When you apply for a new nursing job, there’s a document besides a resume that you should consider submitting, whether it’s asked for or not — the cover letter. Your resume covers all the standards, like your education, credentials, and experience. But your cover letter is the place where you can really shine and set yourself apart from the other candidates vying for the same job.
With all that pressure put on one document, it can be tough to figure out exactly what to say. If you’re getting ready to apply for your next dream nursing job, here’s how you can take your cover letter to the next level.
Writing a Nursing Cover Letter
Your cover letter is your chance to talk about the highlights of what’s on your resume in a little more depth and with a lot more personal flair. Use it to emphasize your unique expertise and qualifications, and show how those skills combined with your professional experience best matches what the employer needs.
When thinking about what to put in your cover letter, there are some specific details you should usually include:
- Address the right person: Start your cover letter off right by addressing it to the right person. Research the company you’re applying to as well as the contact person for the position, so you’ll know who’s going to be looking at your resume and cover letter. If you can get a name, address the letter to that person specifically.
- Customize the cover letter to the position you’re applying for: Some of the most valued qualities in nurses are our attention to detail and precision. One way you can demonstrate those skills is to customize it to the position you’re applying for. Don’t write just one generic cover letter that you use for every job.
If something’s listed in the job description as a “preferred” skill or experience, and you happen to have it, then talk about that. If the company is well known for a particular reason, and you can show your interest in it, too, then mention it. For example, if the organization is big on research, and you happen to have relevant research experience, they’ll want to hear about it.
- Personalize what you wrote on your resume: Your cover letter gives you the opportunity to expand and highlight the experience and skills you already have written on your resume.
Instead of listing your skills, like saying “I am a strong leader with excellent communication skills,” share relevant personal stories and provide examples that show your skills and experience. Maybe you were the lead on a committee at a previous job specifically because of your communication skills.
- Show your enthusiasm: While your tone should remain professional, don’t shy away from conveying your enthusiasm for the organization and the position. Set yourself apart by showing that you’re ready to become a member of the team and that you’re eager to join the organization.
- End your cover letter with a call to action: Instead of ending with a passive statement like “I hope to hear from you soon,” end with a call to action. For example, you could write “I look forward to connecting with you soon to discuss next steps” and include how to best get in touch with you (yes, even though your contact information is already on your resume). A call to action demonstrates your confidence and desire for the position.
Formatting Your Cover Letter
Like writing an essay or a formal email, your cover letter has three parts: the intro, body, and closing. What you put in those different parts might sound like a hard decision, but there are many ways you can approach it.
The Yale School of Nursing’s guide to cover letter writing offers many suggestions on what you can include when you sit down to write your cover letter, many of which are listed in the following sections.
Your first paragraph is your introduction. It’s a brief paragraph (a few sentences at most) about who you are and why you’re writing a cover letter in the first place. Keep it brief and to the point. Here are a few points you should consider including:
- The title of the position and how you found it. If someone referred you, put their first and last name.
- If you’re a recent graduate or a student finishing up your degree, include information about your school, degree program, and expected graduation date.
- If you’re a graduate or currently in school and you’ve been recognized for academic excellence or special achievement, make note of that, too.
- State why you’re interested in this particular job over any other.
- Use the last sentence of this paragraph to state a fact that sets you apart from the other applicants.
This section of the cover letter will take up the most time and space. It’s where you can really let your personality and qualifications for the position shine.
- Focus on particulars about this role that piqued your interest. Use that as a guide to outline any of your skills and expertise that match up with the responsibilities and requirements listed for the job in the job posting.
- Give personal examples that demonstrate your experience rather than simply listing your qualifications. For example, you can share about a project you worked on that taught you a valuable, relevant set of skills.
- If you’re a recent graduate and don’t have a lot of professional experience yet, discuss your academic qualifications, leadership skills, and cornerstone course projects that demonstrate some relevant skills and experience.
- If there’s something unique on your resume that you think makes you the best candidate for this particular job at this particular company, like an experience or skill, talk about it! This is especially important if there’s a “preferred” experience or skill in the job posting, and you have it.
The closing paragraph is the likely the last thing the hiring manager will read before deciding if they’re going to ask you for an interview. Use it to recap why you’re the ideal candidate for the role.
- Include a CTA stating your desire to discuss the next steps for the position.
- Also include instructions for how to best contact you.
- Remember to always thank the hiring manager or recruiter for their time and consideration.
Polishing Your Nursing Cover Letter
Your cover letter is the first impression you’re going to make to the hiring manager or recruiter before they even get a chance to talk to you, so it needs to be as polished as possible. Again, they’ll want to see your attention to detail.
To ensure your cover letter is recruiter-ready, here are a few tips to follow when you’re running a final pass over the letter:
1. Check for Grammar & Spelling Mistakes
Your cover letter needs to be free of grammar and spelling mistakes. If you’re using a word processor, go through the spelling and grammar recommendations to make sure the suggestions make sense within the context of your letter. And don’t rely on the software to pick up one everything. Also, double check your name — yes, people sometimes misspell their own name on their own resume and cover letter!
2. Read Your Cover Letter Out Loud
While your word processor can catch spelling and grammatical errors, the program doesn’t always notify you if you accidentally left out a word or used the wrong word. When you read your cover letter out loud, you’ll be able to catch most of those missing words that you could have otherwise missed. Reading your cover letter out loud can also help point out sentences that could be rephrased and refined to make your letter as clear and concise as possible.
3. Give Your Cover Letter to a Trusted Colleague or Mentor to Read Through
It never hurts to have a trusted colleague or mentor read through your cover letter. A fresh set of eyes can find errors you may have missed, and if they’re familiar with your professional or academic experience, they may have suggestions for additional information you can share with the hiring manager or recruiter.
As you go out and start applying for your next new nursing job, learn from any mistakes and from the process as a whole. If you find yourself not sure where to find your next job opportunity, consider per diem staffing.