Nursing Job Online Applications

8 Things Every Nurse Ought to Know About Online Nursing Job Applications

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Nursing job searches have changed dramatically over the last 20 years with the advent of applicant tracking system software designed to simplify the process for employers. However, for nurses, these systems can be difficult to navigate and repellent. While we can’t change the systems, we can provide information that will hopefully make them a little easier to navigate and more approachable. So, here are 8 things that every nurse conducting a job search ought to know about applicant tracking systems.

1: Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS’s) can be Set Up in Different Ways

Most ATS’s are massive software packages that can be set up in different ways. Specifically, the software has features that can be turned on or turned off. It’s up to the employer to determine which features they want to use and which features they don’t. Moreover, ATS’s can typically be customized for a particular employer. So if their is a particular feature or functionality that the employer wants added, the ATS company can have it developed for a price.

Why is this important for nurses? Healthcare employers tend to utilize certain ATS features more than other industries do and utilize other features less than other industries. In any case, knowing that these systems can be customized helps us understand why they’re customized and what healthcare employers seek to achieve through customization. As a result, we’ll be able to get a much better understanding of exactly what healthcare employers are looking for in their ideal candidates.

2: Nursing Resumes Aren’t Always Scanned by the ATS

With that in mind, many healthcare employers don’t activate the “Resume Parser” which is the feature that reads your resume and matches the content against the job posting requirements to determine how well your qualifications match those of the job you’re applying for. However, in this particular case, you’ll have no way of knowing whether or not the Resume Parser is being used which is why we always recommend optimizing your nursing resume for the ATS.

Given that the parsing feature is one of the big selling points of ATS’s, we must question why many healthcare employers choose not to activate it, or often don’t use the feature even when they do activate it. The answer is that healthcare employers tend to maintain very firm requirements for very specific qualifications. And when you’re that specific, it’s rare for your candidates to include the exact language you’re looking for.

For example, a healthcare employer may have a firm requirement that candidates for a particular job have at least 1 year of experience as an RN in an “Acute Care setting” and at least 3 months of experience with “hospital based nursing.” It’s really rare for candidates to put this type of terminology on their resumes. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have it.

Other examples include willingness or availability to work certain shifts, or experience with specific trauma settings. In fact, the details we recommend including on your nursing resume are partly based on the types of questions that we frequently see asked by applicant tracking systems and partly based on what hiring mangers told us they were looking for when we worked as healthcare recruiters.

3: Why ATS Applications are So Popular for Nursing Jobs

This leads us to the reason that online nursing job applications are so popular with healthcare employers. It’s specifically because they can program the applications to obtain the key information they’re looking for. So they can require that licenses and certifications be entered along with the license numbers. Or they can require that candidates enter what shifts they’re able to work.

Nurses will probably be bummed to know that in many industries, employers rely more on the resume parsing feature and less on the job application feature. Sure, those employers could potentially benefit from asking specific questions, but they’re just as concerned with application abandonment. You see, there are many studies indicating that the more complicated the application process, the more often candidates will simply give up. And there are experts who claim that lengthy applications do nothing more than drive the best candidates away.

It’s possible that healthcare employers feel that obtaining the detailed information they need to make informed decisions is worth the risk of driving candidates away. Or, they may not be worried about it at all because the candidate will find these applications no matter which employer they choose to apply with.

In any case, this is why it’s so important to complete the online applications to the best of your ability. Our experience indicates that a significant percentage of healthcare professionals write things like, “see resume”, in various fields throughout the application. This is particularly true for a field like “Job Duties”.

Again, you never really know how a particular company has chosen to set up and use their ATS. Therefore, it’s best to cover all the bases. For example, a company may not be using the ATS’s resume parser for uploaded resumes, but they may use a similar feature for the data entered in their online applications. Or, the data from your uploaded resume may not be searchable in the company’s database, but the data entered in the application might be searchable in the database. So it’s a good idea to complete the applications in their entirety.

We understand that this is a major hassle. That’s why we created BluePipes to help healthcare professionals identify and record the details that employers are looking for in hopes of making this process much easier for both healthcare professionals and employers!

4: Keep a “Plain Text” Nursing Resume for Copying and Pasting

If you’ve ever copied and pasted your formatted resume into an online application, then you probably noticed that things get thrown out of whack. Bullet points get turned into transparent squares, spacing gets thrown off, and the alignment is all messed up. This is because word processing software, like Microsoft Word, that is standard for creating resumes includes formatting tags that the online application software doesn’t understand.

You see, word processing software like Microsoft Word uses “Rich Text Formatting”. This means that the software tags items with symbols that tell the software how to properly display the items on the page. The problem is that only that particular software program understands it’s own tags.

