By Tyler Faust, R.N.
Now that you have given adequate consideration to what you want your next job to be and have been putting yourself in situations to develop yourself into not only a great nurse but a great candidate, it’s time to prepare for the job application process. Make no mistake about it, this side of career advancement is of enormous importance. Being the best candidate is only part of the battle; the other part is proving that you’re the best candidate. How do you do this? Well, you have to speak the language of hiring managers. If you put through a weak and unprofessional resume and cover letter, you might feel good about it but the hiring manager might not translate your application the same way. Here are seven things your resume and cover letter should accomplish:
1. Tactfully Highlight Key Experiences
A quality nurse resume and cover letter will highlight key experiences that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. Candidates that simply put every experience they can think of will not have a high-quality resume and cover letter. Hiring managers don’t want to sift through information to pick out valuable experiences. A quality resume and cover letter will give the hiring manager exactly what they want. Nothing more, nothing less. You don’t want to give them the sense you’re adding a lot of “fluff” or meaningless information. On the other hand, you obviously don’t want to leave out valuable experiences relevant to the posted position. Find the right balance.
What are key experiences? Key experiences are things you’ve done that closely align with elements of the job you’re applying for. Review the job posting and pull out experiences and attributes and then add in experiences that match those you found in the job description. Keep things relevant (align with keywords in the job posting) and fresh (within the past three to four years) as much as possible. Less experienced nurses might have to pull experiences that are more loosely correlated than preferred and that is alright.
2. Differentiate Yourself From Other Candidates
When looking at each aspect of the interview process it can be difficult to “be better” than other candidates. From developing your resume to wrapping up the interview, your goal should be to create small degrees of separation between yourself and the other candidates. It helps to break down each element of the application process into small pieces and try to maximize each piece rather than trying to be better as a whole. You don’t simply be a better candidate.
Being the best candidate means having the right experiences, having a detailed and concise resume and cover letter, bringing out unique characteristics that you posses and others don’t, and interviewing with passion and expertise. If you can be a little better in most or all of the interview process, you will find yourself getting the offer! In reality, a little more effort and preparation in each element of the interview process, especially your resume and cover letter, will go a long way as other candidates cut corners don’t put as much effort in.
3. Showcase the Value You Offer
All candidates will explain what they have done, few will explain how they will make a positive impact on their future role. Remember you want to speak the hiring manager’s language. They want to hear about how your past successes and experience will propel you to succeed in the position they are hiring for. Let’s look at an example.
One example of a quality experience to highlight in your cover letter could be “I was chair of the Department of Nursing committee and piloted changes to improve the patient experience on multiple units.” This experience is well stated. Even so, adding something to the effect of “I can draw upon this experience to help with change management during the implementation of new processes.” The goal is to draw the line for the reader (the hiring manager) that connect past actions to future success. If you can help them make the connections, you will create separation between yourself and the other candidates.
4. Get You an Interview
For most candidates, the resume and cover letter will serve as a first impression to hiring managers. Like it or not they will serve as your best chance of getting an opportunity to make a first impression in person. So make it count! Catch the hiring manager’s attention with your resume and cover letter is a great way to create the separation we are talking about.
In next week's blog, we'll cover the remaining elements of why resume and cover letter prep is so important. Hint: maybe the job you're applying for isn't the job you really want...stay tuned!
Tyler Faust is a full-time registered nurse and part-time freelance healthcare writer. He has his BSN and Master's degree and Winona State University and has worked at Mayo Clinic for over 7 years. Currently, he works as a nurse manager. Tyler is a creative thinker, strategist, and passionate about leadership.