How to create a nursing resume and stand out

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The current improvements in technology and the increasing competition for distinguished nursing opportunities require jobseekers to have an inspiring nursing resume. There are many nursing opportunities and the people offering jobs expect a variety of things from the applicants and each applicant is unique. This world is always changing and with applications, creating an outstanding resume that demonstrates your abilities in an inspiring manner can be challenging.

Our guideline is the most simple to understand. We will guide you step by step on how you will come up with the best resume which will bring a great change in your job hunting journey.

Take your job hunting activity as a marketing campaign where you are the product and the resume is your advertisement. A brand is not just a logo, it is the general impression a person gives his/her audience. The recruiter is your audience here.

Like in every advertisement, the resume is supposed to capture the interest of your audience. The resume is what will bring you an interview and at the interview stage, your audience will have been sold partially. The deal will be closed when you get the job.

Advertisements are supposed to capture customers’ attention within seconds and so your resume as well has to show your worth to the recruiter within a few seconds. However, in most cases, employers use robots to read resumes. We will talk more about this in another section of this guideline.

Perform a research

The most crucial thing to begin with during a marketing campaign is research. You must know who your audience is, that is your recruiter here. The questions you must ask yourself include:

  • Who is the recruiter?
  • What is the culture of his/her organization?
  • What are the pain areas of the recruiter?
  • What do you have that can make recruiters call you for an interview?

With the internet these days, it is very easy to perform your research online using your Smartphone. And besides going through the job adverts, ensure to:

  • Go through the website of the company where you are sending your application.
  • Read their tweets on Twitter.
  • See the content that they post on their social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook.
  • See if there is anyone you know on LinkedIn who works there.

The social media platforms give jobseekers a partial view of the employers’ values and customs.

Focus on your audience

The best way to begin your job search is by targeting two to three recruiters and writing a good resume foundation. Go through vacancy descriptions to find out what is required and also note the keywords used.

The foundational resume should next be edited for any vacancy you apply for. Ensuring to target a nursing resume can make the recruiter invite you for an interview. Failing to target your resume will make you go on sending many applications without getting any interview opportunity.

Needed versus desired qualifications

When you go through a job advert, you will see the terms “Needed Qualifications” and “Desired Qualifications”. It is important to know the difference between these two terms.

Needed qualifications: These are the requirements. If an applicant does not have them, he/she will never be considered for the job.

Desired qualifications: These are the preferred skills. An applicant can still be considered for the job even if he/she does not have them. So, if you do not possess all the desired qualifications, don’t let that stop you from applying for the position.

Go through online applications

The coming of the internet completely changed how hiring is done. Employers hardly read applicants’ resumes. They might look at them for a short while but for most recruiters, the applications get screened and picked by machines. There are robots which are designed to pick the qualified applicants only.

The robot

This is a program called ATS (Applicant Tracking Software). It is very technical but it is not as intelligent as a human being. The recruiter enters certain words in the robot and the resume gets scanned. The recruiter might also enter disqualifying words to immediately remove the unqualified applicants. For instance, if the robot is designed to remove any applicant who does not have a Bachelor’s degree, all candidates with Associate degrees will be eliminated automatically.

The robot might also be configured to pick resumes that contain the required keywords only.

How the ATS operates

The ATS systems are created differently. They differ a lot in terms of behaviour and how they operate. For instance, there are some which cannot distinguish between titles like Registered Nurse and Clinical Nurse.

Others cannot differentiate between the terms Basic Life Support and the abbreviation BLS.

All that applicants need to do is analyze the position requirements carefully and ensure to use the exact words that have been used there. If an applicant chooses to use abbreviations, then he/she must write the full name first then followed by the abbreviation.

The robots may have improved the recruitment process but they have made the process of finding a job harder. Actually, almost all employers believe that the robot has positively influenced their recruitment objectives while most applicants that apply for jobs online feel the process has become hectic.


Disadvantages of using ATS

This machine does not go through applicants’ resumes the same way human beings could, it just picks data. The recruiters program it to look for certain words in a certain order at a certain section of the resume.

A good number of ATS systems are designed to grade resumes as per the main words used in a job advert. But they can also be programmed to find and grade resumes using other criteria.

Another disadvantage of the ATS is that it might get confused. For instance, when applicants use fancy fonts or if the ATS notices an unknown symbol, it might disqualify the resume. It strictly performs what it has been programmed to perform.

Do all recruiters use robots?

Around 75 percent of recruiters are currently relying on the ATS and this number keeps going up. For those who are not using it, they go through the resumes on their own and invite successful candidates for a face to face interview.

