Nurse Keith: A Stronger Resume Begins at the Top

Nurse Keith: A Stronger Resume Begins at the Top

For nurses at any stage of their professional careers, a strong resume is still a must in the 21st-century nursing employment marketplace. There are many ways to strengthen a resume, and it’s prudent to begin the strengthening process from the top.

A front page strategy

When you read the front page of a newspaper, the top half “above the fold” is where your eye naturally goes; you read the headlines, masthead, weather, and the first few paragraphs of the main articles. Your resume is the same; make the top of the first page shine, hitting the reader with the most crucial information at the very beginning rather than burying the good stuff where it may not be noticed.

If you see your resume as the front page of a newspaper, you will have the visual mindset of making sure that your awesome characteristics and experiences are front-page news.

Feeling limited to one page can make your resume feel crowded; rather, think like a designer and give your resume breathing room. White space gives the eye a place to rest; two pages allows for enough room to create something that is easy to read and digest.

Make yourself shine

Most resumes rely on a strictly chronological list of educational achievements, professional experiences, and accomplishments in order to paint a picture of the applicant. If a Human Resources professional or hiring manager needs to dig deep through the details of your resume in order to get a clear idea of what makes you special, your resume is already showing a major design weakness.

Rather than relying on readers of your resume to skim in search of salient details, choose to front-load the first page with a summary that highlights the skills, accomplishments, achievements, and personal characteristics that set you apart.

Create a dynamic summary

Some applicants choose to create a professional summary that populates all or most of the first page of a resume, making it easy for the reader to glean the most important data right from the start.

Your summary should be in the third person, and its purpose is to use prose to encapsulate the whole of who you are; you can reiterate some of this information in the section describing individual work experience.

Below the summary, you may add a section highlighting certain aspects of your career in bullet points; these may include awards, accomplishments, certifications, or areas of special expertise; use “Selected Accomplishments,” “Career Highlights,” or another appropriate heading for this section.

Don’t bury your lead

Journalists generally make an article’s thesis clear from the beginning; if they don’t, their “lead” may be buried too deep in the article to capture readers’ attention. Your resume is the same; avoid burying your lead and the reasons why you’re the ideal candidate.

Make your resume count by creating a dynamic design that highlights your awesomeness from the top; this will make you more attractive to potential employers and paint a picture of the amazing professional you are.

Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, speaker, author, and popular career columnist for With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses. Keith’s two podcasts, RNFM Radio and The Nurse Keith Show, offer inspiration and practical support to nurses seeking to create meaningful, satisfying lives and careers. Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. He can be found at

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