top of page

How To Make a Resume For Nursing

Whether you are just finishing up nursing school or are an experienced professional in the field, you need an optimized nursing resume to land your dream position. In this guide, we'll show you exactly how to optimize your resume to get past applicant tracking systems and land that job interview. When submitting your application online, your resume is most likely first going to be seen by a piece of software, known as an applicant tracking system or ATS, and not a human. Therefore, if you want your resume to ever be seen by a human, it must be optimized to pass the ATS. One thing to note about an ATS is that this software analyzing your resume was not designed by persons in the medical field. The only thing an ATS is interested in is whether or not your resume matches certain keywords, skills, and certifications from the job description. To set your resume up for success, let’s take a closer look at how an ATS functions and ranks resumes.

What To Include In Your Resume

When you begin writing your resume, you may wonder what to include. Should I include more about my education and certifications, or should I go into more detail about my clinical experience? The answers to questions like these often lie in the job posting itself. For example, one nursing position may emphasize more education and/or certifications; while another employer may look more so to experience. The key to knowing what to include in your nursing resume is to look carefully at the job description. That’s where Idea Resume can help. Use our resume scanning technology here.

Your Work Experience Section

After looking at the job description, it’s time to add your work experience to your nursing resume. This section of your resume is vital in getting you past applicant tracking systems. The key is to add relevant details from your past positions. Most applicant tracking systems will rank resumes according to the content of the job description. Therefore, use the job description as your guide. Should you focus on hard skills, soft skills, certifications, functions you performed? The answer lies in the job description. However, it is important to note that adding what many recruiters call "fluff" to your resume isn’t recommended. While working on your work experience section keep in mind that most applicant tracking systems rank skills found in this section, not those found in a separate skills section. Therefore, add your skills to the work experience portion of your resume.

Most applicant tracking systems (ATS) can actually match your skills to the job dates and compute your total years of experience for each skill and the date that you last used each skill. This is very important information. You can still use a separate SKILLS section on your resume, just be certain that you also put all of those same skills into the individual positions in your WORK EXPERIENCE section. For example, suppose your resume contains a separate SKILLS section where you have mentioned Monitor Vital Signs, but Monitor Vital Signs is not found anywhere in your WORK EXPERIENCE section. An ATS might label that skill something like this: Monitor Vital Signs, total months experience: 0 months. Whereas if you add Monitor Vital Signs into a position in your WORK HISTORY section that changes things. Notice these 2 contrasting examples:

Example 1:


Acme Health Inc. | Registered Nurse | January 2015 - January 2020

Assisted physicians in my practice to Monitor Vital Signs of patients during physical exams while keeping accurate records.

Example 2:


Monitor Vital Signs | Basic Life Support | Ability to Withdraw Blood Samples

Example 1 would lead to 5 years of experience with monitoring vital signs being credited to you as a candidate. (Notice the years of experience we underlined in example 1 above) Example 2 would lead to zero years of experience with monitoring vital signs being credited to you because there are no dates for the ATS to associate with the skills listed in the SKILLS section. This same principle applies to any and all skills on your resume. Whenever possible, include your skills in the relevant WORK EXPERIENCE section of your resume and get full credit.

Your Education and Certifications Sections

In this section, list all of your degrees. Names of schools and dates of completion are also important aspects that need to be included.

Create a separate section for your certifications. Use only the name “Certifications” so an ATS can properly interpret the section. Also, it is important to note, when you are adding your degrees and certification, make sure that each is on their own line so that it looks neat and easily identified both for a human reading your resume, but especially the ATS. This will help the ATS clearly scan your entire nursing resume to look for particular qualifications.

Resume Design & Layout

The design and format of your nursing resume are just as important as the content within. Certain design elements in a nursing resume can cause problems. For example, having multiple columns on your resume can lead to an ATS turning your information into a jumbled mess. That’s because an ATS scans a resume line by line from left to right. It cannot discern line breaks as a human can.

Although certain elements, such as a headshot or graphics, may look nice to the eye, they are confusing to an ATS. Using fancy fonts is also not recommended. The key to designing your nursing resume is to keep it simple and neatly organized. Though it may seem plain, it will increase your chances of getting an interview for your dream job. The exception to these design rules is when you are directly handing your resume to a human and not uploading it to a career portal or job board.

Avoid extra graphics and multiple column layouts on your nursing resume as illustrated below:

Avoid multiple columns and extra graphics on your nursing resume.
Avoid multiple columns and extra graphics on your nursing resume.

The Bottom Line

To help your nursing resume stand out from hundreds or thousands of other resumes, your resume should be:

  • Neatly organized

  • Simple, with no extra graphics or non-standard layouts

  • Full of applicable skills appropriate to the job description

If you follow the advice in this article, you can be assured that you will have a strong nursing resume that shows your experience, educational background, and required qualifications that a hiring manager is seeking.

bottom of page