The challenge, however, is that the recruiters get so many resumes and it becomes difficult to read each of them. To analyze the resume fast, the employer might perform a scan knowing that even the candidates who possess the necessary qualifications can be unsuccessful. This is just a method of lowering the number of applicants.

In all instances, the aim of a resume is to advertise the job applicant in a printable and targeted way. To come up with a resume that will capture the recruiters’ attention, applicants need to make powerful assertions at the start followed by something that proves them.

How applicants can go past the robots

This is what applicants should do:

  • Target their resume to the job they are applying for. This will be achieved through understanding the job requirements and picking the keywords used in the descriptions of skills, experience, competencies, and education.
  • Match each accomplishment to keywords or main skills indicated in the job description.
  • Research the company and target their application as per its customs and values.
  • Begin the resume with a strong statement.
  • Follow the strong statement with supporting proof.
  • Experienced nurses must include the profession summary field in their resume.
  • Send applications only if you meet the needed qualifications.
  • Avoid using fancy fonts. Fonts like Arial and Times New Roman are the recommended ones. The font size should never be less than ten and neither should it be too large.
  • Avoid using special bullet symbols. Use simple black bullets only.
  • When writing an abbreviation, first you must write the full words and the abbreviation will follow. You can’t tell what the ATS system will be checking.
  • Use simple titles like Education, Skills, and Experience.

What applicants should avoid:

  • Avoid using the exact title as your present recruiter if it does not match the one in the job you are applying for. Ensure to use the title in the job advert.
  • Avoid using many keywords; just make use of them appropriately. Using the keywords too much can make the robot reduce your score. Besides that, if you use keywords without providing evidence to support them will be meaningless.
  • You should never write your contact details at the header area because the robot will never see it.
  • No need for using tables, ATS systems are not able to read them. However, there are some which can read them if they have been programmed to do so.
  • Avoid using creative field titles like “where I used to work”. ATS systems can never understand that.
  • Avoid adding special fonts, graphics, clip art and so forth.
  • Never indicate this, “References are available if needed”. You will just be wasting space. If the recruiter needs references, he or she will specify in the advert.
  • Never send PDFs to the robots. The robots can be getting more intelligent each time but it is better to be on a safe side by uploading .doc or .text documents only.
  • Never write your skills at the end of the resume, most robots only check the top of the resume for keywords. If you use the required keywords in the last section of the resume, they may never see them and you will get disqualified.
  • Avoid using first-person narratives. You should always write in third person narrative.

Spotting an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

Have you ever seen a job advert where there is a button for “Apply Now?” If yes, then you have encountered the ATS which needs you to provide information at the front end.

Also, when you are required to create a login, fill out an application form and then upload a resume, you are writing your information into an ATS.

There are still more ways of spotting an ATS. If you apply online and you get an automated response thanking you but you never hear from the employer, then you sent your application to an ATS.

ATS is always going to be there and applicants are trying to learn and get tools that will help them understand it.

Writing layout

Before you commence creating your nursing resume, you first should determine the layout to use. There are three kinds of accepted constructions and the most prescribed one to use is the Reverse Chronological layout.

More about the three writing layouts

  1. Reverse-Chronological

    This layout focuses on the applicants’ work archives. The positions that an applicant has held before are written in a reverse chronological manner. This is the best-suggested layout for nurses. Use it if:

    • You are a fresh graduate.
    • You have done less than five jobs in a period of between five and seven years.
    • You are a travel nurse with less than ten prosperous assignments.
    • You have exposure in just one to two specialties.
    • You are attempting an application in the same position.
    • You want to portray vertical progress in your occupation.
  2. Functional

    This design focuses more on the applicants’ abilities and not their working records. This format however rarely passes the ATS and employers dislike it. Nurses should avoid using this format. You can only use it when:

    • Looking for a new career.
    • There are many gaps in your curriculum vitae.
    • You don’t have enough knowledge in the job you are asking for.
  3. Combination

    This is a mixture of the two layouts earlier mentioned. This format emphasizes more on the applicants’ skills, achievements, and abilities. It also shows the applicants’ working history. Use this format if:

    • You are experienced in several specialties or health professions.
    • You are a seasoned travel employee with over ten successful assignments.
    • You have many gaps in working.
    • You want to change your specialty.
    • You want to change your career.

