Some rules of thumb for developing resumes are valid across a broad range of industries. For example, job seekers should proofread their resumes multiple times to avoid typos or punctuation errors. (Accuracy is of the utmost importance in healthcare, after all). It’s also a good idea to have a third party review the resume, to gain an objective perspective. Other considerations, however, differ significantly based on the applicant’s experience and the nature of the desired position.
If you’re aiming to launch a successful nursing career, resume feedback that makes sense for other professional career paths simply may not apply. Your nurse resume must demonstrate industry-specific knowledge and skills, to set you apart from competitors as well as to show that you will be ready to hit the ground running as soon as you are hired. To that end, here are several resume tips specifically tailored for aspiring nurses:
Highlight Nursing Credentials and Certifications
Prospective employers should immediately be able to tell whether you’re an RN, an LPN, or a nurse practitioner. Ideally, you will highlight relevant credentials and certifications near your name, but how you design your resume is a matter of personal preference.
Consider that many recruiters use software to help screen initial applicants. This means it is worth your while to include relevant nursing keywords in your resume to help the filters find you. In fact, if you do not include certain words, the software may rank you lower or even eliminate your resume from the stack under consideration in HR.
For example, the top required hard skills for nurses include “patient care,” “certification” and “license” according to Jobscan. Nurse skills that are hard to find and appear less frequently in resumes include “policies,” “FLSA” and “coaching.” In comparison, low impact keywords that are easier to find in resumes include “CNA,” “CPR” and “OSHA.” This doesn’t mean that you should leave out these more common terms. It simply serves as a reminder that employers are looking to recruit individuals who possess experience in such fundamentals.
Develop a Clear and Actionable Objective Statement
Once you’ve determined the appropriate keywords to integrate, it’s time to craft an objective statement for nurse resume that details the type of position you desire. Doing so helps potential employers determine whether your goals align with the open position.
Objective statements are particularly important for nurses with limited career experience as the passion and drive demonstrated in these statements can sometimes make up for the lack of experience. As an aspiring nurse, place objective statements near the top of your resume to draw the most attention to them.
When writing your objective statement, do not use vague wording that indicates you would be happy with any type of job in the healthcare industry. Prospective employers want to see that you are truly passionate about a specific position and that you are not in it just to collect a paycheck.
There’s a distinction between avoiding generalities, though and using terms that indicate you are open to new tasks, such as being a “team player” who welcomes opportunities to cross-train and expand how you can contribute to the organization.
Use action verbs and specific nouns that show exactly what you want from your next nursing job. Otherwise, you are depriving potential employers from truly seeing what you have to offer and why you are the better choice than other candidates.
Examples from Nurse.org of action verbs to use in your resume include terms such as “assessed,” “developed,” “planned” and “treated.” You should also include detailed and explicit phrases such as “cared for up to 4 patients per shift with acute neurological disorders.” This will drive home the point that you have specific skills and experience that the employer needs.
Emphasize Specialties and Areas of Expertise
What makes you different from all the other applicants? Healthcare employers’ value general nursing skills, but they are even more enthusiastic about recruits who have niche experience, particularly in understaffed areas of the profession.
For example, if you’ve ever served a geriatric population or have a background in correctional nursing, these rare experiences can give you a major advantage over other applicants.
Include Relevant Technological Skills
Advanced technology is increasingly an integral element of nursing, especially at higher levels. When relevant, include examples of medical equipment you are comfortable operating or unique skills you think would prove beneficial in the workplace. A notable Wanted Analytics study found that electronic medical records were mentioned most frequently in job listings for nurses, so let employers know if you have experience with EMR.
Detail Only Relevant Aspects of Employment History
Employers in the healthcare industry will not be particularly interested in your previous part-time jobs unless they relate to your intended profession. Relevant internships and volunteer experiences are far more valuable, as they demonstrate competency in the medical field.
If your career history only includes service industry experience or other typical college student jobs, make the most of what experience you do have and highlight how it will benefit you in the healthcare field. For example, describe your background in customer service to demonstrate it will help you relate better to patients. Management experience in a retail job while a college student can show that you have a potential in managing and coordinating nurses.
Ultimately, some career experience is better than nothing at all, but non-nursing positions should only be highlighted if you’re new to the profession.
Brevity is equally advisable for entry-level nurses and longtime medical professionals, since human resources professionals are busy and have limited time to scan incoming resumes. With that in mind, the American Nurses Association recommends that you leave decades-old positions off your resume unless they are clearly related to the job for which you are applying.
Employers appreciate nurses who are active within the professional community. List your membership with relevant associations and include a brief explanation of their function, reason for membership and how you contribute to the association’s success. Listing professional affiliations is vital for bolstering a new graduate nurse resume. Having employees with such affiliations is good for the reputation of the healthcare organization, too.
Provide Specific Examples of Your Accomplishments
Employers don’t just want to see a list of your credentials and past positions. They want to know what you’ve learned and how you’ve used your expertise to make a difference for patients. To that end, provide recruiters with specific examples of your healthcare accomplishments, such as awards or special assignments. If a previous nursing job asked you to train another employee or to act as a mentor, it’s worth highlighting in your resume because it shows that the previous employer considered you a trusted professional.
If you’ve only just recently graduated from college with your next-level nursing degree, it’s important to use educational accomplishments to augment your limited professional experience. Grade point average typically plays a limited role in hiring decisions, but it can convince employers to overlook that you lack prior experience in nursing. Human resources professionals also tend to be impressed by fellowships, scholarships and other academic honors when evaluating potential nursing recruits.
A well-written nursing resume is the ultimate balancing act—you must show employers the breadth of your healthcare experience, knowledge and expertise while remaining succinct. Maintain this fine balance, and you’ll be amazed by the positive responses you receive from prospective employers.