Nursing Career Advice

8 Nursing Job Search Tips To Avoid And What To Do Instead

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Nursing career advice is really easy to find. However, it’s not always good advice. In fact, while conducting research for other topics, we found that sometimes it’s downright horrible. As a result, we are compelled to share 8 bad pieces of advice on nursing job searches and offer our thoughts on what nurses should do instead.

First, it’s important to note that we don’t think anybody intentionally provides bad career advice. Instead, different people have different perspectives depending on their vantage points. That said, our goal here is to provide feedback based on our perspective as former healthcare recruiters. To do so, we have ranked these 8 items from least egregious to most egregious.

Bad Tip #8: “Don’t Include Your Nursing License Number on Your Resume”

You will find many sources that recommend against including your license number on your resume. For example, in her article “Resume Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make” on MinorityNurse.com, Nachole Johnson, RN makes this recommendation. Here’s the reason she provides:

Nursing License number. Placing your license number on your resume is unnecessary and an easy steal for identity thieves. Employers can look up your professional license number on your state’s BON.

The reason that this is bad advice is because some healthcare employers require their recruiters or Human Resource teams to conduct a license verification and check for actions against a license before moving candidates forward in the hiring process. Meanwhile, finding your license number on your state’s BON isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

However, this is the least egregious piece of bad advice because many healthcare employers require every candidate to apply for jobs through sophisticated applicant tracking systems that require candidates to enter their license numbers, social security numbers and other personally identifiable information. So these particular employers will have no problem looking you up on your state’s Board of Nursing.

Unfortunately, these applicant tracking systems are very expensive to employ. A large percentage of healthcare employers don’t believe the cost is justified or simply can’t afford to use them. Moreover, many employers recognize that their candidates view these systems as overly cumbersome and time-consuming which results in a high rate of “application abandonment.” As a result, they may simplify the application process by not requiring all of these details to be entered.

This means that recruiters for many healthcare employers and recruitment agencies are forced to track down the license number on their own if it is not provided on the resume. Most state BONs allow licenses to be looked up by license number, social security number, or a name search. You’re certainly not going to include your Social Security Number on your resume. So that means recruiters are stuck looking your license up by name.

Recruiters know from experience that there are all kinds of problems looking candidates up by name on state BONs. There are often multiple candidates with the same name and no way to differentiate them. Sometimes the search returns no results because the candidate’s name is different on the BON site than it is on the resume.

Now, imagine you’re a recruiter reviewing the resumes of 3 qualified candidates, only one of which includes the license number. Which one would you start with? Speaking from personal experience, I’d start with the license number first.

The bottom line is that nobody is going to remove your resume from consideration because it includes your license number. However, your resume could be given lower priority or removed if does not include the license number. There’s no need to be concerned with “identity thieves” as your license number is already in the public record and can be looked up by anybody, not just employers. So be on the safe side and include it on your resume.

Bad Tip #7: “Don’t Include Your GPA on Your Resume”

Here again, you will find an abundance of sources who recommend against including your GPA on your resume. Here are two quotes that summarize the main arguments for these recommendations. The first is from the MinorityNurse.com article on nursing resumes cited above and the second is from a forum discussion:

GPA. No one has ever asked me my GPA when interviewing me for a job.  Honestly employers really only care that you have a degree and experience for the job you’re applying.

I graduated from Villanova with a 3.0 GPA and most of the students with the 4.0 GPA were horrible in clinical.

There are essentially three main arguments here. First, because no one ever asks about GPAs in a nursing interview, they do not matter. Just because nobody has ever asked about your GPA doesn’t mean that it’s not a consideration. It is most certainly a consideration for internships, residency programs, and jobs that are taking on new-grads. In fact, in many of these cases, your GPA is required.

