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Advice / Job Search / Resumes

Resume Makeover, Medical Edition

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Anyone who knows you knows how passionate you are about helping people. You're sure if you make it to the interview, you'll blow the socks off any hospital or healthcare organization. But the trick is getting the interview and in order to do that, you're going to need a great resume.

While there are plenty of general resume tips out there, here's what nursing job candidates need to know about crafting an eye-catching document.

Tip #1: Describe Former Work Environments

Don't just say where you worked, describe what it was like. For example, state that you worked in an urban, Level I trauma center with 500 beds that sees 110,000 patients a year. "That tells a more complete story of the environment the person has been working in than if they just have the name of the hospital on there," says Rae Ellen Douglas, a nursing recruiter with Kaye Bassman International.

Tip #2: Include the Right Keywords

Be sure to hone in on the words the healthcare organization uses in their job posting. That way, the applicant tracking system will pick up your resume when searching through their database.

You'll also want to "emphasize words like patient-centered care, patient-focused care, patient safety, and a focus on the well-being of the patient and their family," says Carrie Silvers, MSN, RN, who is a clinical instructor and course chair for the RN-MSN program at the University of Arizona College of Nursing. That way, when your resume is handed to a real person, they know right off the bat that you're passionate about the patient.

Tip #3: List Those Fancy Letters Right After Your Name

Whether you are an RN, BSN or other type of nurse, include your credentials right at the top so reviewers won't have to go looking for them. Plus, those letters make you look good. "Those are hard-earned credentials, so put it right after your last name," Douglas says.

Tip #4: Include a Qualifications Summary

"I like it to be a summary, versus an objective," says Douglas. "You can disqualify yourself with an objective if you're not careful." Rather than risk including goals that might not align with a reviewer's expectations, try a summary that includes the highlights of your resume in one sentence, like: "Three years of nursing experience in the medical-surgical department with a 1:2 nurse-to-patient ratio."

"It should be very brief and include how each qualification applies to the position they're applying for," Silvers says. (Here are some tips on how to do it.) Allowing reviewers to see exactly how qualified you are at first glance helps you make a strong argument for why your resume should go into the interview pile.

Tip #5: Make Note of Specific Projects

Did you spearhead an initiative at your last job? Maybe you worked to reduce the number of falls on your floor, or started a committee to increase focus on patient-centric care. If it's relevant to the position, put it in your resume. "You should have very specific details on what you did, how you did it, and the outcome," says Silver. And be explicit about how the achievement relates to the position you're applying for, so reviewers don't have to connect the dots themselves.

Tip #6: Don't Leave Employment Gaps

Include all your work and school experience, even if it wasn't relevant to the job or to the nursing industry. You might not see why your retail experience matters, but it could show your ability to manage school and work at the same time—or prove that you weren't unemployed for a stretch. "Otherwise, I don't know if you weren't working or in school," says Douglas. "I like a really complete resume."

Tip #7: Do a Thorough Editing Job

Finally, make sure your resume is error-free. And yes, this is Resume 101 advice for any job, but nursing is a very detail-oriented field, so any errors may turn off a potential employer.

"Read it, re-read it, and then read it a third time," Douglas says. "And then have somebody else read it for errors."

Whether you've just graduated from nursing school or are looking for a new opportunity, make sure your resume shows your passion for the industry and why you're the most qualified person for the job. And with these tips, you're bound to make your resume jump off the pile.

Need some interview advice? Check out our guide to common nursing interview questions—and how to answer them.