Basic Structure of a CNA Resume

Warning: today’s post is a long one. There’s a reason it’s so long though, and that reason is that it is so critical that you get everything in today’s post right. Otherwise, you risk having your resume thrown out before it’s ever really even given the proper attention it deserves. So what is today’s topic? The basic structure of a CNA resume.

Most of you probably already know a lot of the information we are going to cover but we think it is worth reading and discussing again because it is so important to get the fundamentals and basic structure of your resume correct. If you screw up on some of the basic stuff on your resume, you could easily be overlooked for a CNA interview for another nursing assistant candidate that has the exact same profile, but their resume passes they eye test. The following rules and guidelines are easy to follow, and that is why it is so important that you get them right!

We are going to walk through the basic structure of a resume from top to bottom, and along the way we will be discussing some details that should be applied specifically to CNA resumes. Like we said earlier, you probably (hopefully) already follow most of these rules and the resume structure. However, we have found out that some otherwise great CNA job candidates think they know the basics of a resume only to find out they have been making some very unfortunate mistakes on their resume for years and didn’t even realize it!

Rules/guidelines to follow when writing your resume

Your resume should only be 1 page long

All CNA resumes should be 1 page in length. No longer, and no shorter. If you don’t have much work experience, you don’t have to fill every inch of the 1 page, but you do need to try to fill as much of the 1 page as possible with quality content. Don’t leave half of the page blank.

Unless you are applying for a management position and you have 10-15+ years of experience, your resume should not be longer than 1 page. For most people, this shouldn’t be a problem keeping it to 1 page if they follow our guidelines on writing and editing your content. Unfortunately, some people get caught in the trap of thinking that the point of their resume is to give a biography, and it’s not.

As we have previously stated, the point of your resume is to show the recruiter, hiring manager, HR manager, RN or whoever is reviewing your resume that you have the qualifications, character and personality that warrants an interview. The purpose of your CNA resume is to get you an interview, not the job. A well-written and edited 1 page resume and corresponding cover letter should be plenty of space to demonstrate your qualifications and fit for the job. Even if you have several years of work experience.

Your resume should be printed on plain white paper if submitting a physical copy

While you may be a creative person and think that putting a fancy background or using colored paper will make your resume prettier, don’t do it. If you submit your resume on anything other than common white copy paper, your resume will be seen as unprofessional.

Answer this question: would you rather be seen as a creative CNA or as a professional CNA? Trust us, hiring managers, human resources and CNA managers want professional and standard-looking resumes. Many CNA’s are creative, but your potential employer needs to know that you are mature, can follow procedures and won’t constantly want to do things your way. Creativity and your artistic ability are not going to help you get the job.

Your resume should be saved with a plain white background if submitting an electronic copy

Nowadays, most resumes are not actually mailed in or submitted physically but are instead submitted electronically. Guess what? The same rule we just discussed applies.

Make sure that the background behind your text is white and plain without any designs or graphics. You might be thinking, “well I’ll just throw in a little color to make it stand out.” Yes, it will stand out, but not in a good way. If you format your CNA resume how we explain, your resume will look clean, professional and straight to the point: I am the best candidate for this CNA job.

Let your work experience, qualifications and well-written/targeted content of the resume speak for itself. It will speak louder than any pretty designs you can put on it.

Additionally, another reason you don’t want to use any color or backgrounds on you’re resume is because this is wasteful on the company’s printers if they have to print them off. You don’t want to upset the hiring manager because they had to waste ink on your pretty pink background or text before they even get the chance to look at the content on your resume.

Use “classic” fonts

We are going to cover fonts more in-depth during another post because as simple as this topic should be, CNA job candidates screw this up all the time. But if you’re reading this and need to get your CNA resume written ASAP, just follow this rule: stick with the classics.

Our favorite fonts are those that are easiest to read and appealing to the readers eyes. Our three favorites are Arial, Calibri and Helvetica. You can use Times New Roman also, but sometimes it makes your resume look like a high school book report. There are times throughout your resume that you should use bold, italics and underline, but 80% of your resume should be a classic font between the size of 11 and 13.

The layout of your CNA resume

Okay, so we have covered some basic guidelines/rules to follow and now it is time to discuss the actual layout of your resume. Figure 1 at the bottom of the page is the sample CNA resume we will be referencing.


The very top part of your resume will be your header (highlighted in yellow in Figure 1). Your header should not be overly complicated as its purpose is simply to convey your contact information. The top line should always be your name, and we suggest formatting your name to a size 16 font, bold and ALL CAPS.

On the next line should be the rest of your contact information. Most CNA candidates should include the following: mailing address, e-mail contact and best phone number to contact you at.

Make sure and triple-check this information when you are writing your resume. You don’t want to miss an interview because you accidentally had a typo in your e-mail or phone number and the company can’t contact you to schedule an interview!

Education and Certification Information

The next section in your resume should be information pertaining to your prior education and certifications (highlighted in light blue in Figure 1). For most CNA job candidates, the top education/certification information should be about the CNA training program you are currently enrolled in or have already completed. After all, if you are applying for a nursing assistant job, don’t you want the resume reviewer to clearly see that you have your CNA qualification/certification as quick as possible?

