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RCN Careers: applications

CV Writing

The first step in your recruitment journey

Working in the health care profession you have access to a world of opportunities. The first step in the recruitment journey is to demonstrate to a potential employer your skills, experience, attributes and suitability. The RCN Careers Service can offer you hints and tips on your CV and application.

Your CV

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, then 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, matching it up to the job you’re applying for and using relevant keywords. 

Need inspiration? See our CV examples:

Checklist

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.

Structuring your CV

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. See Nurse example CV,  HCA example CV and Student / newly qualified nurse example CV.

Personal Summary / Personal Statement

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. Wherever possible, always tailor this section to the job you’re going for. Most people describe their personal qualities and strengths, offer a summary of their career history, and include any career objectives.

Try to be original. Some of the most commonly used words or phrases within healthcare CVs are: 'compassionate,' 'caring,' 'hard working,' 'good communicator,' and, 'works well individually and as part of a team.' They're all great descriptors, but if you do use them, make them sound meaningful by giving context or examples, and making it personal to you.

Key Skills and achievements

Include a key skills and achievements section next, where you would bullet point 4 - 5 of your key skills and/or achievements. 

This could include details of your clinical skills, interpersonal skills, and notable achievements, qualifications and experience. Always tailor this section, thinking about which that would be the most relevant or most attractive to your prospective employer. (For ideas, look at the job advert of the role you're writing your CV for.)

Employment and experience

Starting with the most recent, detail your employment history, including job title, the name of the 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 and 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 became a nurse.)

Education and Qualifications

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.

Professional Activities and Training

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...."

Additional information 

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, your LinkedIn account if you have one, if you speak any other languages, or anything else you think your prospective employer would find useful or interesting.

References 

If you have space, consider listing a referee or two with their contact details. Alternatively you could write, "Available upon request."


Personal qualities 

Passionate
Motivated
Approachable
Responsive
Supportive
Mindful
Proactive
Self aware 
Confident
Determined
Assertive
Role model
Resilient
Positive
Flexible
 Adaptable
 Innovative
 Reliable
Creative
Tactful 
 Diplomatic
 Quick thinking
Organised


Action Words 

Assessed
Coordinated
Centralised
Created
Demonstrated
Developed
Established
Evaluated
Fulfilled
Identified
Implemented
Initiated
Introduced
Managed
Negotiated
Organised 
 Produced
 Trained
 Recognised
 Represented
 Streamlined
 Supervised


Need us to check to your CV?

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.

You may also want to see our online advice on Job applications, Transferable skills and Interview skills.

Want your CV checked?

Send your CV to career.service@rcn.org.uk and include:

  • Your full name and membership no.
  • A brief summary of your situation and career objectives

CV writing for student & newly qualified nurses

Advice for student and newly qualified nurses on writing your first nursing CV.

Job applications *

What employers look for in an application and how to ensure you get shortlisted.