You’ve worked your tail off in nursing school, and now it’s finally time to make money. But first: the job search!
It all starts with an effective and thorough new nurse resume — one that’s easy to scan and quick to call out your top successes. A 2012 study from The Ladders found that recruiters spend an average of six seconds looking at each resume. Six seconds. That means you need to make your resume stand out and showcase all the experiences and skills you’ve acquired as a nursing student.
To help with the process, we went straight to Roy Munk, president and founder of Global Healthcare Services. His company is a national recruiting firm that specializes in placing nurses and other medical professionals in hospitals, so he knows a thing or two about what hiring managers are looking for. Here are some of his insider tips and tricks for creating the ideal resume to help you land your first nursing job.
And don't forget to also check out our article on how to create the perfect nursing student cover letter, too!
How Do You Structure a Nursing Student Resume?
Your resume must be neat and organized, it must showcase your professional and educational accomplishments, and it should show off a little personality to help set you aside from the competition.
Consider this list a guide for the section structure of your resume:
- Your Contact Information
- Professional Summary
- Education & Certifications
- Clinical Experience
- Relevant Professional Experience
- Volunteer/Community Experience
- Awards, Honors & Professional Organizations
If you have room at the bottom or in a sidebar, consider adding a quote or two from performance reviews or from professors.
- Example: “Amanda is an incredibly focused and quick-thinking nursing student. I’ve seen her thrive on the floor of the ER and feel she will make an excellent ER nurse one day.” -- XYZNurse, NP, St. Mary’s Hospital, Marytown, MD
Now, what exactly do you put in these sections? You likely have plenty of credentials and experience to list on your resume. It can seem overwhelming to list it all out. Start by mapping your time as a student, highlighting the experience most relevant to the job for which you’re applying. Let’s break down the categories above.
Section 1: Your Contact Information
The Contact Information section should be in a visible spot at the top of your resume so a prospective employer can easily contact you for an interview. Remember: If your resume is longer than one page, your contact info should be at the top of every page.
Include these details in your Contact Information section:
- Your full name, followed by any licenses and certifications that are a part of your title once you’ve graduated (i.e., RN or NP)
- Best contact phone number
- Tip: Make sure your voicemail message is professional, upbeat and clear.
- Preferred email
- Tip: Create a new professional one if the one you usually use is a work email or sounds silly like, email@example.com.
- LinkedIn page
- Tip: If you don’t have one, make one that includes endorsements from past colleagues and links to anything nursing-related you’ve published.
- Professional website, if you have one.
Section 2: Professional Summary
Think of the Professional Summary section as your highlight reel. Go ahead and boast about yourself! This is where you want to include two to four short, descriptive sentences about your education and qualifications. Use adjectives (e.g, diligent, hard-working), facts (e.g., test scores, GPA), and anything that will sell you as the best candidate for the job.
Here are some tips for your Professional Summary section:
- Bold some words that you really want to stand out so anyone scanning the document will catch it.
- Tweak this section each time you apply for a new job. Each position requires a different set of skills and certifications, so be sure the language in the summary matches the job for which you’re applying.
- Feel free to bullet this section if you want to list the accomplishments instead.
Section 3: Education
The format for the Education section should be short and simple. Your education should include the name of the school you’re graduating from and the institution’s city and state, followed by the degree major (and minor, if applicable), as well as your dates of attendance.
Tips for listing your education include:
- This section should always come before your clinical and professional experience.
- This is where a recruiter or hiring manager’s eyes are going to go to first to check if you have a BSN or associate’s degree. (Remember, you have six seconds to reel them in!)
- If you have stellar GPA, this is the place to show it off.
Section 4: Licenses & Certifications
After your Education section, the next chunk of information you should have are any licenses and certifications you've earned.
Section 5: Clinical Experience
Clinical experience is different from your professional experience, as it is specifically referring to what you were graded on in school. Throughout clinicals, you may have been exposed to a variety of units, such as working as an OBGYN or in the emergency room.
Here’s what to include in the Clinical Experience section:
- List your type of experience, name of the medical facility, and the number of hours completed at the end of each description.
- Bullet each clinical rotation.
- Order these in terms of your strengths and interests, as the top clinical experiences will attract the eye the most.
- You can also list your clinical rotations in chronological order if there is no one particular area you want to highlight.
