Tailor Your Nursing Resume to the Job Description

  • Last Updated: June 17, 2024

We often hear that matching your resume to the job description is essential when applying for a job, but how do you actually do it? Is it even practical when applying for several different nursing roles?

In this article, we present a step-by-step, strategic approach to help you quickly customize your nursing resume for various job positions. So that it stands out in a crowded applicant pool, and gives you the best shot at impressing the hiring manager.

First, the Preparation

Before you start dissecting the job description, start with a thorough self-assessment. Begin by compiling an inventory of your clinical skills and areas of expertise. This includes listing hard skills, such as wound care, medication administration, and critical care procedures, and soft skills like communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and leadership.

Once compiled, rank these skills based on your proficiency level, highlighting those that align with current industry demands. This approach ensures your resume focuses on the most relevant and sought-after skills.

Step 1: Extracting the Required Skills

The job description can be your blueprint for securing an interview. Treat it as a roadmap that holds clues you can benefit from. This can be done by analyzing the JD to identify the main keywords related to desired skills and areas of expertise.

Job descriptions usually follow similar patterns in their text that can help you understand and extract the core areas of expertise for the nursing role.

Let us consider this JD for a Pediatric Care Manager as an example:

Position Summary/Primary Responsibilities:

Most job descriptions for nursing roles begin with a job summary and list the required knowledge/skills/abilities.

Under that, hints of work responsibilities can be found in the verbs and phrases used at the beginning of the bullet points in the job summary. In our example above, we see these under Position Purpose: Develop, assess, coordinate, provide, facilitate, monitor, actively participate and maintain, and more.  

Similarly, the specific expertise usually follows the verbs, such as these from our example: care plan, resource utilization, treatment plan, patient and provider education, integrated team care management among others.

Education/Experience and License/Certification:

Healthcare companies typically list the required education, experience, license and certifications under a separate section. These provide additional clues to determine which skills to emphasize on your resume.

Terms such as “required” are considered non-negotiable, while others like “desired” and “preferred” may be less significant to be eligible for the role. Of course, while the latter may be considered optional they can work in your favor if you have them. 

Use a Tool to Streamline the Extraction Process

Tools like the Skills Extractor from Lightcast can expedite the skill extraction process. While there are many online tools, this free tool is quite capable. You can try it here.

On adding the job description to the Skills Extractor tool, it will highlight the list of relevant skills as you can see below. It will also list the extracted words on the right-hand side that you can copy.

So this is the list we get for the above JD, in addition to a few related skills it found.

Acute Care
Care Management
Clinical Nursing
Hospital Information Systems
Managed Care
Medical Management
Primary Care
Registered Nurse (RN)
Resource Utilization
Risk Management
Treatment Planning

Match them against your own list and identify a few of the above expertise areas that you would like to be included in your resume. Some may not be relevant or they may already be included in your resume. It is recommended you do a manual check to prune the list further to suit your needs.

Important note: While helpful, automated tools should not replace a thorough manual review. Always manually cross-reference the generated list with the job description to ensure accuracy and to identify any missed keywords.

Step 2: Tailoring Your Resume to the JD

Once you’ve identified the key skills and keywords, it is time to seamlessly integrate them into your resume. There are three places in your resume where you can add them to provide context and demonstrate your proficiency.

Professional Summary

Your professional summary, at the top of your resume, is meant to provide a compelling overview of your qualifications, expertise and experience. This is prime real estate to grab the recruiter’s attention and make a strong first impression.

In the context of the above JD, the summary could say:

  • Highly motivated and compassionate Registered Nurse with [Years] years of experience in [Mention relevant experience areas like pediatrics, acute care or community setting] seeking to leverage expertise in care plan development and implementation to excel as a Pediatrics Care Manager. Proven ability to assess patient needs, coordinate services, and promote quality, cost-effective care to achieve desired outcomes.

Description under each Job Title

While the bullet points under each job title provide specific examples of your accomplishments, the quick description of the role itself offers a concise view of your responsibilities and the scope of your role.

In the context of the above JD, the description depending on the job title could say:

  • Successfully managed a caseload of [Number] patients, conducting thorough health and resource utilization assessments to develop and implement individualized care plans. Coordinated effectively with physicians, specialists, and other healthcare professionals to ensure seamless patient care

Bullet Points under each Job Title

Bullet points are a place to provide specific examples of your accomplishments and demonstrate how you’ve applied your skills in previous roles. This is an ideal space to add the extracted keywords to showcase your impact and prove your capabilities.

If the JD mentions”Develop the care plan”, you may reference it as

  • Developed and implemented individualized care plans for a diverse patient population, resulting in improved patient outcomes.

If the JD mentions “Assess the resource utilization”, you may reference it as  

  • Analyzed resource utilization patterns and implemented strategies to optimize efficiency and reduce waste by 15%.

If the JD mentions “Provide patient and provider education”, you may reference it as

  • Developed and delivered educational programs to patients and their families on disease management, medication adherence, and healthy lifestyle choices, leading to a 10% increase in patient satisfaction scores.

If the JD mentions “Facilitate member access to community-based services”, you may reference it as  

  • Connected patients and families with appropriate community resources, such as support groups, transportation services, and financial assistance programs, resulting in a 20% reduction in hospital readmissions.

Important Points

  • Do not force fit expertise and skills
  • Use them in context, do not just add them as keywords
  • Be factual, always
  • Remember, matching your resume to the JD is not only for clearing the ATS (Applicant Tracking System) scan but also for making a solid impression on the recruiting manager

Advantage of a Tailored Resume

In today’s competitive healthcare landscape, where hundreds of applicants may be applying for the same job, a generic resume simply won’t do. There’s no denying that you can benefit from a tailored resume that speaks directly to the hiring manager’s needs.

By investing the time and effort to understand the employer’s needs and strategically align your qualifications and expertise, you can transform your resume from a generic document into a persuasive tool. This can significantly increase your chances of securing an interview and ultimately landing your dream nursing role.