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Tips for Crafting a Better Résumé

Special Student Issue

You worked hard through nursing school, passed exams, earned a degree and hold high hopes for the future. The next step is building a strong résumé that attracts attention from employers, helping to secure your first nursing job. The good news is that most of the hard work – studying and gaining formative experiences throughout school – is already done. The next step is to tell your story and share what you have to offer the profession.

The main goal of a résumé is to set the applicant apart from the crowd. To do this, you should be specific and strategic.


  • Create a “master résumé” that lists all of your accomplishments and experiences. From there, tailor the résumé specifically for each position you apply for.
  • Pay close attention to the language used in the job description. Hiring managers will sometimes rely on automated programs to cut down on the number of résumés. Using many of the same keywords that describe the position could help your résumé make the cut.
  • List your most relevant experiences first, including clinical and training experiences. Share accomplishments associated with each experience instead of just listing duties. Caseload, leadership roles and relevant skills are also great additions to this section and will help you stand out to an employer.
  • Don’t be afraid to list non-healthcare job experience. “Years ago, nurses were told to avoid including experience that wasn’t directly related to healthcare on our résumés,” said Donna Cardillo, RN, MA and columnist at’s advice column Dear Donna. “That is outdated advice. Many people now coming into nursing as a second or third career have past work experience that is not only relevant, but it can help to market them to an employer. Even for recent graduates that might have little or no experience in a hospital, your varied work experience can speak to what kind of employee you will be.” Another good tip for recent graduates is to list the details of your clinical rotations. “If you did one of your rotations at the hospital you are applying to – or a similar facility – that information would be very helpful to your potential employer,” said Cardillo.
  • Regarding formatting, make sure your résumé is clean and consistent. Small details such as font and spacing can make a big difference in the résumé’s overall presentation. You should use a font that is simple and legible. Your résumé should have 1-inch borders on each side and be printed on high quality bond paper. If you are a new graduate, your résumé should be one page, while a more experienced nurse should cap the length at no more than two pages.
  • Don’t forget to proofread! It is a good practice to have a friend or colleague look over your résumé to get a fresh perspective and catch easy-to-miss errors. Having more than one person review before sending to a potential employer is even better.

In addition to creating a traditional résumé, be sure to maintain an up-to-date résumé on professional networking websites such as LinkedIn. “Keep your online profiles professional and active,” said Cardillo. “Online networking is all about creating personal contacts and connections with people who can make introductions, recommendations and referrals to employers.” Keeping your résumé current online will help recruiters and influential connections identify you and verify your credentials.

For more tips on building a strong nursing résumé, visit

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