Dear Sam: I am a nurse who has relocated to the area. I would like to have you critique my resume in order to help me find a job I love…one that involves helping others. Thank you. – K

Dear K: First and foremost, thank you for the wonderful and caring work that you do. I appreciate your willingness to have your resume critiqued to not only help you identify ways to improve its effectiveness, but hopefully provide guidance to others with similar backgrounds. Let’s cover some critical areas in which you can dramatically improve your resume.

Aesthetics & Formatting
I am a big fan of deploying creativity when appropriate for a client’s career objective and the intended audience. As a nurse, you can be more creative in your design, possibly even incorporating imagery, or at the very least highlighting such areas as your recent “Employee of the Year” award much more prominently. Additionally, it is not a good idea to have your entire resume written in all caps, while this is fine for headings, it is inappropriate for the body of your resume and makes it challenging to read. You also have to ensure you are consistent in your formatting selections. Currently, I see bullets of different sizes, punctuation misused, and numerous spelling mistakes. If executed well, these areas can reinforce your professionalism, attention to detail, and organizational skills – all vital elements to your candidacy as a healthcare professional.

Qualifications Summary
You have some great differentiating factors to highlight, but being that you begin your resume telling the hiring manager what you want instead of what you can do for them, unfortunately, these areas are buried within your professional experience section. A qualifications summary provides the reader with a critical overview of your candidacy, your key qualifications, how you have contributed “value” in the past, and generally all the aspects of what you can offer the employer that they need to know before completing the screening process. Given the screening process is as limited as 7 seconds, you can see why you must sell what you can do versus what you want. Omit your objective statement entirely and replace it with a summary of who you are and what you can offer. Highlight areas such as your experience developing new programs, leading entire teams, coordinating resource utilization, establishing best practices, assisting in the design of a new lab, and developing patient education and nursing training materials. These are all areas that position you as a highly skilled, experienced, and seasoned nursing professional who can offer more to an employer than solely direct patient care.

Professional Experience
For the amount of experience you are presenting, there isn’t enough content to explore your roles fully and give them the focus they deserve on paper. Showing back to the 1980s, and sometimes even the 1990s, is not a good idea, unless there is something specific from that era that enhances (not just supports) your candidacy. In your case, I believe you could begin your resume with your early 2000s experience, thereby also eliminating your employment gap. Your earlier experiences, if you so choose, can be bylined, meaning they can be mentioned without dates in a statement such as, “Additional experience as a Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory Supervisor and as a Critical Care Nurse.” By doing this you are presenting the foundation of your career, while avoiding unnecessarily aging your candidacy.

By exploring your roles more fully, and by focusing on more recent engagements, you will also have room to highlight your achievements. Achievements are how you tell a hiring manager that you have gone above and beyond your job description to add value to your role and employer. These also predict your ability to perform in your next professional engagement, and serve to differentiate your candidacy in the competitive marketplace. Explore your achievements thoroughly, being sure to present the result of your effort(s) first, followed by some of the key actions you took to achieve that outcome. While I am not proposing using your resume as an opportunity to write a biography, you do need to explore your background thoroughly enough to pique the reader’s interest, while also affording for further explanation during a personal interview.

The great news is you have a fantastic career to present to a potential employer. There are many opportunities to improve the appearance and effectiveness of your resume to better engage the reader, differentiate your candidacy, and showcase the “value” you offer. By implementing the suggested changes, I am confident you will better highlight your background and answer the hiring manager’s question, “Why should I interview you?”