5 Tips for Writing a Nursing Resume

by Josh A. Ryan, M.Ed, MAT, CPRW, Senior Career Services Advisor

You were accepted into a competitive nursing program, worked hard to master the skills and knowledge of an extraordinary healthcare provider and passed all the necessary testing. Now it’s time to get that first nursing job.

So how do you separate yourself from other nurses vying for the same position? To start, prioritize your skills and experience on paper, which will eventually turn into your nursing resume.

When working with nursing students, my motto has been to do what it takes to “make your resume SCREAM healthcare.” Showcase all healthcare strengths to keep the reader enticed and eager to read more of your resume. Your intention should be to leave the reader impressed enough to want to meet with you to learn more. 

Here are my five tips for writing a strong nursing resume that will make you stand out from the crowd:

1. Get organized

The structure and formatting of your resume must be consistent and easy on the eyes.  This means appropriate spacing, font, font size, margins and bullet points. 

  • Fonts: With the exception of the header, all fonts and font sizes should be the same.  Times New Roman is one of the more popular fonts to use with a font size no lower than 10.5. Anything smaller makes it difficult for the reader, which in turn has them moving on to the next resume.
  • Length: Nursing resumes should be no more than one page. Anything longer is usually for an RN with 10 or more years of experience and numerous certifications and/or specialties.
  • Margins: If you're struggling to fit everything onto one page, consider widening the margins.
  • Bullets: When highlighting your job tasks under your work history, make sure the bullet points used are identical in style, even when listing additional employment.  The idea is to have the entire page be uniform with a nice flow to it.
  • Spacing & borders: One space is appropriate between each category in your resume.   Borders are also welcome to help separate the sections for the reader and make the document less busy.

2. Tell Who You Are & What You Want

On resumes, it’s important to catch the attention of the reader as soon as you can by telling them who you are and what you want. Avoid abbreviations unless you list the full acronym out next to it. 

The “who you are” should consist of your background experience and education. An example would be: “Experienced Certified Nursing Assistant with over 800+ hours of clinical/lab experience and a recent graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Chamberlain College of Nursing in Addison, IL.”

The “what you want” should explain what you are interested in and how you can be a benefit to the team. An example would be: “I am seeking the open registered nurse position posted for the emergency room. I am confident I can use my healthcare knowledge, experience, passion and skills to provide quality care and make an immediate impact on your team at Methodist Hospital.” 

3. Focus on Achievements

If you’ve done it, feature it!  This can be anything from CPR/BLS training, CNA certifications and any healthcare-related licensures (don’t forget to include your RN license). List any awards or accomplishments including high honors or dean’s list, a national recognition such as Sigma Theta Tau International Honors Society or being a scholarship recipient. 

If you’re bilingual, skilled in American Sign Language or have other experience/certifications, list these too! These can sometimes make you stand out a bit more than other applicants. 

4. Optimize Your Keywords

Many larger companies use applicant tracking systems to look for particular keywords in your resume. Consider looking into online tools that analyze keywords to see how your resume compares to nursing job postings.  One great example would be Jobscan – try it here.

5. Review, review and review again! 

Always take the time to exhaustively review your resume and have a second pair of eyes double-check it as well. Consider running a spell-check first and foremost. The one thing you want to avoid on a resume are misspelled words when trying to make a strong first impression.

When reading through your resume, ask yourself if it would keep the reader engaged enough to keep reading through.  Is every section healthcare-relevant, and does it showcase how your nursing skills would help you make an immediate impact on their team? 

You put your heart and passion into your nursing program, so do the same for your resume. Taking the time to follow each of these steps is crucial in making a great first impression with a potential employer.

Want even more assistance with your nursing resume? We’re happy to help provide one-on-one support to make your nursing job application sparkle. Contact the Career Services team on your campus or through CareerLink online for more! 

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