As an experienced registered nurse (RN), you're in an excellent position to land your next job in the field. You've learned on the job and perhaps carved out a specialty, making you a high-quality candidate for your next RN position. Use these five tips to create a cover letter and resume that will get you noticed.
1. Talk about your skill-building experiences in your cover letter
When writing your cover letter for nursing jobs, emphasize how your past RN positions have honed your skills. It is important to critically assess your skill set against the requirements listed in each job posting, and write about the skills and experiences that directly align with the description. Be sure to use some of the specific words and phrases to form a strong connection for reviewers.
If you are staying in the same specialty, include your years of experience and the highest-level skills you've obtained. If you are changing specialties (i.e., going from pediatrics to labor and delivery), you'll have to get more creative with your relevant skills.
Make sure to mention technical standards like intravenous starts, titrated medicine drip, and accurate medication delivery. Don't fret if you don't see many technical skills listed that you currently have in your toolbox. If that's the case, highlight interpersonal or managerial skills, such as coordinating multidisciplinary patient care or administrative duties vital to patient outcomes.
2. Show how this job aligns with your long-term goals
Your cover letter is a great place to relay your long-term goals if they relate to the position for which you're applying.
When interviewing candidates, "a huge draw is desire for growth, whether that be interest in committees, further certifications, and/or management," says Jamie Kirk, RN, BSN, CPN and department supervisor at Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas.
"That said, the biggest deterrent in an interview is when a nurse mentions a desire to move elsewhere within the next few years," she says.
Growth is always encouraged in nursing, but ensure that your mentioned goals align with the new position. Otherwise, hiring personnel may feel as though they are taking a risk by training an employee who they might need to replace soon, rather than investing in a future asset to their team.
3. Be thorough in your cover letter
When learning how to write a cover letter, make sure your letter contains the five essential components:
- A greeting. Be sure to address a person rather than a general "to whom it may concern." Being specific demonstrates that you have researched the position, so leverage LinkedIn, the company website and a phone call if needed to find out who is the hiring manager. If all else fails, "Dear Hiring Manager" is your last resort. The "Dear Sir or Madam" is antiquated and shouln't be used.
- An introduction paragraph. Clearly state your goal in applying for the specific position, briefly address what led you to this point professionally and what makes you a great candidate.
- A "hook." This short section should quickly explain why you are the perfect candidate for the job. It should appear at the beginning of your letter to immediately drawn in the reader and make your letter memorable.
- Body paragraphs (1-2). Use this space to summarize your nursing career up to this point, as well as specific technical and interpersonal skills you've obtained in past jobs.
- A strong conclusion. Underline why you are the best choice for the position, and that you look forward to following up with the addressed hiring manager regarding the job.
4. Create a thoughtful, well-formatted nursing resume
Submitting a professional, error-free resume is essential to landing a new job. As you learn how to write a resume, be sure you include the five most essential components:
- Header: Your contact info, which should be accurate, up-to-date and straightforward.
- Professional Summary: Concisely introduce yourself and your objective. Our Resume Templates can help you create a resume that stands out.
- Skills: List 6-10 bullet-pointed skills you are confident in. Similar to the cover letter, focus on the skills that are most relevant to this nursing position. The job description can help you identify these skills.
- Work History: Here is where your hard-earned experience speaks for itself. List the previous facilities where you have worked, years there and the highest position you obtained. Write a summary of your role, skills and growth in each position.
- Education: Your degree is a huge achievement, so never skip a chance to brag about where you achieved your nursing degree and any accolades you received while there. Include any certifications you've gained in your practice, such as ACLS.
Comb your cover letter and resume for opportunities to show off. Highlight any leadership roles you held in a previous job, in school or through volunteer work. Have you headed any research initiatives, or started a committee to increase patient safety on your unit? Are you bilingual? Find ways to impress them with the skills and knowledge that you already have.
Take the time to proofread your cover letter and resume to eliminate any errors or typos. It won't take much extra effort but having a bulletproof application can set you apart.
5. Reach out to your network
After you have updated your resume and cover letter, use your network to try to get your application straight into the hands of the hiring manager. Is one of your former coworkers now employed where you want to work? Ask if she knows someone in Human Resources.
Scroll through LinkedIn, to see if anyone in your network can help your application get seen. Reach out to your alma mater's career center, to see if they can make any introductions. You've already put in so much effort to get this job, so take one more step to ensure your application receives the attention it deserves.