Formatting a nursing resume after graduation from an RN program can be challenging. Often times, students will not know what information to include. It might surprise you what information is necessary, and what you can leave out. That’s why we compiled this guide for creating a professional nursing resume after graduation.
Nursing Resume Essential Contact Information
We’ll start with the easiest part of the nurse's resume: contact information. Your contact information should be at the top of the resume. It should be easy to read, in a clear and simple font. You should always include:
- Your full name.
- A good phone number to contact you with.
- A professional email address, with no references to your personal life.
- Your physical home or mailing address.
Other optional contact information includes your website if you have one. You can also include a link to your LinkedIn profile.
Your email address should be as professional as possible. It should also be a reliable email provider. For example, your school email may be reliable and professional, but you need to make sure that you still have access to it after you’ve graduated if you use it on your resume. It is perfectly acceptable to use an address from a public provider like Gmail. Avoid using inappropriate or irrelevant information. Use something like your name, or initials.
Nursing Resume Objective & Summary
The objective section of your resume should summarize what you can do for your employer. Some call this the “elevator pitch” or the “handshake” of the resume. It’s the first thing your potential employer will look at to get a sense of you. Before you write this section you should ask yourself a few key questions.
What “benefits” can I give my employer?
These are specific things that you know you do well that your potential employer needs. An example could be “I can give my employer the benefit of a nurse with great patient interview skills”, or “I love working with patients in a med/surge unit”.
What am I particularly good at?
As an LPN you should already know what nursing skills you're good at. It's easy to see how those skills will transfer to your RN job, e.g. “I am great at patient interviewing and can often get the “true” story out of my patients”.
Why do I want to work with this potential employer?
“I want to work with this potential employer because I think that I will learn. I will get to use my “people skills” every day”.
Why did you want to become an RN in the first place? What inspires you as a nurse?
“I wanted to become an RN to work in a hospital setting. Surgery patients are what inspired me to become a nurse in the first place”.
What are you seeking out of potential employers?
“I am seeking for an employer who has an available spot on a med/surge unit for newly graduate nurses. I prefer to working the night shift schedule, if possible”.
After you’ve answered these questions, write down your answers. Keep them in mind as you write your objective. A good objective will convey all of your answers.
Education Credentials for Your Nursing Resume
As a recent graduate, your resume should include all of your relevant educational credentials. You will want to include where you got your education as well as where you got your RN education. Both of these need to include…
Both of these need to include:
- The name of the school.
- The city and state where it is located.
- The date that you graduated.
- The specific name of the degree you obtained.
- Any certifications that you received the degree.
You can also include your GPA if it is above a 3.0. If your GPA is not above a 3.0 you should not include it. Instead, focus on what you can do to benefit the potential employer.
You should not include your high school information. That information is no longer relevant to the positions they are applying to. Including it would only take up space where you could include other important information.
If you participated in school clubs, programs, or extracurricular activities, you should include that information. However, the clubs and programs should be relevant to the degree you obtained. For example, if the school is where you got your BSN, you would not put that you were a part of the chess club. You would, however, include that you organized a breast cancer awareness campaign.
Using Your Work Experience to Spice Up Your Nursing Resume
If your previous work experience can set your apart from other recent RN graduates, be sure to highlight this. If you have previous medical experience, you’ve likely already worked with patients, and you're familiar with the healthcare process. This is advantageous when beginning to work as an RN. You will want to detail exactly what you did in this part of your nursing resume.
The work experience section on a nursing resume includes…
- The name of the company you worked for.
- Your direct supervisor’s name.
- A way that the company can be reached for verification.
- The amount of time that you worked there.
- What your responsibilities were while you worked there.
When you detail what your responsibilities, be sure to include specific ways that you helped your team. Avoid being vague if at all possible. For example, instead of writing that you “helped patients”, write that you “took care of the comprehensive needs of 12 unstable patients over the course of many 13-hour shifts”, or something similarly impressive.
