How to Write the Perfect Nursing Student Cover Letter (With Example)
Yes, you need to include a cover letter with your resume when applying to nursing jobs. Here’s how to write one that stands out.
Image via Unsplash.com/Glenn Carstens-Peters
When you’re seeking your first job as a nurse, it’s important to spend time crafting an ideal cover letter. But sitting in front of a blank page can be overwhelming. Resumes can be dry and packed with information, but a properly written cover letter can make you stand out from the pack, grabbing the interest of hiring managers everywhere. They highlight your best skills, communicate your preferences for employment opportunities, and give hints at your personality. It’s best to submit a unique cover letter, along with a resume, each time you apply for a job. The formula laid out below can make them easier to write.
We spoke with three hiring managers to find out what you should include or leave out of your cover letters to get a positive response. The following professionals offer their expertise:
- Sheena Ferguson, MSN, RN, Chief Nursing Officer of University of New Mexico Hospitals
- Denise Occhiuzzo, Ed.D., MS, RN, BC, Administrator of Nursing Professional Services and Magnet Program Director at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey
- Kimberly Snow, BSBA, Talent Acquisition Specialist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center
What Do You Include in a Nursing Student Cover Letter?
Effective cover letters follow this structure:
- Your contact information
- Today’s date
- The hiring manager’s contact information
- A salutation
- First paragraph: An introduction explaining why you’re writing
- Second paragraph: Why you’re interested in the position
- Third paragraph: Why your education and experience should appeal to employers
- Fourth paragraph: Thanks for consideration, plus a call to action to elicit response
- A closing
First impressions stick, and hiring managers pay attention to detail. They’ll notice if you don’t include the proper information or take the right tone in your cover letter. Nurses have to write down effective descriptions of what they observe in patients, so your cover letter should convey that you can present your thoughts clearly and concisely in writing.
When you’re composing your letter, consider the best ways to approach each section.
Your Contact Information
If you include your mailing address, phone number, and email address at the top of your cover letter, it makes it easier for hiring managers to get in touch with you. Some people only list their contact information on their resume, which can make it harder for hiring managers to contact them if the cover letter is printed and separated from the resume.
This helps hiring managers keep track of the date you applied for the position.
The Hiring Manager’s Contact Information
It may seem formal and old-fashioned, but when you include your hiring manager’s information, it shows you’re committed to following protocol. Include the person’s name, title, and mailing or email address. Don’t know the name of the hiring manager? You may help yourself stand out if you take a few minutes to look at an organization’s website to figure out which person is likely to review your resume, but if all else fails, address your letter to the “Hiring Manager.”
Greet the hiring manager in a respectful manner, addressing him or her as “Mr.,” “Ms.” or “Dr.,” rather than by first name. This is important if the hiring manager is a doctor or has credentialing, because it shows you recognize that they’ve worked hard to achieve their professional titles.
Try this: Dear Ms. Jones: Avoid this: Dear Ann: (Too chummy.)
Or try this: Dear Hiring Manager: Avoid this: To whom this may concern: (Too formal and generic.)
1st Paragraph: An Introduction Explaining Why You’re Writing
Your opening words will provide a first impression to hiring managers. Explain that you’ll be graduating soon and are seeking a position that will be a good fit for you, based on your education and experience. Be as specific as you can when applying for positions; hiring managers dislike it when candidates are too vague. If you’re eager to work with pediatric or geriatric patients, saying so can help you get noticed.
Don’t say in your cover letter that you’re interested in any job that’s available. You may think it makes you sound like an eager applicant, but hiring managers like to see someone who has some focus. Instead, highlight one position and say you’d like to be considered for it because you believe your experience and qualifications will make you a good match. Then, if you’d like, say you would be glad to be considered for any additional positions. You’ll seem focused and eager at the same time.
Try this: I am writing to apply for the Pediatric Registered Nurse position. Next month, I will receive my BSN degree from X University, and I believe my background makes me an ideal fit for the position. Avoid this: Next month, I will receive my BSN degree from X University, and I’m seeking employment. Please consider me for any nursing positions that arise.
2nd Paragraph: Why You’re Interested in the Position
Here, highlight why you’re well-matched for the position that you’re applying for. Give specifics that make you stand out. Include these types of things:
- Specific areas of focus: “I did my capstone project in pediatrics.”
- Feedback from superiors that demonstrates your qualifications for the position: “My clinical faculty noticed that I have a particular affinity for difficult situations…’”
This can also be a great place to write about your passion for the position.
Try this: I’ve been passionate about working with children since I volunteered at a camp for pediatric cancer patients in high school. During my clinical rotations, I felt most comfortable on the pediatric ward. My supervisor said my ability to connect with the patients made me an ideal candidate to work at a children’s hospital. Avoid this: I love children, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my days than caring for kids at a children’s hospital. My rotations supervisor said I seemed much happier working with children than anyone else.
3rd Paragraph: Why Your Education and Experience Should Appeal to Employers
What can you bring to the position that’s unique or sought after? Connect why your work experience, values, or personal characteristics makes you the best fit — and why you should be called for an interview.
Try this: During my recent summer internship, I gained many practical skills in the pediatric ward, while becoming comfortable with the acute care environment. I’ll be able to use these same skills in your children’s hospital. I pride myself on my attention to detail and my calm approach to patient care. Avoid this: I was able to work with pediatric patients during an internship. I’m also very organized. (Too choppy and doesn’t connect the dots for the hiring manager on why these skills make you the right fit.)
4th Paragraph: Thanks for Consideration, Plus a Call to Action**
Be sure to thank the hiring manager for reading your letter, and summarize the reasons why he or she should contact you for an interview. You want to be enthusiastic and give your qualifications one last push. No need for contact info here, if you have it at the top.
Try this: I believe my previous experience working with doctors and nurses, my passion for caring for patients, my ability to be a team player, and my willingness to learn will make me a good addition to your department. I look forward to speaking with you to discuss my qualifications. Thanks for your consideration. Avoid this: If you give me the chance, I will prove how dedicated I am to being the best nurse I can be. Please call me so we can discuss my qualifications. Thank you.
A simple closing like “Sincerely” or “Warm regards” is a safe, formal way to end your cover letter.
Final Tips for Writing Your Cover Letter
Before submitting your resume and cover letter, be sure each are only one page and strike a serious tone. Other things to consider include:
- Using a spell checker. Mistakes could cost you an interview. Maybe you were rushing to submit your application and didn’t double-check what you wrote. Hiring managers may assume that your innocent spelling or grammar mistake means you don’t have a firm command of the written word. In the healthcare field, attention to detail is extremely important.
- Choosing simple fonts. Choosing an easy-to-read font like Garamond, Calibri, Times New Roman, or Helvetica will make sure your experience and qualifications will stand out. An unusual font can be distracting. And if you’re not sending electronically, make sure to print your cover letter on white or ecru resume paper. Pink or green paper might fit your personality better, but they’re hard to read and don’t come across as professional.
- Read it aloud. Once you’ve composed your entire letter, read it out loud to yourself to ensure that it says what you want it to say.
- Get a fresh set of eyes. Being your own editor tends to cause problems. You’ll read things the way you want them to read, rather than how they might come across to someone else. Consider letting trusted friends or relatives review your cover letter and resume for you. You might be surprised at what they feel is unclear.
Your cover letter may look something like this:
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