Rolling Hill nursing

Tips for Writing a Great New Nurse Resume - Free Downloadable Resume Template


MAY, 2020

With May being the biggest nursing school graduation month of the year, I wanted to dedicate a few posts to helping brand new nurse grads feel supported and ready to take on their first nursing job. Also, congratulations again, you DID IT!

Seriously, though, you should be so proud of yourself. Nursing school is no joke – unless it’s a cruel joke to push you to the edge of your sanity. Either way, you are on to the next chapter of your life and your nursing career.

Make sure to read last week’s post with the best nursing school graduation gift ideas. After all of your nursing finals, you definitely deserve a little pampering. You should be prepared for your first nursing job with the best tools of the trade!

In honor of you graduating and searching for your first nursing job, I want to make sure that you are prepared with some tips for writing an amazing new grad nurse resume. I also include some quotes and answers from Nurse Manager Kyle, who has reviewed HUNDREDS (maybe even thousands) of new graduate nurse applications. 

Kyle is an experienced Nurse Manager and previously a unit educator for a large medical oncology and bone marrow transplant unit at a metropolitan teaching hospital. She has interviewed and welcomed dozens and dozens of new graduate nurses to the unit (including me!). 

Make sure to subscribe to receive a free new grad nurse resume template. This is the same resume I used when I got my first new grad nurse job!

Once you have the template downloaded, make sure to follow all of the tips below to ensure you have the BEST new grad nurse resume.

1. Follow Typical Resume Etiquette

  • Be concise – keep it to one page.
    • If nursing is not your first career and you have a bunch of prior work experience, keep it to the most relevant experience.

Kyle mentions that keeping it to one page is so important because she is reviewing so many applications, that she really wants them to be concise and easy to read.

  • Proofread the resume. Then proofread it again. Then have someone else proofread it. And then just to be sure – read it again.
  • Include your contact info including phone number and email address.
  • Use a basic, easy to read font. This is not the time to use a fun font like papyrus… or wingdings. Typically Times New Roman is the most widely accepted and used font for resumes.
  • Keep the format simple and easy to read.
  • A lot of resumes have a little disclaimer at the bottom that says “references available upon request.” It’s really not worth taking up the real estate to say this, as it is already assumed. 
    • Also, most applications for positions these days are online and include a section for you to put your references.
  • Use active language NOT passive language
    • Bad: “Was responsible for handing out meds to patients.”
    • Good: “Appropriately passed out medications to patients throughout my clinical experience.”

2. Include Clinical Experience or Not?

Like everything in life, you will hear contradictory information. While doing my research for this post, the general consensus is to include your most relevant clinical experience to the position, speciality, or unit you are applying for. 

Also, make sure to include your senior capstone clinical (or nurse externship, or senior practicum, whatever your school called it) as this is the nursing clinical that you gained the most experience from.

Clinicals are a required part of nursing school, so the hiring managers know that you will have this experience. What makes it worth including in your resume is where those specific clinicals were done.

If you had clinicals on the specific unit or facility that you are applying for, definitely include that.

Kyle says, “I do look at clinical experience hours and where, but this can be very simple.” Throughout your entire resume, just remember, short and sweet.

3. Personalize It

Make the hiring manager feel like you are directing your resume at them. You have MAYBE five minutes to catch their attention. 

Kyle says, “We received 1,200 applicants for summer new grads as a system. I think we will hire around 200. I will review 80 on Monday that were pushed to me who indicated BMT. I will have 6 slots and do 18-24 interviews. So grab my attention.”

Make sure to tailor your resume to the specific unit or facility you are applying for. For example if you are applying to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU), include any clinicals you had in an ICU.

In your “objective” section, also personalize this to the specific position you are applying for.

Doing all of this might mean you have several versions of your resume with slight variations. That’s ok! Just label the document correctly and accurately, so you don’t accidentally send the wrong version to the wrong place!

Also, when applying for a position, write a cover letter… every time. This is your chance to really personalize why you want to work for that specific unit, facility, position. Don’t just repeat exactly what you have said in your resume. How have your experiences prepared you for this specific job? What makes you the best candidate for this role? What are your goals for the future in that position?

