Ch. 6: How to Make a Resume
In the last chapter, Ch. 5: Skills for Your Resume, we went over the skills that are commonly used on modern resumes and how to effectively go about utilizing the skills section of your hospital resume to its fullest extent. In this chapter, we'll cover every aspect of making a resume, from a header to the salutation. Along with the strategies, skills, and terms you’ve learned in the previous chapters, you can use this guide to learn how to make a resume that will get your foot in the hospital or clinic door.
Remember that your resume is a marketing document for your skills and capabilities, meant purely to land the interview, and it should be written as such. It's your job to highlight your strengths, and downplay your weaknesses, just like any other advertisement you'd see on TV or the web.
This is the end product that we're working to create:
In the above example that we’re looking to create, you can clearly separate the important need to know details of the applicant. Some of these details include: name, contact information, qualification summary, previous related work experience, important education credentials, and additional skills that would be beneficial for the position.
In addition, the format is in such a way that makes it easy for those healthcare recruiters and hiring managers to obtain the information they seek and determine whether or not to move forward with your application in the next step of the hiring process.
Before beginning, it's important to gather your thoughts and create a game plan. Follow these 5 steps before writing your healthcare-specific resume:
1. Choose Your Field
We recommend that you create a resume for a field or a category of positions, rather than one at a time. This ultimately is a time-saver and will go a long way if your job search is lengthy. To do this, just create multiple documents, each geared toward one specialty.
For example, if you're looking to land a Medical Assistant position, you can make one resume targeting clinical medical assistant positions, another for administrative medical assistant, and more for other specialties.
It is important to come up with a game plan for one position or category of positions to best highlight your credentials for each individual job. Many job seekers think that a one-stop shop resume is better to save time and apply to a multitude of positions, but they aren’t nearly as effective as a refined version for a category of positions.
When you narrow down and create a resume specifically for a category of positions, you can highlight a multitude of skills and experience that are perfect for that position - which will separate you from other candidates who aren’t putting the extra effort into their resumes.
2. Don't Dwell in the Past
Your resume is more about the future than the past. Don't go overboard with every detail of your past.
As mentioned above, your resume is a marketing tool to showcase to employers what you can do for them in the future. Employers are looking to hire achievers who will help drive their company forward. Highlight your strengths while downplaying your weaknesses.
3. Avoid First-Person Pronouns
Whoever reads your resume already knows who it's from, so using "I" in your sentences is unnecessary, redundant, and unprofessional. Instead of saying "I created strategies that saved the company $1.2 million," say:
Created strategies that saved the company $1.2 million
One good way to avoid using first-person pronouns in your resume is to say the sentence out loud after writing it. For instance, if you wanted to convey that you engaged with new customers, and established new customer sales relations, you would want to write it like so, “Engaged successfully with new customers, and fostered new customer relationships”.
Lead in with a strong verb and list your accomplishments rather than your features. For a list of strong action verbs to use, go back to our previous chapter, Ch. 4: Resume Action Verbs, where we detail some of the best action verbs to use in your resume and when to use them for different skills and experience.
4. Research the Position & Company
Ensure that you are fully aware of the responsibilities of the position and the needs of the employer. Essentially, the employer has a problem, and they need a new employee to fill the role and solve that problem for them.
You need to ensure that your resume is written in such a way that employers see how well you will "fit" in the position, effectively taking the problem off of the employer’s hands.
In addition, if you healthcare recruiters and hiring managers like what they see on your resume and advance you to the next stage for an interview, they will undoubtedly ask you what you know about the company itself.
In other words, it’s always a good idea to take this step a little bit further and make sure you are fully prepared for questions related to the company, how you would be a good fit, and include some potential links on your resume.
The more research you do, on both the position and the companies you're applying to, the more prepared you'll be when it comes to writing your resume and speaking at an interview, should you get that far.
5. Start Broad, End Specific
Begin your descriptions and summaries broadly and funnel down to the more specific details.