Additional information regarding writing layouts

  • A reverse-chronological layout is a perfect option in most situations. The layout leaves the document looking neat and presentable.
  • Applicants who possess extensive experience should always use the mixture format that lets them use skills as headings at the experience segment.
  • Applicants can additionally add their working experience in their document and they can use templates that will enable them to end up with a unique look.
  • Never feel scared to make changes to match your personal requirements.
  • Ensure the writing is simple to ready. Avoid using artistry fonts and ensure your font size is not too big or too small.

The best formatting and design

As stated earlier, the curriculum vitae must be formatted in a manner that will make them pass the ATS. This entails creating the curriculum vitae in a way that cannot confuse the system. The recommended formatting and design features are:

  • Margins

    The upper margin should be 1 inch and the side margins should be 63 inches. The experts say that this brings a good balance of content to writing space.

  • Alignment

    The left alignment is standard because that is how human beings and robots read. Applicants might feel that adjusting the alignment will make the curriculum vitae tidier but it might lead to unequal spaces between words. This will make it difficult to read the curriculum vitae.

  • Length

    There is no recommended length in a nursing resume. It can be one, two, three or even more pages. So, do not bother about how long it should be. In case it is a bit more than the page by some lines, you can change the font size, margin or you can even make the sentences shorter. The main thing here is to make it look presentable and it must contain keywords.

  • Font style

    Arial and Times New Roman are the accepted font styles and they are the ones that the ATS uses. But applicants may still choose other font styles that suit them. Also, applicants should be aware that if they use Times New Roman, the size should never be less than 11pt because it will be hard to read.

  • Font size

    The curriculum vitae should contain different font sizes. Each field has its recommended size as below:

    • Name: 18 to 22 pt.
    • Contact details: 10 to 11 pt.
    • Field titles: 12 to 14 pt.
    • Description: 10 to 11 pt.
    • 10 point size should be the smallest size in the document.
  • Font color

    It is believed that the ATS systems can read colour but we recommended sticking to black.

  • Special symbols

    The nursing resume must be kept simple. Bullet points should only be included when necessary. Lines are also allowed.

  • Design features that should be avoided

    Do not include these design features:

    • Special characters
    • Several font styles
    • Pictures
    • Clip art

The detailed field breakdown

The ATS systems skim applications and find certain data in the required order. So, we urge using the categories and field titles below to make the resume pass the ATS checking stage.

nursing resume

Contact details

Start your curriculum vitae by entering the contact information. It does not need a header. Names should be written in front and center. Do not make it difficult for the employer to find your name. So, it must be written using the biggest font. Experts have different suggestions regarding the writing of the name, but we recommend a basic classic version of the format below:

Name: The name should be written with size 18 to 22 font and must be bolded. If you have a different name, ensure to write it also on your document.

Qualifications: The right order is: The applicants’ highest degree, Permit State appointments, National Certification.

Location: The street address should be omitted in this field due to security reasons. But you can provide it if you feel it is necessary. Do not fail to provide your location completely since that can make you score poorly in the ATS ranking.

Phone number: Some recruiters might actually text their applicants. So, ensure you provide your phone number and specify whether you receive text messages and whether the number is a home number or mobile number. Another important thing here is to ensure that your phone does not have a ringtone which could make the recruiter not want to contact you again after the first dial.

Email address: Try as much as possible to make your email address look suitable. If you have a fancy email address, that can make the recruiter feel that you are immature or you are just a joker.

LinkedIn: Jobseekers are required to have a LinkedIn profile. If you do not have one, you might lose many opportunities.

Also, you must know this about online presence; recruiters will check your social media pages. Whether it is LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, they will go through the content you post. So, ensure that the things you post will not make a recruiter not want to have you at his/her company.

An online presence can also benefit job seekers a lot. If you have a blog or a website that is related to nursing or you have a great Youtube channel, that is a great advantage. Ensure to include that in the curriculum vitae because it is part of your brand.

Writing nursing credentials

The recommended order is - The highest degree that an applicant possesses, Permit, State appointments, and National Certification.

Education: Here the applicants should mention doctoral degrees, master’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and associate degrees.

Permit credentials: They encompass CVA, RN, and LPN.

State appointments: Applicants may also have authority to work at advanced stages in their state and include clinical nurse consultant, nurse practitioner and advanced practice registered employee.

National certification: This is at times voluntary and it is given via accredited bodies.

Applicants can equally consider adding the following though it is not mandatory:

  • Outstanding accomplishments.
  • Additional certifications which present other skills.


Do not make the ATS system or the recruiter go through the whole document in order to find what can make them consider you for an interview. Mention at the beginning of writing why you feel that you are suitable for the job you are applying for. All job opportunities are unique and you have a chance to optimize the document for the ATS system and to also attract the employer’s attention. Take time to target your document and make your achievements and qualifications stand out from all other applicants.

