Writing an effective cover letter is almost as challenging as finding the perfect nursing job. In fact, roughly 45% of job seekers send resumes without a cover letter. Job seekers spend the most time developing and updating their resumes, focusing on adding details relevant to education, certifications, accomplishments, and achievements.
Despite popular belief, a cover letter is a great way to differentiate yourself from other candidates. Even if a hiring manager only skims it, if something catches their eye, it can mean the difference between you and another candidate getting the job. With the right care and effort, you can craft a professional and well-expressed nursing cover letter that helps distinguish you from other candidates.
When Cover Letters Are Required
Here are the most common scenarios when a nursing cover letter is required:
· Applying directly to a specific person. If the job posting invites applicants to apply to a particular individual instead of a general application system, it is appropriate to include a cover letter and address it to the individual.
· Referral for a position. If you are applying for a position based on another professional’s recommendation, don’t skip the cover letter. Use the cover letter to explain that you were referred to the job and by whom. This allows hiring managers to see that someone they value as a trusted professional in the healthcare industry believes you are qualified for a position.
· When requested in a job listing. Some job listings specifically request candidates to submit a cover letter with their applications. Following job listing requirements to include a cover letter shows hiring managers that you follow instructions and have an eye for detail. Both are important qualities in the nursing profession.
4 Benefits of Writing a Nursing Cover Letter
Knowing you are the best candidate for the job and proving it are two different things. You may have an impeccable resume, but so might 20 other candidates who are applying for the same position. Nursing careers are in demand, but that does not mean there is not competition for certain positions within the nursing industry.
Resumes are neatly-spun packages of information about a candidate’s education, job history (when applicable), and professional certification. They leave little room for personalization about who you are as a candidate. That is where a cover letter comes in. When formatted correctly, nursing cover letters offer several advantages.
1. Identify your intent
Resumes indicate your worth. Cover letters reveal your intent. By outlining how your desires and skills for a nursing career align with the job you are applying for, you show the hiring manager you are interested in the position. It is not going to just be a job for you. It will be part of your mission and vision as a nursing professional. For instance, if a position will help grow your leadership skills and prepare you for an advanced nursing career, state that as part of the intent.
Here’s an example: I desire to obtain a position in the pediatric oncology unit to live out my passion to care for children who are at their most vulnerable.
Not only does the statement identify the specific position, but it also states why the candidate is interested.
2. Provide a deeper description of candidates
Your education and credentials make up only a small portion of who you are as a nursing professional. How someone looks on paper is not an indicator of how they will perform, nor is it an accurate gauge of their character.
Using a cover letter to honestly explore your strengths, weaknesses, experiences, interests, and perspectives is an asset. Maybe your resume includes a certification or award for which you are proud. Expand on it in the cover letter. What is it that makes you proud of that achievement and how does it make you the best candidate for the position?
3. Explain the gaps
Hiring professionals suggest resumes be one page for new nurses and those with less than 10 years of experience. Due to length restrictions, it is difficult to explain any gaps in work history or why you may have shifted gears from a previous career into nursing. A cover letter provides the perfect opportunity to explain these situations.
4. Establish willingness to work
Cover letters are an extra touch to a job application. As previously stated, nearly half of all job applicants fail to include a cover letter with their job applications unless specifically requested. Going that extra mile shows a hiring manager you are willing to put the work in to get the job done right. That is a desirable quality for any business or industry, but especially in nursing and other healthcare careers.
Remember that a cover letter should focus on the highlights of a resume, fleshing them out in a more meaningful way. A cover letter should never be a complete accounting of your work history. That is the purpose of a resume. Include only information that falls into one of the four benefits listed above to get the most mileage out of your cover letter.
5 Tips for Writing an Effective Nursing Cover Letter
When writing a cover letter, many misunderstand how to get the most bang for their buck. Career advancement is important in nursing. Having a solid resume and cover letter are key factors in that progression. Here are some tips for writing an effective nursing cover letter.
1. Keep it simple
Cover letters do not have to be a novel about your life and nursing aspirations. In fact, if your cover letter is too long, hiring managers or recruiters might overlook it. Remember, there is a six-second impression window, during which time you either grab the individual’s attention or lose it. Focus on sharing your passion and interest in the position first. Then, highlight any other notes of importance, such as gaps in employment history.
2. Highlight key experiences
Do not “fluff” up your cover letter but do include some relevant key experiences in your nursing career. Anything that closely aligns with the job description is worth expanding on and including in your cover letter. Pick one or two meaningful encounters from recent years and highlight them, using the same terminology as found in the job description. That demonstrates relevancy to hiring managers.
3. Showcase your value
Your resume is a roadmap of your nursing career. A cover letter should be a guide as to how you will make a future positive impact on a hospital or medical practice, if hired for the role.
For example, describe a prior accomplishment to highlight how you would use that experience for the betterment of the patients in your care should you be hired. Connect past actions to future success.
4. Customize your letter
Resist the urge to use the same cookie-cutter cover letter for every position to which you apply. Cover letters that are tailored to meet the requirements of the position are more likely to get noticed by hiring managers. Use the same keywords in the job posting in your cover letter to show your relevance to the position. Pick two to three skills that closely align with the requirements and feature them.
5. Use the correct format
As a rule, written cover letters follow a business letter format. That means including your contact information, the date, and the contact information of the employer or hiring manager. If you are emailing a cover letter, the formatting excludes your address and that of the company or hiring manager. Email cover letters also require an appropriate subject line that mentions the job title.
The Bottom Line on Nursing Cover Letters
It takes time and energy to create a nursing cover letter that accurately represents who you are as a nursing professional—past, present, and future. It is well worth your effort to craft a cover letter that commands attention from hiring managers.
Need to boost your credentials and certifications to help stand out? Check out our free nursing CEUs. Incredible Health provides free access to ANCC accredited programming accepted by all 50 states.