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6 Travel Nurse Resume Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

It’s true that you never get a second chance to make a first impression — and your travel nursing resume must make a first impression quickly. The average hiring manager will spend six seconds glancing at your resume. You want your experience and skills — not your mistakes — to stand out.

Here are six common travel nurse resume mistakes — and tips on how to avoid them.


1. Forgetting that a computer will analyze your resume

Before a nurse manager or recruiter even glances at your resume, chances are, it will go through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). These systems automate the process of “understanding” your resume. They often rank you against other applicants based on how well your resume matches the position you are applying for.

If your resume doesn’t take both the human nurse manager and their ATS into account, you’ll end up in a hiring no man’s (nurse’s) land. Your resume won’t even get those six seconds of human contact.

How to optimize your travel nurse resume for an ATS

  • Pay attention to the file format the application requests. Submitting a .pdf when a particular ATS processes .txt, .doc, and .rtf could cost you.
  • Keep your formatting simple. Remember that you are often impressing a machine first.
    • Use standard fonts, such as Arial and Times New Roman.
    • Avoid fancy bullets or images that may cause a misreading.
    • Keep it black and white. Colors can impede legibility.
  • Avoid spelling and grammar mistakes and keep all your information consistent. Computers are even worse than humans at guessing at your meaning. More on errors below.
  • Standardize your headings. Use Summary, Licenses & Certifications, Professional Experience, etc. Headers aren’t a good place to show creativity — deviation from the norm will make your resume harder for an ATS to parse.
  • Match your language to that of the job description. If you see “symptom management” throughout the job description, be sure to refer to your own experience in “symptom management” rather than “palliative care” or “comfort care” (unless those are used as well). Include this language naturally and appropriately throughout your resume.

2. Making careless errors

According to CareerBuilder, 58% of hiring professionals automatically dismiss resumes because of spelling and grammar mistakes. Don’t let your strong resume end up in the trash because you misspell pharmaceutical, have a typo in your own name, or use the wrong verb tense in your job descriptions.

How to avoid errors

  • Double and triple check for spelling and grammar mistakes.
  • Go beyond traditional spell check. A tool like Grammarly can help you weed out common errors.
  • Have someone else read your resume. A fresh pair of eyes can catch what you might miss.

3. Being inconsistent

Inconsistency also makes you look sloppy. If you use different date formats, sporadically capitalize hospital, or unreliably provide your license numbers, how can a recruiter trust that you’ll be detail-oriented with things that really matter, like patient care and punctuality?

How to avoid inconsistency

  • Establish your format before you even start writing. Decide how you will structure start and end dates, where you will put facility locations, and how you will present your licenses and certifications.
  • Once you’ve written a single job entry that fits your format to the letter, copy and paste it. Create your second job entry by updating your model with the appropriate information.
  • Use the Find feature of your word processing program to check for consistency. By searching out every instance of a word, for example, you make sure you capitalized it each and every time it appears in your resume.

4. Overgeneralizing

Which is more compelling?

“Took care of patients.”


“Provided care to Level-III Trauma, surgical, and ICU patients.”

Clearly, the Level-III Trauma nurse is going to garner more attention. Overgeneralizing means underselling yourself. You may have the most compelling background, and the most precise set of skills for the job. But, if that’s all hidden inside bland statements, no healthcare recruiter will give your resume a second look.

How to avoid overgeneralizations

  • Be sure to include specific details about every assignment you’ve taken, such as:
    • facility type,
    • unit type,
    • number of beds, and
    • unit trauma level.
  • Look for exemplary travel nurse resumes online. Pay attention to how they describe their experience. Look for phrases to borrow and modify to make your own.
  • Take a moment to remember a day in your life during your job. Think of specific tasks you performed, accolades you received, initiatives you spearheaded. Mine these details to make your job descriptions more accurate.
  • Have someone read your resume and highlight places where your language is vague or ambiguous.

5. Sending out an all-purpose resume

In the same way you wouldn’t write identical letters to your best friend and to your mother-in-law, you shouldn’t send the same resume for every job out there. Each position is as unique as a person — and recruiters and nurse managers want nurses who are tailor-made for the job.

Further, those reading your resume can spot the all-purpose ones — the resumes that don’t take the specific requirements of the position into consideration. Sending generic resumes can make you look lazy, uninvested, or uninterested. Go the extra mile.

How to avoid the all-purpose resume

  • Only include the job experience that’s most relevant. Don’t mention your stint as a receptionist, unless that skill set is applicable to the position.
  • Tailor the talents you list to the job description. If a hospital wants demonstrated experience in post-acute care, be sure to highlight the specifics of your post-acute care work.
  • Don’t forget to match those soft skills, too. If a medical center wants someone who is “proactive” and “collaborative,” highlight how you get things done and work well on a team.

6. Using an objective instead of a summary

Imagine these two people are trying to woo you.

Person A: My goal is to find an attractive partner who will put up with all my unique habits.

Person B: I am a 35-year-old professional chef who dabbles in car repair, enjoys board games, and is looking for a long-term relationship.

Person A is telling you about what they want. Person B is telling you what’s in it for you — great meals, a well-tuned car, game nights, and commitment.

Nursing jobs are highly competitive. You don’t want to start things off with what your employer can give you — that ideal job. You want to lead with what you have to offer your employer — your expertise and experience.

How to avoid the objective and focus on the summary

  • Don’t state the position you are seeking. The fact that you are applying for a position shows your interest.
  • Instead, encapsulate your work experience. Your summary should include the most important milestones that are relevant to the position you’re applying for:
    • Number of years of experience
    • Specific achievements in your specialty
    • Demonstrated skills tied to the job description
    • Qualities that are useful for the assignment
  • Think of the summary as the very beginning of your first impression. Use this important resume real estate to capture everything that makes you the top candidate.

There you have it — the opportunity-killing mistakes on travel nursing resumes and how to avoid them. Looking for more resume tips? Check out How to Write the Perfect Travel Nurse Resume to Get the Job You Want.

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