Just fill out the information we recommend in Figure 1 and you should be good to go. If you haven’t completed the program yet, we recommend putting something like “Anticipated CNA certification completion: August 2016”. You don’t want to lead the company on and make them think you already have your certification if you’re still in training, but you also want to make sure they are aware that you will be completing your certification soon.

We stated that for most CNA job candidates, the top education/certification information should be about their CNA training program, but we suggest something different for nursing students. If you are in nursing school, we recommend putting this education at the top. If you also have your CNA certification, we recommend putting that second. Attending nursing school carries additional credibility and is a major positive on your CNA resume.

Another popular question we get regarding the education section of CNA resumes is: should I put anything about graduating from high school on my CNA resume? Unfortunately we can’t give a broad answer to this question. It really depends on a case by case scenario.

If you’re a younger candidate and are having a tough time filling out your resume, absolutely include it. If you graduated from high school more than 10 years ago but have plenty of work experience now, it probably makes sense to leave it off and use this space for something more valuable like your work accomplishments. However, if you really still want to put it, you could add it in the Awards/Honors section and just use one line like: “Springfield Central High School graduate 2002”.

Professional Experience: the main content of your resume

The education part of your resume is important for CNA candidates, because potential employers need to confirm that their candidates have completed or are completing a CNA training program to get their nurse aide certificataion. But once you pass this hurdle, the “Professional Experience” part of your resume is the next most important section (highlighted in green in Figure 1).

First, take note of our formatting for each job. Make sure and include the company name (in bold), your title (in italics), where you worked and the dates of when you worked in this position.

Next, you will add the accomplishment and job description information. We are going to write a more in-depth article about what to put here, but for now we will give you some quick rules to follow.

1) Write your work experience in reverse chronological order. In other words, start with your most recent job at the top and then your second most recent, etc.

2) Write in the first person, but don’t say I. For example, instead of “I trained new associates” just say “Trained new associates”.

3) Use bullet points (as demonstrated in Figure 1) to describe your past job duties and accomplishments. You do not need to have 4 bullet points like we have demonstrated in the figure, but we recommend at least 2 for each position you have on your resume. You should try to give more attention to your recent work history, but if there is another job in your past that helps demonstrate why you will make an excellent CNA, we are fine if you devote a little more space on the resume to it.

This topic will deserve several more blog posts because it is so important that you get this section right, but one important thing to remember for now is to try and make some of your job duties sound like accomplishments. Just listing job duties is adequate, but rephrasing them into accomplishments really improves it. Instead of saying “Responsible for collecting member dues” say “Implemented method for collecting dues that led to a 12% increase in collections”.

4) Be as descriptive as possible. NEVER lie or make-up numbers, but if you can provide tangible numbers, do it! If you can put a number on how many people you trained, how many new clients you signed up, how much in sales you made or any other tangible/measurable number, make sure to include it.

Most of these numbers can’t be confirmed so you don’t have to be exact, but it should be close to what you actually did. If a potential employer finds out you were lying on your resume, they will immediately remove you from consideration.

The healthcare industry places a great deal of trust in nursing assistants, so it is important to CNA employers that they hire candidates that they can have complete trust in. CNA employers are not interested in taking unnecessary risks, so just don’t lie on your resume, okay? 🙂

5) Make sure your content is targeted towards the CNA profession. Not everything in your prior work experience directly translates to the CNA job, but you can do your best to use descriptions that put an image in the mind of the person reviewing your resume that you are perfect for the job. Ask yourself: what skills and character traits are they looking for in the CNA they intend to hire? Then go back and tailor your resume to reflect what they’re looking for. We’ll cover this in more detail later.

Awards, Honors, Other Certifications, Etc.

This section of your resume is really open to if there’s any awards, honors and/or other certifications that you want to include. Did you get any awards or honors while in your CNA training program?

If you are having trouble filling out a page on your resume, this is a great place to try and add a few items. However, we recommend two rules to follow.

First, ask yourself if adding this award/honor/certification adds value to your candidacy for an interview. If it does, absolutely add it.

If it doesn’t, come back after you have exhausted material everywhere else. If you still can’t think of anything else to add on your resume, then you can add it but only if it still needs to add value to your resume, even if it’s unrelated to the CNA profession.

Extracurricular Activities and Volunteer Experience

Activities, volunteer experience and extracurricular activities are another great way to help fill out a resume if your starving for content on your resume. First of all, use the same rules we just applied to the awards, honors and other certifications section of your resume. Does having this activity, volunteer experience or activity add value to your CNA candidacy? If so, add it.

Also, make sure you include similar bullet points like when describing your work experience if possible. Anybody can be the member of an extracurricular activity or volunteer experience, but if you can show that you took on a leadership role or helped push an initiative, it goes a long way.

Don’t Over Complicate the Basic Structure of Your CNA Resume

Getting the layout and basic structure of your CNA resume correct really should not be overly difficult. However, it is extremely important. Can you screw up on some of these rules/guidelines and still get an interview? Possibly, if there is not much competition for the job.

However, if you are in a competitive CNA job market, it’s going to be more difficult to get the interview. Don’t risk letting the opportunity for a great nursing assistant job pass you by thought just because you mess up one of these basics.

Don’t try to stand out. Just get the fundamentals right on your CNA resume and you’ll greatly improve your odds of getting interviews for jobs.

Sample CNA resume: basic structureFigure 1: Sample CNA Resume Basic Structure