For instance here are a few examples:
- Headed operations for new hire training. (Broad)
- Supervised five training managers and developed new hire documents. (Specific)
- Answered questions, created training curriculum and actively trained new hires when necessary. (Even more specific)
By using the above example, you get to see how to appropriately detail your experience and job duties in previous positions. This helps to cover all bases for those who want a broad understanding of what you did and offers room for a slightly deeper dive to those who still have questions related to the experience.
In addition, this is one of the great ways to refine your resume for the specific job categories we mentioned earlier. When other applicants create one-stop shop resumes to apply to a multitude of positions, they will tend to use broad descriptions and summaries.
This creates a disadvantage for them as hiring managers, and healthcare recruiters are left with questions they can’t readily find the answer to. In contrast, you can create advantages for yourself by including the more specific points when you create different resumes for different job position categories.
In addition, by doing your research from above, you can include specific details that would highlight how you would be a good fit for the respective company here.
Keywords have become more and more important in recent years, so it's imperative that you learn how to write a resume using the best of them. Most major companies and career portals use parsing software or applicant tracking systems to scan resumes for text keywords, thereby sorting them out before the employer ever sees them.
If you’d like to know more about this, we covered it in Ch. 3: Resume Format where we went over the importance of strategic keywords in a resume.
In order to get past this software and get sorted into the "yes" pile, you should implement strategic keywords into your resume.
1. Scan the Job Listing(s)
The best place to find relevant keywords is in the "description," "responsibilities," or "duties" section of the job listing itself.
For instance, in the below example, here are some of the main keywords or set of keyword phrases that we easily pulled from an example resume. As you can see, it is incredibly important to include important keywords and keyword phrases to help you in your job search as more companies are switching to filtering and applicant tracking systems to reduce time and cost when evaluating new applications.
Simply take note of the keywords present in the listing(s) you're applying for, and integrate them into writing your resume. Luckily, most listings for the same position, no matter the company, include many of the same responsibilities and keywords for you to use when creating your resume for related job positions.
2. Build a Keyword List
Build your keyword list by writing out the list keywords you’ve just found in the job listing:
3. Integrate Keywords into Your Resume
Take the keywords you've listed and write your resume statements around them. Position does not necessarily matter, so you can include them in your qualifications summary, heading, experience, or skills sections. It's up to you.
Be careful to not randomly throw various keywords or keyword phrases into your resume to ensure that you include them. Your resume needs to be formatted professionally, and easy to read.
If your resume has an abundance of keywords or keyword phrases that don’t flow together or feel stuffed, you will come off as unprofessional and your resume will be tossed aside. Ensure that you integrate your keywords and keyword phrases strategically to meet future applicant review processes, and come off as professional as possible.
The resume heading is roughly the same on every document, no matter which type of format you choose. While it may be simple, it's still important to know how to make a professional resume, and the heading is the first place to start.
How you want to organize the heading is totally up to you, but we recommend keeping things clean, not only with your heading, but throughout the resume. The heading is particularly important, though, as it is the first thing any potential employer or human resource manager will be looking at when considering you as a candidate; be clear and make sure your info is easily readable.
You always want to include the following elements in your resume heading:
- Phone Number
- Email Address
- Web Address (if applicable)
- Social Media Profiles - Primarily Linkedin
While some modern resumes are changing the formula, you want to make sure that you include these basics to ensure that the healthcare recruiter and hiring manager has the important details.
It is also recommended that you don’t go overboard with heading information, so as to take up too much room on your resume. In contrast, avoid thinking you can get around this caveat with lowering the font-size, because your heading will become increasingly unreadable.
Many job seekers are curious as to whether they should use a resume summary, resume objective, or both to cover all the bases. Unfortunately, both of these are very different and require careful usage depending on the job seeker’s desired position, previous experience, and job search objectives.
A resume summary help provides a brief focused overview of work history. It helps tell the employer what specialties you have as an employe, and will serve as an introduction to the rest of the resume.
A resume objective is useful for telling prospective employers what role or position you would like to have.
Now that we have a brief understanding of the difference between resume objective and a resume summary, we’ll detail which one you should use for various situations.
A resume summary should appear at the top of your resume no matter what, regardless of whether or not you are a new entry into the professional workforce. The resume objective is more useful if you are sending out unsolicited applications where you would like to generate interest in being a potential fit for a position moving forward.
