Career Assistance Information for New Graduate Nurses

Creating Résumé and Cover Letter

Creating a résumé and cover letter that effectively highlight your qualifications and experience is key to a successful job search. In addition to the information noted on this website, there are numerous web-based resources, books and publications that can assist you.


As a new nursing graduate, it will be important for you to highlight the experiences you have gained in school. Some of the things you wish to highlight include:

  • Related clinical rotations, practicum and community work.
  • Impressive grade point average, honours and awards.
  • Related committees, boards and associations.
  • Additional certificates or licenses.
  • Additional courses or workshops that you attended.
  • Special training and teaching to patients and classmates.

It will not be essential that you have experience in the specialty for which you are applying; however, some organizations will strongly prefer that you have completed one of your rotations in a comparable unit.

Résumé formats generally include career objective, education, work experiences, student placement and any additional training or certification you wish to highlight. You don't have to list every job you ever had but do include your most recent positions so that an employer will be able to check references and note your career progression.

Sample Résumés

Sample Résumé 1
Sample Résumé 2

Chronological Résumé

Résumé Tips

Cover Letter

The cover letter does not have to be long, approximately four paragraphs in length, and should highlight the following things:

  • 1st paragraph - indicate the position you are applying for and where you learned about the job.
  • 2nd paragraph - include the skills, knowledge and experience that qualify you for the position.
  • 3rd paragraph - indicate your knowledge about the organization (researching the employer is a good way to learn about its mission/vision/philosophy).
  • 4th paragraph - ask for an interview and thank them for their time in reviewing your resume and considering your application.

Interview Tips

Interview questions may be generic to health care, but most will be specific to the applicable nursing unit. Here are some of the interview tips to be considered:

  1. Research and familiarize yourself with the unit that you are applying to, as well as the specific skills that are required for the position.
  2. Interview questions are often a combination of behavioural and situational scenarios. Practise answering some of the following questions aloud with someone else to become comfortable with your responses.
  3. Speak clearly and enthusiastically about your experiences and skills. Be professional, but don't be afraid to let your personality shine through.
  4. Ask the interviewer questions.
  5. Send follow-up thank you note to the interviewer. This will reiterate your interest in the position and help you stand out from other applicants.

Sample Interview Questions

  • Tell me about yourself?
  • Tell us what you know about the organization?
  • What attracted you to apply for this position?
  • What are your strengths/weaknesses?
  • How do you stay current in your practice?
  • What are your short term/long term goals?
  • If I were to ask your professors or co-workers to describe you, what would they say about you?
  • Have you ever had a conflict with a boss, coworker or patient? How was it resolved?
  • How has your education prepared you for your career?
  • Why should we hire you over someone else?
  • What is the most challenging thing you have ever had to do?
  • Tell us about a time when you showed leadership?
  • Explain evidenced based practice and how you use it?
  • Tell us about a time when you advocated for a patient?
  • Describe a difficult decision you have had to make and the process you went through to reach the decision. Would you change anything?
  • How did you handle an irate physician, coworker or patient? What were the results?
  • How would you deal with a coworker who broke policy?
  • What do you feel you need from the managers to ensure a successful orientation?

Don't forget to ask the interviewer questions as well. Some examples of questions you may want to ask include:

  • What is the nurse/patient ratio?
  • What do you do to ensure a safe work environment?
  • What challenges is the unit facing?
  • How do you motivate employees?
  • What is the management style?
  • How long is the orientation? If I feel I require additional orientation, will it be provided?
  • Do you have any Educational Assistance programs available for employees?

Career Resources

The following sites provide career-assistance information, including tips on creating a résumé. Please note: The websites below are examples of available resources and are not to be viewed as endorsements.

General Resources

Workopolis: résumé-writing
Provides a comprehensive résumé-writing guide that includes identifying your skills, targeting your résumé, eye-catching phrases and more.

Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities
Links to a number of career-planning resources.

University of Toronto Career Centre: Résumé Tip Sheet
Guides you through creating a résumé and directs you to other resources.

University of Waterloo Career Development e-Manual
Provides a step-by-step guide to creating a résumé, which includes videos and résumé templates. 
Has information for your whole job search: cover letter tips, interview techniques, job search strategies, career planning, résumé examples, templates and advice.

Purdue Online Writing Lab 
Provides a guide to creating a résumé, including when to use 2 pages or more, design tips and management resumés.

Nurse Career Resources

RNAO Career Services
Offers a wide range of career services to help focus and enhance your career.

Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario 
Provides a wide range of career development services, including nurse promotional materials, nurse profiles and career counselling resources.