You should take extra care to highlight any responsibilities that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. For example, if you are applying to be an RN in a pediatric unit, and you worked in a family practice clinic recently – highlight the fact that you worked closely with children and families.
Optional Sections to Include on Your Nursing Resume
Once you’ve written all these required sections, you can choose to include some optional sections. These sections aren’t necessary to make your resume look good, but they’re great if you’ve done a lot of extra, related work.
Certifications: As a recent graduate, you probably haven’t had time to get extra RN certifications. However, if you have previous medical experience, you may have gotten specialized certifications. If these certifications are related to the work you would be doing as an RN, you can include them here.
Volunteering: Relevant volunteer work looks great on a resume. You may even want to start volunteering in a related environment to the one you are applying to. There are many pluses to volunteering. You gain relevant experience. It will show that you are truly dedicated to the position that you are applying for. And your community volunteer organizations will gain a great new resource: you!
Professional associations: There are many national and local nursing associations to join. By joining them, you can show that you are knowledgeable and active in your field.
Recommendations: Listing these recommendations on your resume make you a great candidate. If you are currently working as an in the medical profession, while seeking employment as an RN, now is a great time to network. You will find great opportunities and recommendations among your coworkers and supervisors.
Nurse Resume Formatting
Resume formatting is a delicate balance. Your resume needs to be eye catching, but not flashy. It needs to show that you are passionate about being an RN, but not over eager. You have to demonstrate that you’re worth a high hourly rate without directly asking for it. It’s no wonder that many recently graduated nurses find this difficult. Here are some pointers to guide the formatting of your brand new RN resume:
- Make your name the biggest text on the whole resume, you can do this by bolding it or increasing the font size.
- Don’t use more than one page – resumes should be a summary rather than a long winded explanation.
- Highlight your academic achievements in your RN program.
- Have someone double check your resume for spelling or grammar errors.
- Post your resume somewhere online (like AllNurses) for feedback on what you could do better.
How to Dress for an Nursing Interview
Dressing professionally is one of the most important things you can do for an interview. As an LPN who has just graduated an LPN to RN program, you've probably already gone through this process before. Your clothes will be the first impression that an interviewer gets of you; even before you say hello, or shake their hand! Your clothes need to reflect that you are neat, capable, and professional. Often times people will say that you should dress for the job that you are applying to. This is not the case if you are an RN. Never attend an interview in scrubs. Unless your interviewer specifically says to wear scrubs, they are inappropriate for the interview process. Make sure that your clothes cover any tattoos because those are usually considered inappropriate for the interview process as well. Usually, business or business casual is what you can expect to wear in an interview.
The outfit should be made up of solid, neutral colors – for both men, and women. Bright colors or patterns take away from the business professional look. Ideally, an outfit…
For men, includes…
- Dress pants
- Button down shirt
- Tie/suit jacket – if possible
- Watch – if possible
For women, includes…
- Dress pants, or a skirt
- Jacket – if possible
- Very minimal jewelry, usually none at all
For women colors like red or gold can sometimes be used as accents. If you are not comfortable with adding accents to your outfit, you should simply stick with the basics. After all, the interview is ultimately about you.
Proper RN Interview Timing
Arrive to an interview early. This reflects that you are punctual and eager to begin working. The ideal time to arrive is 15 minutes early. Arriving more than 15 minutes early causes problems. Your interviewer may feel rushed because they don’t want to keep you waiting. To prevent this problem simply wait in your car until it’s time to go inside.
Arriving late is highly unprofessional. Many times it will result in the interviewer rescheduling you, or worse, cancelling altogether. It can ruin your interviewer’s first impression of you. Emergencies do come up, but unfortunately your interviewer has probably heard them all before. The best way to prevent timing issues with your interview is to leave very early. Simply wait outside when you arrive.
