It can be challenging to find a nursing job, whether you are a recent graduate or experienced healthcare professional. In order to land an interview for the role you want you need a clear and compelling nursing resume that reflects your education, skills, and accomplishments while addressing your desired employer’s requirements. Being specific and targeted with this will help you stand out from the pool of equally qualified candidates. Below are some steps, and some resume samples, you can take to tailor your nurse resume and land that interview!
Important Reminder: If you're looking for a job don't forget to create a free account and upload your resume. That way, employers can contact you directly about any upcoming opportunities.
To write an effective nurse resume, you need to target information for your specific audience: the employer to which you’re applying. Go through the job description and review the employer’s website and social media platforms to understand their culture and values, and answer the following questions:
Choosing the right document layout will help represent you as an individual, your academic standing, professional achievements, personal qualities, and career potential. Go with the style that best suits your skillset and the position for which you’re applying. The three main nurse resume formats commonly used are described, below.
The reverse chronological format benefits nurses with extensive and relevant professional experience and is the most commonly used nurse resume. Employment stands out as the most important element and positions are listed in reverse chronological order, with the current or most recent job listed first. However, the downside is this format will highlight any gaps in employment, frequent job changes, and your approximate age. This format is best suited for:
The functional nursing resume type highlights skills, awards and accomplishments, and training. This makes it the preferred format for recent college graduates, those who took a break in their career, and other professionals who lack relevant work history. Keep in mind, a drawback of this format is that it can highlight the little nursing experience a candidate might have and, overall, hiring managers may not prefer it.
The most complex nurse resume type, the combination format, is a hybrid of the reverse chronological and functional formats. It allows you to creatively showcase both your professional experience and skills and training. However, keep in mind that the large amount of information can confuse readers if it’s not carefully and clearly presented. The combination format is best for nurses who:
See below for examples of the functional and combination nurse resume formats. The end of this article provides examples of the reverse chronological resume format.
You can create a strong resume foundation by determining industry-specific needs and targeted keywords for a few employers. Then, alter your resume slightly for each role you apply to. There’s no need to start from scratch, but you need to tailor your nursing resume to what each employer wants in a team member (of course, it is just as important to consider your needs and whether the job fits what you need for professional advancement and satisfaction). You should never submit anything that isn’t targeted to a specific employer and role.
A good place to start with your targeted resume is by:
Your finished product should be detailed and easy to scan for key points, as hiring managers may only take mere seconds before deciding whether to move candidates on to the next step of the process or to reject them.
Required and Preferred Qualifications
Addressing a potential employer’s specifications is the main objective in writing a nurse resume. Job postings for nurses consist of extensive requirements since the field requires advanced academic and professional training along with licenses and clinical experience. These requirements include required and preferred criteria. Be sure to detail how you fulfill both the required qualifications and as many preferred ones as possible, without overcrowding the page.
Of course, the more preferred qualifications you can showcase, the better your chances are of getting called for an interview. Keep in mind, however, that these desired skills are not dealbreakers and you may still be considered even if you don’t have them - so don’t let them deter you from applying for jobs you’re interested in! While you may come across some employers that reject applicants without all required qualifications, don’t be discouraged. Many employers view job descriptions as a guideline rather than a non-negotiable list. They must evaluate candidates against one another and they won’t know the qualifications of their applicant pool in advance of posting the job. So, you have nothing to lose if you still apply and put your best foot forward.
You want to stand out by creating a well-formatted and visually engaging nursing resume, but concise and neat is best. Don’t go overboard with multiple fonts and colours. Also, strongly consider the fact that many employers are using Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) to deal with the high volume of incoming job applications they regularly receive. In order to be picked out from the crowd, you need to ensure your nurse resume contains the right keywords that an ATS will identify.
Here’s how it works: the ATS ranks and categorizes resumes by how many designated keywords they contain. The process is streamlined and reduces an employer’s workload, theoretically weeding out resumes with a large amount of filler content (which can indicate a lack of qualifications). An employer can enter specific keywords for the ATS to scan for. They may choose to include “knockout questions” to quickly eliminate unqualified candidates, such as, “Are you a registered nurse in Alberta?” Or, they could include “disqualifying statements” to automatically screen candidates out. For instance, if an ATS is programmed to screen out all resumes lacking a bachelor’s degree, anyone with a certificate or other credential will automatically be rejected. An ATS can also be set up to only deliver resumes that include exact keywords. The downside of the system is it can unnecessarily reject suitable nurses as part of automated software processes. To avoid this unfair outcome, learning how to write a nursing resume requires working within and overcoming challenges with the ATS framework, by implementing the suggestions below.
Use Simple Headers
Add terms to your headers that are common enough to show up in keyword searches (for instance, “skills,” “professional experience,” and “education”). Don’t forget to include your city and province, since employers generally vet candidates by location.
Look for relevant keywords in the job description or research phrases commonly found in the nursing field (such as “nurse practitioner,” “clinical research,” and “community outreach”). No matter what, avoid abbreviations.
Include Employer and Industry-Specific Terminology
The more specific a keyword is to the particular position you are applying for, the better. Use the hiring employer’s phrases first, industry terms second, and your current or previous employer’s terminology third.
The following formatting recommendations consider the functionality of applicant tracking systems:
Margins: Top margin should be set at 1”, side margins at 0.63”. This strikes a good balance of text to white space.
