Resume Guide for Nurses

A crucial part of any job search involves writing a professional resume. As the first impression a candidate makes on a prospective employer, a well-written resume can make the difference between an interview and a rejection. Even candidates with impressive credentials may lose to another applicant with a stronger resume.

Nurses need especially thorough resumes, as careers in healthcare often come with higher stakes than the average position. Prospective nurses must convey their competency in patient care and display their academic credentials. Nurses must provide proof of supervised clinical hours and experience with patients prior to their first official position. All nursing candidates must showcase both their academic credentials and bedside manner within the healthcare field.

How to Write a Nursing Resume

  1. Do Your Research: No matter how similar the job descriptions, different hiring managers hold varying qualifications for candidates based on patient needs and the size of the institution. Determine which skills the company deems as required and preferred prior to submitting an application. Research the company’s culture to determine whether or not the job fits your needs.
  2. Write Down the Key Points: Prior to writing a nursing resume, compile a list of qualities and qualifications you want to showcase to the hiring manager. Be sure to address your professional weaknesses and how you make up for them with your strengths.
  3. Format Your Resume: Organize your outline by using headers and lengthening your key points into full sentences. Various resume formats exist to highlight your best skill sets. You want your information to be clear and professional, void of unconventional fonts or excessive punctuation.

Types of Nursing Resumes

Three primary resume formats highlight various skill sets and levels of experience. In selecting a format, prospective candidates must consider what type of resume makes the best match for his or her level of experience.

  • Reverse-Chronological: Reverse-chronological resumes present your work experience from most recent (relevant) and oldest (likely the least relevant). This resume benefits candidates with consistent work experience in a similar field. These resumes highlight work experience over personal skills and/or academic accomplishment.
  • Functional: Functional resumes highlight individual abilities rather than emphasizing work experience. This resume still includes past employment toward the bottom of the page. Nursing candidates may find this format useful for conveying skills learned through clinical hours and time working in hospitals.
  • Combination: A combination resume fuses the functional and reverse-chronological resumes. Often, combination resumes split into two parts or pages, the first section focusing on work experience and the second on skills and academic experience. This format conveys the most information, but often runs longer than the standard single page sought by hiring managers.

Required vs. Preferred Qualifications

Generally, job descriptions include a section for both required and preferred qualifications. The former consists of minimum requirements necessary for job completion, such as proficiency in certain programs, education, and prior work experience. For nurses, required qualifications often include a minimum level of education, certification as an RN, state-specific licensure, and prior clinical experience. Preferred qualifications vary and may include experience in a given area of medicine, patient types, familiarity with specific software, etc. Candidates should address both required and preferred qualifications on the resume. If you market your skills well, not meeting certain qualifications may still qualify you for a position.

What Should I Include on a Nursing Resume?

Education and Training Nurses should carefully detail educational experience on a resume. To work in any nursing position, candidates need at least an associate degree in nursing and often additional certification or licensure. Include these licenses and certifications, as they may make an application stand out from the rest. Unless you feel it enhances your chances for the position, do not include your graduating GPA. In detailing your education, also exclude your graduation dates. Some employers may disregard resumes from candidates who appear younger and/or more inexperienced. If currently enrolled in a program, list that degree as pending.
Experience List work experience in reverse-chronological order when writing a nursing resume. Employers want to see how a candidate’s work experience has advanced and how recent experience may translate to a given role. Include employment dates for a more accurate picture of your work history. In detailing work experience, cover specifics, such as facility, total beds worked with, patient demographics, trauma levels, and patient types. In describing your specific duties, use positive adjectives and action verbs to detail your work. Always describe your work in a positive light, particularly if the job you are applying for compares to the job you are leaving. Whatever your previous experience, convey the breadth of what you learned in a given job and detail how these experiences pertain to the new role.
Skills Regardless of which format you choose to structure your resume, always include a section to describe your skills. Make sure that the skills you include relate to the job you want. As resumes should consist of a single page, narrow your skills to include only the most important for the new position. Tailor your skills for each job application to separate yourself from the crowd.
Licensure, Certifications In addition to educational/work experience, many nurses hold additional licenses and certifications, either required for previous roles or earned to further career opportunities. Nursing resumes should include all certifications and licensures. Make sure to list full names rather than acronyms, as acronyms may stand for more than one license. You should also include your license expiration dates.
Awards, Accomplishments, Affiliations Many resumes also include a section for awards, accomplishments, and affiliations. However, ensure that all information included on your resume relates to the position for which you are applying. If you affiliate with a professional organization, include that information here. Professional organizations often serve as a form of reference.
Volunteer Work Like awards and affiliations, make sure that any included volunteer work relates to nursing. Employers prefer to see volunteer work that enhances a candidate’s marketability and skills for a potential role.

