Nurse Resume Red Flags: 9 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.

After creating attention-grabbing job descriptions for your open positions, you’ve gathered several qualified job applicants. Now it’s time to sort through nursing resumes to see which candidates should be selected for a nursing interview. In the screening process, it’s important for healthcare employers to maintain an open mind about candidates’ varied experiences — while keeping an eye out for common resume red flags that could signal an applicant isn’t a good fit.

When creating a nursing resume, job seekers aim to showcase their strengths in a clear, well-organized, and truthful format that aligns with the requirements of your open position. How can you tell if a candidate is just telling you what you want to hear? In this article, we share tips to help you read between the lines in a resume and identify potential weaknesses that tell you a nurse isn’t qualified for the position. Look for these common red flags to help save you time and reduce turnover costs in the long run.

1. 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.

2. Lack of Relevant Nursing 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. Whether a nurse is applying for their first RN position after getting healthcare experience as a CNA or advancing from med-surg to critical care nursing, it’s up to the hiring manager to decide whether to take a chance on them.

The decision comes down to whether or not a candidate has relevant nursing experience. A good place to look for this is in the professional summary portion of a resume. This brief overview of a nurse’s professional clinical experience can provide valuable insight into the skills they gained in previous roles.

Look for action words, proof of clinical skills, and experiences that demonstrate competency to care for your patient population. If you notice inconsistencies, such as vague language, this could be a sign they’re embellishing their work experience. Be cautious if a nurse lists more non-nursing jobs than relevant clinical experience, especially if they’ve been a nurse for a long time. This could mean they have something to hide, such as poor relationships with past employers or a bad professional track record.

3. Missing Credentials, Certifications, or Licensure

While it’s an employer’s responsibility to verify nursing credentials, a nurse’s resume should include specific details about their education, state licensure, and certifications. The omission of this information can be a sign that a nurse is embellishing a resume or worse — faking nursing credentials.

Healthcare employers should verify a nurse graduated from an accredited nursing school and not a diploma mill that issues fake diplomas. School names should include the full name, address, and dates of education. If a school name is a few letters off from a reputable program, this could be a red flag indicating a fake program.

Look for data in the resume that could easily be cross-checked, such as:

  • Nursing education school name, address, and dates
  • RN license number, state, and expiration date
  • Certification expiration dates, such as Basic Life Support (BLS)
  • Professional affiliations

4. Lack of Professional Development

For nurse managers, the ideal candidate is a nurse who will contribute to positive changes in a nursing unit. This means they’re willing to get involved in unit-based committees or participate in organization-wide initiatives such as shared governance.

When a nurse shows a commitment to professional development on a resume, it indicates they’re more likely to be engaged in their work and feel committed to your healthcare organization. Check a nursing resume for participation in committees or projects that demonstrate a commitment to clinical practice and career advancement at previous jobs.

Examples include:

  • Completing advanced competencies in a nursing specialty
  • Obtaining optional specialty certifications
  • Participating on evidence-based practice committees or quality improvement projects

If a nurse’s employment history shows they’ve worked at an organization for an extended period of time but haven’t advanced their career, this could be a potential resume red flag. Use the interview process to determine a nurse’s career goals and intentions for joining your facility.

5. 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 have extensive job histories or change roles 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 along with a relevant job title.

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.

6. 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%”

7. Irrelevant References

Many companies require professional references in addition to a thorough work history when submitting 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.

8. 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 a resume during the application process. This may include leaving out mandatory attachments (such as reference lists or resumes) or failure to follow instructions carefully.

9. Inappropriate Social Media Presence

In the digital age, many nurses choose to include links to their professional social media accounts on a resume. Having this information allows employers to cross-reference a nurse’s professional presence online. It can be a useful way to determine how a nurse represents a healthcare organization and the nursing profession.

Cross-checking social media is a common practice — an estimated 67% of employers state they check a candidate’s social media during the hiring process. Doing so can open up opportunities for potential social media-related resume red flags, so be wary of issues such as:

  • A representation of clinical or professional skills online that don’t match a nurse’s resume
  • An employee making disparaging remarks against an employer online
  • A nurse engaging with past or current patients, resulting in HIPAA violations

Stop Sorting Through Resumes and Get High-Quality Candidates Fast

Are you ready to fill open positions with qualified nursing professionals but don’t have time to catch possible resume red flags? Allow IntelyCare to take over the tedious demands of nurse hiring so you can stabilize your workforce today.