You may have top grades, impressive credentials and solid nursing experience, but if you cannot demonstrate those things to potential employers, you may have a hard time finding your dream job. A good resume helps get you in the door, and solid interview skills help seal the deal.
There are a number of techniques you can use to build a solid resume and develop interview skills that get results. As a student of the online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program at Colorado Mesa University (CMU), you have access to the school’s Career Services center. The center’s advisers can help you develop the skills needed to land your dream nursing job.
Resume Writing Tips for Nurses
A well-written resume can help you stand out among dozens, or perhaps hundreds of applicants, some of whom may have equally strong qualifications. The following tips can increase your odds of getting an interview.
Personalize Your Cover Letter
Addressing your cover letter and resume to a generic name like “Human Resources Manager” or “ICU Nurse” is not likely to elicit many responses. It pays to take the time to find the name of the person responsible for filling the position you are applying for.
According to allnurses.com, one hiring manager reports that resumes sent to her directly have interviews scheduled the same week.
The article suggests calling the hospital or healthcare facility and finding out the name of the department manager, then sending your resume to that person as well as to the human resources department.
Mind the Basics
Make sure you have the basics covered. According to allnurses, misspelled words, crossed off words, and a missing cover letter can harm your chances of landing your dream nursing job. Be sure to proofread your resume and cover letter twice — or have someone else look your application materials over before pressing ‘send.’
Keep It Professional
It is best to keep your communications professional with potential employers, according to allnurses. Create your resume and cover letter using standard business fonts, such as Times New Roman, Arial or Helvetica.
The American Nurses Association (ANA) suggests using a professional email address instead of one like DragonSlayer@yahoo.com.
Showcase Your Strengths
Put the emphasis on your strongest skills. ANA says that because your contact information is the first thing recruiters notice, you should place your credentials and certifications behind your name.
Your “Professional Experience” section is the focal point of your resume. The ANA suggests listing your jobs in reverse chronological order with the most recent job listed at the top. Be as complete and concise as possible in your descriptions — each should include specifics about the facilities and units where you worked and the type of nursing you did. This helps recruiters better match you with a suitable position.
You should also offer specifics on the types and number of patients you cared for. Don’t forget to list your responsibilities as they relate to both direct patient care and additional duties, such as management or training.
Display Your Credentials
Do you have special skills and certifications? How about experience with equipment or computer skills? ANA recommends detailing these and including the number of years you have used them. If you are working toward a degree, such as the online RN to BSN program at CMU, include your projected completion date.
Write Your Resume With Screening Programs in Mind
According to allnurses, some online application programs can screen for keywords based on application summary or position description, so it is helpful to keep that in mind when writing your resume.
An article in CIO suggests that a longer resume lets you include more appropriate keywords and phrases, which could help you rank higher in the system. Avoid including tables and graphics since the system is unable to read them. Also, this software cannot search PDF files.
If You Work for a Temp Agency
The hiring manager mentioned in allnurses says she is skeptical of hiring someone who frequently changes jobs. However, if you do work for a temp agency, chances are you change jobs quite often. If this is the case, she suggests listing the agency as your employer rather than the individual facilities.
Put Thought Into Naming Your Document
Saving your documents using a customized name rather than a generic one, can make it easier for hiring managers to find you.
For instance, naming your document “My Resume” or “Updated Resume” will make it harder to find.
Here are a couple examples of good file names:
Your last name_Your first name_Resume
Your last name_Your first name_Date submitted
Top Interview Tips for Nurses
A solid resume may get you in the door, but now you have to prove yourself in the interview. The following tips can help you ace interviews, getting you closer to your dream job.
Dress the Part
You should dress conservatively for your interview, according to “Job Interviews: What to Wear” on Advance Healthcare Network for Nurses. For male nurses, that means a suit and a tie. Female applicants should wear a business suit.
“Your skirt hemline should not be more than a few inches above the knee, and slits should be smaller and centered on the back. Your skirt should cover your thighs when you are seated.”
Think of Questions You Might Be Asked
Consider the different types of questions — both standard and more focused — a hiring manager may want to ask, and be prepared to answer them. Here are three examples of standard questions hiring managers may ask:
- What made you choose nursing as a career?
- How do you handle stress on the job?
- What interests you about working here?
Potential employers may also ask more in-depth questions, such as what you find difficult as a nurse, your ability to work as part of a team, how you handle patient complaints, and what you can contribute to the work environment.
Keep Your Answers and Attitude Positive
“Nurse Interview Questions and Advice” by Alison Doyle recommends keeping your answers positive, even when the subject matter is difficult. For example, if asked what you find most difficult about being a nurse, turn the answer around to highlight your qualities.
Instead of replying to the question with a negative, you can use the opportunity to explain how you consider difficulties to be challenges. You might also want to give an example of how you overcame adversity. For instance, if you have ever had to work with a difficult family, explain how you gained the family’s trust by working to establish effective dialog.
Be Prepared to Ask Solid Questions
Asking the interviewer thoughtful questions can improve your image and help you determine if a facility is a good potential match.
ANA suggests asking about the nurse-to-patient ratio as well as the aide-to-nurse ratio. This will help you determine if the facility is adequately staffed.
You may also want to ask about the nurse turnover rate, and if it is high, ask them why. You can also ask about such things as who covers parking and uniform expenses.
Employers are looking for workers with a solid nursing education, work experience and credentials. You have worked hard to become a top nurse, but it is also important to demonstrate this to employers. A solid resume and polished interview skills can get you closer to your dream nursing job.
Learn more about the CMU online RN to BSN program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.