January 17, 2018

Resume Mistakes You're Making Right Now (And How To Fix Them)

Resume Mistakes You're Making Right Now (And How To Fix Them)

By Dawn Papandrea     

You've learned all of the pertinent nursing skills and earned your credentials – now it's time to find a nursing job! Whether you're just starting out or aiming to find a new nursing position, having a strong resume is important. You only have a few seconds to make a good impression as a job candidate, so you want to make it count.

If you've never created a resume before, or if it's been years since you've updated yours, chances are you might be making some common nurse resume mistakes. Go through this checklist to see if your resume contains any of these costly errors, and make the appropriate fixes to strengthen it. 

1. Having only one resume.

Although you might be applying for a number of similar nursing positions, every role is unique. Therefore, sending the same resume out is not as effective as slightly tailoring it for every employer. 

Start by carefully looking at the job description to see which skills are most important, and what the position entails. Then, using your basic resume, create an alternate version in which you focus on the employer's needs. You might rework the summary, move up and highlight the most relevant experience, or list any related skills or special certifications you may have.

2. Not being specific enough.

All nursing applicants will have similar skills listed on their resumes, so you have to try to stand out.

One way to do so is to get really specific about your accomplishments and experience. For instance, instead of saying "Assessed patients' medical status," you might say " Provided bedside care and clinical documentation for an average of 20 patients per day.

In other words, whenever possible, add in numbers, statistics, and concrete details that will help the resume reviewer understand the scope of your experience. 

Along those lines, be sure to also list any non-nursing skills that might make you a stronger candidate, such as if you are multilingual or if you are proficient in Electronic Health Record management.

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3. Using an objective.

No one uses objectives anymore – it’s already implied that your objective is to get a job if you’re sending out your resume. Instead, create a summary statement that is sort of your “elevator pitch.”

Describe your accomplishments, and what you would bring to a health care team (and don’t forget to tailor it to the job you’re targeting). Naturally, this gets easier for experienced nurses who have more accomplishments to summarize, but even new grads can use this format.

A sample new graduate RN objective might sound like: 

Nursing RN graduate with the requisite skill set to perform advanced patient care techniques. Possesses exceptional patient care skills, and has completed specialized courses in intravenous infusions, dialysis, and cardiac care.

For further details on writing a summary statement click here.


4. Not using keywords.

Today’s employers use applicant tracking systems (ATS) that scan resumes first before a human sets eyes on it. If you’re not including the keywords that are relevant to the position, your resume might never be seen.

The best way to keyword-load your resume is to look closely at the job posting. Try to use some of the same terminology in your resume since that is likely what the ATS will be programmed to find.

For instance, nursing resumes should probably contain the word “clinical,” as well as anything aligned with the position you’re seeking, such as “pediatric” or “neurology.

5. Unexplained gaps in the resume.

Whether you stopped working to raise a family, had a health issue, or went back to school for an advanced degree, seeing a long period of time with no work can jump out at a recruiter. One way you can get around this is by setting up your resume in a functional format.

Another option is to list what you were doing during the gap if it was career advancing, such as certification courses. If your gap was because of personal matters, then address it in the cover letter. You can say something like:

As my resume illustrates, I have 10 years of nursing experience in a fast-paced hospital setting. Although I did take some time off to care for my aging parent, I am eager to return to the profession I love.

Similarly, if your work history consisted of overlapping positions, such as if you held several per diem jobs at one time, you can include a line in your letter to explain that. 

6. Signs that you’ve never created a resume before.

Using a weird email address (like, including a selfie-style photo, or including your hobbies and interests on the resume send a clear signal – you don’t know how to create a professional resume.

Take the time to research some acceptable resume formats, and have a professional you know look it over.

Bonus tip: You can leave off “References Available on Request.” That’s an old-school practice that really isn’t done anymore.

7. A user-unfriendly format.

Remember, your resume is likely going to be scanned by an ATS, and read by a human. That means you want it to look clean, and it should be submitted in the format requested in the job posting – usually as a PDF or Word document. 

As for formatting, resumes should be broken up into sections, using bulleted lists and other eye-friendly formatting. Other than your short summary, there should not be any long blocks of texts.

Also, avoid using bright-colored papers, crazy fonts, and other “creative” touches. You’ll stand out, but not in a good way.

8. Listing credentials incorrectly. 

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) actually has a standard way to list the credentials after your name. Start by listing the highest earned degree, then your licensure, and then any additional specializations, and certifications.

So your name might look like this: Maggie Jones, MSN, RN, CNS. That indicates that you’ve earned a master of science in nursing, you are a registered nurse, and you have a clinical nurse specialist certification.

Then, at the bottom of your resume, you should list your education and degrees, followed by all of your licenses and accreditations, with expiration dates. Read this for more detailed explanation on listing your credentials.

So, how did you do? If you have any of these mistakes, it’s time to do a resume revamp. Along with a strong cover letter, your new and improved nursing resume will make you a more attractive job candidate.

Where Should You Submit Your New Resume?

High-paying nursing opportunities abound. As an in-demand nurse, you are in control of your career. Check out the best jobs from coast to coast on our job board. Get the pay and career path you deserve.


Dawn Papandrea is a Staten Island, NY-based freelance writer who specializes in personal finance, parenting, and lifestyle topics. Her work has appeared in Family Circle,, Parents,, and more.

Next Up: The Ultimate Guide To Writing A Nurse Resume

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