Even with the encouraging job growth expected for registered and practical nurses through 2020, the competition for open jobs in nursing is still quite difficult. To stand out among other job seekers in the nursing field, it is important to brush-up on your cover letter writing skills.
Generally, a cover letter should be an expansion of your resume, not a carbon copy – think of it as an extra opportunity to highlight your exceptional skills in relation to the job description. It’s not another laundry list of your skills and qualifications.
In addition, make sure to modify your cover letter for each facility you apply to; there is no ‘one size fits all’ thinking when it comes to cover letters. The focus should be on sharing your passion for the position, showcasing your talents in nursing, and an opportunity for you to expand on your education and training.
Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty. Here’s a breakdown of what every section of your cover letter should look like:
1st Paragraph: Introduction (3-4 sentences)
Format, Credentials and Interest in Position Available
The beginning of your cover letter should have the name and address of the employer you are seeking to interview with below your name and address. According to Julie Witt, Rasmussen College manager of employee recruitment, you should also list all your nursing credentials right after your name in the header.
“Candidates with credentials listed after their name will go further in the process than any other cover letter, said Witt. “Your resume will be reviewed; it’s an automatic sign for a recruiter to interview you. It says, ‘Stop! This person is qualified.’” See the cover letter example below:
In addition, the first paragraph should set the stage for the body of your cover letter. It should truly explain your interest, as well as why you have that interest in the available position. You may want to state how your experience and education has gotten you to where you are today, and how it fits with the position you are applying to.
Here’s one example for an ER nurse: “Thank you for the opportunity to express my interest in the ER Staff Nurse position available. My experience and education have provided me with exceptional knowledge of ER practices, acute patient care, patient relations, staff development, and other applicable skills required to become an immediate contributor to your team.”
2nd Paragraph: Body (2-4 sentences)
This paragraph should explain your passion for the position. Witt says your passion is one of the most important things a nurse recruiter is searching for.
“You need to explain why nursing is so important in your life; this will be very instrumental in getting an interview,” she said.
You must also describe your passion in detail, whether your passion is in a position working with patients that are babies and children (e.g., pediatrics), a fast-paced environment (e.g., ER), or enjoying maintaining patient relationships (e.g., medical/surgical department, cardiology, labor/delivery). State your enthusiasm boldly in your cover letter and make sure it relates to the position you are applying to.
3rd Paragraph: Body (4-6 sentences)
Qualifications, Accomplishments, Education, Specialized Training
This paragraph should be tailored to promote you – your qualifications and accomplishments. Do not be afraid to toot your own horn here. The cover letter is here to reinforce the great things you posted in your resume, as well as expand on your achievements. In this section it is encouraged to make this as clear and concise for the recruiter as possible, so 3-4 descriptive bullet points are encouraged. For example:
The following are highlights of my qualifications and accomplishments:
- One example
- Second Example
- Third Example
- Fourth Example
Keep in mind, in the bullet points you will want to point out any specialized training you have received, if it is not already outlined in your resume (e.g., IV certification). Your resume will be the document that includes all of your education, including any healthcare/nursing credentials you have received and any additional credentials you are working towards. If you don’t have any specialized training, you will want to explain how your clinical helped prepare you for your career.
(Hint: Provide the most important highlights that are going to relate to the job.)
Skills and Strengths
The third part of your cover letter should also include skills and strengths you would use in the nursing position you are applying for. You will want to choose a few skills and mention them in a few sentences right after your qualifications bullet points.
Here are some examples of strong skills and strengths you may want to use: (Hint: Choose your skills wisely – you need to make sure you’ll be able to expand on how the strength or skill set applies to you):
- CPR Registration
- Problem solver
- Effective communicator
- Explain Clinical Competence…explain how your clinical has prepared you for your career in the field you are applying to.
- Positive interactions with family, staff
- Detail oriented
- Describe monitoring, scheduling abilities
- Patient assessment skills
Here’s an example of a sentence to use right after listing your qualifications and accomplishments in bullet points: My strong leadership and outstanding organizational skills, combined with my ability to solve problems, communicate effectively and create positive interactions with family and staff, allow me to play a crucial role in a fast-paced, patient-centered environment.
4th Paragraph: Conclusion (2-4 sentences)
Thank the Employer, Close it Out
Finally, you’ve reached the end of the cover letter and are ready to close it out. This final paragraph is important because it is the last thing the employer will remember about you. Leave them with one more tidbit about yourself that you haven’t already stated, and thank them for the opportunity to apply for the position. For example, “Enclosed is my resume for your review. I welcome the opportunity to discuss with you personally the ways in which I can assist you in accomplishing your needs and goals.”
“Ultimately, the most crucial piece, as with any industry, is to make sure your cover letter is tailored to the position you are applying for and ensuring your experience is lined up with that specific need,” said Tamar Rice, Rasmussen College Career Services Advisor.
One last positive piece of reinforcement from Witt:
“Time and demographics are on your side,” she said. “Those older nurses that have worked for more years due to the recession will retire, providing open opportunities to new nurses, and those nurses with two year associate’s degrees will always have a job; they just need to be flexible. But trust me; they will always have a job.”
Do you have any cover letter tips for your fellow nursing community? If so, share with us on our Facebook page.