as a CEO. We saw this routinely. Those resumes with education first went into the circular file.

Imagine a candidate who is a new grad with a master’s degree in healthcare administration. The top section on their resume is “Education.” Beneath the education section you see listed, “Intern, Hospital X,” and then “Administrative Resident, Health System Y.”

Now imagine the same candidate whose resume leads with the following: “Relevant Work Experience, Quality Improvement Team, Hospital X (Top 3% National Quality Ranking), and then “Lean Six Sigma Workgroup, Health System Y ($30,000 in Monthly Savings on Initial Emergency Department exercise).” Underneath that section, the second section is titled “Education” and list a Masters Degree in Healthcare Administration.

Dab! You are hired!

If you listed your education first, I assume that you personally do not believe that your internships and work experience are relevant to the work that you would do if hired. Is that the message you want to send? Absolutely not!

So, the basic rules for your resume as a healthcare candidate, and likely in other fields as well are:

1.      Do not list your education first on your resume, even as an entry level candidate. If you do, you missed an opportunity to make any work experience, no matter how different it might seem, relevant!

*No matter how proud you are of your degree and the great institution you attended, imagine how much more powerful that looks when you delegate it to the second section of your resume. You are essentially saying, “Of course I am proud to be a graduate of an elite institution, but this work experience was awesome as well!”

Do not list your education first on your resume, even as an entry level candidate.

2.      Bonus: Empower yourself to leave your graduation year off your resume, whether graduate degree, undergrad or even high school. Strategize how to make your age or experience work to your advantage and use it as a talking point.

Leave your graduation year off your resume & strategize how to make your age work to your advantage .

Remember, if your college career center or workshop tells you otherwise, remind yourself who signs their paycheck and then ask what their motivation might be for suggesting “our institution is so great it should be listed first on your resume.” That’s their job to promote the university – not yours. Your job is to get hired! And not to promote on their behalf. So strategize to get hired.

Anxious to hear your comments on this!

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Bio Brief: Dr. Josh Luke is an award winning healthcare futurist, a Forbes Book Author, a #1 Best Seller and the author of the book Ex-Acute: A former hospital CEO tells all on what’s wrong with American healthcare, What every American needs to know. He teaches in the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California and serves as CSO/Sr. Health Policy Strategist for Nelson Hardiman Law.

He served as a hospital CEO for ten years and is an advocate for Alzheimer’s care. Luke is also a professional speaker sharing with executives how changes in healthcare will impact them and their employees. Please follow Josh on LinkedIn if these topics are of interest to you and check for speaking appearances.