CNA Resume & Cover Letter- Things To Keep In Mind

The purpose of any good resume is to make sure that you stand out on paper to increase your chances of gaining an interview. A CNA resume is no exception to this rule. The common mistake that many new CNAs make is that they believe that the resume should launch them directly into their dream nursing job, but this is not the case. The entire focus of the resume needs to be on getting you to the next step in the hiring process, which is the interview. The modern-day interviewer receives a lot of resumes from other enthusiastic, hungry CNAs that want to acquire the same job that you have your eye on. Therefore, it goes without saying that competition is very fierce.

Presentation is the Key

There are a few things that you can do to your resume in order to stand out. First, you want to think about the way the information will be presented. Remember that the person screening the resumes is very busy, so readability will be more of a priority than anything else. Images should be kept small or simply held out of the picture completely since you can never be certain how they will render once the interviewer has your resume printed out in front of them. In addition, you will want to make sure that the font is large enough to be seen without making your resume go into too many pages.

Keep in Short and Sweet

In the case of building the best CNA resume possible, there is such a concept as a resume that is too long. Ideally, entry and mid-level CNAs should keep their resumes to no more than one or two pages. Since a resume is a tool designed to secure an interview, the short length forces you to stick only to the highlights of your career up to the current day. Anything more than the highlights will most likely not be read.

A common mistake that many new CNAs make is that they include unnecessary information that is not completely relevant to the larger goal of securing an interview. This usually manifests in the form of a list of references or a separate page for them. This is unnecessary since most application forms will include space for you to include references; the interviewer can then check on your references after they’ve determined your overall fitness as a candidate for the open position.

There is a fine line between being so brief in your work descriptions that managers don’t know what you’re talking about, and so wordy that they toss your resume aside.  If it helps, imagine that your resume will be read by a someone who is not in the industry.  Make sure you explain any facility-specific tasks, and be clear about your duties.  Never assume that jargon from your job is nationally known.

Summary at the Top

With respect to the information itself, there’s plenty of tips you can put into play immediately to turn an ordinary CNA resume into an extraordinary one. The strongest tip is to summarize your overall accomplishments at the top of the resume. Making good use of the first few lines of your resume can provide very important when it comes time for the recruiter to make the final decisions around what applicants to actually call in for an interview.

Again, it bears repeating that the resume’s sole purpose is to move you to the next step of the hiring process; a good CNA resume will be enough to get you an opportunity for an interview. After that point, you will need strong persuasion skills to convince the interviewer that you are truly the best person for the job. Memorizing your achievements based off of your CNA resume is a great way to give yourself the confidence needed to really wow the interviewer.

Writing a Cover Letter

  1. Make a list of the top three requirements for most of the positions. In many cases, this includes certification, experience in a nursing or other care type of situation. Other requirements may include being able to operate on a shift-based schedule. Make sure that you have at least three or four requirements.
  2. Write out two paragraphs using the resume you created from our article that describes how you answer these requirements. Include when you were certified, how much continuing education you have done (if any), and be sure to keep it brief. This will serve as the “meat” of your cover letter and you should save it on your computer as “cover-letter-template” or something similar.
  3. When you find a job opening that interests you, you can fill in the blanks. The easiest is to start with the date, skip a line (either on paper or on the computer), and then write “Dear ” or “To Whom It May Concern” if you can’t find that information.
  4. The first paragraph should be short, sweet and straight to the point. Write that you’re interested in the position, and mention one or two things that make you stick out to an employer. If you’re just getting started as a CNA, feel free to use traits (“warm” and “friendly”) that co-workers or supervisors have used in the past.
  5. Once you put in the meat paragraphs that you’ve already pre-written, you need a closing paragraph. A simple one is to provide contact information such as a phone number or e-mail address, and then offer to follow up within a week’s time.
  6. Be sure to attach your resume, and sign the letter, “Sincerely” or something else that’s polite, followed by your name, followed by “Enclosure: resume”

Get Rid of the Boring Subject Line

Most of your job applications will be made by sending e-mails to hiring managers.  The first thing that they read is the subject line of your e-mail and often they have to read hundreds of variants of “CNA Application,” “CNA Applicant,” “ – Nurse,” and so forth until the lines start to blur.  It may feel uncomfortable, but you may want to consider changing that to sell yourself from the get go.  Some lines that have worked for the author include, “The best applicant all day,” and “The applicant who can manage 20 patients each shift.”  You basically want to add the most salient point to your subject line and get someone interested right then and there.  If you’re not comfortable doing that, don’t worry, we’ll be able to spruce up the cover letter in other ways as well.

Opening Line Excitement

The old conventional wisdom was to tell the hiring manager where you found the position, i.e. “I saw an advertisement for a position in , and am sending you my resume.”  If that seems as fun to read as it did to write just imagine how the hiring manager feels.  Unless it is specifically asked for in the advertisement, leave it out.

Learn to Sell Yourself!

The first paragraph is the second thing that an employer sees and usually the first example of your writing.  So sell yourself.  The first line should be about why you’re qualified for the position.  One example might be, “I’m applying to be a because I know my experience and ability to accomplish are a great fit for your firm.”  Again, we want to use numbers or interesting facts right out of the gate.  Like a newspaper article, you may even consider restricting your opening paragraph to a single sentence.

Tell Them What You Want!

Ask for what you want.  If you are inquiring about an interview, don’t be nice and say, “I’d like to ask about an interview.” Stronger language can help, so try something like, “Call me at or e-mail me at to schedule an interview.”

Sell yourself even if you have to get out of your comfort zone because this is not the job market to be shy in, even with nursing jobs.

Your Cover Letter Should Help Your Resume

Your body paragraph should address the top two or three requirements of the nursing job description.  This is a great way to extend your resume a little bit further.  If you already chose to use the functional resume template, then this is simply expanding on the content of the resume.  You may also want to add any information that helps address skills not covered in your resume if you’re doing this in a bit of a rush.

It’s Not an Epic…It’s a Cover Letter

The most important factor is being concise.  A hiring manager doesn’t want to read about everything that you’ve done, or whether or not you can write long, flowing sentences.  Keep it brief, sell your points, and then end it.  If you write more than three sentences per paragraph, and more than two body paragraphs, take a fine-tooth comb and cut it down.

Proofread and Revise

Hiring managers often get dozens, if not hundreds of resumes for positions.  If you don’t know the managers personally, this is an issue.  Errors like typos and grammar issues offer the manager an easy reason to exclude you.  In fact, most are looking for just these little reasons to cut down on the applications they have to review.  So, be sure to have someone you trust to take a look at your resume.  This is, especially, true if you target your resume to specific employees since frequent changes increase the likelihood of a mistake.

Keep in mind that your cover letter and your resume are a two-part package and that you can always adapt one or the other to your position.  In addition, resumes only open the door.  Look to our other articles to ensure you’re ready to ace the interviews, too.