Alignment: Left alignment is standard since that’s how most people (and ATS robots) read. Justified alignment may look cleaner, but it can leave uneven gaps between words and make text harder to read.
Length: This should not be the focus of a nursing resume. Though 1-2 pages is standard, some nurses may have resumes with 3+ pages. If your resume is slightly over the end of a page by a few lines, try changing the margin, font style, or font size, or shortening statements.
Font style: Verdana, Tahoma, Times New Roman, or Arial will best utilize the functionality of an ATS (note: Times New Roman can be difficult to read if it’s smaller than 11 point).
Font sizes: You should be using different sized fonts throughout your resume. A 10-point font should be the smallest anywhere in the document. Here are some guidelines for each section:
Font colour: It’s best to stick to just black. This is the most professional and you’ll be sure any ATS can read it.
Special characters: Basic bullet points (black dot) may be used and simple lines can work well. Do not use clip art, photos, or multiple font styles. Keep it simple!
Don’t forget to check out our nursing job board where you can search by keyword or location. New jobs get posted daily! You can also create a free account and upload your cover letter/resume so employers can contact you directly.
Education and training. This section should come first if you are a new grad. List your licenses, provincial designations, certification, and awards and honours.
Experience. Display professional nursing experience in reverse chronological order, beginning with your current or most recent position. Be prepared to address any gaps in employment. Start with the job title and specialty, then facility name and employment dates. After that, list facility- and unit-specific information, including total beds, trauma levels, and patient demographics. Be as specific about your duties as possible (for instance, a nursing home nurse does not perform the same tasks as an urgent care nurse). Address conditions or diseases you’ve treated, types of medication you’ve administered (and how), and experience with specific types of therapy and equipment. Use action verbs (e.g. administered, treated) and positive adjectives that reflect your dedication to patient care and organizational success. If you are a new grad, include any previous positions you had that relate to customer service and communication.
Skills. This section mostly benefits from keywords. From an employer’s job description, you can easily see what skills they want. Write this section specific to those needs. You could categorize your skills by area, such as basic care, technical, administrative, and computer. Don’t forget soft skills like reliability and adaptability or special skills like an additional language, as these things can make you stand out from other applicants.
Volunteer work. Unpaid positions demonstrate that you understand the importance of community education, outreach, and engagement. Only include those that relate to nursing or the healthcare field.
If you’re a recent college graduate, a professional switching careers, or short on clinical experience, you can use a functional hybrid resume format that places academic credentials, qualifications, and skills above the employment section. To boost your nurse resume further, highlight provincial licenses, optional certification, and organizational membership as well.
You can include an introductory biography that speaks to your professional values as a nurse and the training and education you possess. Position your skills as they relate to actual work scenarios that nurses face. Hospital managers want to see critical thinking, safe practice, customer service, and interpersonal communication. Your clinical training experience as a nursing student can be described to show employers you possess such skills. Frame them in terms of achievements. Note your related volunteer experience in its own section, as this shows you have not just practical qualifications for the job, but also a passion for the well-being and equitable healthcare of patients in all communities.
Be sure to proofread your completed nurse resume and avoid the following things:
Below are some examples of nursing resumes for you to see our advice put into practice. The first is in reverse chronological, the most common format, for a candidate with a number of years experience, and the second is in functional hybrid format for a recent graduate looking to begin their nursing career.
1234 Walnut Street, Calgary, AB
Registered nurse with 8+ years of experience providing quality care to a wide variety of patients. Possesses a Master’s qualification in nursing and currently focused on earning a Doctorate Degree in this field. Aiming to leverage my experience and knowledge to effectively fill the nursing position at your hospital.
CITY CENTRE HOSPITAL, Calgary, AB
Registered Nurse, September 2011 – Present
CROSSTOWN MEDICAL CENTRE, Victoria, BC
Assistant Nurse, July 2007 – August 2011
Master of Science in Nursing, June 2007
Bachelor of Science in Nursing, June 2002
1234 Walnut Street, Calgary, AB
Registered nursing recent graduate seeking to use earned skills and knowledge to assist your hospital in a nursing role. Proven to ably handle any medical emergency or situation, with the requisite skill-set to perform under pressure. Excellent interpersonal skills, and a dedicated worker with a sense of purpose. Possess a BS in Nursing.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing, May 2019
LICENSES & CERTIFICATIONS
WEST END MEDICAL CENTER Calgary, AB
Preceptorship Nurse Spring 2017 – Present
CENTRAL HOSPITAL Victoria, BC
Clinical Practicum in Acute Care Fall 2015-2017
OTHER WORK EXPERIENCE
CAMPUS CAFE Victoria, BC
Server September 2017 – April 2019
Download the above resume samples in pre-made templates so you can easily edit and add in your own information.
Remember to use these tips to write a targeted and specific nursing resume that will get your foot in the door of your next employer and advance your career. These things will help you stand out from the crowd so you can land a job that's a great fit with who you are and what you bring to the exciting field of nursing.
Emma Caplan writes and edits client-facing documents and takes pride in making them sales-ready and reader-friendly. She has additional experience in quality control and proofreading. She has written articles and podcast summaries for the Vancouver Real Estate Podcast, edited fiction and non-fiction books, and volunteers as a copy editor for Editors BC’s West Coast Editor and Students for High Impact Charities.
Emma has also earned a certificate in editing and a bachelor of management degree. In her free time, Emma enjoys hiking, travelling, and creating jewelry. Connect with her on LinkedIn.