Moreover, when reviewing two experienced candidates who are otherwise equal, an exemplary GPA can be the deciding factor in determining who gets the interview. If you’ve applied for a job in the past and didn’t get an interview, then for all you know, it may have been because they interviewed a candidate with an exemplary GPA. Additionally, we routinely worked with candidates who had hiring managers comment on and discuss their high GPAs. So while a high GPA may not be a requirement, it certainly gets noticed.

The second argument against including your GPA on your nursing resume is that it just doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that you have your degree, your license, and the experience the employer is looking for. I have to be honest, I have never understood this argument. Are we to believe that all RNs with 5 years of ICU experience are equally good employees? Are nurses just manufactured drones or something?

The simple fact of the matter is that there are huge disparities in employee performance. This is why every resume adviser and career coach will recommend that you list your accomplishments on your resume and that you quantify them whenever possible. An exemplary GPA is an accomplishment just like any other accomplishment. In fact, there is no better way to quantify your academic accomplishments than to display an exemplary GPA.

Your cover letter and resume should tell a story. The story of how you got to where you are and why you are the best candidate for the job. Displaying a high GPA after discussing your amazing experience and accomplishments in the clinical arena, tells the story  that you have been awesome since day 1. That you have the rare combination of academic motivation and clinical motivation.

The third argument for not including your GPA on your nursing resume is that it’s not an indicator of how good a nurse you will be. We are not aware of any peer reviewed studies that prove this claim. However, we are willing to accept it. But that still doesn’t mean that you should not include a great GPA on your resume.

In fact, in some nursing schools, GPA determines where students get to do their clinical rotations. Only students with high GPAs will get into ICU, OR and other highly specialized units. Many residency programs also maintain minimum GPA requirements.

Why? Because academic performance is one of many predictors of competency. So by displaying your high GPA, you are demonstrating that you are a lock for possessing one of several factors required for success. And this is just as true for experienced nurses as it is for new nurses.

Here again, the bottom line is that nobody is going to pass on your resume because you listed a 3.90 GPA. However, someone might pass on your resume if you didn’t. So include your awesome GPA if you achieved one.

Bad Tip #6: “Your Nursing Resume Must Be 1 Page”

This is one that just doesn’t seem to go away. Here is a quote from TraveNursing.com:

Having a résumé that is too long – You need to be brief while still stating your applicable skills. Keep your résumé to one page. If you can’t highlight your talents on one page, you’re giving the message that you are unorganized and tend to go on and on.

Note how they guilt you into thinking that you MUST have a one page resume by telling you that you’ll appear “unorganized and tend to go on and on.” The truth is that the length of your resume should be determined by the amount of applicable information you have to share. Most often, this is a function of how much work experience you have.

If you’re a new-grad or have just a few years of experience, then perhaps your resume should be one page. If you’re later in your career and have more to convey, then it’s okay for your resume to be 2 or even 3 pages long. It all depends on how much relevant experience you have.

However, it’s also important to consider the setting that your resume will be reviewed in. If you are uploading to an applicant tracking system, which happens in the vast majority of cases, then you should be less concerned about length and more concerned about ensuring your resume includes all the pertinent details required to get it ranked highly by the system. There’s a good chance that your resume will never even be printed out.

However, if you’re networking and submitting your resume on paper, then you should keep it as short as possible. This is why the one page rule existed in the first place. Because in the past, all resumes were reviewed on paper.

All that said, you should make every attempt to be concise and keep it as brief as possible while still conveying every pertinent detail you can. Just don’t crunch everything together and use tiny fonts to fit it all on one page.

For more on this you can see the following resources:

  1. Forbes
  2. QuintCareers
  3. US News
  4. Purdue University
  5. Careeralism

Bad Tip #5: “Apply Only to Hospitals”

Many nursing career related articles and advice columns have a strong tendency to focus on hospital nursing jobs. This isn’t necessarily a piece of bad career advice as much as it is a bad practice among those who cover nursing career related issues and offer advice. This laser focus on hospital jobs tends to give candidates a one-track mindset that confines their job search to hospital jobs.

