Resume Tips & Application Advice from Nurse Managers & Recruiters

4 Min Read

We recently teamed up with the Saint Luke’s Health System talent acquisition team, Adidja Suleman and Bret Knappenberger, and Laurie Wilson, RN, BSN, a nurse manager from Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute during our Facebook Live Event Series – The Job Hunt spotlighting resume tips and the application process for nursing students.

Thanks to our thousands of viewers, we received a ton of great questions about this process. To help answer your questions, we turned back to our panel and are sharing their advice below.

Resume Tips

How long should my cover letter and resume be?

One or two pages is a-okay. If you have enough relevant experience for two pages, it’s okay to make it that long!

Will not having an internship have a large impact on being able to find a job?

While internships certainly stand out, there are many other ways that you can make your resume stand out without an internship experience. Think – student athlete, customer service or multitasking jobs such as a bartender or waitress, and highlighting each clinical experience.

I have been in medical field for 28 years how far back should you list jobs on a resume?

List any relevant information! However, you should be the most descriptive of your roles from the past five years. Keep in mind, your past experiences in the medical field will still be relevant to the roles today.

For our resumes, if this is our second or third career, should we have both a detailed healthcare experience section and job history?

Yes, it is definitely important to highlight your healthcare experience and all relevant job history. Include how your first career or second career roles had translatable to the skills that nurses should possess. As we mentioned above, be the most descriptive of your roles from the last five years. Don’t forget to include this background information in your cover letter!

How do nursing managers view stay-at-home moms and long gaps in employment? How does someone handle that in a resume and cover letter?

This comes up often! Be sure to explain the gap in your cover letter. This will give future employers an understanding as to why there is a gap. Also, consider taking a refresher course in nursing skills and opportunities. This will also be something worth mentioning on your resume and cover letter.

If we have had previously certified nursing assistant and licensed medication aide experience should we list that. Even if you are no longer practicing.

Yes, do! Any relevant past experience that can make you stand out amongst other candidates should be included.

Are recommendation letters from nurses that we work with during our clinical beneficial? Is it appropriate to ask them for one? I always feel bad taking up their time any more than we already

Most organizations do not require any recommendation letters. Oftentimes, what is better than a recommendation letter from those nurses is for them to refer you and or consider you for future career opportunities. Instead of asking them for a letter, maybe ask if you can use them as a reference for future opportunities at that job. Don’t feel bad about asking, they love doing it for new nurses.

How much do recruiters view volunteer experience?

That’s a good question. Volunteer experience is certainly looked at, and it weighs heavier if it’s related to the position you’re applying for.

Do hiring managers look at social media profiles?

This question often comes up! It is recommended to play it safe just in case a prospective employer decides to look.

Does being a member of the National Student Nursing Association have any effect on ones resume?

Yes! It shows that you’re able to multitask between being a student, and also are a member of professional organizations.

Application Process

When should you start applying for positions if you are in the last semester of your program?

Now! Many employers look at spring graduates in January, and winter graduates in August. Students applying for internships should look 18 months out from their graduation date.

Should you go on interviews before you pass the NCLEX?

Yes! Employers understand that, at this point, you will have not taken your NCLEX Exam. However, they may still provide you with a job offer contingent upon completion of your state boards.

Are there residency programs that start in the fall?

Absolutely. Be sure to check with the various hospitals in your area, as this will be unique to each one of them.

Can you intern before taking the NCLEX?

You bet! Employers understand that their interns are still in school. Just be sure to list your graduation date on your resume / cover letter.

Is the probability of getting hired in a specialty that you want (for example the NICU) higher if that person did their practicum in that area, rather than just going in not having experience in that area?

The short answer is yes, however, if you really want to work in a certain specialty share that! Use your cover letter and interview as an opportunity to let your future employer know.

What are the chances of getting a job in a surgical department as a new grad?

Times have changed! In today’s world, many operating rooms are taking in new graduates. When you’re applying for roles or residencies, be sure to share where you want to work and why. It doesn’t hurt to apply to your dream unit.

Do all hospitals have a nurse residency program?

No, not all have nurse residency programs. Be sure to check with the hospitals that you are interested in to fully understand their protocol for new nurses.

What if I don’t know what specialty in nursing I want to do?  

You will never know until you try! Call the nurse manager and ask to shadow in those areas that might be of interest.

Do thank you notes matter?

They sure do! You can follow up via email, but a written thank you note adds a very nice touch. Consider using specific talking points from your interview.

Be sure to like our Facebook page for more tips, tricks and nursing 101.


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