Seven Myths About Resume Writing

By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA

Ask five people how to write a resume, and you’ll likely get five different opinions.While most people are well meaning, some dispense outdated or downright incorrect information. Let’s set the record straight about some of the common myths of resume writing.

1. Your resume must be on one page.
This one just won’t die. While one page resumes are standard in some industries, they are not now, and never have been, standard in the nursing profession. Once you’ve had one or two jobs, coupled with your credentials, education, professional affiliations, and so on, you’re easily on two pages. This is perfectly acceptable and very much the norm.

2. Reducing the type size and margins is an acceptable way to get more information on each page.
While you may get more information on the page that way, you’re reducing the readability of your resume and overloading the reader with too much information. A 12-point type size and a one-inch margin all around is the norm. If you need a little extra space, you can slightly reduce the top and bottom margins but never reduce the type size or font. If people have trouble reading your resume, it probably won’t get read. If you have too much material to fit on two pages, start reducing the volume of information by revising, rewriting, and weeding out.

3. Don’t include non-nursing work experience.
This is old advice that was given to nurses years ago. Today, many individuals are coming into nursing as a second or third career and bringing significant prior work experience to the table. Besides, a diverse background is an advantage in today’s workplace. There was a time that others thought nurses were only capable of bedside clinical jobs. No longer. So by all means flaunt your prior, relevant work experience.

4. You must include an objective.
This is another one from old-time resume lore. Not only don’t you need to include an objective on your resume, but I, and many other career management experts, will advise you not to. Why? Because everyone’s objective says almost the same thing: “Looking for a position where I can use all of my skills and experiences in a challenging environment with opportunities for advancement where I can deliver high-quality patient care.” The sentence is vague and meaningless. Therefore, it serves no purpose. On the other hand, if you include an objective that is specific such as “Seeking a position in pharmaceutical sales,” then every time you have another type of job to interview for, you’ll have to change your resume. That’s not practical. You can mention your particular interests in your cover letter.

5. Always end your resume with “References available upon request.”
This is another interesting item that many of us seem to be attached to. The truth of the matter is that if a prospective employer wants references, they will ask for them, and you’ll provide them — end of story. Unless, of course, you don’t want the job. “References available upon request” is understood and therefore does not need to be stated. Eliminate it as a way to unclutter your resume.

6. The longer your resume, the more impressive it will be to the reader.
While that was once a common belief, it is old and outdated. Everyone is on information overload today, so less is more. Be concise and to the point. Eliminate irrelevant, outdated information. For each job experience, list accomplishments, more interesting experiences, and more marketable skills. Don’t bother with the routine duties like “Delivered patient care, Gave out meds, etc.” It is generally not advisable to list all continuing education classes, for example. You could mention relevant courses in your cover letter or list “Selected Continuing Education Courses” on your résumé. Your resume should highlight your professional experiences, not be a detailed record of everything you’ve ever done.

7. I must include every nursing job I ever had.
Some nurses have been in the business so long or had so many jobs that they’ re going into volume three of their resume. You get to a point where it is too much. You only need to go back 15-20 years on your resume. Anything you did prior to that is pretty old and outdated as this point. So if you have been in the workforce for 20 years or more and have had a series of jobs during that time, just go back about 15 to 20 years. If you want, you could always add a statement at the end such as “Prior to this, had significant clinical experience in major medical centers.” That’s all anybody really needs to know about you.

If you’re groaning because your resume looks like something out of old resume folklore, don’t despair. Give it a fresh and updated look, improve its readability, condense the content to that which is most important, eliminate the unnecessary and meaningless, and keep it to a manageable size. You’ll immediately improve the impact of your resume while bringing it into the 21st century.

Donna Cardillo, RN, BS, well-known career guru, is Nursing Spectrum’s Dear Donna and the author of Your First Year As a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional.

For more information about resumes and CVs check out: The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses – Practical Strategies for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career

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All rights reserved. Used with permission.