Therefore, it’s best to keep a copy of all your pertinent resume information in a plain text program like Microsoft Notepad or MAC TextEdit (set in plain text mode). Keep everything plain and simple with no formatting other than added spaces where necessary. This way, when you copy and paste into the online application, everything will appear uniform and as intended. It won’t be pretty, but at least it won’t look like a train wreck.

However, it’s important to remember that it’s best to tailor your resume and application details for the job in question. So be sure to review the job description and include insights about you and your career that are pertinent to the description. When you write something new for a particular job posting be sure to save it on your plain text resume. Over time, this will save you tons of time filling out online job applications as well as creating new Rich Formatted resumes that you can attach to online job applications when they provide the ability to do so.

5: Key Qualifications are Often Determined with Questions Separate from the Application

One of the main ways that healthcare employers screen their candidates is by asking a specific set of questions related to the required qualifications for the job in question. The image below is one such example:

Sample Nursing Job Screening Questions

There is a distinct feature within the ATS software that allows the healthcare employer to designate the questions to be asked for each job posting. The sample above is from a popular ATS called HealthcareSource. These questions appear after the candidate selects “Continue” upon completing their application.

Why are these questions so important? In many cases, if these questions aren’t answered as required, then your application won’t stand a chance at being reviewed for the job you’re applying for. Sometimes, you’ll even find that you must answer these questions first before being allowed to proceed with the rest of the application process. If you do get through the process, then these questions are often the first line of screening performed by the recruiter, so your application may not even register for the job if they aren’t answered correctly.

Now, the person performing the initial review will most likely be a recruiter. The recruiter’s job in this case is to screen candidates and pass qualified candidates on to the hiring manager for their review and decision on whether or not to invite a candidate in for an interview.

This is why you’ll find many recruiters who claim that what you include in your nursing resume isn’t all that important. As long as you have the required qualifications, you’ll move through the process, they say. This is where these recruiters get it wrong. Sure, they’ll move your application through the process, but the hiring manager typically decides who gets an interview and hiring managers almost always consider the details provided in the resume when making this decision.

BluePipes: Professional Networking and Career Management Tools for Healthcare Professionals

6: There are Two Major Players in Healthcare ATS Software

If you’ve spent any time applying for nursing jobs, then you’ve probably noticed that there are a lot of similarities between the job application processes of different employers. This is because there are 2 major players in the Healthcare ATS software market that pretty much dominate the entire market.

Taleo is probably the biggest player in the market. If you look close enough, you’ll see the Taleo name on applications for some of the biggest healthcare employers in the nation including Kaiser Permanente, Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), and Tenet Healthcare.

Taleo was bought a few years back by Oracle, so they’re now a subsidiary of that company. Oracle has a host of other human resource and financial software applications that hospitals use, so they’re now able to provide services to meet almost any need a hospital has regarding the management of their human capital.

The other major player is HealthcareSource. While Taleo offers a product built for general use, HealthcareSource is designed specifically for the healthcare industry. They currently have over 2,400 clients.

Being dedicated to healthcare allows them to include all sorts of bells and whistles specific to the industry. For example, they offer Staff Assessment, Reference Assessment, and Leadership Assessment tools that are all specifically designed for the healthcare industry.

Why is this important? Unfortunately, these ATS’s don’t provide you with a universal profile. In other words, just because you used Taleo to apply for a job at HCA doesn’t mean that your data and log-in information can be used when you apply for a job at Kaiser Permanente. That would be amazing because it would save you a ton of time! However, employers aren’t keen on sharing their candidate information with competing employers.

That said, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the various features and tools as you go through the application process. You can become adept at copying and pasting your information into the fields in order to speed up the process.

Also, when one hospital in an organization uses a particular ATS, then it’s a pretty good bet that all hospitals use the same ATS. This is important because once you’ve applied with one employer in the organization, then your data and log-in information should be available for all employers in the organization. Therefore, it’s a good idea to search the jobs for the entire organization to see if there might be other positions that you can quickly apply for.

Finding all the employers for an organization is really easy for companies like Kaiser Permanente. But some organizations have names that are quite different which makes it difficult to identify all the facilities in the organization. So, if you’ve found a job on a third party job board like CareerBuilder, then it’s a good idea to look the hospital up online to find out what other hospitals or healthcare employers are a part of the same organization. Typically, the main website will include a list of all the separate employers in the organization. If this doesn’t turn anything up, then look for clues during the application process. The image below provides an example:

Nursing Job Application Sample

Circled in red you’ll see a list of employers that are a part of SouthCoast Hospitals Group, which is the organization that posted this job. You’ll notice that one of the employers listed is Southcoast Visiting Nurses Association. However, if you went to the organization’s website, then you’d see that Southcoast Visiting Nurses Association is not listed. Despite that, it’s still part of the group. This happens quite often, so be on the lookout.