Now that we’ve covered when to use it, we’ll detail a little bit more of each between a resume summary and resume objective, so that you can figure out which is best for you in your healthcare career job search.
While the resume’s objective statement is a traditional element in resume building, it has been slowly fading out of style. With that being said, it's up to you to decide whether you want to include an objective statement in your resume.
Considering that the employer most likely knows which position you’re applying for, we advise against displaying the objective statement, as this valuable resume space could be better allocated to further tell employers how you can solve their problem(s) and why you’re the best fit for the position.
However, if you do write one, always keep in mind that employers are looking to see who can best fill their need; every inch of your resume should do just that — tell the employer what you can do for them to solve their problem.
The summary statement, sometimes referred to as the "qualifications summary," serves as a sort of introduction for the reader and is an important aspect to writing a resume.
It typically appears in a resume just after the heading section and consists of only 3-5 sentences, but it does something very important: it summarizes why you're the best fit for the position and why the employer should pick up the phone to schedule an interview. The resume summary is the first thought they’ll have of you, so make it count.
Writing your summary can be one of the more difficult aspects of writing your resume, as it involves streamlining your best qualifications and achievements into one concise statement.
One of the more difficult parts of learning how to write a resume is keeping things brief and easy to interpret. This is particularly true when writing your qualifications summary statement.
Writing Your Summary Statement
The most difficult part of starting anything is simply starting. Staring at a blank page can drive anyone mad, but luckily we've got you covered if you follow our approach.
Step 1: Assess the Job Posting
Review the job listing(s) you're considering applying to and find what it is that they're looking for in a candidate. Ask yourself:
- What skills and experience are the employer looking for in an ideal candidate?
- If you were looking to fill the same position, what would you want to find?
- Are they looking for a particular personality type?
- What level of experience are they looking for? Entry-level? Mid-level management? Executive-level?
Determining the right answers to these questions will help ensure that you write your resume in such a way that it best meets the format that will likely lead to you getting further along in the next stage. You wouldn’t want to highlight entry level experience in your summary if the position you are applying for is a mid-level position.
In addition, reviewing the potential position and answering those questions will once again help you determine whether or not you would be a good fit for the position, and if you should consider applying for it.
Analyzing the listing and drawing conclusions based on what you find in the "responsibilities" and "qualifications" section will point you in the right direction and make building your summary statement much easier.
Step 2: Create a List
The easiest way to add to your summary statement is to create a list of points you believe your prospective employer would value most. Write out a list of your best achievements throughout your career thus far. Think of ways that you've influenced or developed the businesses of your former employers, and spin your accomplishments in a way that reveals your value as an employee.
Consider the following when building your list:
- What aspects of your skills and experience do you think are most valuable to the employer?
- What achievements highlight the best of you and what you've done?
- What problem is the employer looking to solve, and how can you make your qualifications fit as a solution?
- How do your career goals match up with those of the position and the company?
Do not include:
- Skills everyone else has. You want to appear unique. Everyone can use Microsoft Word, but not everyone can navigate the chaotic environment of a hospital, juggling the needs of patients with the demands of the industry.
- Flowery language and fluff to make your summary longer. Professionals will recognize filler language and will, either actively or subconsciously, demote your chances of getting the position. Avoid it!
- Tasks and responsibilities you don't really want to do in your future position. You may be good at something but still despise actually doing it. For us, we believe finding the right career means you never feel like you're at work. If you're searching for this kind of position, don't include aspects you don't really want to do.
Step 3: Narrow Down Your List
Go back and review the job listing once again and review what the employer is ideally searching for; gear your summary to fit into that role. You can either highlight the key points you believe are most valuable to include in your summary, or use the process of elimination to find those you know the employer will not find valuable.
Again, it is important to narrow down as much as possible, so that you can keep your resume as focused as possible for the respective position you are applying for. Once you've gotten your list down to roughly 3-5 points, you can start the writing process.
Step 4: Writing Your Resume Summary Statement
Now that you've gotten your list boiled down to the "best of you" bullet points, you can begin the writing process. You want to stay clear and concise without selling yourself short on your qualifications.
