Getting the nursing job you really want hinges on standing out among all the other applicants. Snagging a hiring manager’s attention can be doubly difficult as a new graduate just entering the nursing field. When you’re a new grad without any work experience looking for your first nursing job, play to your strengths. It’s vital to list your education, clinical experience, and certifications in a way that gets you noticed. Optionally, you can also list your professional affiliations, awards and honors, volunteer activities, and work experience. A well-crafted resume with all the key elements impacts overall effectiveness and it can help you land an interview that could lead to your first nursing job.
Follow Standard Resume Rules
Whether you’ve just started your career or you’ve been working for years, a resume incorporates standard rules you should follow to create a professional, concise document that gets noticed. Sloppy, hard-to-read resumes often land in the rejection pile without being read. Start by using a clear, easy-to-read font, such as Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman. The regular text should be a 10-point to 12-point font while section titles and headers should be between a 14-point and 16-point font. Only use one font throughout your entire resume and utilize bold font or italics for variation sparingly. However, avoid underlining as it can make text difficult to read. Other standard resume rules that help ensure your resume looks amazing include:
- Keeping it to a single page by highlighting your best qualifications is a classic approach but modern resumes are often longer, just make sure you keep it relevant
- Using action verbs and removing first-person pronouns to enhance professionalism
- Ensuring past roles are in past tense and currently active roles are in present tense
- Quantifying facts as much as possible by tying in specific numbers or measurable results
- Avoiding spelling and grammar errors that make resumes look sloppy
- Keeping it organized and visually appealing to maximize the six seconds hiring managers/nurse managers will spend on your resume
You have two options for saving your resume and both have benefits and drawbacks. Saving it as a PDF ensures the formatting isn’t altered when it’s opened on other computers. However, saving it as a Word document makes it easier for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to parse your information and get better results. Always adhere to any instructions in the job posting regarding file type. If it’s not mentioned, it’s generally best to assume facilities use an ATS and send your resume as a Word document to get the best results.
Choose the Right Content
Uncertainty over being unqualified and having no experience leaves many new nurses worrying about which details to include on their resumes. No matter where you are in your nursing career, four basic types of content are applicable in all resumes. These include:
- Hard Skills: Things learned in nursing school, from books, or on the job, which are often quantifiable
- Soft Skills: Commonly referred to as interpersonal skills, defined by how a person interacts with others, and are subjective and not measurable
- Duties: Describes what a person did, which often utilizes hard and soft skills and may only cover clinical rotation duties for new nurses
- Accomplishments: Describes how well a person performed a duty, often quantifiable, and can involve awards and honors related to an accomplishment
Conquer the Layout
How you layout a new grad nurse’s resume differs from an experienced nurse’s resume. The most-used format for resumes is contact information, work experience, skills, and education. However, this isn’t ideal for new nursing school grads with little to no work experience. Instead, resumes for new nurses should include contact information, an objective summary, licenses and certifications, education, and clinical rotations. Optional sections based on relevance include affiliations, volunteer activities, honors and awards, and work history.
- Full name
- City and state
- Professional-sounding email address
- Professional social media, such as LinkedIn (optional)
- Phone number
Great for explaining why there isn’t much experience on your resume when you’re a new nurse and details what type of entry-level nursing position you’re seeking. These should only be two to three sentences at most and provide measurable goals. Briefly explain what you want from the specific nursing job you’re applying for and what you feel you bring that makes you ideal for the job.
Licenses and Certifications
- Full name of license or certification followed by the parenthetical abbreviation for applicant screening software
- Full name of the issuing body
- Expiration date, if applicable
- State and license number, if applicable
When listing your nursing license, be sure to indicate whether it’s a multistate license, also known as a nursing compact license.
- Full name of the education institution
- City and state
- Dates attended
- Degrees earned
- Grade point average, if good
Include all education relevant to nursing. Omit your high school diploma but include your Bachelor of Science in Nursing, followed by the parenthetical abbreviation (BSN). Nursing education that leads to certification, such as Basic Life Support courses through the American Heart Association and results in certification should be listed on certifications, not education.