In the introduction part, we recommend using a curriculum vitae summary instead of the career objective. In the summary, formatting can be done. Applicants can write bulleted lists when mentioning their qualifications and they can write in form of paragraphs too. Consider this as a speech that must grab the recruiter’s attention within a few seconds or a statement that will make the recruiter feel like reading your entire resume. The curriculum vitae summary is distinct for every applicant and it must be related to the position that one is asking for. But it must include details such as:

  • Duration of working
  • Keywords (use the keywords used in the job advert)

    • Management experience
    • Awards and certifications
    • Facilities report
    • Languages
  • The abilities for nursing and fields of expertise

Applicants often write their skills in the last section of the curriculum vitae but that is not how it should be. Now that ATS systems are commonly used, writing the skills at the end can make an applicant fail to qualify for an interview. Nursing needs people to possess certain abilities and those skills must be written at the upper 1/3 of the document. The skills that applicants choose to write must also be appropriate for the job they are planning to get.

If the job requires a certain EMR that candidates are familiar with, it should be listed in the curriculum vitae. If they are good at beginning IVs, it should be stated too. The abilities stated should not be generic but specific and they must contain some supporting evidence.



Majority of applicants we’ve encountered mention the title of their permit but they fail to write some crucial data. This includes details like the date it will expire and the number of the permit. Those details must be provided because they will prove to the recruiter that you are ready to begin working at any moment. They will never have to wait for your permit to get processed. This additionally saves time because the employer will never have to look up the permit; the information is public and can be checked by anybody who is interested in it.


This field of the nursing resume is also very significant and most applicants tend to leave out some crucial details. Majority of the applicants mention their credentials but they fail to write them in the correct way. Avoid including the abbreviations only since the ATS might not be programmed to understand them. MAke sure that you mention the body that accredited you and the number of the certificate or the credential if applicable. The date of expiry should not be left out either.


Every recruiter will be interested in knowing what benefit an applicant can bring if hired. Applicants must specify what they are in search on and must provide proof and quantifiable data that supports what they stated at the beginning of the curriculum vitae.

Avoid copying the information provided in the job advert. Instead, do this:

Write titles: Titles like “Working Experience” which the ATS system will understand.

Reverse chronological format: The experience must be written in this format. However, note that if you have many years of working experience, it is good to only talk about the last fifteen years. This will prevent the curriculum vitae from becoming too long, and if age is a consideration in getting the job, you will eliminate the chances of getting discriminated. Besides that, the skill you gained twenty-five years ago will not relate to your current skill. Recruiters have an interest in what you can achieve at the moment.

Specify the position title before the specialty: We are convinced that the recruiters are more concerned about what you have done and not the people you have given service. The title of the position must be written exactly as it appears in the job advert or you write an industry-accepted title.

The name of the facility: This is obvious.

Dates of working: This information is crucial and must be written in a certain manner. But from what we have seen, certain dates are not necessary to write. You can write them on your application, but on the curriculum vitae, it is not necessary. Applicants are only required to write the months and the years.

Unit and facility details: These details are crucial to recruiters but most applicants fail to provide it. It encompasses:

  • Patient demographics
  • Number of beds in the hospital
  • Number of unit beds
  • Awards
  • Designations of the facility
  • The level of trauma

The main roles will appear neat when bullets are used. Mention at least six points and ensure they include fulfillment, roles, and accomplishments. We recommend emphasizing specific roles to avoid being unclear.

If you do not know the specific duties that you can add, below are hints to guide you:

  • The diseases you treat
  • The cases you deal with
  • The medication you prescribe for patients and how you administer it
  • The therapies you carry out
  • The tools that you work with
  • How you have made processes advance
  • Have you ever been the best?
  • Your main accomplishment in your jobs
  • Have you been recognized publicly?
  • Your most impressive achievement

If you don’t know how the bullets should be ordered or what you need to write, we recommend beginning with a verb that leads to data that can be quantified. After that, add a related role. You can write this for example:

“Treated four patients in every shift with illnesses such as stroke, headache and body injuries”.

Examples of action verbs

  • Planned
  • Evaluated
  • Administered
  • Observed
  • Negotiated
  • Supervised
  • Scheduled
  • Performed
  • Treated

Examples of positive adjectives used

  • Productive
  • Committed
  • Sociable
  • Patient
  • Consistent
  • Proactive
  • Compassionate
  • Unique
  • Independent
  • Motivated
  • Qualified
  • Cheerful


This nursing resume section is very important. If applicants have worked before, this part can be a bit short. Applicants are supposed to mention the degrees that they have in a chronological format. The degrees that applicants mention must be related to the vacancy they are applying for.

