Top 5 Nursing Resume Questions Answered

Sep 8, 2020
Ashley Haugstatter BSN, RN, CPN, CCRN

Nursing resumes are an incredibly important, albeit often overcomplicated, part of making your way through nursing assignments. For an overall explanation of what a nursing resume is and what goes into one, check out this quick guide to nursing resumes. Otherwise, keep reading for the top five, most commonly asked nursing resume questions!

1. Do you have any tips to help with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)?

Something I’ve been seeing more and more frequently with the widespread use of purchased templates — make sure none of your information is in a table! So many of the beautiful resume templates out there unfortunately have your information formatted into a table, this can make it extremely difficult for the ATS to extract the information from your resume. 

I’ve tested them through our own ATS (Healthcare Source) at my workplace, and they do not pass the test! Those templates are awesome to use if you are printing and handing someone a resume, but they are a no-no if submitting to an ATS.

Definitely use keywords! Pick up on how the job description phrases things and mirror that - including the position name. The keywords from the job description are often programmed right into the ATS, and when the system picks up on them, your resume can rank higher. 

At the same time, be sure you're utilizing the key words in a natural way - you still want it to read well when a human reads it and not the computer! Type words out completely and use common terminology to describe previous experience - i.e. don't put "5 North" for your unit, put Cardiac Telemetry Unit, and write out Intensive Care Unit or Emergency Department instead of putting ICU/ED.

2. What order should the categories on nursing resume be in—skills, education, work experience, etc?

You will hear different things on this from different people, some are adamant that they be ordered in a certain way. 

In my experience, a tried and trusted order is:

  • Personal Information at the top
  • Professional Summary
  • Education
  • Work Experience
  • Licenses and Certifications
  • Honors, Awards & Presentations
  • Professional Affiliations
  • Nursing Skills

For more suggestions on resume formatting, check out this guide to nailing your nursing resume and interviews.

man holding pen looking at and writing on nursing resume

3. You might have heard mixed opinions on this one, but is it helpful or hurtful to include birth date (age) in a resume?

I recommend that nurses NEVER put their birthday or age on a resume. This is one of those pieces of information that HR and management is not permitted to ask you. Unfortunately, “ageism” can occur (in both directions of age and experience), and you don’t want to volunteer that information for them to use against you before they even meet you.

4. Any recommendations for travel nurses with really diverse nursing experience on how to best market that experience concisely?

Being a travel nurse comes with an implied level of skill and clinical experience, so when listing out your assignments, you don't need to include tasks. Instead, include the most relevant and value-adding information. 

An example would look like this: 

Trusted Health | Travel Nurse, Pediatric Critical Care

  • June 2020 - August 2020: Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital, Syracuse, NY, Level I Trauma Center, 15-beds
    - Trained as Charge RN to assist with staffing needs
  • March 2020 - May 2020: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, Level I Trauma Center, Magnet, 36-beds
    - Floated and cross-trained to NICU and Pediatric CVICU 
  • December 2019 - February 2020: Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, New York, NY, Level I Trauma Center, 28-beds
    - Received DAISY Award nomination for extraordinary nursing care

5. Would you try to condense your resume onto one page, or is it okay to have more (not including your cover letter)?

For new graduates, I encourage trying to fit everything onto one page. Keep in mind that for your resume to look as professional as possible, it should be one or two full pages, maximum. If you are at 1.5 pages, you should be condensing or formatting differently to fit the relevant information onto one. 

However, if you have a lot of prior experience that is in some way relevant to nursing (customer service, food service, EMT/ Paramedic, management or leadership, etc.) and you want to include it, you can. Just be sure that the most important information that the recruiter/ manager should know is still on that first page.

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