Tips for a Winning Resume

By Kay Kirby
Human Resources Business Partner
Methodist Dallas Medical Center

Fall is a great time to reflect and take action on things that need to be done. It’s time to take care of maintenance on the house and plant some fall flowers. It’s time to shore up your finances to withstand the holiday spending spree. And it’s time to review your resume. Yes, your resume.

Think about it: Your resume is your business face to the world. It’s your calling card to prospective employers. It’s the sum of your business life and a glimpse into your personal life. Don’t you think it deserves as much thought and preparation as the many other components of your life?

I speak from experience when I say that most resumes could benefit from a little tender loving care. While clinicians excel at caring for others, they tend to neglect caring for themselves and that includes maintaining a healthy resume.

How important is a resume? Pretty darned important. Today, most companies don’t want to deal with paper documents, so they request electronic versions of applicants’ resumes. When you submit a resume online, it is immediately integrated into the employer’s applicant tracking system (ATS). The challenge is to make sure that your resume is in the correct format so it can be uploaded into the ATS. Keep in mind that uploaded resumes generally lose most of their formatting, so don’t spend a lot of time and money on special fonts and printed resumes. Instead, invest your time in the tone and content of your resume.

Here are the 10 most common mistakes applicants make in their resumes:

1.   Too long. Limit your resume to one to two pages max, depending on your level of experience. Some professions require a more detailed curriculum vitae, but that’s not a resume.

2.   Riddled with mistakes. Unfortunately, I see far too many resumes with misspellings, incorrect grammar, unparalleled construction, and subject/verb disagreement. Review your resume several times before considering it final. Have a friend review it with a fresh set of eyes. It’s amazing what another person’s review might reveal.

3.   Too wordy. Be succinct. Develop your resume based on who is going to look at it. Make it relevant to the position in which you are interested. Tailor the content to the specific job opening.

4.   A laundry list of accomplishments that defy measurement. If you can’t measure it, don’t list it. Instead, can you figure out a way to apply a metric to it? For example, stating you are a team player or that you have led a team is not measurable. Instead, communicate the valuable results that your team or leadership produced for the organization.

5.   Not including a comprehensive, complete review of your work experience. Don’t include too many details, but do include all previous work experience, even if it’s outside of health care. Omission of work experience can be viewed as falsification of information and experience. It can still be valuable to a hiring manager to know that you worked part-time at a fast-food restaurant while attending college, for instance. Always include your title, past employer’s name, and time frame in which you held the position.

6.   Unorganized formatting. Your resume should be a thoughtful document that flows logically and presents an accurate reflection of you at specific points in time along your career continuum. Experience and education sections should be in reverse chronological order with the most current information listed first.

7.   Omission of certifications. Your resume needs to help you stand out from the crowd of applicants vying for the position. Always include awards, certifications, and specific examples of recognition you have received. Also, be sure to highlight any special projects in which you were involved.

8.   Clear, accurate contact information. You’d be surprised at the high percentage of resumes that don’t include basic information such as name, address, cell phone number, and email address. Make sure the email address is professional, not a personal email address like

9.   Facts that don’t add up. Make sure your cover letter and resume agree when it comes to whom the documents are addressed and to what job they are targeted. We often get resumes that include a cover letter or objectives that address another company or position.

10. An ineffective cover letter. Your cover letter is your opening introduction to the prospective employer. It’s your personal elevator speech and can make or break the opportunity for an interview. Again, succinctness and accuracy are guideposts for a cover letter that will produce the desired results.

Here are some final thoughts on your resume. Never include a photo on or with the resume. You can include a link to your LinkedIn page, but links to other social sites such as Facebook are probably not a good idea. If you have networked with someone inside the company to which you are applying, be sure to include his or her name when you apply via the ATS. Finally, before you push the send button, be sure you proof one last time.

If your resume is in tip-top shape, then it’s time to choose Methodist Health System. Learn more by visiting

© Methodist Health System


Posted Career Advancement, Nurses