Make your resume stand out

Building a nursing resume is a task that many nurses find to be daunting. Where to begin? How do you show your true clinical skills and experience? How do you differentiate yourself?

There are many ways to format your resume, show your experience, list your credentials and skill set. There are also important things to learn and understand about applying to jobs in todays nursing market such as ATS and “Knock out Questions”. These things are important to getting your resume seen and also snagging that new role!

I. Choosing a format

While there are many formats to choose from from functional to chronological to combination, one rises to the top for nurses.

CHRONOLOGICAL–This is the most common and widely preferred resume format for nurses. This format lists your work experience and education in reverse chronological order, while putting an emphasis on your work history. According to this format is best for: nurses who have had <5 roles in the past 5-7 years, Travel Nurses who are new or have less than 10 assignments completed, nurses with experience in only a handful of specialties, Nurses who are applying for a job in a similar role to their last, new nurses and nurses who want to show vertical career advancement.

On the other end of the spectrum, the FUNCTIONAL RESUME puts an emphasis on your skills, prior roles and accomplishments. The literature strongly suggests against using this format in the nursing field.

The last format type available is the COMBO RESUME. This type of resume, logically, combines the chronological and functional formats. suggests the combo resume for: nurses who have experience in multiple specialties and/or medical professions, Travel Nurses with >10 completed assignments, nurses with multiple small gaps in employment, nurses who would like to change their specialty and nurses seeking a new career.

II. Design Tips

Keeping ATS in mind, which we will dive into later, the design of your resume matters. Keep your design simple and clean. Formatting such as margins to overall length to font size and spacing distinguish your resume from the pack.

    • Font size should be not be smaller than 10, but ideally should be 11 or up and in Times New Roman or Arial in the body of your resume
    • Margins should be 1’’ on the top and bottom and between 1’’ and .5’’ on the sides
    • Keep your resume to 2 pages and 3 at max, depending on experience – despite common belief that a resume should be just one page. In a study conducted in 2018, recruiters were 2.3 times more likely to prefer 2-page resumes.
    • recommends the following font size across various parts of your resume:
    • Name should be 18-22 point
    • Contact info same as the body of your resume
    • Section headings should be 12-14 point
    • Body and descriptions should be 10-11 point

III. How to list Contact Information

Name, bolded and centered top of the page. Use a larger font too! Think 18-22 point.
MUST HAVES >> Professional email address, phone number, city/state you reside, nursing credentials.
Make sure your phone number differentiates from a land line or a cell as many employers will use text as a way to contact you!

    • Professional email address
    • Phone number
    • City/State that you reside 
    • Nursing credentials

Make sure your phone number differentiates from a land line or a cell as many employers will use text as a way to contact you!

IV. Nursing Credentials

A question I am frequently asked, “How do I list my nursing credentials?”…
Simply put, your credentials should be displayed in this format – Highest degree earned, Licensure, National Certification. Example: MSN, RN, FNP-BC This list should follow your last name at the top section of your resume. These will be further explained in another part of your resume.

V. Important sections/headers to include in your Resume

Sections should include:

    • Professional Summary
    • Skills (BE SPECIFIC)
    • Licensure (make sure you include your license # and expiration date)
    • Certifications and Credentials such as BLS, ACLS, CCRN etc. Make sure to include the full name of these certifications, not just the abbreviations. Also be sure to include expirations.
    • Work History
    • Educational background/history–omit graduation dates, that information is not applicable to your resume. List the institution and the degree earned
    • Accomplishments and Awards

VI. Saving your Resume

Common themes in the resume literature search related to saving your document are to save the document using your name and make it professional. recommends this simple format: firstlast_specialty_resume.doc (, 2021).
Here’s an example:

VII. Robots! Oh my!

Welcome to the 21st century job hunt, where before you can get your resume in front of an actual human being, you have to pass the screening efforts of Applicant Tracking Software (ATS). Essentially, this is a bot that is employer controlled using keywords to pull from resumes to ‘weed out’ applicants. Using what they call “knock out” questions, employers will use the bots to scan your resume to fine answers to questions such as “does the applicant have at least 2 years of critical care experience?”
They also can include disqualifying statements which are employer selected statements that will automatically remove your resume from the pool. Example disqualifying statements would include screening for anyone who does not have their BSN. So as an example, if you have your LPN and BSN, consider only listing your BSN. 

How do you know if the employer is using an ATS? If you have ever pressed or seen an “APPLY HERE” button, it is likely your employer has used ATS for their resume review process.

VIII. Want More Resources?

Want more resources? Check out this nurse led site that offers free resume resources and ed! My lit review consistently led me back to her information and website! Check her out!
Amanda Guarniere, MSN, NP-C or follow her on Instagram @theresumerx

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