If you want to keep your resume out of the notorious slush pile, think like a hiring manager. Hiring managers want solid evidence of what you’ll bring to the company, and they have less than a minute to decide if your resume makes you a candidate worth pursuing.

How can you move your resume to the top? Prove your experience and skills, don’t just claim them, says Scott Bennett, author of The Elements of Resume Style: Essential Rules for Writing Resumes and Cover Letters That Work and the blog WriteResumesRight.

Use words that show your experience, do not tailor your resume for each position, and show your real story, says Bennett, and you will come across as capable. “Don’t just use the words,” he says, “show it. Lots of candidates will write the words, but they aren’t backed up by any evidence.”

1. Be Specific

Because nursing positions might have similar titles but use vastly different skills, Bennett advises being very specific in each description. Were you an ER nurse in a rural hospital or a city hospital? “Those are very different jobs,” says Bennett, so consider all the nuances of where you practiced – the setting, the demand, the staffing, the cultural relationships. Even settings within a single hospital can be different, so be on-target.

2. Show It

Emphasize the concrete evidence of the skills you can bring to bear,” says Bennett. Did you produce a follow-up care book that goes home with 15,000 patients a year? Did you train your unit on how to use a new app to help coordinate staffing for 30? Were you on a committee to introduce new diabetes care workshops? Say that. Use strong action words to describe duties. Bennett’s book gives examples like avoiding “was responsible for office management” and using “managed office” instead.

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3. Avoid Keyword Overload

People just throw keywords around and jam them in their resumes, says Bennett. The hope is that it makes them look on top of the industry, but the result is a resume that reads poorly. “Show your real story,” says Bennett, “and your keywords will show up already.”

4. Focus on the Position

Decide what you want to do and then focus in on that position like a laser beam, says Bennett. Your natural enthusiasm will come through as a job candidate. If the position you want is on a cardiac unit, describe your care for patients in a similar unit or list your specialty certification in cardiac-vascular nursing.

5. Don’t Just Send a Resume In

Lots of candidates respond to advertisements,” says Bennett. “The unsung hero of the job search is the inquiry letter.” So don’t just send your resume in to job openings – send it to the places where you’d like to work. “Who cares if they’re hiring?” says Bennett. “Jobs are being created all the time.”

6. Tell Your Story Succinctly

Once you have your resume format and words carefully chosen, go back and make it even shorter. A resume should be as long as you need to tell your story, but should clearly show you tried to make it short. “Be the candidate in the stack that respects the reader’s time,” says Bennett. You have seconds to make an impression, so make the clear impression that you took the time to make your resume as concise as possible.

By focusing your resume and honing in on what you did, not just what you can do, your resume is bound to get the attention it deserves.

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Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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