How to Research the Company You’re Interviewing With
Researching the company you’re interviewing with is essential. After all of the research you had to do in your LPN to RN program, this should come naturally! It will create a great impression, and showcase your attention to detail. Interviewers often ask you directly what you know about the position you’re applying for. If you can demonstrate that you already know many details about the job, your interviewer will know that you’re a dedicated candidate. Here’s the best method for researching the company you’ve got an interview with…
- Google the name of the company, open up the company’s website
- Write down when they were founded, and their basic company history
- Write down any recent good news about the company and its achievements
- If the company has a social media account, go through some of their posts to get a sense of their culture and tone, take notes
- Try to find a current employee to talk to about the company, take notes
After you’ve taken these steps, study your notes. Make sure to remember this information for when you’re interviewing. Try to retain as many details as you can. The more knowledgeable you are about the position, the more interested you will appear.
Practice Interviewing for the RN Position
The best thing that you can do to improve your interview skills is to practice. This will almost be like studying for an exam, just like you did for your LPN to RN program. You can practice with a partner, or answer questions out loud to yourself. An interview partner can be anyone you know, like a friend or a spouse. They just have to read questions for you.
The best practice interviews go from how you expect the interview to begin to how you expect it to end. For example, start the practice interview by introducing yourself and exchanging small talk. The interview begins the second that you walk into the door – not just when they begin to ask questions. You will be expected to behave professionally at all times. If you want to redo a question or a part of the interview, wait until you’ve finished. Then you can go over the parts you’d like to practice more. Some common questions that your partner can use are…
- Why did you become a nurse? (Or what inspired you.)
- What challenged you about your LPN to RN program?
- What made you want to work here?
- What methods do you use for handling stress?
- What are your weaknesses?
- How do you handle patients who are unhappy with their care?
- What would you do if you saw another nurse mistreat a patient?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
You can also ask your partner to come up with interview questions themselves for you. That way, you will have to think of your answer on the spot.
Dealing With Unexpected Interview Questions
The hardest part about an interview is dealing with unexpected questions. No matter how much you practice, there are bound to be questions you didn’t expect. Do your best to come prepared. This will allow you to focus your energy on answering unexpected questions. An easy way to prepare yourself is by outlining how you expect the interview to be conducted. After you can outline the interview from start to finish, you can prepare properly. Answer these questions to outline your interview:
- What type of interview will it be? In person, phone, or group?
- Where will the interview be?
- When should you leave to get there on time?
- What will you wear to the interview?
- How will you greet your interviewer?
- How will you answer the questions that you can practice?
- How will you answer questions that you didn’t practice for?
- How will you end the interview strong?
- What will you do to follow up with the interviewer?
These questions should give you a basic timeline of your interview. Identify areas where you can see that you will struggle. For example, if you have a time management problem, focus on what you will do to get there early. If you have interview anxiety, practice interview questions as much as possible. In the end, there will always be elements of the interview you couldn’t plan for. By expecting to be surprised, you can keep yourself flexible and able to perform well.
How to Ace Your LPN to RN Job Interview
Questions and answers are the basis of every interview. Making the jump from LPN to RN is no different. Your interviewer asks you questions, and you try to answer them professionally. You ask your interviewer questions, and they give you information you need on the position. The details of these exchanges are paramount to getting a job as an RN. Your answers need to demonstrate what the interviewer is looking for in a candidate, and your questions need to demonstrate that you are genuinely interested in the position. We researched and found the best questions and answers for any RN interview. This information is great for new graduates, and nurse veterans alike. Some of the answers may surprise you, no matter how many years you’ve been going to interviews.
Best Answer Strategies for LPN to RN Interview Questions
Before we begin, you should know the methods behind nursing interviews. Most nurse recruiters and nurse hiring managers use what is called “behavioral interviewing”. This method of interviewing encourages the interviewer to present statements, not questions. The statements will prompt you to give specific examples of how you behaved in the past. A common behavioral statement is, “Tell me about a time that you had to handle an angry customer.”
A behavioral interview will likely start with small talk and some questions about your work history. The interviewer will then move onto general statements like, “Tell me about yourself.” Finally, the interviewer will move into behavioral statements.
