Don't let your healthcare resume fall to the bottom of the pile.
Working in a healthcare organization is about more than just patient care, technical proficiency, and the ability to work under pressure. Before you get to do all that and more, you have to get hired.
That means building a solid healthcare resume.
There's a lot of confusion among candidates about what a great healthcare resume should look like and whether it even matters. Those who are applying for patient-facing positions often feel that a piece of paper shouldn't make or break their candidacy at all. As a result, they tend to overlook their resume prep, potentially missing out on opportunities.
On the other hand, professionals who are looking for non-client-facing roles (such as an accountant, administrator, purchasing manager, finance staff, plant manager) usually make a different mistake altogether. The mistake? Many candidates are not applying for jobs exclusively within the healthcare industry, but are using the same resume for every application. While it's not wrong to diversify your application process, a resume customized for a job opening in healthcare is critical for success.
This article will walk you through eight steps to ensure that your healthcare resume showcases you in the best light, no matter what type of healthcare position you are interested in.
1. Review your contact information
The very first thing to check is that your contact information is placed in the body of your resume — not in the header. Otherwise, there is a chance that the ATS won't see your name or your all-important credentials. Next, double-check that your credentials are listed in the correct order: highest degree earned, licensure, state designations, and national certifications. For example, your name might look like Michelle Smith, MSN, RN, CPEN. Translated, it means you have earned a master of science in nursing, you are a registered nurse, and you hold a pediatric emergency nurse specialty and certification.
Normally, it is best to not include your full address on your resume. Instead, just include your city, state, and zip code. If you are looking to relocate for the job, you might include a statement like, “Looking to relocate for a position in the Boston area.”
Finally, make sure that your email address looks professional. Your first and last name only is best, but small variations are allowed (you might use your middle initial or your certifications). Just don't include any mentions of your birth year or any other personal details. Also, don't forget to include the URL to your LinkedIn profile.
2. Include a strong professional summary
Your resume should open with a strong, one-paragraph statement known as your professional summary. Be sure to include the number of years' experience in your specialty, facility designations, supervisory experience, and any non-technical yet relevant skills you have that would set you apart from the rest.
Here is an example:
Registered nurse with 10 years of clinical experience in a hospital emergency room setting, 7 years with a pediatric emergency room specialty. Skilled in technical procedures with a strong emphasis on patient assessment, assisting physicians with procedures, and excellent nursing care. Successful in prioritizing tasks, delivering acute care, and exercising sound judgment. Excellent communicator and strong patient advocate. Fluent in Spanish.
Another note on non-medical skills: If you have experience with EMR software systems for managing patient care, be sure to list the systems you have worked with in a skills section after your professional summary, noting where you have strong proficiency. Doing so demonstrates that you are tech-savvy and willing to adapt as the industry evolves away from paper-based records.
3. Customize your resume for each position
As you select the job openings you are interested in, review each job description carefully. You may even print the job descriptions and highlight keywords or points of emphasis, or put them through a word cloud generator to see what pops up most. Also, take a look at the prospective employer's website, run a search for recent media mentions and news about the organization, and check out their Twitter profile.
Then, create a version of your resume that uses relevant keywords and speaks to the organization's needs and culture. That way, your resume will feel as if it was written specifically for this job opening.
4. Beware the ATS
In order to have the best shot at landing an interview, your resume should be written for two audiences at once. It must be attractive to the human hiring manager, but before you get that far, you have to get past the resume gatekeepers, known as applicant tracking systems or ATS.
Many employers use the ATS to automatically screen out unqualified applicants based on predetermined criteria. The problem? An ATS can accidentally disqualify great candidates whose resumes don't hit the criteria they need to match the expected format and selection screens. So, be sure to use the keywords you have found in the job description. For example, if you are interested in joining an ER team, keywords like “emergency patient care,” “Level 1 Trauma Center,” and “critical care nursing experience” may be highly relevant and helpful. Integrate them into your professional summary, skills section, and description of your training and experience.
5. Choose the right resume format
While a healthcare resume usually follows the same layout as any other professional resume, candidates still have choices. Review these options and choose the one that will showcase your career and fit for the job. We have included a few best-fit recommendations below each format:
Reverse chronological resume
The reverse chronological format focuses on career progression and lists your jobs with the most recent one at the top. This approach showcases your growing list of accomplishments and a clear career narrative. Because it's the most commonly used format by professionals from all different fields, it's easily analyzed by the ATS. If your career is longer than 15 years, include more detail for recent positions and omit detailed descriptions for roles that are more than a decade old.
Best for: professionals with less than five roles within the past five to seven years, professionals with experience in one to two specialties, professionals applying for a similar role as their current one.
