You are a smart, savvy, and super-awesome healthcare clinician (nurse, therapist, or pharmacist). No question about it. So, what is holding you back from nabbing that job of a lifetime? Chances are it’s not your abilities, your accomplishments, or your academic record. More likely it’s your resume – that sleepy, solitary page that barely gets more than a glimpse. It’s time to shake things up with a resume that rocks! With a little work, a bit of thought, and the five following rules, you can create a resume that earns the attention you deserve.
Active vs. Passive Verbs
You are a doer and doers don’t let passive verbs steal the show. While it is true that verbs describe actions or states of being, an active verb takes the lead, contrary to a passive verb, which lags behind.
- Active Verb: Reduced central line infections by 74% over 6 months
- Passive Verb: Central line infections were reduced by 74% over 6 months
Can you feel the difference? The first example rocks the resume because employers will see the ‘doer’ in you. You make it happen. You get it done.
Always describe your accomplishments using active verbs. To increase their impact, select active verbs and verb phrases that reveal not only what you did, but how.
- Example: Standardized central line management, reducing CLABSI* by 74% over 6 months.
*Exercise caution when using acronyms. Avoid abbreviations/terms with ambiguous or potentially confusing interpretations. And speaking of clarity…
Clarity vs. Opacity
You have one page to tell your best stories via resume, but brevity and clarity are not synonymous. Lack of clarity will definitely not rock your resume, especially in healthcare, where most errors stem from poor communication. Potential employers want to know who you are and what makes you tick. Show them what you have to offer. Don’t give in to the temptation of writing generically like the masses of other nurses, therapists or pharmacists you are competing against.
Take the time to craft your resume objective, resume summary, or resume profile into the rock star status healthcare employers want to see.
- Example: Board-certified physical therapist with extensive experience in stroke, spinal cord, and head injury rehabilitation seeks full-time contract work in university-based healthcare system.
Pull in keywords, highlight experience, and summarize goals. You have approximately 15-30 words to hook the resume reader. Make every word count.
Add selective, qualifying information in the professional experience section that shows how your accomplishments maximized patient success, improved or maintained function, or elevated medical facility ratings. Eliminate unnecessary words and avoid stating the obvious. Give the employer your biggest and best offerings.
In other words, don’t hit the resume replay button. Each position you go after, regardless of their similarities, deserves a fresh tune. This calls for paying attention to the specifics of the job and the unique goals of the organization. Now is the time to let them know that you get it. Do your homework and give them what they are looking for. This goes both ways. Moving into a new position or a new company takes effort. Make it worth the while.
If you prefer the pace and proximity of a community hospital, for example, think twice about applying to the urban Level 1 trauma center. After all, happiness matters. Make sure you go in the right direction for you, or you’ll be back on the road looking for a new gig before you’ve finished your first scheduled shift.
Content arrangement is the nuts and bolts of your rockin’ resume and the easiest part of pulling your information together. Keep it simple. Contact information at the top of the page: name, credentials, title, address, phone number, email, and fax. Then plug in your resume objective, resume summary, or resume profile.
What’s the difference? If you are new to the field, with little experience to hold you up, use a resume objective. What is your goal? What drives you? What are you aching to make happen? A resume summary provides a brief synopsis of your qualifications and what you will bring to the job. The resume profile, on the other hand, is more like a condensed cover letter. Include the position you see, your qualifications, your accomplishments, and what you have to offer. Objective and summary statements should be 1-3 sentences or less. The profile statement is a short paragraph or bulleted list. Regardless of which option you choose, it’s imperative that you write and rewrite until you are certain that every word used is necessary, and every sentence pops with professional enthusiasm.
Follow your statement with an education section (if you have limited experience) or a professional experience/accomplishments section then an education section, depending on which ties in best with your choice of objective, summary, or profile. If you play it right, the employer will connect the two and come away with a clear portrayal of your abilities and skill. That said, a skills section is generally not needed.
Employers aren’t as interested in what you know how to do, as what you have actually done. However, an exception to the rule may be your proficiency with a specialized software program, piece of equipment, or treatment modality. Be selective and you’ll set yourself apart from the stack of candidates who can operate a copy machine or open an email.
Your education section should be specific, but relevant. List the institution, dates of attendance and graduation, degree conferred (and specialty), and grade point average, along with honors or awards earned. Always include a ‘references available on request’ statement as employment law precludes employers from asking for them if left out. Once you determine your order, you are ready to wrap it up.
Pay attention! Your resume design, layout and formatting does more than just make things look nice. It shows your attention to detail, and in healthcare, even little mistakes can harm or kill. Select and use one font type throughout. Bold section headings, credentials, and job titles; italicize places of employment and education institutions. However you choose to format your text, maintain consistency throughout. Left and right alignments should be exact from top to bottom. Separate sections with thin horizontal lines or equal and adequate white space to provide differentiation. Typos, grammatical errors, punctuation snafus and other such sloppiness will knock the rock right out of your resume. Ask a trusted colleague to review your finished product and welcome well-founded critique.
You’ve worked hard. You’ve done a great job. You are indeed smart, savvy, and super-awesome. Now get out there and apply these tips to rock your healthcare resume!