Virginia Tech created a technique for answering these questions called S.T.A.R. You begin by describing the Situation and Task. Then you move onto the Action you took and the following Results. Here are the most common behavioral statements, and how you can prepare to answer them using S.T.A.R.
“Give an example of a time you did a good job as an RN.”
- Situation: A specific situation in which you, and only you, directly contributed to the well being of a patient. This should be one of your “shining moments” as a nurse. If you are a new graduate from an LPN to RN program, you can ask your interviewer for permission to use an example from your time as an LPN. Usually this example will come from your experience working as an LPN.
- Task: The task that you were given to assist the patient. This task can be big or small, but the way that you approached it should be impressive.
- Action: Describe exactly what you DID to take on the situation and task. This action should be an example that showcases your ability to go above and beyond for a patient. It should demonstrate your passion for nursing.
- Results: Tell your interviewer the solid and tangible results of your actions. Make sure to be as specific as possible. Avoid being vague. The results of what you did for this question should be something that you are very proud of.
“Describe a difficult problem you faced on a clinical rotation, and how you resolved it.”
- Situation: This situation should be one that you did not directly contribute to. If you are the one that caused the difficult problem in the situation you are thinking of using – do NOT use it. A good situation would be one that was out of your hands. A situation in which a patient had a particularly difficult medical condition would be a good example.
- Task: Describe what you were told to do to assist with the problem. Again, this can be big or small.
- Action: The specific action that you took that resolved the problem. If the situation was difficult, you may have taken many actions to try and resolve it. Instead of describing everything that you tried, only describe what you did that worked. You can simply say “After trying everything I could think of, I decided to be more innovative. This is what I did that worked.”
- Results: The results of your problem solving should be the main focus of your answer. Describe exactly how your resolution to the problem was efficient, effective, and innovative. Make sure that you include exactly how your patient and team benefited directly from what you did.
“Describe a conflict you had with a coworker, and what you did about it.”
- Situation: It is extremely important that you choose this situation carefully. The conflict should be of a professional nature, not personal. You also do NOT want to describe a conflict in which you were in the wrong. Try to find a conflict that was purely professional, in which you were in the right, that ended with a better patient outcome. If you are an LPN to RN graduate, you can choose a situation from you experience as an LPN.
- Task: The task for this situation will usually be one that you gave yourself as a result of the conflict. In rare cases, it will be one that your manager or professor may have given you to resolve the issue.
- Action: The action that you took to resolve the conflict is where you should place the focus of your answer. Your interviewer wants to know what YOU did specifically to resolve a conflict with a peer. Your action should reflect professionalism, empathy, and humility. Be careful that you do not come off condescending or resentful over the conflict.
- Results: The results of the action you took should always be positive. Ideally, the results are a better patient outcome, or a more efficient method of patient care.
Keep in mind that these statements may be worded differently than they are worded here. The basic concepts are always the same. Your interviewer will want you to describe…
- How you have gone above and beyond for your patients.
- How you have innovated in the face of difficulty.
- How you have remained professional and humble during conflict.
Key Questions to Ask Your Interviewer
At the end of your interview, your interviewer will ask you if you have any questions about the position. As we said before, asking questions at the end of the interview demonstrates that you’re genuinely interested in the position. It’s a good idea to create a list of questions to ask your interviewer. You should have this list ready and memorized before the interview begins.
Many resources suggest you ask questions that make you seem knowledgeable about the position. This is a great method for approaching an interview. However, if it's done incorrectly, it can cost you the respect of your interviewer. The questions used in this method sometimes ONLY make you seem knowledgeable. They generally lack any actual interest in the subject of the question. Your interviewer can easily pick up on that. In the best cases it can make you seem like you’re trying to sweeten them up. In the worst cases it can make you come off as a know it all.
For that reason, it’s very important to pick interview questions that serve two purposes. The first purpose is the most important, getting information on the position that you genuinely want to know. The second purpose is to demonstrate that you know what the position entails. For example, let’s say you’re applying to a family clinic. You can ask simple questions about the average amount of patients per day, who you’ll work with directly, and the details of daily duties that aren’t included in the job description. You can even ask for a tour of the facility, if it seems appropriate to the setting.
