Job preparation

When hunting for a nursing job, you need to be armed with a few tools and tips that help introduce you to a prospective employer. These include a cover letter — often your first point of contact with an employer — a resume and perhaps a Curriculum Vitae (CV), too.

Once you impress with these tools, there is an opportunity to get to the employer (and they to know you) better in an in-person, telephone or online interview. Job interviewing is often the deal-maker or deal-breaker in the job-hunting process.

If your hands are clammy just thinking about job hunting, relax. We’ve got a wealth of tips to help ensure you put your best foot forward as a nurse in today’s job market.

Cover letters

A cover letter is an essential tool that allows you to highlight your key skills and experience as they suit a particular nursing position. This saves the employer having to hunt for your key qualifications in your resume. (You’ll usually find the skills and experience required in the job posting description). However a cover letter is also a chance to give employers a sense of your passion for nursing, and a little insight into your personality through the tone of your writing.

Sound like a pretty big task? Here are some helpful links to make the process easy.

Advice for how to explain various employment gaps

Job preparation tips for mature nurses

Job preparation tips for nursing students

General career planning advice including cover letter and resume writing

Basic tips you might forget about cover letter writing.

Resumes & CVs

Once you’ve caught the attention of an employer with your cover letter, you need to wow them with your resume and/or CV. A resume is a summary document, usually one to three pages in length, which highlights your education, professional background and accomplishments. A CV is a more detailed and lengthier document, which outlines key professional and academic interests and accomplishments. (Usually a CV is used to apply for grants, scholarships, awards and academic appointments.) If you are uncertain which you need when applying for job, call the employer to clarify.

How should you structure your resume? Here is a suggested outline to help get you started. Below you will find more helpful resume and CV links.

Nursing Resume Outline

Career Objectives or Summary

Be specific here in a line or two about what kind of nursing position you are looking for, and consider adding a bullet-form list of your top strengths, accomplishments, expertise and career interests.


Include all diplomas, degrees and certificates.

Honours and Awards

Include honours/awards from your workplace, academic institution, professional association and volunteer work.

Work/clinical experience

Highlight skills and accomplishments from your work or student clinical experiences. Draw attention to activities where you went above and beyond expectations and be sure to describe succinctly how you made a difference.

Professional memberships and affiliations

List your involvement in professional associations, such as RNAO, CNSA, interest groups etc.

Publications and presentations

Outline any written publications you have authored, newsletters, patient education materials, professional articles, etc.

Community/volunteer experience

In particular, highlight any volunteer work that relates to the field of nursing you are pursuing.


Do not include these with your resume. These should be offered on a separate piece of paper when requested by the employer.

General resume and CV writing help.

Advice for how to explain various employment gaps.

Job preparation tips for mature nurses

Job preparation tips for nursing students


Not so long ago, many nurses were offered jobs before they even finished their education programs. Today, nurses looking for work at any stage in their career (new grad, mid- or late-career) are sure to encounter interviews as part of the job search process. An interview can be intimidating — but it doesn’t have to be. Not if you know what to expect, and prepare as best you can.

Here are a few things you might not realize about the interview process:

The job interview is two-sided The job interview isn’t just for the employer (whose main goal is to determine whether you are the right fit the organization). Of course, your goal is to sell yourself as the best candidate for the job; but it is also important for you to find out about the organization, ask your own questions and decide whether it is the right fit for you.

Preparation is key. Research the organization before an interview so you are in a position of knowledge. Review the organization’s web site — this information may be asked for at an interview and shows that you take initiative. The organization’s web site information will also assist you in determining if this employment opportunity is the best fit for you. Most important, review your strengths before the interview especially as they relate to the job description. Make sure you reiterate your strengths and how you fit with the team and organization. When the interview is winding up, take a moment to review whether you had a chance to highlight your key skills. If not, take the opportunity to do so.



Interview resources

Nursing job interview information

Group or panel interview resources

Behavioural interview resources

Serial interview resources

Telephone interview resources

General interview tips

  • Make sure you write a new cover letter tailored for each job to which you apply!
  • Tip

    In the job interview, do not ask about salary and benefits until you are offered the job! Also, don't give up after the interview. Send a thank you letter for the opportunity. RNAO's Job Application Process guide (PDF) contains a sample thank you letter on page 18.

  • Did you know that there are five ways to structure a resume?
    • the chronological resume lists your experience by time;
    • the functional resume highlights specific experience (a good idea if you have significant employment gaps!);
    • the combination resume lists skills and experience and then employment history;
    • the targeted resume is tailored specific to an employer; and
    • the mini resume for networking occasions