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What’s hot (and not) in 21st-century resumes

If you ask a group of managers what they recommend nurse applicants include on their resumes, they would agree on many common pieces of key information. However, there are always new opinions about 21st-century resumes, and nurses should keep updated on what’s hot and what’s not.

What’s hot

A professional summary — Many resume-watchers think having an objective on a resume is old school. Something like, “Skilled, compassionate nurse seeking challenging med/surg position,” is admittedly pretty generic and won’t get noticed. However, if you compose several paragraphs and bullet points detailing your real-world accomplishments (including those that are quantifiable), your summary will be more attractive, especially if you gear it toward the position for which you’re applying.

Keywords — Rather than buzzwords (i.e., team player, collaborative, compassionate), try using keywords directly related to the position in question. For example, if you’re applying for a job in quality improvement, use words that demonstrate related knowledge of quality improvement and quality assurance. Buzzwords can seem empty; keywords can catch the eye. Hint: Steal keywords directly from the ad for the position and the company’s mission statement. Hit them with their own language.

What’s not

Buzzwords — Unlike keywords, buzzwords are the words you think they want to hear, such as team player, collaborative, efficient. Do these words really describe you or a generic nurse who is kind of like you? Be creative and thoughtful in your use of language; don’t waste precious real estate on lackluster vocabulary.

References — Please do not write “references available upon request” at the bottom of your resume. This is a given. You will be asked for references on the application; that’s the appropriate place for them.

Managers/supervisors — Do not list past or present managers and supervisors on your resume. Managers come and go, and putting someone’s name and phone number on your resume who may no longer be employed at that facility is bad form.

Invest in your resume

A resume needs to be well-written, neat, organized and grammatically flawless. Do you spend money having your hair cut? Do you get your suits dry-cleaned? Do you change the oil in your car? If so, spend money on having your resume edited by a professional; consider it an investment in your marketability.

Finally, review and update your resume every six months. When you change your clocks for Daylight Savings Time (apologies to those in Arizona) and change the batteries in your smoke alarms, also review your resume. You never know when you’ll need it, and a solid, updated resume will serve you just like a well-maintained car, a nice haircut and a freshly cleaned suit.

By | 2016-05-23T20:07:10-04:00 March 25th, 2016|Categories: Nursing Careers and Jobs|1 Comment
Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC
Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind and the award-winning blog, Digital Doorway. Keith is co-host of, a popular nursing podcast, and also hosts The Nurse Keith Show, his own podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses. A widely published writer, Keith is the author of “Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century.” He brings a plethora of experience as a nursing thought leader, holistic career coach, writer and nurse entrepreneur.

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    Thomas Bush October 19, 2016 at 8:05 pm - Reply

    Thank you Keith. Working in nursing for over 30 years has fed my soul my pockets my brain. As I enter the last half of my 50’s, not having a plan B for a career scares me. Being overlooked in the job market makes everyone uneasy, especially seasoned workers.I am thinking a specialty change is in store for me.Are there bridge programs to allow nurses to do internships for transitions? Are there any websites that could steer us along our paths?

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