Dear Sam: I am a registered nurse currently working in an emergency department. I have been employed with the same hospital for the past four years and am looking for a change. I have submitted several resumes, and I am not having any success. – Mandy

Dear Mandy: I can explain why your resume is not getting the attention you believe your candidacy deserves. First, let me paint a picture of your resume for readers.

Your resume opens with your contact information, which immediately transitions into a “Work History” section. In this section, you present your last three positions—since 2011—that spill onto page two. In this entire page of information, you have described your positions in a total of 87 words. You have listed five bullet points, underneath each employer, with the bullet points ranging from one to six words. To illustrate this for readers, I am going to list one of the sections below:

• Triage
• Care plan implementation per 24-hour observation unit patient care
• Direct patient care Adults/Pediatrics
• IV line placement l Medication administration
• EKG/Telemetry monitoring

Following this, you present your education—associate’s degree—and certifications, closing your resume with “References Upon Request.”

As your resume is a prime example of an underdeveloped presentation of your candidacy, I am pleased you wrote. Let’s look at ways we can improve your presentation.

You must open your resume with a Summary section highlighting the critical aspects of your candidacy. Why and how are you different from your many qualified competitors? How is your experience unique? Why should you be contacted for an interview? If you leave the reader trying to figure these things out, you will never emerge successfully from a screening process. With resumes reviewed for an average of 4-7 seconds, the reader does not have time to evaluate how your experiences “qualifies” you and makes you stand out from the crowd.

Next, you must tackle the lack of content in your resume. There is little value you can convey in 87 words, describing almost 7 years of experience. Within your very brief bullet points, you are only communicating the expected pieces of a nurse’s role; you must go further than this if you want to differentiate your candidacy. We do not get noticed by providing a hiring manager with a picture that says, “I can do the basic job functions”; instead, we get the interview by delivering a resume that says, “I can perform the role while adding value beyond expectations.” We show this by providing evidence of our past contributions, ways we have gone above and beyond, ways we are different from our peers, and opportunities we may have had to contribute beyond the scope of a traditional clinical role.

Your Education and Certifications sections are fine; I would note that you do not need excessive information in each area, such as a complete address for an educational institution. The highlights in those sections are your actual degree and your credentials, so draw attention to those items with selective bold formatting.

Lastly, you do not need to waste valuable resume real estate by noting that references are available; in today’s age, that is assumed and not stated on paper.

I know you can have a great resume based on your experience; you need to revamp your approach, rehabilitate your content, and renew your formatting. Best of luck to you!