How To “Wow” Employers With Your Cover Letter and Nursing Resume

Author: Rosemarie Eccleston – Senior Vice President, Nursing Services

How To Wow Employers With Your Cover Letter and ResumePutting together a well thought out cover letter and nursing resume that is truly representative of one’s accomplishments can be a formidable task for many job seekers. Your cover letter should be polite, concise and to the point.  This letter should quickly tell the recruiter or potential employer why they should grant you an interview before looking at your resume.  It should demonstrate your understanding of the position and how your skills are a perfect match for the job requirements.  If there are gaps in your work history, this is the place to provide a brief explanation.

The old adage of keeping everything on one page doesn’t necessarily apply to the modern resume – especially when one has been in the workforce for many years.  While it is important to highlight one’s major (and most recent) position, positions older than 5 years need just a brief mention to demonstrate continuity of service.

In that same vein of thought, recruiters with whom I’ve compared notes feel that in the majority of occasions, a career objective is superfluous.  This appears to be especially true in the field of nursing.  To say that one wants to help others and expand their base of experience is a given.  Otherwise, why are you bothering to apply for this position?

Though it may seem obvious, a resume should go on excellent quality bond (some say bond with a watermark is preferred).  Yes, resumes are sent from candidate to recruiter to potential employer via email, but one should always have hard copies of their resume available when going on an interview.  If nothing else, it demonstrates attention to detail and courtesy for the interviewer (so they don’t have to print out another copy to have handy during the interview).

Your resume should represent you in such a way that the interviewer has a good idea of what you’re like, a clear view of your career path and the way in which you will contribute to the company/healthcare facility.  To illustrate your work history most efficiently, your most recent position should be listed first.  Resumes that are easiest to read and follow are the ones that merit the most attention.  It is a good idea to bold the name of the company/facility and italicize the job title.  Don’t forget to include the beginning and end dates for each position listed.  Each job responsibility and accomplishment should be presented in bullet format with an action word preceding the description of the accomplishment.  Examples are: “developed and implemented pediatric unit activity log” or “decreased overall length of stay on rehab unit by 1.2 days by implementing earlier range of motion exercises”.

Once your resume is complete, review it critically and ask yourself if you would interview yourself if you were the recruiter/interviewer.  Do you sound interesting, intelligent, well rounded and capable of doing the advertised job?  I’ve had nurses respond to an ad for a position and ask what the job title meant.  Clearly that resume made a quick trip to the “out-going” file.  Have someone else review your resume and offer constructive feedback.  Don’t rely on spell check!  Words that are real words but used improperly are a disaster on a resume.  One of my “favorite” examples is the word affect vs. effect.  Here’s an example:  “I want my efforts to have a positive affect on patients”.  Spell check will not catch that error, but the interviewer will.  Misspelled words will relegate your resume to the “not suitable” pile before you have a chance to make a personal impression.  Take the time to read and re-read your resume before hitting the Send key or sealing the envelope.

The rule of thumb for resume submission is “perfection”.   Though you may be just starting your career, or have had a less than illustrious one, a well done, perfectly prepared resume that meets the job description will surely get you in the door for that all important first interview.

Good luck!


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