Certified nursing assistants, known as CNAs, assist elderly, ill, disabled and injured patients in performing daily living tasks that they can’t do on their own. With job market growth for these healthcare professionals outpacing the overall occupational average, an exceptional CNA resume is your key to landing the best positions.
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If you are a CNA, or want to become one, you’ll find everything here that you need to know about preparing a winning resume to land the job that’s right for you. Here’s what we’ll cover in this writing guide, along with the corresponding CNA resume example:
- Role of a CNA and the job market outlook
- How to write a CNA resume
- The best format for structuring your CNA resume
- Advice on writing each resume section: header, summary, work history, education and skills
- Professional resume layout and design hints.
What does a CNA do?
CNAs typically work in nursing homes, assisted care facilities, hospitals and private homes. They may work alongside doctors and nurses, and are certified health-care professionals, although not licensed to practice medicine.
Nursing assistants do not need a college education, though certified nursing assistants in the U.S. are required to obtain certifications that vary by state, after passing an approved education program and competency exam.
Where do CNAs work?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),there were roughly 1.5 million nursing assistant jobs in the U.S. in 2019. These were the primary employers:
- Nursing care facilities 37%
- Hospitals (state, local and private) 27%
- Continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly 11%
- Home healthcare services 5%
- Government 4%
CNA salaries and job outlook
Nursing assistants, according to the BLS, earned a median salary of $30,850 per year, or $14.82 an hour, in May 2020.
Another salary information source, Glassdoor, puts the average base pay for certified medical assistants at $29,748 per year.
How much do CNAs make?
According to the BLS, the median annual salary for nursing assistants in 2020 varied as follows, depending on where they worked:
- Government $37,240
- Hospitals (state, local and private) $32,160
- Nursing care facilities $30,120
- Continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly $30,020
- Home healthcare services $29,210
Certified nursing assistant jobs are expected to grow at a robust 8% from 2019 through 2029 — double the 4% average for all occupations. You can credit the aging baby boomer population for this anticipated job growth. This 2019 projection does not reflect the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which sadly has left many people who would otherwise be healthy in need of nursing care.
CNAs will continue to be in demand for the foreseeable future, so the jobs are out there. Now let’s talk about how to get the one that’s right for you — starting with an outstanding resume.
How to write a CNA resume
Before getting into how to write the perfect CNA resume, let’s picture what it looks like. It should be one page only and contain no more than 250 words, like the corresponding CNA resume example.
Is should include the following elements:
- Employment history section
- Education section
- Skills section
We'll take you through each of these resume sections after some general structuring insights.
Choosing the best resume format for a CNA
There are innumerable ways to format a certified nursing assistant resume, and it’s impossible to declare which is “best.” Perhaps the best way to define a well-designed resume — OR a badly designed resume — is that you’ll know it when you see it.
A resume is mostly a collection of lists — all the ways of contacting you, past employers, past schools and job-related skills. The formatting possibilities for all this information are limited only by the imagination. But it has to look good at a glance. Take a look at the CNA resume example provided, which hits all the right notes.
The failsafe chronological resume format is ideal for structuring most resumes. It provides a straightforward overview of your career highlights in the employment history section.
But if the CNA position you’re pursuing would be a radical departure, or your job background has not followed a linear path of employee positions, you might want to consider alternative resume formats. A functional resume starts with a skills or experience section to highlight all your best qualities before continuing to a work history section where you can place previous positions.
If you have no experience as a CNA, perhaps because you’re still busy getting an education, then it may be appropriate to put the education section of your resume first.
Now let's go through each resume section, one at a time, referring to our CNA resume example.
Thought and care should go into an eye-pleasing header design for your CNA resume. The header clearly identifies who your resume belongs to — your name and occupation — with contact information so interested employers know how to reach you: address, phone number and email. It might also include social media links and a photo.
Depending on the design you choose, your CNA resume header may fill the top of the page, or parts of it may spill down into the left or right margin. The header is crucial for the contact information it contains, but it’s also an important design element in its own right. Your resume should look good at arm’s length, before anyone has read the first word. CNA profile/summary resume example. More design and formatting tips are offered in a later guide chapter.
Resume summary example
The first thing that appears below the header in a certified nursing assistant resume should be a summary of the job candidate — you. The summary (sometimes called the profile or personal statement) is the one place in your resume where you should write in almost complete sentences — though not quite. Take a look at the CNA summary example below.
Experienced and dedicated CNA adept in providing the highest quality care to patients, while participating in effective team collaboration. Committed to safeguarding the privacy, dignity, and well-being of patients while adhering to all patient care guidelines.
Without using the word “I,” this profile/summary tells hiring managers what you do and what you’re good at, and it’s obvious what kind of job you’re looking for. This summary describes the “professional you” in a nutshell, using clear, concise and descriptive language.
Notice that it doesn’t say “I am looking for a job as a….” It doesn’t say, “I have three cats, and in my spare time I enjoy scrapbooking….” It cuts straight to the chase, describing your qualifications as a certified nursing assistant — and that’s all you need.
Passing the ATS test
Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are software programs that most large employers use to filter resumes electronically before they’re reviewed by human eyes. It’s crucial to understand how they work, because if you don’t pass the ATS test, it’s likely that a hiring manager won’t even see your resume.
These systems scan resumes looking for employer-programmed keywords that describe critical job qualifications. If your resume contains enough keywords, the system will greenlight it for further review. But if not, it will likely be consigned to the electronic equivalent of the garbage can.
In our guide to ATS optimization, we use the example of a company looking for “an art director with five years of experience, proven talents in illustration and design, and excellent skills in Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and InDesign.” All of the bolded words might be what the employer's ATS is programmed to search for. If your resume contains none of these keywords, it will be swiftly deep-sixed. Notice that the job description language correlates closely with the contents of a resume summary.
