How to Put Together a Nurse Practitioner Resume and Cover Letter

  • Practice

These simple tips on building a standout nurse practitioner resume will make securing a new position a breeze.

Applying for nurse practitioner positions in any clinical setting can feel overwhelming. When drafting your resume and cover letter, you may be plagued by seemingly simple questions about how to best capture the interest of a potential employer: “Should I include a picture of myself? Should my credentials be listed before or after my experience?”

We consulted Josephine Fava Hochuli, clinical assistant professor and director of clinical placements in the Department of Nursing at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, for answers to these and other commonly asked questions. Hochuli offered us her expertise on designing a nurse practitioner (NP) resume and cover letter that positions you as an optimal candidate.

Formatting Your Nurse Practitioner Resume

According to Hochuli, health care employers often decide whether a candidate is qualified for the position within the first five seconds of surveying a resume. An NP resume should be structured in accordance with this fast-paced assessment approach. Presuming that educational background and relevant credentials will be of the most interest to potential employers, Hochuli suggests the following structure:

  1. Contact information should be clearly displayed at the top of the page.
  2. Education should be next, outlining degrees obtained and schools attended.
  3. Relevant credentials—which may include certifications and special licensure—should come after your education section, and should adhere to industry-standard terminology.
  4. Relevant experience should follow credentials, with the most recent appearing first.
  5. Additional information such as professional association membership, achievements, presentations, scholarly research and volunteer work should follow experience.
  6. References, if necessary, should fall at the end of your resume.

Common Mistakes to Avoid on Your Nurse Practitioner Resume

Hochuli emphasizes that while all resumes should be tailored specifically for the position to which you are applying, some general rules apply. According to Hochuli, most health care employers do not want to see:

  1. Resumes that surpass the single-page standard—unless the experience denoted is particularly relevant to the job description of the position for which you are applying.
  2. Resumes that fail to highlight education, licensure, certifications and credentials.
  3. Experience sections that include positions held over ten years ago—again, unless the skills highlighted are especially applicable to highly specialized nurse practitioner roles.
  4. Excessive wordiness. When outlining experience and accomplishments, keep it concise. For roles that aren’t highly relevant to the specialties outlined in the job description, include only the practice’s name, position held, and years spent in the role.
  5. Resumes that lack professionality. Edit carefully for spelling and grammar mistakes and refrain from including a headshot or any unnecessary graphics.
  6. Resumes that are not organized linearly. Keep it chronological and steer clear of dividing your sections into columns that make it difficult to navigate visually.

The Purpose and Format of a Cover Letter

“Your cover letter is often as critically important as your resume,” said Hochuli, “because it’s an opportunity to market yourself on your own terms and underscore the claim that you are the best fit for the position.” She believes that an effective cover letter should serve as a synopsis of who you are, why you want the position to which you are applying, and what experiences listed on your resume make you the best candidate. She offers this basic format for guidance:

  1. Outline why you are the best fit for the job, touching on key points such as your professional interests and what attracted you to the particular role or employer.
  2. Support your claims with evidence from your clinical or volunteer experience, providing specific details that demonstrate your unique, applicable skillset.
  3. Thank the employer for taking the time to read your letter (which you can also do in the introductory paragraph), emphasize your desire to follow-up and ask for the best time to do so.

The Health Care Hiring Process

According to Hochuli, health care hiring decisions are based on two major factors: ensuring positive health outcomes for all patients and sustaining the financial success of the practice.

“Health care professionals hiring NPs are looking for the candidate who will provide patients with the best level of care,” said Hochuli. “These employers are looking for existing passion and skill.” She emphasizes that employers are likely to seek NPs with highly relevant experience, in order to avoid dedicating unnecessary time and resources to orientation and training sessions.

Due to the hyper-competitive nature of the health care industry and high rates of patient turnover, employers are also seeking candidates who will promote and elevate the overall reputation of their practice. “When evaluating candidates,” said Hochuli, “employers ask themselves, ‘Will this person enhance our quality of care and advance the success of our practice?’”

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