Nurse Resume Red Flags: Common Warning Signs for Facilities

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Written by Alexa Davidson, MSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
A hiring manager interviewing a candidate for a nursing job, looking for resume red flags.

Hiring and training new nurses can be expensive and tedious, which is why it’s important to carefully screen job candidates as early as possible in the hiring process. A well-crafted resume allows nurses to showcase their strengths — but employers should read between the lines to identify potential weaknesses. Look for these nursing resume red flags to help save you time and reduce turnover costs in the long run.

Typos and Grammar Errors

An important quality of a good nurse is attention to detail. In clinical practice, there’s little margin for error. You want to hire a nurse who checks and double-checks their work, no matter the task.

One way to identify a detail-oriented nurse is to look at the visual appeal of the resume. It’s a good sign if the resume is organized and flows naturally. Resume red flags like typos, grammar errors, and the use of slang could be an indication of the nurse’s work style. It could signify the nurse has the potential to be careless or easily flustered on the job.

Keep in mind, most nurses don’t have much exposure to technology outside of electronic health record (EHR) systems. It may take an in-person interview to tell if a nurse is put together, despite a chaotic resume.

Lack of Relevant Experience

In a perfect world, job candidates would have recent experience in the specialty they’re applying for. But nursing career paths aren’t linear, and everyone has to start somewhere. It’s easy to identify a lack of relevant experience if the nurse is a new grad or transferring from another specialty — and it’s up to the hiring manager to decide whether to take a chance on them.

It can be tricky to spot irrelevancies on an experienced nurse’s resume. Look for inconsistencies, such as vague language, that signal they could be embellishing their work experience. Be cautious if a nurse lists more non-nursing jobs than relevant experience, especially if they’ve been a nurse for a long time. This could mean they have something to hide.

Omission of Key Details

Employers should be able to gather key details from a nurse’s resume to verify they align with the role. This can prevent you from bringing a candidate in for a nursing interview only to discover they’re not a good match. A nursing resume should include items like:

  • education
  • work experience
  • license and certifications
  • professional affiliations

The omission of these details can leave employers guessing or filling in the blanks — which may result in wasted time.

Resume Gaps

Resume gaps for nurses are debatable. Traditionally, job-hopping doesn’t bode well on a resume, but healthcare has one of the highest turnover rates of all industries. It’s common for nurses to change jobs to avoid burnout or accommodate their family lives. They may also choose contract or per diem work, which can result in gaps or multiple short-term jobs on a resume. This isn’t a red flag when the employment type is listed.

On the other hand, having multiple full-time positions in a short time period can indicate a nurse has difficulty staying with one employer. Hiring managers should ask nurses to clarify resume gaps before ruling out potential candidates.

Overuse of Buzzwords

Pay attention to the language the candidate uses throughout a resume. An overreliance on buzzwords may indicate a candidate is overcompensating for a lack of experience. It’s more valuable to see a nurse’s skill set through a nursing resume with quantifiable results.

Here’s an example of fluff vs. quantifiable skills on a nursing resume:

  • Fluff: “Results-driven nurse taking a team-based approach to care in fast-paced settings”
  • Quantifiable results: “Leader of Nurse-driven Foley Removal Taskforce, which reduced CAUTI rates on surgical unit by 47%”

Irrelevant References

Many companies require references when candidates submit an application. Whether you call each reference or none of them, check the quality of the references listed. Resume red flags include outdated or irrelevant references (such as a former employer of a non-nursing job) or family members.

One thing to consider is that nurses often want to maintain privacy during their job search. They may avoid listing current managers or nurse colleagues as references for this reason.

Inability to Follow Application Instructions

Strong nurses have the ability to take instructions from leaders and teammates in the clinical setting. Avoid hiring a nurse with an insubordinate attitude by looking for red flags on applications. This may include leaving out mandatory attachments (such as reference lists or resumes) or failure to follow instructions carefully.

Stop Sorting Through Resumes and Get High-Quality Candidates Fast

Ready to fill open positions with qualified nursing professionals but don’t have time to sift through resume red flags? Allow IntelyCare to help you get candidates who are the right fit for your facility when you need them. Partner with us to stabilize your workforce today.