Nursing Resume & Cover Letter Tips to Stand Out as an RN


Nursing resume and cover letter tips

By Alana Luna, Contributor

It’s easy to see your resume as a simple list of content that lets employers know what you’ve done, but you won’t get a job just by demonstrating you can do it. You need to convince the powers that be you can excel. Use these tips to create a nursing resume and cover letter that scores you an interview and puts you at the top of every recruiter’s wish list.

Kicking off your nursing resume: list your professional experience

Now that experts agree you should omit an objective from your resume, your first section after your name and contact info will be a list of your professional experience.

  1. Write down your job history in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent position first.
  2. Talk about previous jobs in past tense (i.e. “Led employee seminars on ethics” or “Coordinated care for a 10-patient unit”).
  3. Only list jobs within the last decade.
  4. Be as detailed as possible, using numbers to underscore your accomplishments and impact.
  5. Provide specific courses if they’re unusual and relate to the specialty you’re applying for.

If you’re just entering the workforce, this section will be understandably short, but you can still play up non-medical positions and use those responsibilities to convey your readiness for new opportunities.


This is probably the simplest section, as it’s a straightforward, fact-based rundown of where you went to school and what degrees or diplomas you achieved. Start with the highest degree earned and work backward.


A positive attitude is important in nursing, but strong skills are essential. Share your talents, innate and earned, so potential employers know your abilities are impressive, relevant and up to date. Don’t list every skill you possess. Instead, tailor your list to requirements in the job posting.

Hard Skills: These are the skills you learn in school, from textbooks, during practice clinicals and on the job. Hard skills, which are usually measurable or tied to a certification or other benchmark, depend on the specialty and include the ability to take vital signs, lead patient education classes, create treatment plans, administer medication, conduct admissions and discharges and oversee infection control.

Soft Skills: These skills, typically not quantifiable, are personal attributes you’ve develop to work more harmoniously with colleagues and patients. Soft skills may include things like teamwork, adaptability, communication, leadership, empathy and problem solving.

If space considerations make it difficult for you to include a separate skills section on your nursing resume, there is an alternative — weave your skills into other sections, including your Education (classes in specific techniques, for example) and under Professional Experience.

Certifications & licensure

Here’s where you’ll list your current licensing information and any certifications you’ve achieved during school or as part of continuing education. Detail the name of the license or certification and your certification number, when you obtained it and the expiration date (if applicable).

Bringing it all together with a cover letter

Think of your cover letter as not just an introduction but as your biggest chance to outshine the competition before you even meet your recruiter. On paper, many nursing applicants look surprisingly similar. You may share the same basic education, credentials, work experience and even skill set as your competition, but you have something no one else has: you.

Use your cover letter to convey your passion for your profession and highlight the things you’re most proud of. Remember to emphasize the current job opportunity; it’s vital to say why you want this job, versus any other job out there. What is it you hope to gain from this position? What will you bring to the team?

Try to construct your sentences in an employer-oriented way by avoiding too many “me” statements and limiting the number of times you begin a statement with “I.” This is where you showcase your value and get recruiters to sit up and pay attention. Make each word count.

Nurses are in demand, with job outlook expected to soar a whopping 15 percent between 2016 and 2026. Still, there are other nurses hungry for new challenges. To get the job you want, you need to stand out, and that requires crafting a nursing resume and cover letter that goes the extra mile. 

Do that, and you’ll be more likely to find your dream nursing job and get hired for it.

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