For example, this article titled 7 Job Searching Tips for New Nurses from Marian University speaks only of landing hospital jobs. In this article from CNN about the difficulties that nurses are having during their job searches, every interviewee discusses their difficulty finding a hospital job.

Meanwhile, the job market for nurses is changing. As our healthcare industry transitions to a preventive care model, many experts anticipate that the percentage of nurses employed in hospitals will decrease. Whether that’s true or not, the number of non-traditional roles is increasing. And these roles often require less experience and less training to get up and running so they’re perfect for new nurses, and nurses returning to the workforce after a hiatus.

It would be helpful if every article recommended that nurses expand the sphere of their job search. Here are some great examples:

  1. 5 Ways the Nursing Field is Changing
  2. Nursing Today and Beyond
  3. 5 Alternative Jobs for Registered Nurses
  4. Spreading Your Wings
  5. Nursing Careers Outside the Hospital

Bad Tip #4: “Apply Only Through Online Applications”

Applicant tracking systems are the standard in the healthcare industry. A large number of healthcare employers require that all candidates apply for jobs online. Of course, job boards and applicant tracking software providers love this and they routinely offer career advice articles that make it sound as though all job seekers should simply submit to the system.

Advanceweb.com is one such example. They routinely put out job search advice articles like this one implying that nurses should consider nothing more than simply searching for jobs online and submitting their data electronically.

BluePipes: Professional Networking and Career Management Tools for Healthcare Professionals

 

Don’t get us wrong, we understand that these systems are a reality and firmly believe in optimizing resumes, cover letters and applications for them. The problem is that 70%-80% of all jobs are filled through networking. So it makes much more sense to devote 70%-80% of your job-search time to networking because doing so will greatly enhance your chances of achieving your goal. Sure, you’ll still have to apply online, but you’ll be able to name-drop and contact your connections to inform them that your application has been submitted so they can get the ball rolling. The main point here is that it’s best to devote a significant percentage of your job-search time to networking.

Bad Tip #3: “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” When It Comes To Your Resume

We honestly can’t believe we saw this. In an article on ScrubsMag.com, they claim that an unnamed recruiter told them the following:

Don’t sweat the small stuff. If you’re looking to have your resume done by a professional, don’t bother. Most nurse recruiters are okay with a plain resume that simply states who you are and what positions you’ve held. Most HR recruiters are more interested in how you interact face-to-face.

We agree with a couple of points in this statement. You don’t really need to hire a professional resume writer. You can get by with standard formatting and there are plenty of resources, including those found on this site, that can help you write a great resume that’s optimized for the job posting. Also, most recruiters probably are more interested in how you interact face-to-face.

The problem is that only a handful of the numerous candidates that apply for each job are going to get the opportunity for a face-to-face interview. And who gets that opportunity is most certainly determined by the content of the resume. Bear in mind, this statement was written by a recruiter who probably doesn’t make the decisions on who does and does not get interviewed. That decision is typically up to the hiring manager.

In many cases, recruiters simply forward candidates that have been deemed qualified to the hiring manager. And getting deemed qualified is often determined by candidates answering questions posed by the Applicant Tracking System. So for the recruiter, a “plain resume” works just fine. But for the hiring manager, it probably doesn’t.

If you take the advice above and simply list the names of your previous employers, your job title and dates of employment then it’s highly unlikely that you will get an interview. Your resume probably won’t even make it onto the hiring manager’s radar because it will be competing with others that display relevant accomplishments, details and quantified results. As a result, your resume won’t stand out in any way that warrants granting an interview to you over other candidates. This is why it’s important to take the time to review the job posting and employer in order to tailor your resume for the specific position and include your relevant accomplishments.

Bad Tip #2: “Never Disregard the Chain of Command!”

