A Study Break for Resume Writing and Professionalism

Not only are you trying to probably balance finally getting some sleep after grueling months of school – but many of you might be also working, looking for a new nursing job, and interviewing for one.  I know this can be a stressful time trying to keep family, life, jobs, studying, and the job search ball all up in the air but keep at it.  It will be well worth it once you finally are a nurse and achieve what you have worked so hard for.  Just a little bit longer and you will finally be there!

Here are some tips when it comes to compiling your resume and professionalism during the interview process.


1.  Keep it short and sweet.  You are at the beginning of your nursing career.  Put the pertinent information on your resume and keep it to 1 page or 2 pages maximum.

2.  Include details:  such as certification numbers, license numbers, and any training you have done such as BLS, ACLS or PALS.

3.  Consider looking at templates or using a service.   There are many free services that can help you take your information and make it look good.  Also remember to format and make cover letters and a thank you letter you can personalize for each job so they look similar.

4.  Use headings:  Headings can help break up and organize your information so it is easy to find.   Common nursing headings to include might be professional summary, core qualifications, experience (paid or non-paid), education, certifications, publications/projects (if you have any), community involvement, references, and keywords.

5.  Professional summary:  Work on a catchy and sincere 2-4 sentence professional summary.  Put it first thing right under your contact information.  Often interviewers don’t even read past this.  Mine is “Thank you for your time.  I am a board certified family nurse practitioner and nurse educator with experience in Pediatric Gastroenterology, Aerodigestive, Infusion Medicine, PICU, Medical Surgical Nursing and Education. I have served in many leadership positions and am looking for a committed nursing career opportunity to serve pediatric patients in order to improve their health and clinical outcomes.”

6.  Specify your resume file name to your name.  Like NurseAmyResume2013.doc and make your cover page NurseAmyCoverPage2013.doc.  You would be amazed at how easy it is for a recruiter to download and lose something.  This will also make it easier on you to find and keep it current

7.  Make your resume and cover letter specific to every job you apply for.  Take the time to research WHO YOU ARE APPLYING TO.  I like to write in at least their title on my cover page: “Dear PICU Nurse Manager”….

8.  Spellcheck.  Need I say more?

9.  Use the same font – or promise your graphic design buddy free healthcare for life if you get the job if they make your resume look pretty.

10.  Include the names, phone numbers, and emails of at least three professional references.  And key point – ask your reference before hand if they can provide a GOOD or EXCELLENT reference for you.  If they say yes, then let them know to expect it.  If you can read their face or they say no, then let them off the hook.

OK, so you submitted your resume and now you have an interview!  Before you bite off all your nails – here are a few pointers.

1.  Practice with a friend.  Have them ask you all the questions you know are coming before hand “How would you deal with a difficult patient”, “How would you deal with a difficult colleague”, “What would you do if you saw a colleague doing something in error”, “How do you handle stress”, and “What are you looking for in a job”

2.  Prepare one or two questions for them.  NEVER ask directly about salary at the first interview.  But do have one or two interesting questions for when they ask you “do you have any questions?”.  It implies that you are a critical thinker…maybe “If a nurse came to her manager and said that she needed x supply to do her job and didn’t have it, what would you do?” or “what type of management style do you feel like you have?”, or “what opportunities does your workplace have to help promote my professional development and lifelong learning about nursing?” or “What type of mentorship programs do you have for new graduate nurses?”

3.  Dress well.  You don’t have to wear an expensive Italian suit but dress nicely, cleanly, and well-pressed.  Do your hair neatly.  Wear conservative makeup and little to no perfume.  Make sure you match – don’t wear a brown suit with black shoes.  Your appearance is the first thing they will see.

4.  Be early.  Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes early on site.  Sometimes I sit in my car and sing an upbeat song to get out the stress bunnies.  Often I walk close to where I need to meet the recruiter/manager and find the closest bathroom and hide for a few minutes until it’s time.  The key is to be about 10 minutes before your allotted time.  Make sure you introduce yourself to the secretary and make sure she/he knows you are there for an interview with the right person.

5.  Smile, introduce yourself, and use a firm handshake.  Don’t cut off their circulation, but don’t be a wimp either.  A wilted handshake doesn’t convey confidence or a nurse that can handle difficult situations.

6.  Bring a copies of your resume and references on nice paper.  You would be amazed at how busy nurse managers are keeping people alive and nurses happy.  This gesture will go a long way.

7.  Prepare a portfolio.  I have a small black 1/2 inch binder that I bring with samples of my work.  In it I have a copy of my resume, copies of any licenses, certifications, driver’s license, current immunizations, samples of writing, recommendations, professional evaluations, and transcripts.  People have literally told me that when they see that I have even brought it – they are SOLD.  This conveys to them how organized and prepared I am going to be at my job.  They want me.

8.  Say Thank You.  Thank them for their time with a handshake and smile before you leave.  I also send a handwritten thank you card the next day.

You are going to do great – don’t sweat it!

Thanks for reading,

Nurse Amy


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *