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When Bad Resumes Happen to Good Nurses

When Bad Resumes Happen to Good Nurses via Healthcare Career Resources Blog
Andriy Popov/

Ask any human resources professional, and you’ll get an earful of resume blunders guaranteed to make you shake your head, and nurses aren’t exempt from making embarrassing resume mistakes. Nurses seeking employment have sent resumes that included such helpful additions as:

  • A letter from her mother
  • A statement detailing her inability to get along with her previous boss
  • A résumé written as a play – Act 1, Act 2, etc.
  • Handwritten updates rather than actually updating the resume

My personal favorite? The applicant for a nursing position who noted on her resume that she didn’t like dealing with blood or needles.

Are You Ready?

An effective, polished resume doesn’t happen on its own. It requires a significant time investment to make sure you are creating a document that reflects your skills, education and experience, draws the reader in, and gets you in the door for an interview. If you have been applying and haven’t been getting calls for interviews, it’s time to dust off the resume and let some folks with more experience eyeball it and give you feedback.

“When you are getting dozens (in some cases, hundreds) of applications for each open position, there is no way that each applicant can be interviewed,” suggests a nurse recruiter on a popular online nurse’s forum. “I have to have some criteria to do that initial screening to get the applicant pool down to a manageable size. People who can’t take the time or make the effort to write a decent resume make easy targets.”

Start Strong

Drop the objective tagline already. No one does that anymore. Your objective is to get the job. We get it. Instead, lead your resume with a strong summary of qualifications that explain your abilities relative to the job you are seeking. In a resume created by, Florence Nightengale’s summary of qualifications might have looked like this: “Internationally renowned hospital reformer and founder of modern nursing whose dedication to improving healthcare delivery revolutionized the nursing profession on a global scale. Pioneer in using new statistical-analysis techniques to prove the need for enhancements in sanitation methods, patient nutrition, and medical facilities.”

Spell-check is your friend. 

Be really careful. No, I mean it. Edit the heck out of your resume. We all have that friend who could cheerfully argue the merits of the Oxford comma – that’s the friend you want to ask to review your resume. Have it proofread by several people. More than one recruiter talks about throwing resumes in the trash when they catch the first typo. If you aren’t careful with your spelling and grammar, what makes HR think you will be careful with medication dosages and physician orders?

Where’s the Beef?

You need to have a certain amount of information packed in to your 1-2 page resume. Don’t be the nurse who forgot to include her name on her resume. That also happened. Yours should include your:

  • Contact Details
  • Summary
  • Experiences
  • Education
  • Key skills
  • Personal Details (keep it relative)
  • References

Don’t be creative

Creative resumes are for folks who work in hipster art galleries and uber cool ad agencies. No hand-lettered works of art, no pictures, pdf’s or slide shows needed. Even if you are applying to be a pediatric nurse, skip the pink scented paper with teddy bear and daisy graphics. That resume got pitched, by the way, but not until the HR office hung it up on the office so they could point and laugh at it as they walked by. Times Roman, twelve font, and traditional are the keys to the interview kingdom.

Be resourceful

Most colleges have career service offices you can visit for years after you graduate. They have staff who delight in reading and improving resumes! Make their day (and yours) by calling and see what resume services they offer – even if you have relocated and need to meet virtually. After all, it’s in their best interest to make sure you are gainfully employed and can start paying off all those student loans you accumulated!

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About Angie Best-Boss RN

Angie Best-Boss, ASN, BA, MDiv is a psychiatric nurse and freelance writer from the Indianapolis, Indiana area. Angie has three daughters and can usually be found with her nose in a book, crafting or, in warm weather, geocaching.