In an article titled “Big Resume Mistakes that HR Experts See” on HealthCallings.com, which is a site owned by niche job board operator Dice Holdings, the author states the following:

Disregarding the chain of command: Unless you want to ruin your chances, never send your resume to anyone but the individual specified in the job posting—even if you had already met the Director of Nursing at a conference and she mentioned her hospital has a nurse opportunity available. Doing otherwise will lead the hiring manager to believe you’re a) unable to follow directions, and b) disregarding the chain of command—and this could lead to your immediate rejection.

Spoken like a company that makes all it’s money by getting people to apply for jobs online!! I mean, there really are no professional words that we can come up with to describe just how horrible this advice is. Let’s recap. You just met the Director of Nursing who told you that there was a job opening at their hospital. You should immediately go to your computer and throw your resume into the applicant tracking blackhole-of-death! Then, kick back and hope for the best. Wow. Why don’t you just kick the Director of Nursing in the shins and run away?

Seriously, though, there are much better alternatives. If you’re at a conference, then you should always be carrying a copy or two of your resume. If you have built a good rapport with this contact, then you could say any of the following:

I have a copy of my resume with me, if you have time I’d greatly appreciate it if you could give it a quick review and give me any tips you might have.

I’m sure I’ll have to apply online, but could I leave you with a copy of my resume and contact you when I have done so?

I will definitely apply online! Would it be okay if I contacted you after doing so?

Even if you haven’t built good rapport with the contact, you could still try any of the approaches above. However, you run a greater risk of them simply denying your request. In which case, you’re stuck with the ATS. If you’re concerned about that, then you could just apply online and immediately email or call your contact to alert them that you applied.

Of course, remember to include your contact’s name and position in your cover letter. Describe how you found out about the job as well. Again, the vast majority of jobs are filled through networking and this is a networking opportunity. Don’t squander it like this horrible advice suggests.

In the interest of full disclosure, it’s important to point out that BluePipes is a professional networking website. So it could be argued that we recommend networking so heavily because its good for business. However, the numbers don’t lie. Networking is the single best way to land a job.

We built BluePipes to provide healthcare professionals with a professional networking platform that is also capable of providing features that help them address their unique career challenges. For example, BluePipes provides 100 megabytes of free and secure document storage for copies of licenses and certifications. It also provides access to over 100 comprehensive skills checklists that can be saved and printed as PDF documents as well as many other healthcare related features. Our goal is to help healthcare professionals leverage the power of networking and manage their careers more effectively and efficiently.

Build Your Healthcare Professional Network on BluePipes

Bad Tip #1: “Engage in Conversations About What the Facility Has to Offer”

In an article on Nurse.com, respected career guru Donna Cardillo offers the following advice to nursing job seekers for when they attend career fairs:

Arrive at these events dressed in a business suit or your best outfit. Come prepared with business cards and copies of your résumé. Shake hands, make eye contact, and engage the recruiter in conversation about what his or her facility has to offer. Demonstrate enthusiasm, interest and professionalism. When all is said and done, employers are still looking for someone with a positive, upbeat attitude who projects a professional image.

This is great advice except for the part in bold text. We’re big fans of Donna Cardillo. She is great at what she does and we have a lot of respect for her. This was an oversight though. However, it is a piece of bad advice that many career advisers make.

If a job seeker walked up to me at a career fair and asked, “What does your facility have to offer?”, what I would hear is, “Hey, what can you do for me?” That’s essentially what is being asked. And that’s the worst approach to take when making initial contact with prospective employers.

Instead, engage in conversations about the challenges the hospital faces, the goals they seek to achieve, and initiatives they’re implementing to achieve those goals. This opens the door for an engaging conversation in which you can display some of your industry knowledge while expressing a genuine interest in helping the employer. All the while, you’re trying to find a way to relate your skills and achievements to solving their problems, achieving their goals and assisting with their initiatives. That’s the way to land job offers. You can discuss what the employer can do for you after the offer.

We hope you found this information useful! As always, we’d love to hear your experiences, questions and comments regarding this topic by posting in the comments section below!

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