StaffGarden l Rock Your resume

Rock Your Resume Part II: Strategic Content

by | Resume Tips

Here is everything you need to compose a winning resume that will help yours to stand out from the others and land that interview!

Be sure to read Rock Your Resume Part I: What Not to Do

Here’s the scenario:

Ashley is a human resources (HR) assistant. Her boss gave her an assignment to screen nursing applications. She screened over 325 resumes & narrowed them down to 50 to pass on to the hiring nursing managers.

After a hard day’s work, Ashley reflects & decides it’s time to revamp her own resume.



Visual Interest and Emphasis

Ashley will tell you that the overall first impression of your resume is important.

When your resume is organized and professional appearing,  you are likewise assumed to be organized and professional before they even read the content.


Ashley’s Tips

Brevity: Keep it short. Your resume should be one page in length, two pages tops.

Fonts: Use standard fonts (Arial, Times New Roman, Calibri) in size 10-12 pt. These time-tested fonts work across all computer operating systems.

Italics:  Provide emphasis but use sparingly. Counter-productive if over-used.

Bullet points: Underused but powerful. Use  strategically. A bulleted list is easier to read than a paragraph. Bullet points: 

[icon name=”dot-circle-o” class=”” unprefixed_class=””] Draw the reader’s eye

[icon name=”dot-circle-o” class=”” unprefixed_class=””] Provide bite-size pieces of information

[icon name=”dot-circle-o” class=”” unprefixed_class=””] Highlight key skills

[icon name=”dot-circle-o” class=”” unprefixed_class=””] Should not be overly large, geometric, artsy or otherwise distracting

[icon name=”dot-circle-o” class=”” unprefixed_class=””] Start with an action word

Lesson: Don’t underestimate the importance of first impressions. Draw the reader’s eye where you want it to go by using italics and bullet points for interest. Remember:

Visual Rest

Compare this paragraph:

A reader’s eye will linger on an easy to read and visually appealing document. Think white space, symmetry and an easy to understand hierarchy of information.Break up dense blocks of text by using white space.White space gives your reader a welcome respite. A balanced use of whitespace and text is restful.Headers should be consistent in boldness, use of capitalization, and level of importance.Headers, bullet points and indentations need to be precisely aligned throughout.

To this:

A reader’s eye will linger on an easy to read and visually appealing document. Think white space, symmetry and an easy to understand hierarchy of information.

Break up dense blocks of text by using white space. White space gives your reader a welcome respite. A balanced use of whitespace and text is restful.

Headers throughout should be consistent in:

Use of Boldness

Use of Capitalization and

Level of Importance

Headers, bullet points and indentations need to be precisely aligned throughout.

Ashley has learned the ‘Squint Test’: Print your resume and hold it at arm’s length. Now squint. Overall, does it pass the Squint Test? Yes? Good!

Lesson: If you provide your reader visual respite, their eye will stay on your resume longer.

Fine-tune Your Format

Ashley is often asked what format is best to use. She says most employers prefer the traditional chronological format.  

There’s no single resume format that works best for everyone, but it must include contact information, education, and work history. The great thing is, from there you can Build-A-Resume (add sections) to best showcase your abilities. Optional categories include:


  • Volunteer experience
  • Professional Affiliations
  • Certifications
  • Activities, Awards and Achievements
  • Interests and Hobbies

Which sections best highlight your most relevant skills and accomplishments? Employee engagement? You may include that you were a super user for teaching Epic care plans. Community service? Mention that you  volunteered for the free community immunization program.

Do make it easy for the reader to find key information. This week at a panel interview, five of us had to search through three pages of  a resume to see if the candidate had her ADN and was in a BSN program, or had her BSN. We should be able to pick that information out instantly.
Lesson: Organize your resume in sections that you create and name to best suit you. There is no hard and fast rule.

Objective Statement: Yes or no?

Objective or summary statements are better left off unless you are applying to a specific unit. The problem is, they are often wordy and don’t add value. As such, they give a poor first impression.

If you do use them, be focused and succinct. It’s not about what you want to gain from the job; it’s about what you can provide to the employer. Ashley was asked to give an example of objective statements.

Not good: To grow professionally and be challenged in a supportive learning environment designed to provide top quality care.

Good: CCRN seeks position in surgical intensive care unit.

What about a Qualifications Summary? A Qualifications Summary is best used by an experienced nurse. It’s a brief (three-to-four line) teaser to make them want them to keep reading your resume further.
Lesson: Objective Statements are not required. Avoid wordiness if used.

Target the Employer

Target your resume to each employer. Know the mission statement. Talk to employees. Every organization is different in much the same way that every family is different.

Every organization is looking for the same thing-employees who will be a good fit. Good family members, if you will.

Ashley advises you to ask yourself these questions before hitting “Send”:  What do you know about the employer? Are they for-profit, community-based, faith-based ? Are they actively expanding service lines, certified in disease-specific care (stroke, chest pain) ? Is the organization magnet status or seeking magnet status?
Knowing what the employer is looking for helps you show how you can meet their needs.

Lesson: Do your research. Show that your skills match the employer’s needs.

Keywords and Examples

Optimize your resume with keywords from the job posting. This is important when your resume is scanned into keyword scanning software, and also shows you are savvy and understand it’s all about what the employer needs.

Ashley recommends composing your resume with the job posting in front of you. The skills listed on your resume should match the skills listed in the job posting. If the job posting says “Uses excellent verbal and written communication skills” write:

“Every semester my instructors remarked on my communication skills. It’s because my patients say I’m a good listener.

Lesson: Target your resume to each individual employer. Avoid a one size fits all resume.

Past Work Experience

Include past work experience that highlights desired skill sets. Working as a waitress shows your experience in customer service and even more so if you were voted Best Waitress or always got the most tips. Include it.

Patient satisfaction is highly important to all Medicare reimbursed providers. Show how you can help them achieve higher patient satisfaction scores in the future by including how you did it in the past.
Lesson: A list of jobs is one thing. The sought-after  skill sets learned on those jobs is another.

How Can StaffGarden Help?

StaffGarden gives you the tools to create your ePortfolio & generate resumes for any situation. We’ve made it easy to track every aspect of your career in one place so your ready when your next opportunity presents its self. Create, manage, & share your resume for free.

Sign up or contact us today and see how StaffGarden can help you get noticed for all the right reasons!

The right resume at the right time can land you the right job. Good luck!

Ashley and I hope these tips help make your resume the right one for  your dream job !


Best wishes,
Nurse Beth



Beth Hawkes

Beth Hawkes

StaffGarden Contributor

Author Nurse Beth, MSN, RN-BC,  is a Nursing Professional Development Specialist, and a well-known career advice columnist and writer. For more of Nurse Beth’s articles, visit


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