Experts have different opinions regarding how education should be ordered in the curriculum vitae. But, we recommend beginning with a certification name or the degree that you possess. What most recruiters will want to know first is whether you have the abilities relevant to the job opening. They will also want to know the schools where you studied.

We also recommend ignoring the year of graduation because age discrimination is very high these days in most countries. Especially in America, people lose job opportunities because of their age and this affects every age group. Recruiters can easily determine one’s age if they know when the person graduated from university or even high school. This is, however, an individual’s decision but we highly recommend not mentioning the dates.

Writing the GPA is also an individual’s decision. If you have a good GPA, then obviously you must want to show it off, but just know that it is not necessary. Additionally, if you are happy with your graduation honors, you can also indicate it in your curriculum vitae.

Applicants at times have other degrees which are not relevant to the position they are applying for. If you have a degree that is not related to nursing, there is no need to write it in your nursing resume.

But if at the time of applying for a nursing job, you are enrolled in a school where you are advancing your nursing career, then that must appear in your curriculum vitae. And there are some people who start some courses and drop out somewhere along the line and have no plans of going back to complete them. If you have done that, don’t ever mention such courses in your curriculum vitae.

The final thing in this section is that in the nursing field, it is not necessary for applicants to indicate their high school details. The nursing field needs people to complete their university education.


It is not mandatory to include this field in your curriculum vitae. But if you choose to write it, ensure that the achievements and awards you mention are related to the office you are asking for. This section will prove to the recruiters who the applicants are as nurses. Things that can be recorded here include:

  • Awards that are related to hospital duties for example - Employee of the year award, Excellent Nurse awards, and others.
  • Volunteer jobs which are related to the position being applied for.
  • Affiliations and Memberships which are related to the job being applied for.

The format for writing should be: The Titles, The Organization, and The year


Now that you have filled out every section of the nursing resume, you should save it. Avoid using old names to save. The recruiters get thousands of documents and they do not have time to sort them out and determine which one is a curriculum vitae and which one is not. We mostly recommend saving the curriculum vitae using your specialty name.

The format should be: yourname-specialty-resume.doc

Cover letter

Applicants should send a cover letter alongside the curriculum vitae. Most companies can ignore any application where it has not been attached. What applicants are supposed to perform is some little research. Spare around ten minutes to research about who is the head of that place in which you intend to be working, and then address the cover letter to him or her.

Better still, you may introduce yourself to the recruiter. With that, he/she will know who you are once he/she gets your application.

The best cover letter must be engaging at the beginning with some little amount of humor. Applicants must additionally ensure that the first paragraph grabs the attention of an employer and proceed to talk about something which can support their qualifications. A good cover letter which is appropriate for the job can help applicants distinguish themselves from other applicants.

Curriculum vitae writing mistakes

There are various mistakes that job applicants make when creating resumes. They include:

Typing errors: This is a very common mistake. We recommend proofreading your curriculum vitae properly and even ask a different person to go through it to ensure you fix all errors.

Age or date of birth: This can make applicants fail to get interview opportunities in companies that consider age.

Providing salary details: The recruiters might see that you are earning more than what they intend paying you. That will make them ignore your demand. Also, if your salary is too low compared to what the recruiter intends to pay you, it can also make you lose an interview opportunity.

Personal details: Job applications should never include pictures, number of children, religion, marital status, and other personal data.

Writing nicknames: When applicants have different names, they are supposed to include both their real names and their nicknames.

Old resumes: Applicants are required to include their most recent jobs.

First person narrative: A statement like “I” is not allowed in resumes. Applicants must write in the third person.

Indicating contact details at the top: The ATS system will never notice it.

Fancy email addresses: Applicants should avoid using email addresses that will make them look childish or unprofessional.

Naming the curriculum vitae wrongly: Hiring managers receive thousands of resumes and tracking them all is not easy. So, applicants should make it easy for them to track them by naming their curriculum vitae appropriately.

Improper ringtones and voicemail messages: Being fancy is not necessary when it comes to getting a job. Applicants should have a simple ring tone and a professional voicemail message.



You may have the best qualifications and experience but if you do not present them well on your curriculum vitae, you will never get noticed by employers.


If you have read our entire guideline above then you now understand how to come up with the best curriculum vitae. We have given you so much information. So, we believe that you will be able to create a curriculum vitae that will enable you to get your dream job. If you need additional help, we have free curriculum vitae templates to help you learn more.

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