Think of your résumé as an advertisement that “sells” your talents to a prospective employer. You want them to want you.
What makes a résumé compelling enough to warrant an invitation for an interview? Step one is to write a cover letter that briefly introduces you and specifies the job you're seeking. Summarize your qualifications for the position and state when you're available for an interview. Remember to include your licenses and degrees after your name.
Create your profile
At the beginning of your résumé, create a profile that's a snapshot of who you are professionally. (See Sample résumé.) Consider it an appetizer that briefly informs prospective employers of your strengths.
Be sure to give your résumé a professional tone, not a chatty, personal one. You want the organization to notice your strengths, experience, and professionalism. Also avoid overselling yourself, which will likely turn off a potential employer. Here are some examples of what to avoid:
A profile that's too personal: “I've recently relocated after my divorce. I'm seeking part-time employment on a day shift so I'm home evenings to take care of my children.”
A profile that oversells you: “I'm a super nurse. I'm highly sought after by other organizations.”
Summarize your experience
After piquing an employer's curiosity with your cover letter and profile, summarize your qualifications, then get specific about your work history. Start with your current or most recent position. List the organization's name, the dates you've worked there, and your current or most recent title.
Analyze what you've done and are doing in your past and current jobs. Be specific, offer details, and don't be modest. Highlight your achievements using action verbs, such as develops,
creates, delegates, plans, formulates, manages, serves, coordinates, directs, encourages, and collaborates.
Think back over your work experience and mine for gold nuggets of achievement. Did you serve on a process improvement committee or think of a way for the hospital to make an improvement? Did you mentor others or lead a staff development session? Include anything that demonstrates your initiative and leadership skills.
Review our sample résumé, which highlights one nurse's major accomplishments and provides details that give a potential employer a clear idea of his capabilities. It also raises several good topics to discuss during an interview, such as how this nurse improved patient satisfaction or initiated walking rounds. This candidate has shown that he thinks of his profession as a career, is creative, can take charge, and seeks ways to improve nursing care for his patients.
Next, list the schools you've attended, the dates you were there, any honors you received, and any associations you joined. If you're a new graduate, list professional activities you participated in while you were in school. For example, did you serve on any committees or work as a nursing assistant or volunteer? Did you tutor another student? These details show that you take your profession seriously.
Add professional results
Now, let's discuss the final category where you can list professional associations, published articles, speaking engagements, and so on. This information will give a potential employer a taste of what else you have to offer. If you've written anything, helped educate staff, or worked to revise or create any policies, include them in this category.
- Don't list your marital status.
- Don't list club memberships (unless they're professional) or hobbies.
- Don't write “References available upon request.” That's understood.
- Don't try to be too creative with your résumé's appearance. Pink paper, cartoons, or funky fonts will get your résumé noticed—and moved to the “do not call” pile.
- Don't write a résumé that's longer than two pages—and if your experience is limited, keep it to one.
Now, some DO's
Before sending your résumé out into the world, make sure:
- you've checked the spelling and had someone you trust read it.
- you've been honest about your experience. Employers do verify the information you give them, so don't be tempted to exaggerate.
- you've been concise.
That's the ticket
A well-crafted résumé is your ticket to a job interview. Design it carefully so it makes a memorable impression.
James Nurse, RN, BSN
Home address and contact information
Profile: Highly motivated, goal-oriented professional nurse with 11 years of progressive bedside nursing.
Qualifications: Embraces the rewards of patient care. Handles multiple responsibilities while maintaining high standards of nursing excellence. Experience includes general medical/surgical nursing, charge nurse, team building, improving patient satisfaction, and precepting new employees.
1998 to present: Large Hospital, Any city
Position: Staff nurse, charge nurse, preceptor on a general medical/surgical unit.
Responsibilities: Manage care for stable to acutely ill orthopedic, vascular, and general surgical patients. As staff nurse, delegate care to nursing assistants (NAs) through ongoing communication. Act as preceptor to new RNs. As charge nurse, manage the day-to-day function of a 29-bed unit, directing and assisting RNs, LPNs, and NAs.
Accomplishments: Serve on patient satisfaction committee for unit; scores have risen from 80% to 89% in 9 months. Developed night-shift nursing guidelines. Initiated the concept of walking rounds on the unit. Serve on hospital-wide nurse practice committee.
1995-1998: Smalltown Hospital, Any town
Position: Staff nurse, medical/surgical unit
Responsibilities: Worked as staff nurse caring for ten to twelve patients as assigned.
BSN from Penn State University, State College, Pa. 1991–1995. Member, Sigma Theta Tau.
Publication: “12 tips on surviving nursing school,” American Nursing Student, September/October 2004.