Section 6: Relevant Professional Experience
This section should include all your relevant, professional nursing experience, starting with the most recent. You’re graduating from nursing school, so this is where you should include all your nursing internships, part-time nursing jobs, research projects, and other applicable experience (including unpaid opportunities). Do not include jobs that are unrelated to the nursing profession, such as working at the school bookstore or as a server at a restaurant.
Other tips to keep in mind for your Professional Experience section include:
- Each experience should include the job title, place of employment, job location, and employment dates.
- Underneath each job heading should be a short, bulleted list that includes your job responsibilities, skills, and experience.
- Write in the present tense if you are currently working and in the past tense for previous places of employment.
- For new grads, it’s OK (and expected) that you don’t have much or any work history. But if you’ve worked as a CNA, STA, aide, or other job in the healthcare field, list that here.
- If you’re starting nursing as a second career (say, you were a banker before) add your previous career to your resume to show that this is your introduction into nursing and highlight those transferable skills (e.g., organization, detail-oriented, quick-thinking).
Section 7: Volunteer and/or Community Service Experience
This section is optional, as you may not have any relevant volunteer or community service experience to include. If you are tight on space, keep your volunteer and community experience short.
Other tips for the Volunteer or Community Service Experience section to keep in mind:
- Only include volunteer/community experiences that supplement your nursing resume.
- Format this section similar to the clinical experiences.
- Place it at the bottom of your resume, as it’s the “cherry on top” of your experience and not what’s required to get you the job.
Section 8: Awards, Honors, & Professional Organizations
This section goes at the bottom of your resume. Your awards, grades, activities, and recognitions can separate you from other new grads. Focus first on what you did during college and nursing school, and be sure to include organization memberships.
Here is what to include in Awards, Honors, and Professional Organizations:
- The name of the award/honor, the name of the organization it was awarded by, and when.
- The dates of your membership should come after the organization and any relevant membership titles.
Your Nursing Resume: The Finished Product
Once you’ve put all the different sections together, you have a finished nursing student resume! Here’s an example of what that should look like:
Before You Hit 'Send': 5 Questions to Ask Yourself
Your resume is now complete, showcasing your strengths and skills in the nursing industry. Before you submit your resume to nursing jobs, use this checklist to give it one final read-through to make sure it’s perfect:
Question #1: Did you thoroughly proofread your resume?
- Run your resume through spell check on your computer and correct any errors. Once you’ve done that, print your resume out and go through it with a pen.
- Ask a friend or family member who has a knack for reading, writing, and grammar to give your nursing resume one final thorough review.
- Is your Contact Information current, eye-catching, and listed at the top of each page of your resume?
Question #2: Did you choose your words wisely?
- As you edit your resume, look for words and phrases that you can condense. The more concise, the better.
- Use strong, descriptive adjectives in your Professional Summary.
- Are you using action words to highlight accomplishments from your job and service experience (e.g., “Administered vaccines” or “Performed risk assessments”)?
- Human resource workers are scanning for certain job keywords. Tailor your resume to the specific job for which you’re applying by borrowing from the language written in the job description (or from the business/hospital’s website, for example, looking up their code of ethics and tailoring your resume to those values.) This is especially important in your Professional Summary.
Question #3: Have you paid close attention to the length of your resume?
- Try to keep your resume to one page in length. Remember, hiring managers and recruiters have to sift through hundreds of resumes for each job opening.
- If your resume takes up two pages, include only the most relevant information that will help you land a job interview. A resume should never be longer than two pages.
Question #4: Did you use a simple design?
- Use a sans serif font, such as Calibri or Arial. These fonts are easy to read, especially on mobile devices. The font size should be 10- or 12-point.
- Be sure your resume is scannable with well-organized bullet points.
- You should have at least a 50 / 50 mix of white space and text. Too much text makes the document less scannable for important keywords.
- Avoid centering the text on your resume. This can make it hard to read. Keep the text left-justified.
- Resumes typically are run through an applicant tracking system first. Keep your resume free of graphics and photos. Avoid placing text in the header. This text may not get read properly by the system.Is the entire resume formatted in a professional manner that makes it stand out (and would your designer friends approve)?
Question #5: Did you follow instructions?
- Follow the submission requirements. Employers may require your resume to be formatted in Microsoft Word (.docx file) or submitted as a PDF.
Image courtesy of iStock.com/Brothers91