Your nurse resume is your most important tool for getting a job, but it can be difficult to make your resume stand out. Nurse recruiters can see hundreds of resumes for one job opening. This is often the case even in a market with more job openings than candidates. So how do you make it through the noise and make your resume stand out? Here are eight things nurses should include on their resumes.
1. Your most recent experience first
You should always list your job experience in reverse chronological order. Even if you had an amazing job or travel nursing assignment previously, it’s cleaner and easier to read if you keep things in order.
Scot Schwartz, a provider service manager for RNnetwork, has this advice for elaborating on your experience: “After each role, think about what you learned. What did you not know before you joined your hospital, clinic, or even nursing school practice? Everything you learn is a new skill that you can highlight in your resume.”
2. All your experience (but keep it short)
The trickiest part of nurse resume writing is listing all your experience but keeping it short. Aim for just one page for a resume unless you have a career longer than ten years. At the same time, be sure to list all your experience, because you never know what might stand out to a recruiter. You can balance this by including more information about your three most recent positions and giving less detail for older experience.
We all know the frustration of online job applications requiring you to upload your resume and then list the information on your resume. But online job applications can be helpful, because they give you more space to elaborate on each past position. This can take a lot of time, so start your job search by creating a master resume that has all the details for each position. Then, use that detail when completing the online application.
3. Your education, certifications, and licenses
Even in job markets with lots of jobs available, it’s important to stand out. It might feel obvious to include your education, certifications, and licenses on your resume, but all three things differentiate you from other candidates. In particular, showing the states where you’re licensed to work can help you find travel nursing jobs. It also shows that you have experience working in different cultures and at diverse medical facilities.
4. Your skills
The skills section of a nurse resume is what recruiters and hiring managers often care about most. Make sure to list your nursing skills, and remember to include the soft skills. Some of the most important nursing skills to include are urgent and emergency care, checking and monitoring vital signs, communication skills, time management, understanding medical technologies, educating patients and their families, and teamwork. For travel nurses, flexibility and familiarity with different EMRs are additional skills worth including. You’ll be a stronger candidate if you demonstrate that you’re ready to work on whatever, wherever.
In all these skills, recruiters want to see proficiency and frequency. Don’t list things that you have only done occasionally. Instead, focus on the things you truly see as your strengths.
5. Awards and recognitions
Every nurse has done something that makes them stand out. If you’ve been nominated for or won something like a DAISY award, you should absolutely include it on your resume. If you’ve ever shown formal or informal leadership, list that. Even seemingly small impacts like a thank you letter from a patient can show your impact on a more personal role. The more you can include that shows who you are, the better.
6. Highlights customized for the opportunity
Perhaps the most important thing to do with your resume is to adjust it for each opening for which you apply. First, focus on the order of the skills you list. If a job posting mentions that it’s critical that you know emergency care, the first skill you should list should be related to emergency care. In addition, match your resume to the facility. If you’re applying to a large-scale hospital, don’t emphasize your experience in small, rural clinics.
“Highlight on your resume what is more transferable to what you’re applying for,” said Briana Silva, a client development manager for RNnetwork, who often sees up to 50 applicants for one travel nurse opening. “If most of your work has been on an Indian Reservation, that might not go over so well if you’re applying for a New York City role.” That said, if you’re currently working at a rural clinic but previously worked in a big city, that shows diversity in your experience, so it’s okay to include both.
In addition, recruiters often send applicants’ resumes through applicant tracking systems which scan the resume for targeted keywords. So, if there are words in the job posting that match your qualifications, be sure to include those words on your resume.
7. Facts not fiction
This may be obvious, but it’s important enough to emphasize. Be honest on your nurse resume, particularly in the skills section. If there’s a nursing position that requires skills you don’t have or are weak in, that position is probably not the right position for you. Make a note of the skills you lack and work on gaining some experience in them so that you’re ready for the next opening.
8. Explanation of gaps in employment
If you have any gaps in your resume, be sure to explain them. One benefit of being in nursing is that gaps in your resume often are good ways to highlight your strengths in caregiving. Did you take time off to take care of a sick relative, spend more time with kids, or raise a new baby? Those are great ways to highlight your nursing skills. Just be prepared to explain any gaps in your employment history and try to find a way to include them on your resume.
Use an agency for travel nursing roles
Our final tip: Working with a travel nursing agency means you have a built-in career coach. Agencies can help you find the best travel nursing jobs that match your qualifications. They will also help you craft your resume to make you stand out and give the hiring organization exactly the information they need to make a decision.
Silva says healthcare organizations that hire travel nurses are often in a rush to fill the opening. So, it’s particularly important that your resume tells them exactly what they need to know. “They need to know what you can do, how quickly you can do it, and if are you a good fit for their unit,” she says.