This is why it’s very important to scrutinize each job listing, and wherever possible include the exact same words in your resume. You don’t want to lie and claim you’re an InDesign whiz if you aren’t. But even if you have limited InDesign experience, you should mention it so that ATS search box will be checked by the ’bot. Had the employer in our example been interested in photography skills — and you actually have photography skills — then that also belongs in your resume summary.
This brings us to another point — resumes can be prepared in a lot of formats, but stone is not one of them. A resume should be an adaptable document that you can customize for each employer.
Employment history sample
Unless you’re brand-new to this occupation — still in school or perhaps changing careers — employment experience is your best selling point in your CNA resume. If you have relevant work experience, put this first in the employment history section.
List your past employers, where they’re located and when you worked there. Then provide bullet points below each job describing what you achieved. Be specific, using strong action verbs and quantifying your experience with facts and figures whenever possible.
As a general rule, you should list your CNA job history in reverse chronological order (last job first, first job last). But as a possible exception, your most impressive and relevant work experience should take precedence. If you worked as a CNA three years ago, but you’re currently working as a dog groomer, put your CNA experience first.
A word about bullet points: These can take up a lot of vertical space, with wasted space on the right side of your resume, making it hard to fit everything onto one page. One solution may be to arrange bullet points in columns. But if it's still not possible to contain your resume on one page, try dispensing with bullet points and just describe your achievements at each job in a couple of lines of text.
Below is a CNA employment history resume sample you can adapt to your own experience.
- Successfully performed designated functions under the supervision of an RN.
- Worked with an unwavering commitment to patient safety and comfort.
- Performed duties in accordance with all existing regulatory and hospital standards.
- Sanitized and prepared rooms for various procedures.
CNA resume education example
If you attended college, say so in the education section for your CNA resume, stating the college name and location, when you attended and any noteworthy details like an exceptional grade point average.
Include any degrees you obtained and by all means your certification(s) as a nursing assistant. Any other training you have undergone that has helped shape your CNA qualifications is relevant here.
Whether or not you should mention the high school you attended in a CNA resume depends on your postsecondary education. If you have a relevant college degree, prospective employers likely won't care where you went to high school. If not, clarify that you did graduate from high school or the equivalent.
Below are the education and certification listings on a CNA resume example.
- 2012 – 2014: University of Florida, Associate of Biology, Gainesville
- 2014: CNA- Florida Board of Nursing
CV skills example
When you sit down to create this CV list, beware of clichés like “team player” or “self-starter.” Unfortunately, it's a common pitfall to list the same skills that hiring managers have read thousands of times before. These end up becoming “fluff” — fancy language that conveys nothing of value.
Strive for original language that says something new, in a way that no recruiter has ever read before. Also define your skills in solid and pragmatic terms, applicable to everyday work situations and professional challenges.
Check out these resume samples of CNA skills below.
- Leadership skills
- Excellent Communication Skills
- Knowledge of Medical Terminology
- Attention to detail
The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the following as important qualities for nursing assistants:
- Communication skills: The ability to communicate effectively with both patients and colleagues.
- Compassion: An empathetic heart for injured, ill or disabled people in need of assistance with basic daily functions.
- Patience: A capacity for slowing down to the pace of the person in need of care.
- Physical stamina: The strength to lift or move patients and the stamina to spend most of the day working on your feet.
Resume layout, design and formatting
Your CNA resume has to look as good as it reads. These are some basic considerations for resume layout, design and formatting.
Fonts. Font sizes. Margins. Spacing. Balance. All caps here but not there? Words underlined or bolded? Icons or no icons? How much text on the page and how much white space?
Even for a one-page resume, there are dozens of design choices to be made. Make the right choices, and your resume will look great. But make the wrong choices, and it will tend to be overlooked in nine cases out of 10 due to basic human psychology.
This is why we strongly urge job applicants to use a professionally designed resume template like those Resume.io offers. The design is already done for you — all you have to do is write the text.
Simply browse through our selection of field-tested templates, find one you like, click on it, and you’re in. Our step-by-step resume builder prompts you to enter your own contact info, profile/summary, employment history, education and skills — everything we’ve discussed above. But you have no worries about the design and formatting, because all of that is done for you.
If your CNA resume comes out longer than one page, you go back into the builder and trim your text. Look for “widows” — solitary words that spill over onto another line, making your resume one line longer and creating a vertical space challenge. Trim a couple of words to eliminate the widow. Trim an unimportant bullet point if necessary.
Look at your CNA resume from a distance, without reading any of the words. Does it look attractive? Is it balanced from top to bottom and left to right, with an appropriate amount of text and blank space? If so, you’re golden. If not, keep tweaking it.
One of the worst mistakes you can make is sending a resume in a file type that neither the hiring manager nor the ATS software can read. We recommend that unless you’re instructed to do otherwise, always submit your resume as a PDF. This file type preserves all the formatting so your resume looks the same on any device.
Some employers do prefer to receive resumes as Microsoft Word files; of course, you must send employers what they ask for. But depending on the Word version you use, and the platform you’re using it on (Apple or PC, for example), your document may arrive at its destination looking totally different than you intended. The PDF file type eliminates this risk. Take these small but important nuances into account when considering the file format of your CNA resume.
Key takeaways for a CNA resume
- The job outlook for certified nursing assistants (CNAs) is secure, with projected job growth of 8% in the decade ahead. But to find the right job for you, you need an outstanding resume.
- Your CNA resume should look good at a glance, with an attractive header at the top and a coherent design throughout.
- Your CNA resume must contain your contact information, summary, employment history, education and job skills, all written in an appropriate style.
- The best way to avoid design and formatting errors is to use a professional resume template where the design is already done for you
Best of luck with your job search!
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