You should make a special note here that there are some questions that you should NEVER ask during an interview. You may genuinely want to know some information but it’s often best to ask those questions once an offer has been made and negotiations have started. Read on for more information on this.
5 Questions to NEVER Ask During an RN Job Interview
1. “How much money will I make? What will my benefits be?”
This is a highly unprofessional question to ask during an interview. You may want to know the salary and benefits of the position. Most candidates do. The problem is that interviewers often don’t have that information ready yet. Even if they did have the information ready, it would be a terrible business practice to reveal what the estimated budget is before negotiations have started. From a business standpoint, this question could cost them money. Asking it too early lacks tact, and can come off as rude. Always wait to talk about the salary and benefits until you have an offer on the table that is open to negotiation.
2. “Did I get the job?”
The truth is that your interviewer really doesn’t know if you’ve gotten the job. That is unless they are the sole person responsible for budgeting, hiring, training, and managing staff. Your interviewer is going to need to consult with other people before deciding if you’re the person for the job. On top of this, you’re probably not the last person they’re going to interview that week. They could like you and want to hire you, but it’s very possible that they’ll interview someone right after you who simply has a better rapport with them. They will always let you know if you’ve gotten the job. They will say it directly, and in no uncertain terms.
3. “Do I have to take a drug test? Do you do background checks?”
Even if you are worried about it, do NOT ask your interviewer these questions. Generally, the only reason someone asks this question is if they’re worried about the results. If you are worried about failing a drug test to get employed you may want to seek assistance. There are special rehabilitation programs specifically designed for nurses. They are completely confidential, and your interviewers will never know that you had to participate in them. All you have to do is contact your state’s board of nursing for more information.
4. Any question about the company that can be easily found online or in the job posting.
These questions are often asked to appear more interested in the place you’re applying to. However, the information is freely available to anyone. By asking these questions, you’ve essentially just told your interviewer that you didn’t do your research beforehand.
5. Any question about the position that is already detailed in the job description.
These questions are also used to appear more interested in the position. They give the interviewer the same impression: that you didn’t do your research. Read all materials provided to you about the position very closely. That way you can avoid seeming like you don’t know what you’re applying for.
Remember to Thank Your Interviewer
There are two times that you should always thank your interviewer. First, at the end of your interview as you are leaving. Second, with a handwritten note or email sent within 24 hours after the interview. There is no need to over-do the thank yous with fancy language or formalities. Try to speak from the heart, and thank your interviewer for the opportunity that they’ve provided to you. Keep in mind that even if you didn’t get the job – your interviewer spent their time and effort carefully choosing you out of probably a hundred applicants. That means that you should be grateful, genuine, and warm with what you choose to say.
Good luck, nurses. Go have a great interview!
Nursing Resume and Interview Tips
There are tons of great tips out there for Nursing Resume and Interview Tips. For example, there are resume examples to fill out on Monster.com. There are job interviews to watch on YouTube. There's a whole community of experienced RNs at AllNurses.com. We combed through tons of interviews and found a particularly helpful “AMA” on a Reddit forum for nurses. AMA is short for “ask me anything”. The post was created by a nursing recruiter, who asked new nurses to “ask him anything” they wanted. Getting a nusing job interview doesn’t have to be hard with this great advice.
Q: “What should a new nurse put in an email to a recruiter to catch attention?”
A: “What I really look for is grammatical errors and spelling errors; I want to see that the person has really been thorough before sending me something. Just as I would want them to be thorough with our patients and patient family members.”
Q: “I’ve had difficulty finding a job. My interviews were short, and I feel I didn’t have enough time to impress my interviewer. What can I do to practice interviewing?”
A: “Google search behavioral interviewing, many recruiters use this and if you can teach yourself how to answer a question the way they want to hear it – you can wow them with your interview skills. Often times, the questions sound simple but what the recruiter is doing is seeing if you can give me a full and complete answer; once that involves a situation at hand, an action you performed and the reaction of the patient.”