- Type of clinical experience
- Name of the hospital or institution
- Name of the unit or department, followed by the parenthetical abbreviation
- City and state
- Start and end dates
- Total number of hours worked
Although not required, you can add other details like facility type, trauma designation, number of beds in the facility, and number of beds on the unit you were assigned. You may also include the age range of the patients in your care, nurse to patient ratio, type of charting system used and gained experience with, and your grade but only if it was an A.
If you’re already a member of professional nursing organizations, include a section on affiliations. Include the organization’s name, the date you joined, your designation and duties within the organization, and conferences attended.
Volunteer activities that may take place at healthcare facilities or charities and demonstrate your compassion. Include the organization’s name, dates and how many hours you volunteered, description of duties, results if applicable, and any awards or recognition you received.
Include honors and awards you’ve received in a separate section or intersperse them throughout your resume where applicable. If listed together, include the name of the award, date received, issuing organization, and reason received.
Even new nurses have some hands-on nursing care that you may want to include in a work history section. However, if this experience only includes clinical rotations, don’t duplicate the information. If your work history includes jobs not related to nursing, include them if you can convey how the experience relates to nursing. For example, the positions may have taught you time management, communication, or teamwork skills. Include the employer’s name, job title, working dates, and a brief description of duties.
The layout you use for your new grad nurse resume matters because a nurse manager likely isn’t going to take the time to read what a sloppy, unappealing resume actually says. Consider utilizing a resume template that offers a sensible layout and aesthetic appeal that’s relevant to new nursing applicants.
Tips for Getting Past Applicant Tracking Systems
While you’re creating and polishing your resume, don’t overlook the need to get past automated systems. Healthcare facilities often receive numerous applications, so many of them use software applications called Applicant Tracking Systems. These programs weed out what they consider poor candidate matches for a specific position. An ATS typically allows employers to choose features they want to use to find applicants with the right criteria.
Knockout questions are common features, which cover specific qualities applicants must have to even be considered. Typical knockout questions in the healthcare industry cover things like the amount of experience applicants have in a specific field.
For example, if an employer requires at least two years of recent experience working in an ICU, a quick way to eliminate candidates is to have the system ask them to answer a simple question. If the answer is no, the applicant is automatically eliminated and the system moves to the next candidate. Knockout questions are generally simple yes or no questions and there’s no room for explanations. A wrong answer means you’re done, no matter if you’re an outstanding applicant otherwise.
An ATS may also look for keywords or entire phrases, which it uses to score your nursing resume. The system may eliminate resumes that don’t meet a minimum score and/or rank the resumes from highest to lowest score. Recruiters often start reviewing applicants with the highest scores and work their way down. However, they may not make it to the lowest-scoring candidates if they find suitable candidates before then. You can ensure your resume scores higher by including notable details from the job description.
Matching Resumes to Job Postings
As a new nursing school graduate, you have limited details to put on your resume but a single resume still won’t fit all nursing jobs. Customizing your new grad nurse resume to a specific employer’s desired content helps you get past the ATS and human reviewers alike. Unless the job descriptions are identical, tailor your resume to each position. Include content the employer wants to see and details that set you apart from other candidates and demonstrate how you would excel in the job.
Start by compiling a list of terms from the job posting. Although this list sounds straightforward, it can be tricky. It should include hard and soft skills, specific job requirements, and non-acronym and acronym versions of organizations, certifications, licenses, diplomas, and any other text possible. ATS typically only look for keywords and phrases and this list should help you figure out what these are so you can score higher by including them in your resume.
As a new nurse applicant, don’t worry if your resume isn’t exhaustive. Hiring managers don’t need to see every detail about you. Highlight your most important qualities on your resume, which is usually accompanied by an extensive application. Update your resume periodically as you gain nursing experience and you’ll soon have a more extensive resume to use when looking for your next nursing position or seeking a promotion.
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