The most important piece of advice we can offer you for this section is to ensure that every sentence offers value to the employer. Remember, you are using your resume as a marketing tool to showcase why you are a must hire for the prospective employer, compared to other applicants.
Keep "value" in mind while writing and you'll come up with the perfect statement.
The professional experience section is mandatory. It serves as the meat of the document and the main area where you convey how you're the ideal candidate through your experiences and achievements. The section is referred to by many different titles, including:
- Professional Experience
- Work Experience/History
- Relevant Experience
- Clinical Experience
- Volunteer Work/Experience
- Employment Experience/History
Note: There is no correct title here. You are free to create your own as long as it's clear that it is your experiences and qualifications section.
Types of Experience
Your task is to list the most relevant experiences and, more importantly, accomplishments you've had throughout the last several positions you've held — all while avoiding experiences irrelevant to the job you're applying for. Generally speaking, there are 5 types of experience you can incorporate into your professional experience section:
- Extracurricular & hobbies
- Relevant Travel
As a rule of thumb, try not to list positions you held over 5 years ago, unless necessary. However, if you're applying for a position that you don't have a ton of recent and applicable experience for, use any background information you can to support your application.
Remember: Your resume is a marketing document meant to serve one purpose, landing the interview. Write it geared toward this goal.
Experience Section Elements
Resumes come in a million different flavors, depending on who's building it, but there are four elements always present in the experience section:
- The company, charity, or organization and it's location
- Your current or former position title
- The dates of your employment
- Accomplishments, responsibilities, and duties
Employers are looking for experiences and skills developed that will help them find the ideal candidate that can take their current problem off of their hands. In order to make them feel confident in your abilities, these above four basic areas must be addressed.
Writing Your Experience Section
Before beginning your writing, we suggest asking yourself a few questions and jotting down some notes about your experiences, like:
- What types of experience are most valuable for this position I'm applying to?
- What types of experience are most valuable to the company I'm applying to?
- Which of my experiences, including jobs, volunteer, extra curricular, etc., does the employer really want to know about?
- Which of my experiences are irrelevant and should be excluded?
- How can I spin some of my experiences to go from being irrelevant to related to the position I'm applying to?
- Which experiences are most highly related to my long-term career goals?
After this writer’s-block exercise, writing the experience section of your resume should be much easier, plus you'll already have some solid experience points ready to go!
But how should I set up, or format, my experience section?
The general rule of thumb is not to go further than 5 years into the past. But this isn't a concrete rule. If you have experiences from more than 5 years ago that relate to the position you're applying to, you can include it, but be prepared to explain why it was so long ago.
For our example we'll be using the reverse chronological resume format, but you are free to choose any layout you wish.
We suggest the following layout for each position:
[Job Title], [Employer/Company][Location] (Start Date - End Date)
This format helps convey the important information in a chronological format for those who view your resume. First the employer will be able to see the job title you held, the relevant previous employer, where the location was, employment periods, and related responsibilities.
Including specific job titles help to align with potential roles you could fill for each position, instead of a generic broad title such as “Nurse”. In addition, including the location is important for healthcare specific positions where certifications are required. If you are showcasing that you worked in the same region as the current job you are applying to, you can alleviate some of the concern about required licensure or certification requirements.
Some employers will ask that you include specific employment dates, while others only ask that you include month and year timeframes. It is best to highlight the month and year, and be ready to include additional dates if the question arises.
- Ex: (February 2015 - March 2016)
It’s best to include specific months and dates as our example, because some career hoppers will tend to fiddle with the year to make it seem as if they held the position for a longer period of time than they actually did. For instance:
- Bad: 2015 - 2016
- Good: February 2015 - March 2016
The reason 2015 - 2016 is bad, is because it doesn’t provide enough detail. For instance, 2015 - 2016 could mean one full year of employment, or it could simply mean December 2015 - January 2016, one month.
It’s best to avoid this ambiguity and be straight forward with your employment dates and months to ensure that everyone is on the same page about your previous work history.
