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6 ways to develop a killer resume

It’s one thing for a nurse to have all the experience and skills acquired from a nursing degree but it’s another thing entirely for that nurse to know how to market themselves effectively in the job market. While nursing talent with a master’s degree may earn the qualifications, distinctions and certifications most health care employers look for in candidates, applicants who lack a well-crafted resume may be lost in the shuffle during recruitment. A lacking resume may negate all the appeal of years in residency and education that prepared you for the exact requirements in a given job posting. While the importance of a resume is regularly stressed in many job search resources, less frequent are the tangible ways nursing applicants can improve the quality of their resume.

Young woman in interview with her resume

Writing a strong resume will take time and attention to detail. There is no easy way to breeze through developing a completing resume. Yet there are strategies to maximize the time invested in the process, from knowing how to draw audience eyes to the information you want to visually emphasize, to the specific featured skills that are in demand and how those should be adjusted to fit an employer’s needs.

Health care hiring is expected to increase as the population ages and more individuals obtain insurance. Since a well-crafted resume will help you compete in the market, here are six ways to develop a stand-out resume:

1. Understand how recruiters (and their tools) operate: Health-care staffers and recruiters are often inundated with applications, with a limited amount of time for each submission. The first thing one can expect in these conditions is for recruiters to bypass or reject incomplete applications and prioritize those that show greater promise.

This fundamentally means that a resume is not only attached, but any fields requesting information are filled out. While it may feel redundant for applicants to input duplicate information, the effort shows sincere interest and effort that recruiters can identify immediately. Another way to address this is by writing an easily scannable resume. Recruiters often use job software that searches resumes in word processor documents for keywords and groupings, which means that long-winded explanations need to be whittled down to one short sentence.

2. Use concise language that gets to the point: Many job applicants tend to write long explanations for fear of leaving out some important detail. And while this caution is not without warrant, it benefits nurses to be direct and to the point in their explanations. Remember, your application has limited amount of time to grab a recruiter’s attention and leave a lasting impression.

Use active voice and tight sentences: “Managed x number of beds and x number of personnel” is more powerful, than “I was tasked with the responsibility of daily and ongoing management of beds that numbered between …” Recruiters look for impact and concision that effectively communicate strengths and essential competencies. It is worth noting that abbreviated summaries also work well with job software that can scan through tightly packed blurbs easier than paragraphs of information. Without omitting necessary information, nursing candidates should remember to be a brief as they can.

3. Arrange the information for the eye: An unformatted and unimaginative resume will not garner serious consideration for the job. The best resumes demonstrate the use of basic graphic design ideals like sidebars, bullet points, boxes and other shapes, and different fonts and colors. While nursing applicants may want to avoid any type of textual templates for resumes, using graphic templates can help nurses — who are, after all, trained in the medical arts more so than visual mediums.

However, that doesn’t preclude injecting a measure of creativity to the resume. Playing around with word processor tools is intuitive, and designing a strong resume may not be as challenging as initially thought. Keep best practices in mind, though: minimize any dead space, keep design ratios consistent, use complementary color schemes and don’t go overboard with flourishes, which may ultimately detract from the substance of the resume itself.

4. Know which skills and experiences to highlight: A resume’s primary aim is to provide recruiters an accurate and informed glimpse into your professional life and accomplishments. Ensuring that basic information like degrees and work experience is included is just one part of depicting a full picture of you as an applicant. Nurses need to decide how to best feature their specializations, skills and characteristics or qualities that are valued in a job posting. For instance, it may go without saying that a graduate in midwifery will want to include certification credentials at the top of the resume, but giving the same prominence to any volunteer work with mothers and infants is a less-used strategy. Yet it can have a similar effect, and may mean even more to an employer that prides itself on service, and looks for the same drive in applicants.

It takes familiarizing yourself with the company to angle your resume toward the job. This doesn’t mean completely rewriting your resume each time you apply for a new job, but rather engineering it in the first place to be flexible. Your resume is both a static and fluid document. The format stays the same, but the body should be continuously tailored. Each job will look for something different in a candidate, and having a resume that is responsive and flexible is an advantage for applicants.

5. Proofread and proofread some more: There is nothing more avoidable and devastating than a typo or other error in a resume. One misplaced comma or misspelled word can detract from an otherwise stellar resume. This reality is a product of how recruiters work, often trusting their intuition as much as the facts before them. Surface-level errors may be taken as indications of deeper problems (like lack of attention or lack of sincerity in applying). Guarding against these resume oversights is as simple as proofreading. Reading over something two or three times may seem like a pain, but getting it right before a recruiter notices a mistake may make a difference.

It’s important to ensure that your contact information is accurate and current. Don’t include any work phone on your resume, stick to personal lines of communication and consider adding in professional social networking profiles (just be sure to similarly check them to ensure posts and content are appropriate). Also keep up with your references, as outdated contact information for them could spell the same doom. Always run spell check and read through the resume one time out loud to yourself. Hearing how the resume may sound in someone else’s head may clue you in on ways to better present the information.

6. Include a cover letter: While not the resume itself, a cover letter is in many cases, considered as critical to the application. Nurses should take the added opportunity to inject some personality and further orient their application toward the specific needs and specifications of the job posting. The cover letter doesn’t need to be novel-length. A few well-structured paragraphs are all that’s needed, as the real goal is not adding any more information on top of the resume, but providing recruiters a sense of who you are and how you may fit with them. Research the organization’s website become familiar with their culture, and be sure to include specifics of the job posting that demonstrate your careful reading of it, which recruiters appreciate.

Be mindful when using a cover letter template. The chances of missing information or including a wrong company or recruiter name is greatly increased when relying on templates.

Man working on resume

Looking to add to your resume? Contact the University of Arizona
Another piece of advice to keep in mind is always be on the lookout for opportunities to improve upon your resume. Adding skills, certifications, volunteer time and recognitions will help elevate your profile and may attract more employer consideration.

One surefire way of improving your resume is pursuing graduate-level education, if you haven’t already. Recruiters look for graduate degrees for high-level positions, and such education is mark of a qualified individual. For those deciding to boost their resume with the added competencies and skills that a Master’s of Science in Nursing can provide, contact the University of Arizona today to learn more about our online MSN program.


Recommended reading:
5 soft skills that should be on your nursing resume

First Job: Finding the Right Fit

4 things to look for in your next nursing job

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