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.
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.
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.
Lots of nurses take time off for family reasons. Some have babies and take years off before returning to work while others might spend time caring for elderly parents. But many nurses aren’t quite sure how to explain that work gap on a resume.
Bennett says there’s no need to hide your time off. “It’s your real story,” he says. “You’re not making it up. If a human resources manager has an issue with the truth, it probably isn’t a good match anyway.” Let your resume reflect your experience honestly. That means not pushing up your exit date or your start dates to shorten the gap in any way, says Bennett.
Because you spent the time still active and involved, it’s important to relay your transferable skills in a way that makes sense to your profession and to hiring managers. So even if you have a fairly large gap, you can still list all the tasks you completed in a way that makes sense to the person looking at your resume.
How do you do that? Bennett advises using direct language that shows what you did. Anyone can say they are an organized go getter, but it’s the job candidate who describes pulling together a seminar for 200 colleagues based on recent research who will get a second look.
“You have already established before your break that you can establish and maintain relationships, and you have made the case for relevant skills,” says Bennett. “It’s irrefutable that you know how to do those things.”
Bennett even advises listing homemaker as a job position if you took time off to care for your kids and describing your duties in a professional manner. How can you make a busy day with three kids sound like solid business skills? By thinking for a minute about all you did.
Bennett says your unpaid work is relevant to employers, you just have to be able to show them why and how. Did you handle a mix of school hours, play dates, dance lessons, and t-ball? Then you also managed the complex (and probably often conflicting) scheduling logistics for a family of five. You probably also collaborated with several teachers to monitor academic success, says Bennett, and acted as a motivator, coach, and counselor, too.
And in the meantime, it’s likely you mediated many conflicts, managed and reconciled a changing budget, tracked and ordered necessary household supplies through several vendors (grocery store, Target, Sears), and established clear requirements and expectations. You probably also maintained vehicles and collaborated with your mate on solid investment decisions, says Bennett.
With some real thought to explain all your duties while you were at home in a way that makes sense in the business world, you probably can come up with a lengthy (and impressive) list.
If you shape your resume carefully to reflect the honest time off, the gap in your paid work will look just as relevant as before the break. You might have to switch your mindset a little so that you can also appreciate all you do in a typical day and why that would be valuable to an employer.
If you do that, and do it well, you’ll probably impress a hiring manager enough to come in to discuss the gap in your paid working time. That’s when you can get into the details a little deeper and explain how you kept up professionally so that you make the best candidate for them right now.
A gap on your resume isn’t a problem if you approach it the right way. Bennett says there’s no reason to hide a gap or to downplay it. As long as you can get across that your skills were continually sharpened and that the process made you an even better candidate, hiring managers will be able to make the connection with the position you are applying for.
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