7: Use the Same Username and Password when Applying for Nursing Jobs

Internet security experts would have our heads for recommending this. Security experts typically urge people to use a unique usernames and passwords for every service they register for. This way, if one set of log-in information is compromised, then thieves will only have access to the information available for one service. However, if you use the same access information for every job posting you apply to, then you’ll be less likely to duplicate your efforts with applicant tracking systems.

Why? As mentioned above, once you’ve applied for one employer, your information should be available for other employers within the same organization. But it’s not always easy to identify employers within the same organization. So if you use the same log-in information, then you can always attempt to log-in using that same information. If the system accepts it, then you’ll have saved yourself the time of creating a new profile.

Besides, you’ll be entering the same information into every one of these systems, so if your access information is compromised in one place, then it’s as good as compromised with all of them.

8: is an Excellent Resource for Your Nursing Job Search

As mentioned above, the HealthcareSource ATS has a lot of unique features. One of those features is their own proprietary job board. They call it HealthcareSource Jobs. It pulls jobs from every healthcare facility that uses the HealthcareSource ATS. In doing so, it solves some of the biggest problems that nurses face when they use third party job boards.

To be frank, third party job boards are kind of a mess. First, you’re going to come across tons of jobs that are posted by agencies and recruiters, including travel nursing jobs. That’s great if you’re interested in those jobs, but most nurses aren’t. Moreover, these jobs sometimes advertise themselves in ways that make them look like permanent jobs which causes some candidates to waste their time filling out applications for positions they’re not interested in.

Also, third party job boards tend to have a lot of filled jobs on them. This is because it’s quite common for job postings to be sold as 30 day advertisements. If a job gets filled within a week or two, then the posting stands a really good chance of staying on the job board because the employer has no incentive to pull it down.

HealthcareSource Jobs solves these problems by only allowing jobs from their ATS users to be posted on the job board. And the jobs are pulled directly from the company’s job board, so they stay updated because features that keep job postings updated are built into the functionality of the ATS.

9: Networking Can Trump the Online Nursing Job Application Process

One of the big complaints that nurses have about the online job application process is that there is little to no human interaction. Many nurses feel like applying online is like dumping their information into a black hole. And in most cases, they’re right. But there is a way to beat the process even if you lack the required qualifications.

Networking is the single most effective way to land a job. Many sources including US News, Cornell University and many others assert that a significant percentage of jobs are filled through networking. Estimates based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics typically claim that 70%-80% of all jobs are filled through networking while only 5% to 15% are filled through job boards. Of course, job board companies will vehemently dispute these estimates. But the figures speak for themselves.

On a personal level, every new grad RN I’ve ever worked with who landed a job in a hospital right out of school either new someone at the hospital or got an offer after doing a clinical rotation at the hiring hospital which is essentially the same as knowing someone. Most recently, a friend who graduated from nursing school over 5 months ago landed a job on a Med/Surg-Tele unit only after getting introduced to the unit manger by a mutual contact.

There are two common rebukes of networking as a means to finding a job. The first is that the individual simply lacks a networking connection to anyone that works with the targeted employer. The good news is that this is never the case. Networking science has proven time and again that we are much more connected than we think we are. In fact, there are typically fewer than 4 degrees of separation between any two people in a given city. Given the fact that healthcare employers typically employ numerous people, it’s highly likely that someone in your social network can introduce you to someone who works with the employer.

Of course, this leads to the second rebuke; it’s difficult to invoke your social network for work related issues. I understand this as it’s difficult for me too. However, finding your ideal job is difficult either way. It’s better to spend your time on the method that’s proven to achieve the best results. When it comes to landing a job, that method is networking.

That’s the reason we made BluePipes a professional networking platform instead of just providing the powerful career management tools we offer on their own. When it comes to careers, networking is extremely important and that’s especially true for nurses. Not only is it important for nurses during their job search process, but it helps them stay up to date with trends, console one another regarding difficult work related issues, and allows them to provide input to healthcare professionals outside the nursing field in an effort to improve  patient care.

We hope you found this information useful! As always, please share your experiences with this topic and/or provide any questions you may have in the comments below! And please let us know if we missed something!!!

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2 replies
  1. Epstein LaRue says:

    Great article once again, Kyle! That is definitely every nurses wish that we could use just one online source that all companies would accept for our resume. Great job in helping out with that via BluePipes!

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