That's it. Ensure you include all four experience section elements, and focus your responsibilities/duties on your achievements, not your features. It's one thing to say you're fantastic with managing patients, but it's another to prove it.
Your resume should not only list your professional healthcare experience and achievements, but your education as well. Just like the rest of your resume, your education section should also be geared toward the job in which you're applying.
For instance, if you don't have a degree or certification in the field you're applying to, sometimes listing courses that you've taken that relate to the job can go a long way to landing the interview and separating yourself from other applicants with fewer qualifications.
Education Section Elements
You can choose how to format your education section in a variety of different ways, but you definitely need to ensure you include the following elements:
- The institution's location
- Type and name of your degree program (B.A., B.S., M.S., Ph.D., etc.)
- The dates in which you attended
- Applicable course work (optional and only if necessary)
Education Section Location
There are a few different places you can highlight your education on your resume, but it usually depends on your experience level.
Most students nearing graduation, or those that have just entered the job market, will want to put their education section near the top of their resume to highlight this fact. With a nearing or recent graduation date, employers will understand why you may be lacking a lot of experience in your field.
Seasoned professionals, on the other hand, will want to put their education near the bottom of the document, like the formats listed above, in order to put a spotlight on experience over education.
In addition, with the advent of new distance learning or eLearning opportunities, the education section is a great area to place completion credits for courses that will directly help you in your healthcare role.
Some of these useful credit courses might be various software programs that are integral to a daily healthcare worker, or unique software tools that will separate you from other healthcare candidates who don’t have similar qualifications.
Essentially, the more important items should be listed towards the top of the resume, as it's the place anyone who reads it will start.
Formatting Your Education Section
There are a million ways under the sun to format the education section, or any section, of your resume. It's up to you to choose a clean design that is easily readable. Remember, recruiters spend an average of 5-7 seconds reviewing any resume, so the quicker and more clearly you can convey information, the better.
[Degree/Diploma/Certificate] [Instutution/University/School], [Location] (Date range)
Here's an example of this clean education layout:
Education may seem like only a small part, but every aspect is important when learning how to make a resume and marketing yourself.
The skills section is an important part of your resume and should usually be your closer, as they're usually not direct experience but other skills you've developed along the way that are worth mentioning.
Rather than cover all of the skills again here, we've built a page entirely dedicated to this section: Ch. 5: Skills for Your Resume. The idea is to take situations and experiences you've had, whether they be in your spare time, professional experience, or volunteer work, and apply them to the position you want.
Tips for the Resume Skills Section:
- Focus on skills you've developed or maintained in the roughly the past 5 years.
- Just like the experience section, stay centered around the accomplishments or achievements you've had using the skills you've gained.
- Don't simply state that you have a skill, like "works well as part of a team." It's subjective and of course you think you're great. Any competent employer will see straight through this, making you look unprofessional.
- Choose a clean format that gives the reader information quickly and concisely. Over complicating things is never good. Simply is always best.
One additional section you can choose to include at the bottom of your resume near your education or skills section, is an awards or honors section. This section offers another area for you to showcase that you are an achiever and focus on driving results to prospective employers.
One example of a potential award or honor to include in your resume for a healthcare position might be:
- "Earned Top Rated Nurse By Patients for March 2016"
Additional awards or honors that you might include are grants received, academic honors, various scholarships, professional affiliation awards, workplace awards, and volunteer awards.
Skills like this showcase to employers that you take your job seriously, and will go the extra mile to separate yourself from other employees. Again, it is important to remember that your resume is a marketing tool for you to use and showcase why you would be a valuable asset to be hired.
Learning how to make a resume can be difficult, but hopefully this has set you in the right direction. Bookmark this guide, come back to it, go through each section with a fine-tooth comb and you'll be well on your way to landing the interview.
Once you're done, have someone look through your resume and edit it. Review it several times before sending it.
Give it some time to breathe and come back to it; that way you can see it from a refreshed perspective and find errors you missed before. It doesn’t matter how shiny and polished your resume is, if you have basic grammar and spelling errors, your prospective employer won’t take you seriously — especially if you have “great writing and editing skills” listed.