Q: “What can a new grad do to stand out?”
A: “New grads, to me at least, stand out when they come to the office with energy. When they are smiling and appear to be ready to work. Although this is the most stressful time in your life, many recruiters look for people who they want to take care of their parents.”
Q: “What are the characteristics of the most promising nurse you’ve ever hired?”
A: “I love this question. I cannot say nurse, but I once hired a CNA who went on to be an RN, then to be a Manager, then to be a Director and then to VP of Nursing. Let me tell you, she called me on her second week of work (she was a CNA at this point by the way) and told me that she had asked a patient if she needed anything to be more comfortable and the patient said “actually, I wish I could wash my feet, even though I've bathed, I still feel dirty.” So she took the patient and washed her feet in a basin. The patient started to cry and she asked the employee asked if she was hurting her. The patient said “no, I just feel really loved.” This to me, is the perfect nurse. Someone who can tell you a story that really emits the love for the patient and for the fellow human being. Health care is very much about customer service and recruiters are looking for people who want to help people. If you go into an interview, make sure you’re talking about patients and patient needs.”
Q: “What would make you hire a new grad?”
A: “A lot of things make me want to hire a new grad. I love what I do so I usually connect with my applicants – I root for them. At the end of the day, it's more so up to the people who ask them their clinical questions. All I can do is pass them on (if they interview well.) Honestly, go into an interview with honesty. Talk about patients, or talk about your worse patient and how you turned it around. Go into your interview smiling and ready to work. Make sure you’re dressed for an interview and look professional. And if you want, send a little thank you note in the mail after. This small gesture has made me pull resumes from “maybes” to “yes.” It just shows that little extra effort that this applicant has the passion for this position not just the qualifications.”
Many of these questions and answers are paraphrased – so we encourage you to read the full thread. All of the advice for newly graduated nurses can apply for any LPN to BSN program graduate.
Getting a Nursing Job Interview: Online vs Paper RN Job Inquiries
The healthcare world can sometimes be slow to pick up on technology. The government only started requiring that patient records be kept digitally with a federal mandate in 2013. However, hospitals and clinics have been posting jobs online for many years. It’s become the main method for applying to a position. Some employers have even removed paper applications completely. For this reason, it’s highly suggested that you begin looking for employment online, rather than in person. Online applications offer a variety of advantages, including…
- The ability to apply to many places at once without ever leaving your home.
- The flexibility to fill out the application at your own pace.
- Big savings on gas – no driving around to places that may or may not hire you.
- No chances of your application getting lost or misplaced like paperwork.
Depending on where you want to work, you may want to stick to online applications exclusively. If you want to work in a small, family run clinic you may want to seek employment in person. There are rare cases in which you can apply in person, interview that day, and immediately get hired. These opportunities are becoming smaller as time goes on. If you want to get hired in a hospital, you will almost always need to apply online. Sometimes, even if you try to ask for an application in person, they will turn you away and tell you to apply online. In addition to this, websites like LinkedIn can offer a great advantage for new nurses.
How to Finish a Nursing Job Application
The only downside to online applications is that they are generally very lengthy. You will often answer the same questions on every application that you complete – which can make the process seem to drag on. On top of this, you must always complete an application completely, or risk being passed up for another candidate. Make sure that you always fill out the application completely and truthfully. It is actually illegal to lie on a resume. To make the application process easier, make sure you have all your information with you before you start. You will need..
- Your nursing license, including the date it was issued, the date it expires, and the actual license number.
- Any recommendation letters you may have received from previous employers for your LPN to BSN transition.
- All information relating to certifications you may have.
- Your social security card, or number if you have it memorized.
- A digital copy of your resume.
The rest of the information that you need for an application will depend on the facility. Generally, you will already know how to fill those sections out without extra paperwork. After you’ve finished an application you just need to wait for the employer to contact you with further details.
By following all of this advice, your resume and interview should land you an RN position in no time!