What Should I Put on My Nursing Resume If I Don’t Have Any Experience?

Nurses beginning their careers may enter the workforce without any prior experience. Unlike other potential occupations, aspiring nurses must possess some level of supervised clinical hours while completing their degree. Each state holds slightly different requirements for clinical hours earned prior to earning their RN or BSN, giving you plenty of experience to include on your resume. In addition to this clinical experience, candidates without specific experience can focus on education, licenses, certification, skills, and other qualifications. Candidates without prior experience may benefit from creating a functional resume and listing their skills and education above work experience. One may also include work experience not entirely related to the position in question. Include an explanation as to how this work experience may translate into a nursing career. For example, work at a front desk can display your ability to remain calm under pressure and communicate well with patients. Volunteer work, in its own category, may also make up for a lack in professional work experience.

What Is A Resume-Reading Robot?

What Is ATS?

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a software application that allows for electronic recruitment by finding, screening, and ranking prospective candidates. These systems work by scanning resumes and job profiles for keywords in skills, work experience, and academic accomplishment. However, these robots often receive criticism for overlooking qualified candidates due to simplistic software. ATS software does not pick up on nuance and can inaccurately rank candidates in accordance to their experience. Nursing resumes include specific skills and experiences that many ATS systems overlook.

Tips for Outsmarting an ATS

  • Simple Headers: By using simple headers and focusing on common keywords, you increase the likelihood that an ATS will pick your resume. ATS often work by screening for keywords. Using terms, such as “professional experience,” “skills,” and “education,” can all help you pass the ATS scan.
  • Clean Format: While utilizing colors and graphics may make your resume stand out from the rest, ATS systems best read documents consisting of simple fonts and clear layouts.
  • Keywords/Phrases: ATS bots work mostly by examining a resume in search of specific keywords. In creating your resume, research the job posting and include frequently used terms. The ATS may scan for specific job-related phrasing, such as “clinical rotations.”
  • Industry-Specific Jargon: Like keywords and phrases found in a job posting, research common terms and industry-specific jargon common in your field of interest, as the ATS will likely search for these.

Resume Writing Tips for Nurses

  • Tailor Your Resume: While creating a generic resume to submit with all job applications sounds simpler, remember that resumes tailored to a specific position garner greater interest from hiring managers. By tailoring your resume, you both show the qualifications that prove your fit for the position and your seriousness in being considered.
  • Save Your Resume Under a Professional Name: When submitting your resume electronically, save your document with the following format: “Firstlast_specialty_resume.doc.”
  • Make It Easy to Read: To ensure readability, use simple fonts and a clear, practical layout.
  • Include a Cover Letter: Cover letters provide additional information about your work experience and skills and give you a chance to showcase your personality. Here, you may further describe why you make the best candidate for the position.
  • Keep It to One Page: Resumes should typically consist of one page. Most hiring managers receive a high volume of applications with little time to devote to each resume. By keeping your resume to one page, you ensure the hiring manager sees the most important information first.

Common Mistakes Nurses Make on Their Resumes

  • Typos: Spelling and grammatical errors show a lack of skill in written communication. Make sure to read through both your resume and cover letter multiple times to eliminate these mistakes prior to submitting your application.
  • Including Personal Information: Include personal information, such as your phone number, email address, and city of residence on your resume. This way, hiring managers can contact you for an interview. Some candidates choose to include a LinkedIn profile or more specific contact information, but in many cases this information takes up too much space on a resume.
  • Including Salary Information: Avoid including your salary for previous work. Prospective employers may offer lower pay to match your former position or otherwise determine that you would ask too much compensation. Salary negotiations will come during the hiring process.
  • Using Nicknames: Nicknames are often considered unprofessional in the hiring process. Once hired, let coworkers know your preferred name, but lead with your given name during application.
  • Using an Unprofessional Email Address: Employers may view an unprofessional email address as a sign of an unprofessional person. For work-related endeavors, email addresses should consist of your name and/or your initials.
  • First-Person Pronouns: In writing a resume and cover letter, exclude first-person pronouns. Resumes and cover letters display how and why you make the best candidate for the job, therefore pronouns become redundant.
  • Unprofessional Voicemail: Like unprofessional email addresses, an unprofessional voicemail can turn away a prospective employer. Whether in your outgoing message or the message you leave on an employer’s phone, keep your information clear and concise.