The first step in your recruitment journey
Whilst most jobs will ask you to complete an application form, it’s also useful to create a CV that you can include in your portfolio and present to prospective employers or useful contacts. If you’re applying for jobs in the private sector, there may not be a formal application process, so a good CV will be even more essential.
Successful CVs are logical, engaging and concise. Most importantly they’re tailored to the people reading them, so make sure you adapt yours accordingly by matching it up to the job you’re applying for and using relevant keywords.
Don't forget that RCN members can have their CV checked for free as part of their membership.
Length - Ideally no more than 2 sides of A4
Layout - Clear, logical, flows nicely, easy to read
Presentation - Organised, neat, uncluttered, professional
Tailor - Make it relevant to the job you’re applying for
Review - Use spellcheck and get at least 2 other people to proof read it
Action words - Try to use ‘action’ words, to bring your CV to life. Attention-grabbing terms like 'identified', 'created,' or 'initiated,' really demonstrate to an employer that you are able to put your skills into practice. Our Careers guide, “Applying for jobs” has more information and examples of action words.
Covering letter - Do you need to include a covering letter as well?
The structure of your CV is incredibly important, as you'll want to ensure the reader can find out what they need to know quickly and easily.
If you're not sure what format to use, follow the suggested layout below. In addition, you can download our example CVs for some inspiration.
This should be a short paragraph to open up your CV and tell your prospective employer a bit about yourself. Remember, first impressions go a long way.
Always tailor this section to the job you’re going for. You may want to describe your personal qualities and strengths, offer a summary of your career history and experience, and then conclude with a career objective.
Try to be original. Some of the most commonly used words or phrases within healthcare CVs are:
These are all great descriptors, but if you use them, make them sound meaningful by giving context or examples, and making it personal to you where possible.
Next, bullet point 4 - 5 of your key skills and/or achievements. This could conclude your clinical skills, interpersonal skills, notable achievements, qualifications and experience.
Always tailor this section, thinking about what would be the most relevant or most attractive to your prospective employer. Study the job advert, job description person specification and organisation values of the employer to help you do this.
By including this section at the start of your CV, you will grab the employer's attention by highlighting your best bits, and making yourself look like a good match for the job.
Starting with the most recent, detail your employment history, including job title, name of employer and relevant dates. You can then include a few bullet points to showcase duties and responsibilities, skills, knowledge and/or achievements. Again, prioritise the most relevant or impressive, and make sure you use action words to make an impact.
You don't have to list all the jobs you've ever had. If you need to save space you can summarise experience from older jobs. E.g. "Prior to 2007, held a variety of different roles within settings such as surgical, A&E and elderly medicine, acquiring skills such as..."
You may decide to draw attention to a non-healthcare role, or a role from several years ago if this would be relevant now. (E.g. You're applying for a nurse team leader post, and previously worked as a manager within the retail industry before you worked in healthcare.)
Starting with the most recent, list your qualifications, including dates and the educational institute or awarding body and grades if applicable.
If you have done a lesser known qualification or an international qualification, you may want to explain briefly what the qualification entailed, or list an equivalent qualification for comparison.
Here you can list training days, courses or study days you've attended, articles published, or membership of professional organisations or networks.
You don't have to list absolutely everything. Prioritise the most recent and the most relevant. You can summarise to save space if needed. E.g. "Prior to 2014, have attended over 20 study days in areas such as catheter care, venepuncture, IV therapy and...."
Write a sentence or two about your interests or hobbies. Don't be afraid to be original. You can also include information about whether you hold a driving license, if you speak other languages, IT skills that you possess, details of your LinkedIn account (if you have one,) or anything else you think your prospective employer would benefit from knowing.
If you have space, consider listing a referee or two with their contact details. Alternatively you could write, "Available upon request."
Don't forget you can have your CV checked by the RCN Careers Service. There are two options:
CV check and feedback via e-mail - E-mail your CV to the Careers Service along with your full name, membership number and a brief summary of your situation and career objectives. We will check your CV and give written feedback via e-mail within 5 working days.
Telephone appointment - If you would rather discuss the feedback on your CV over the telephone with a careers adviser, call RCN Direct on 0345 772 6100 to book an appointment.
Please note: CVs will be checked based on UK requirements.
Advice for student and newly qualified nurses on writing your first nursing CV.