Six Resume Tips for Nurses

Resumes are your calling card for getting an interview at a facility. If you are frustrated with your job search, you should take a look at this important piece of the puzzle. Here are a few tips to improve your resume creation.


Six Resume Tips for Nurses

Despite the nursing shortage, some regions are experiencing a great deal of competition for nursing spots, particularly for new grads. It can be frustrating to send your resume around and not get any response when you've heard nothing except that nurses are desperately needed. If you are frustrated, it may be time to take a closer look at your calling card, the resume that gets you in front of HR representatives allowing you to convince them to hire you.

Many nurses are not writers, and some would rather deal with 20 Code Browns than write a single word. It can also be hard to talk about yourself, to sell yourself. Unfortunately, though, that is exactly what you have to do. Resumes are a sales pitch about why you would be the best candidate for the job. This is a list of just five tips for nurses that can make resumes more attractive.

1. Match Resume to Job Description

Although it may be tempting to send the same resume to every available job, this isn't the best course of action. Read the posting carefully. If they are looking for a specific type of nurse, tailor your resume to meet the needs of the posting. Of course, you should not lie. If you don't have the experience, then you can simply try to highlight the scant experience that you do have. Don't forget to mention volunteer work, clinicals, and work as a CNA.

You want the resume to come across as the absolute bullseye. This means that you may have to shift some of your experience around or change the wording of the explanations of your duties. For instance, you will want to highlight your attendance if the ad asks for someone who is reliable. If you are going for a nursing home, try to play up your care of the geriatric population. Your resume should be different for every job you apply for.

2. Focus on Keywords

Everything is electronic now. When you apply for a job, it will likely be via email unless the facility isn't particularly technologically advanced. With that in mind, you have to realize that HR reps will do global searches of the resumes they get for certain words. It only makes sense because some facilities get swamped with resumes. If they can pull just the ones more likely to fit, then it makes their job that much easier.

How do you make yourself noticed, then? You use the particular keywords that the rep will likely look for. For instance, if you are applying to a nursing home, you may want to use geriatric, elderly, or nursing home. When applying to hospitals, you may want to focus on staff nurse, hospital, or acute care. Just make sure these words appear somewhere in your resume. If you want to be particularly sure, you can add them a few times, but don't overdo it. Think of other keywords, too, that are likely to be applicable to the position you desire.

Other keywords may not be as obvious. In the objective section, be sure to mention registered nurse. For the summary statement, you should focus on words that are proactive and describe actions. Highlight your attitude and how you would bring that to your new job. In the skills section, mention computer skills, technical skills, strengths, competencies, and qualifications. You should also try to use the words license and certifications. The experience section is where you really need to use keywords. Highlight leadership, dates of employment, awards, recognitions, accomplishments, and anything that shows specifically how you performed your job. Remember: match the keywords in your resume to the job posting, even using some of the same language.

3. Pick the Right Type of Resume

You may not know it, but there are different types of resumes at your disposal. The most common type of resume is the simple listing of your past employers. This is known as a chronological resume, and it works well if you have an extensive history of working as a nurse. You would use this if you were changing jobs or have some sort of previous position as a nurse's aide under your belt. However, it isn't the only type of resume.

Some resumes focus on skills that you have acquired. For instance, you would start with a personal statement, and then list your strengths, your skills, and how you have grown in your nursing practice. This is more of a holistic approach to resumes and highlights what you can do rather than what you have done. Still, do mention previous employers and supervisors, but these sections are more cursory than in the chronological resume. You should search for the different types of resumes and decide what is best for your particular circumstances.

4. Construct an Objective Statement or Professional Profile

A statement of your objectives as a nurse is an important way of expressing what you hope to accomplish in your career. Professional development is very important to most facilities, and they will want to know what you intend to do with your career. In addition, they will want to know what you have done with your life before applying for this job and what you think you can bring to the company to which you are applying.

This is also a great time to include keywords in your resume. You may not be able to fit them anywhere else, but an objective statement is a great place to put keywords that HR reps may search for. You can talk about your interest in geriatrics and helping the elderly, or you can emphasize how you always wanted to work in critical care. Again, you have to craft the resume to fit the place you are applying to. Only then will you be able to catch the eye of the rep, and that usually starts with the objective statement.

5. Be Specific

You need to be specific when you write your resume. It isn't enough to say that you worked in a hospital. It isn't even enough to say you worked Med-Surg in a hospital. You need to say that you worked Med-Surg in a hospital, were frequently in charge of five to seven patients, and had charge nurse duties at least once per week. When you get specific, you stand out from the crowd and give the rep something more than your run of the mill list of duties that everyone has.

Try to include the specific duties that you encountered in your job. If you supervised people, try to estimate the number you supervised. You may also want to say how many beds were on your unit, what specialties your unit had, what certifications you earned, and typical duties that were specific to your former job. Only by telling the rep the whole story will you stand out to the rep and make a case for yourself as the best candidate for the job. Even those who have little experience will do well to specifically describe the skills they do have. Don't merely say you are caring, but tell how, show that you are, and you will be destined to get that important interview that may lead to a job in the field.

6. Technical Considerations

Since nearly all applications are now online, it is important to know exactly how to format your resume to the portals you are presented with. If you can, try to attach the resume as a Word document. You can also use .rtf, as this is a popular format. When you attach a resume, you ensure that your formatting is preserved and it all makes sense. If you are asked to cut and paste your resume into an email, then you need to take other precautions. Format the best you can, and then email it to yourself. Look for flaws in the formatting and work with it until you get the correct formatting to make it look right.

You also need to be cautious when pasting your resume into a portal form. Some companies have you fill out online applications with a space for the resume. Again, the formatting with this can be a nightmare. You may want to type your resume in by hand to avoid the extra formatting problems that come over with copy and pasting. Also, don't merely copy and paste answers from your resume directly into a form. Try to give individual, specific answers to their questions and let the resume act as a supplement to those questions. In other words, don't repeat yourself in the form and the resume. Give different, specific, keyword-laden answers to all questions and THEN give them your resume, too.


Advance: 10 Tips to Make Your Resume Stand Out. (2013). Retrieved January 2, 2015 from 10 Tips to Make Your Resume Stand Out on ADVANCE for Nurses

Blackhawk Technical College. (2012) Resume Writing for the Nursing Graduate.

Monster: Resume Tips for Nurses. (2014). Retrieved January 3, 2015 from Resume Tips for Nurses

Lynda is a freelance medical writer with experience in telemetry, med-surg, and ICU.

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It is a great article and very useful. many thanks!


844 Posts

Thank you for the tips and information! I printed this off to keep with my resume packet :)

JustBeachyNurse, LPN

1 Article; 13,952 Posts

Specializes in Complex pedi to LTC/SA & now a manager. Has 13 years experience.

In most of the nation there is NO nursing shortage, especially of new grad or inexperienced nurses (hence the nearly 47% unemployment rate for nurses in California ). There is often a shortage of jobs (or employers willing to fill openings/fully staff a unit) and in many areas there is a shortage of experienced specialist nurses. Other than that myth in your opening statement, excellent tips for nurses seeking employment or other opportunities.