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Nursing Resumes: What You Can Do to Land Your Dream Job

Guest Author: Alyse M. Labat

April 23, 2021
nursing resumes, what you can do to land your dream job

Are you searching for your first job and wondering what successful nursing resumes consist of? Or are you an experienced nurse looking to spruce up your resume and transition into a new specialty? Well, look no further! We are going to look at how to build modern nursing resumes, what employers are looking for, and some key Dos and Don’ts. 

Building Perfect Nursing Resumes

Define Goals & Research Job Requirements

What type of job are you trying to obtain? Being aware of where you want to go is key to structuring your resume because everything you include from start to finish should reflect your ability and desire within that specific job setting.  

Look at multiple job listings for positions like what you are aiming for. Postings include sections on required and preferred qualifications. Required Qualifications mean that they will only consider applicants that meet those criteria, whereas Preferred Qualifications are bonus criteria that would improve your standing as an applicant.  

You can still apply even if you do not meet the required qualifications, but most of the time employers want you to re-apply after gaining the certifications or experience required. 

Another reason these key words or phrases in job postings are important is because many employers use Applicant Tracking Software (ATS). ATS is a software that will scan your resume, collects data, and will start prioritizing applications based on the information it finds.  

Drafting Nursing Resumes: Headings, Templates, and Page Length

Use section headings throughout your resume to allow for the reader to easily find content they are searching for. Some templates use an outline format whereas others may have the section headings. There is no hard rule on what type of template you should use. However, you never want your resume to appear busy. No matter the amount of content you include, you want it to be visually appealing and easy to follow. Most sections can consist of bullet points as they are helpful in getting the point across without taking up as much space.  

A good rule of thumb is to keep the length of your resume between one to two pages. However, if you have a long work history of multiple transitions and specialties, it okay to go to a third page. I would still encourage you to condense your resume. One way to do that is to remove some of your earliest jobs if it has been more than 15 or 20 years.  

Composing Nursing Resumes

 Step 1: Start with Your Contact Information 

Think of this as your letterhead or an introductory banner. This top section of your resume should include your name, credentials, location, email, and phone number. Your name should be in a larger font than the rest of the content. You want potential employers to know who you are and how to get in touch with you easily. 

Credentials need to be in the following order: educational degree (i.e. BSN or MSN), Licensure (LVN or RN), state designations if applicable (usually for APRN, NP, or CNS), and then any national certifications.  

Step 2: Professional Summary

Write a short, professional summary of 1-4 sentences presenting a case as to why the employer should consider you for the position. Include your years of experience, any keywords, or phrases from research on position requirements, special certifications or awards, language abilities, and soft skills such as patience, compassion, or teamwork.  

Step 3: Education

Here, you share the degree you obtained, the acronym, institution name, and graduation year. For example,  

Bachelor’s in Science of Nursing (BSN), Colorado State University, 2015  

If you are a new nurse and have not graduated or are currently enrolled in higher education within the nursing field, include the degree program along with “Projected Graduation” followed by the month and year of when you will graduate.  

 Step 4: Work Experience 

This is the main course of your resume. In this section, list your relevant work history in reverse chronological order. If this is for your first medical-related job, still include your prior work history and emphasize the skills of that job that are applicable to nursing (i.e. customer service, time management, detail oriented, critical thinking, etc.). Having this list in reverse chronological order allows the employer to see what skills are freshest.

Each job should follow this outline:   

  • Position Title 
  • Facility Name 
  • Employment Dates 
  • Facility- and Unit-Specific Details 
  • The nursing specialty, population served, types of duties, award-designations for the facility or unit, and other noteworthy details. 

 Step 5: Certifications & Credentials 

Licensure Details: license type, by which state, license number, and expiration date.  

Specialty Certifications: PCCN, CCRN, WOCN, etc. Also include expiration date. 

Step 6: Awards & Accomplishments  

This is not a required section; however, I encourage all nurses to include it. This allows you to brag while remaining professional at the same time. Showcase your accolades! Highlight the accomplishments that make you stand out among other applicants.

Here are a few examples:  

  • Awards: Daisy, Employee of the Month, & other nursing excellence awards 
  • Accomplishments: research presentations & specialty certifications 
  • Volunteer Work: fundraisers or humanitarian trips 
  • Professional Memberships: American Nurses Association or other nursing organizations 

The Do’s of Nursing Resumes

  • Check grammar and spelling. These kinds of errors make you appear unprofessional. Take the time to proofread your resume and have someone else look it over for you. Sometimes an objective eye can find mistakes that we overlook. 
  • Use a professional email address. You have a professional resume, license, goals, and attitude, but all of that could be undone if your email address is [email protected] 
  • Show how you have moved up, been promoted, or transitioned into your roles. 
  • Tell the truth. 

The Don’ts of Nursing Resumes

  • Forget to SAVE your resume! There is nothing worse that doing all that work and it disappears or you upload the old version of your resume to a new job application. 
  • Use first-person pronouns. It is best to keep the document in the third person and avoid using “I.” 
  • Have an unprofessional voice message. You want your voicemail message matches the image of a responsible employee.  
  • Mislead employers with false statements. 
  • Go overboard. Your resume should be intentional so keep information relevant to your goals. Too much information can be a put-off for employers. 
  • Use font size smaller than 10. 


I hope this has left you with all the tools you need to go land that dream job you’ve been hesitant to apply for! Understanding the value of what makes up great nursing resumes can truly make a difference in the job searching and potential interviewing process. Good luck! 

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