Regardless of your experience or specialty area, your healthcare resume should typically follow a standard format to make it easier for reviewers (and software screening programs) to evaluate your application. Here are the standard items that you should include and the order you should use:
- Contact Information
- Professional Summary or Objective
- Licenses and Certifications
- Clinical Experience
- Relevant Professional Experience
- Affiliations, Honors, and Awards
It can be tempting to get creative with the layout, design, and style of your resume. However, it’s more important that you have the right information and make it easy for those evaluating your resume to find the information they need. This is especially important since many hospitals and healthcare facilities employ an applicant tracking system (ATS) to help them sort through resumes. If your resume is missing any of the information the automated tracking system looks for, your resume may not make it past the initial screening.
By placing your contact information first at the very top of your resume, you make it easy for hiring managers to get in touch with you. Provide your name along with any credentials, certifications, accreditations, or licenses you have. Make sure you also list a phone number and an email address.
Make sure you have a professional - sounding email address. If you don’t, create a new email account using Gmail or another free email service.
You might also want to include a link to your LinkedIn profile or any personal professional websites, if applicable.
Professional Summary or Objective
A brief summary of your professional background can also help set you apart. If you don’t have a lot of experience, such as when you’re fresh out of school, you can focus on the skills, strengths, and experience you do have. If you have any special skills or training, this is a good place to highlight them. For example, proficiency in a foreign language might be important.
Use a professional summary that tells your story in a compelling way, said Keith Carlson, a holistic career coach for nurses and healthcare professionals. "Avoid listing an objective such as "Nurse practitioner seeking a position in a primary care office" — that's for you to explain in your cover letter.
“Explain what you will do for your future employer. For example, you might describe yourself as a 'Conscientious nurse practitioner with 1400 hours of clinical experience. Seeking to improve patient care at XYZ hospital,’” suggests Debbie Winkelbauer, CEO at Surf Search, a recruiting firm specializing in healthcare and life science recruiting.
Matthew Warzel, CPRW, and president of MJW Careers, stresses the importance of having a solid summary upfront. This demonstrates your ability to transfer seamlessly into the new role based on your previous experience and education.
Next, list your educational background, including the schools you attended and graduated from. Simply list the degree(s) attained, the school and location, and the final year you attended. You will want to list these in reverse chronological order with your most recent appearing first.
If you received any specific honors or awards, you may want to consider listing them here. If you are new to the job market right out of school, you may also want to include your GPA (assuming you did well, such as a GPA of 3.0 or better).
As you gain more professional experience, you’ll want to move professional experience to the top and education below Skills.
Licenses and Certifications
Many entry-level nurse practitioner jobs require specific licenses or certifications, such as the NP license. List them in this section. If you have not yet attained any licenses or certifications, indicate which ones you have applied for and list when you expect to achieve them.
You may want to consider including what state and NP license number on your resume. This allows employers to verify your license.
Clinical experience plays a big role when hiring managers evaluate an entry-level nurse practitioner resume. Highlight any fieldwork you’ve done up to now, listing the most recent clinical experience first.
Focus on the specific skills you learned or demonstrated in each role, although it’s best to list these with bullet points and brief explanations rather than detailed information. Provide enough information to demonstrate expertise but avoid including long sentences or unimportant details.
“Under the experience section, which is the most important, list all the hospitals you attended to complete your clinical hours,” advises Winkelbauer. “Be sure to include the clinic's name, physician, and the number of hours garnered from your rotations. Your clinical placements can substitute for your work experience and show that you have worked with human patients. Any healthcare - related volunteer experience is helpful information to add and will make a good impression on your [potential] employer.”
According to Carlson, you should use keywords and descriptions that show the reader that you have the experience, expertise, and knowledge to fulfill the demands and responsibilities of the position in question.
“An ATS may be scanning your document for keywords -- you can take an educated guess of what those keywords may be if you carefully read the posting for the position,” Carlson explains. “If you worked at a Level I Trauma center, make sure you elucidate that. You can use data like the number of beds, size of the facility, and other details to paint a clear picture.”
“Titles are great, but the skills you bring to the healthcare setting are more important,” says Winkelbauer. “It is always good to use data to quantify your accomplishments and show future employers that you are results - oriented.”
Relevant Professional Experience
Next, list any professional experience you have that is relevant to the position you’re applying for. Include both paid and volunteer positions as long as they are relevant. Most entry-level nurse practitioners have at least some relevant professional experience, including clinical rotation hours.
Do not include employment that doesn’t directly relate to the position you’re applying for. When hiring an entry-level nurse practitioner, the hiring manager won’t care, for example, that an applicant worked in retail while attending school.
Warzel recommends that you list your experiences by describing outcomes rather than tasks whenever possible. “This will make sure you are letting the employers know that you are concerned with what they are concerned with,” explains Warzel.
“Don't let your lack of formal experience set you back from writing an impactful resume,” advises Winkelbauer. “Employers already know you are an entry-level NP; they want to see that you have the relevant skills and enough clinical work hours to take up the demands of the role you have applied for.”
This section gives you the opportunity to describe the key skills and attributes that you bring to the job. Review the job description for the key skills being sought and highlight on your resume the ones you have that match.
“An additional tip for making a nurse practitioner resume stand out is to align terminology to match the position description and hospital website,” says Meaghan Marshall, resume writer and career coach at ResumeBlueprints.com. “For example, does the health care facility refer to ‘patients,’ ‘clients,’ ‘customers’ or ‘residents’? Do they deliver ‘consumer - centered care,’ ‘person - centered care,’ ‘personalized care’ or ‘family - centered care’? This will help with getting past the applicant tracking system and demonstrate cultural fit,” Marshall explains.
Make sure you list as many of the skills listed in the job ad as possible. This helps your odds of getting past any automated screening systems. However, never claim a skill you don’t have. It’s dishonest and can cause problems even after you are hired.
“Impress the hiring manager by including numbers to quantify your achievements,” says Liz Hogan at Find My Profession, a career coaching and job strategy site. “This will show the employer that you made those results happen rather than simply being a passive participant.”
Affiliations, Honors, and Awards
Listing your professional memberships, volunteer work, and leadership positions can help show you are immersed in your field and demonstrate leadership skills.
“If you have joined a professional organization, for example, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, mention this as it shows your commitment to the profession,” suggests Winkelbauer.
If you have produced academic research during your education, include it in this section also.
Example of an Entry-Level Nurse Practitioner Resume (and Template)
While your resume will vary depending on your experience and education, here is a sample entry-level nurse practitioner resume.
Final Tips to Make Your Resume Stand Out
One thing that will make your resume stand out in the wrong way is a mistake. Make sure you have someone else proofread your resume before you submit it. Typos, spelling errors, and grammatical errors can indicate a lack of professionalism — especially in a field where precision and accuracy are crucial.
Here’s a short list of questions to ask yourself before you finalize your entry-level nurse practitioner resume:
- Have I accurately described my experience?
- Have I listed the skills needed to match the job description?
- Is my resume organized so it’s easy to find relevant information?
- Have I checked my resume for typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors?
How long should your resume be? “A word of caution when it comes to resume length for new NP graduates is to not go over two pages. The standard is two pages even if a person has many years of experience,” says Hogan. “In very rare situations, more than two pages is appropriate, but certainly not when the applicant is a new graduate.”
A Final Piece of Advice
When people make hiring decisions for an entry-level nurse practitioner, they are evaluating your experience, education and professionalism.
“Make sure you follow the rules of a tightly written, well summarized, brevity - is - key resume with quantifiers and strong action verbs,” advises Warzel. “It’s important to stand out amongst the ocean of competition.”
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