Combination or hybrid resume
A combination or hybrid resume blends elements of the reverse chronological format and the functional resume format (most professionals should steer away from the functional resume format as it is less likely to pass the ATS and be accepted by hiring managers). Instead, the combination resume opens with relevant skills, then transitions into job history with the most recent position listed first. This is a good choice for nurses who wish to highlight their multiple specialties, which could otherwise get buried in a reverse chronological resume.
Best for: nurses with experience in multiple specialties, seasoned travel (locum tenens) medical professionals, professionals with multiple small gaps in employment, professionals looking to change specialties or careers.
Do you need an academic resume for nursing?
You only need an academic resume if you are looking to apply your skills in an academic setting, such as teaching at a college. Nurses who are looking to continue their career in patient-facing roles should lean toward the traditional business resume.
No matter which resume format you select, be sure to list all your certifications and credentials. Spell out each one, include the abbreviation, list the credential in the body, and don't forget the license or certificate number and its expiration date. Employers often use this section to quickly sort candidates, and you want to demonstrate that you have all the licenses necessary to start immediately.
6. Use powerful words and evidence
If you want your resume to stand out, reflect on where your strengths and talents shine — then describe them using powerful action words, positive adjectives, and evidence. Include numbers where you can to help the reader understand the scope of your responsibility, the difficulty of the task, and the skills it took to do the job well. Here is an example:
Supervised staff of 5 Registered Nurses and 3 Certified Nursing Assistants in delivering chemotherapy and performing specialty procedures in a Pediatric Oncology/Hematology clinic.
Here is another example for a professional in a non-patient facing accounting role:
Collaborated across 3 specialty groups to research and resolve intercompany reconciliation variances that had been outstanding for over 2 years. Developed, presented, and implemented a new set of quarterly intercompany reconciliation standards that have resulted in zero unexplained variances since then.
Be sure to include things like public speaking, presentations, training curricula developed and delivered, participation on interdisciplinary teams, grant writing, and participation in CQI (continuous quality initiatives), if relevant.
7. Stay away from “creative” resume elements
A resume format can feel stiff and limiting, so it's common for healthcare candidates to add their own touch through choosing a different font, picking an unusual graphic for bullet lists, or even including images. Unfortunately, those tactics can often backfire with most ATS programs having limited ability to “understand” and evaluate those design elements. Instead, many will simply disqualify or downgrade a resume for using them.
Healthcare candidates should use standard headlines (“Skills” instead of “What I do best,” and “Work Experience” instead of “What I've done”), simple fonts (Ariel and Times New Roman in a font size of no less than 10), and simple black dots for bullets. Do not include charts, tables, or infographics.
8. Special considerations for locum tenens
Locum tenens is an independent contractor arrangement where a healthcare professional has significant flexibility regarding how many hours they work and what kind of work they do. Locums are useful for facilities that need just-in-time help to cover demand surges or temporary gaps in scheduling.
For medical professionals, locums provide opportunities to work in a different geographic region or to alternate periods of working with time to vacation, study, or spend time with family. Locum tenens can be a great way to make extra money, experience different practices and facilities, and combat burnout.
Although a physician or a nurse working under a locum tenens arrangement may look just like a similar professional who's employed full-time, the very nature of locums creates additional expectations and requirements. For one, the temporary nature of locum tenens means that there is no time for lengthy orientations; the professional is expected to hit the ground running with a minimal overview of the facility and the team. Candidates whose resumes can demonstrate their ability to get up to speed quickly would have an advantage.
Beyond that, medical professionals who are working locum tenens should update their resumes frequently. Locums' opportunities may be short-term, but each one adds valuable experience, so make sure that your resume reflects them all.
Use a checklist when reviewing your resume for common errors
It's important that once your resume is ready, you look over it again. Here is a checklist you can use to review your resume and catch any mistakes:
Eliminate any mention of your birthday, birth year, graduation date, or any dates that could lead to age discrimination.
Print your resume and read it backwards (i.e. from last word to the beginning) to catch any typos.
Double-check that your contact information is in the body of the resume, not in the header.
Review the order in which you've listed your credentials. Here is the preferred order: highest degree earned, licensure (include license number and expiration date), state designations (listing the accrediting body and credential/certification number, where applicable, plus the expiration date), and national certification.
When in doubt, ask for help
If you're still not sure if your healthcare resume is ready to land you the job, you might want to consider some expert help. A professional resume writer is equipped with the knowledge and expertise to turn your resume from ordinary to extraordinary. Not only do they understand how to beat the ATS and highlight your value in a way that impresses a hiring manager, but they also understand what will make you stand out among other healthcare professionals. Just like a mechanic knows everything there is to know about your car, a resume writer is an expert in their field.
Don't wait to have the healthcare resume you need. Ask for expert help from a TopResume writer today!