As a nurse recruiter with the Talent Acquisition Group at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, NY, Mari Moriarty, RN, MA, stresses that creating an effective resume is the gateway to getting the job you want. Your resume must communicate to recruiters and hiring managers that you are an intelligent and well-organized individual, and so your resume should be easy-to-read, organized, and error free. 

As the quality of health care increases, the overall industry is expanding to meet the needs of the growing population of people living longer and longer. This expansion means that many medical companies and institutions are using recruiters to glean the best talent from the candidacy pool. In this interview, Moriarty offers her perspective on what key features your resume should showcase to secure that first interview with a recruiter or hiring manager. 

How does the mind of a recruiter work? 

A recent study showed that recruiters spend about six seconds making the initial “fit/no fit” decision, so prioritizing information is essential. In the study, researchers focused on tracking recruiters’ as they processed resumes. Again, in just six seconds, participants spend 80% of their time looking at the candidate’s name, current title and company, previous title and company, start and end dates for current and previous position, accuracy of employment dates, and education. You want this information to be easy to read for a recruiter. When writing your resume, focus on less clutter and good formatting—this will encourage a recruiter to spend more time on your resume. 

What will an effective resume demonstrate?

Again, a recruiter is looking for “fit/no fit.” So an effective resume shows that you are qualified for the job, and it offers details of your experience that show that. It incorporates key words and terminology from the field; this is partly because many companies use digital programs to scan resumes for “fit.” If your resume doesn’t include words from the job posting or your profession, it may not be chosen for a closer read. Your resume should also highlight your strengths, presenting the strongest possible image of you. 

What is the best way to create a targeted—or job-specific—resume? 

It’s important to know who your target audience is. You must connect your skills and accomplishments with their needs—which you can ascertain from the job posting and information about the hiring institution. Write a high-impact summary statement that showcases how you are a good fit by using the key words from the job posting; many companies and institutions will also publish an “about” statement, wherein you can find information on what the hiring manager may be looking for. Remember, you have one chance to catch their eye. 

What are the key elements of a resume? 

The heading will contain your contact information; do not write your name in ALL CAPS because this can make it difficult for computer programs to scan your name. You’ll also want to include a summary statement that briefly and effectively encapsulates who you are as a professional and what you are looking for in your profession. Of course, your experience and responsibilities will be the key feature. Always include your current and previous titles and places of employment. It’s important that you include the specific start and end dates—to the month—for these positions; this assists us in understanding your professional trajectory, and it also becomes important during salary negotiations because many jobs are salaried by experience and education levels. Including your accomplishments and awards can also say a lot about what kind of professional and colleague you will be. And, finally, include your education and certifications. 

How should the resume look to make the most impact? 

Again, formatting is everything. Your application, which will likely be submitted online, will include two attachments: your resume and cover letter. Be sure to save the file with a clear name as a PDF. 

For visual appeal: use white or off-white paper, 1–2 pages, 10–12 pt font, and standard margins. Important titles should be emphasized. Stay away from graphics—border, colors, etc. And don’t overcrowd your resume; white space is effective for those six seconds the recruiter will initially spend with your application. 

Each position you include should have at least two bullets that explain your role and contributions (again, look at the target key words for the posting). Don’t emphasize duties but rather the outcomes; for example: “Increased efficiency of… by 20%” or “Improved patient’s chemotherapy experience by…” Moreover, descriptions should be consistent in formatting and wording. And, finally, use the proper tense; your current job should appear in present tense and former jobs in past tense. 

What are some things to avoid? 

Don’t include salary history or requirements. Unless requested, don’t list references. You’ll want to explain gaps in unemployment. Avoid abbreviations because your audience may not know them. And, finally, don’t include a photo or personal information like age, marital status, or hobbies; it’s actually largely against the law for employers to consider these aspects when making emplyoment decisions. 

You’ve mentioned the executive summary statement. What is that and what should it include? 

The summary statement encapsulates your experience, areas of expertise, technical/professional/linguistic skills, and traits detailed in the resume. It should engage your reader, explaining to them what makes you an ideal candidate for the job. It is a powerful tool, designed to satisfy applicant tracking system software and grasp the attention of the hiring manager.

In writing your summary, ask yourself: What are my specific work skills? What accomplishments do I have? How many years of experience do I have and in what areas? What are my values? It is important that the answer to these question reflect the job requirements. 

You can find examples online, but a summary may read something like this: 

“Compassionate RN who acclimates quickly and thrives in a fast–paced environment. Effective communicator and problem solver who builds strong relationships with patients, families, nursing staff, physicians, social workers, dieticians, and insurance companies to optimize patient care, education, and advocacy.”

A summary like this will make the impression you need to encourage the recruiter to place your resume into the “yes” pile. 

Editor’s note: This interview was edited from  materials presented by Mari Moriarty, RN, MA,  at the 2016 ONS 41st Annual Congress.