4. “Unrelated” Experience

There are a lot of new nurses who have had previous careers and may have a lot of really great work and life experience. If this is you, make sure to include the most relevant and recent experience. 

I have so much respect for the nurses who started their nursing path later in life. These are some of the best nurses I have ever worked with.

Pretty much any prior job experience that you have can be presented as being useful and relevant. So flaunt what you got.

I used to work in retail selling cell phone cases and I kept this on my resume because it shows that I have experience with customer service. If you worked as a teacher, that shows how amazing you are at education – which is obviously a huge part of patient care.

Even if you drove for Uber as a side-hustle, that shows that you are self-motivated and dedicated. 

Whether you had a previous career, part-time job, or side-hustle, you learned from that experience and you can easily apply that to why you would be an EXCELLENT nurse.

5. Volunteering, Activities, and Special Skills

Maybe you’ve never had a job in your entire life. That’s FINE! You are not the only one. I actually know several people who never had any kind of job before, and they still got hired as a nurse!

Kyle says she loves to know if you were involved in sports or if you were active in school activities or if you have any volunteer experience. I am sure there is something you have done that will grab the attention of whoever is reading. 

Adding details like this also helps show the hiring manager what you are like as a person. Don’t forget that every new grad nurse is coming in with zero experience as a nurse (more or less, yes you could have LPN or ADN experience, etc).

The person hiring you will want to make sure your personality is a good fit for the culture of their unit.

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Also, make sure to list any special skills that you might have. Did you get certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support? List it! Can you speak a second language? DEFINITELY list that!

Dig deep to figure out what makes you special and what will make your resume stand out! I can promise you there is something, because you ARE special. If you can’t think of anything, shoot me a message or comment below and let’s brainstorm it together!

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6. Final Words of Wisdom

Kyle had some other wonderful advice for new nurses applying for their first nursing job. To her, of course the resume is important, but what really catches her eye is the supplemental information that you provide. Make sure to STAND OUT, she says. 

Many times, when you apply online, these applications will have supplemental questions that the employer wants you to answer. Make sure to answer these fully and with specific examples. This is your time to shine. 

Kyle explains that she truly loves to see examples of you going above and beyond for a patient/customer/peer/coworker. Show the hiring manager why you want to be a nurse and why you want that specific position. Kyle said the biggest mistake she sees is people not explaining why.

I can verify that I have been asked “why nursing?” in every single nursing interview I have had – so it’s a pretty good idea to formulate that response ahead of time. My response: Nursing allows me to tangibly help people. There are so many ways to help, but nursing is an evidence-based and measurable science in improving people’s lives. It is a combination of intelligence and compassion.

A final tip that Kyle has for new grad nurses is including a letter of recommendation from a nurse. If you worked as a nursing assistant or medical assistant or anything along those lines, ask a nurse that you worked with closely for a letter of recommendation. 

If you don’t have an experience like that, ask one of the nurses that you met during your clinical rotations. Don’t forget that EVERY day is an opportunity to network and build relationships. You never know when someone might be able to help you advance your career.

Now that you have read my tips to writing a great new graduate nurse resume, go download my free resume template. Input all of your own information. Tailor it to you and the position you are applying for.

Once you have read it (and re-read a million times) send it to your DREAM job. If you are here, reading this, you were meant to be a nurse. You are meant to share your love and light with the world and HELP people. Now go get your first job and get working!

If you are a more experienced nurse and looking for a resume, there is actually a different resume I use. Shoot me a message if you would like a template for the experienced nurse resume.

When you start your first job, just remember that it will be a little overwhelming. Keep reading my posts and make sure to read these ones if you start to feel overwhelmed. 

These are the top posts that I think every brand new nurse should read:

Tips to Feel Less Exhausted During Your Shift 

Techniques for Quieting Your Mind to Fall Asleep

Positive Personal Mantras to Get You Through Your Toughest Shifts

How to Get Better at Any Nursing Skill

As always, I would love to connect with you on social!

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