Considerations and Strategies for Being Submitted for Travel Nursing Jobs
Once your travel nursing submission profile is complete, it’s time to start having it submitted for open jobs. There are several ways that both travel nurses and companies can approach this step in the process. Therefore, it’s easiest for us to take a look at some common scenarios in order to clarify the issues at play..
Scenario 1: The travel nursing agency plays hard-ball
In this scenario, the company is going to try to get the you to agree to a set of parameters. Then, if a job meets the parameters, they can submit your profile immediately. This approach is very common among larger travel nursing companies. Essentially, the company wants to avoid calling you for every job that pops up in an effort to convince the you to take the job. Instead, they establish what you are looking for in terms of the start date, shift, unit, contract length, and location. Then they get you to agree to a travel nursing pay package.
The company then tells the you that you will be submitted for jobs that meet these criteria, and match or beat the pay package agreed upon. Some companies are so aggressive with this approach that they’ll say things like, “OK, so we have a verbal contract agreement, right?” And some will even send you a contract even though there isn’t even a job yet!
There are four reasons that companies prefer this approach. First, it’s very efficient. If the recruiter can have fewer and shorter conversations with any given candidate, then they can talk to more candidates, which leads to submitting more candidates, which leads to more contracts, which leads to more gross revenue. Second, this approach gives companies a leg up in pay negotiation. If they’re able to get you to agree to a base compensation package, then they’ll be in a position to take a higher profit margin on contracts that have higher bill rates. It doesn’t always work out this way, but this is a negotiating advantage nonetheless. Third, this approach enables the company to submit the profile immediately, which is a benefit to both the company and you. Travel nursing jobs fill quickly. Being submitted early makes a big difference in landing a job. Finally, these aggressive maneuvers are designed to ensure that candidates are loyal to this one company and that they don’t decline a job offer if one is made.
Scenario 2: The travel nursing company plays soft-ball
In this scenario, the company is going to take a more passive and service oriented approach to gaining your agreement to be submitted to a job. The recruiter will determine what you are looking for in an assignment in terms of the start date, shift, unit, contract length, and location. Then, when a job pops up that meets the criteria, they’ll give you a call and run it by you. At this point, you may or may not discuss the pay package for this particular job. The recruiter may or may not address it, and you may or may not ask about it.
Of course, compensation will have to be discussed at some point. If compensation isn’t discussed until after the job has been offered, then the travel nurse will be in a better negotiating position. Once the job has been offered, the company really wants to get the traveler to accept the job. Their client, the hospital, will be counting on them to deliver. When a company’s candidates decline offers from a hospital it negatively affects the company’s value to the hospital. In addition, company’s hate declining offers because doing so represents a missed opportunity. This is why we call this approach “Agency Soft-Ball.”
You may wonder why any company would want to take this approach. In fact, they would prefer not to take this approach. Companies often take this approach because they feel their circumstances necessitate them to do so. You see, this approach is more common among mid and small sized companies that have far fewer hospital contracts than their larger competitors. These companies also tend to be sub-vendors on a greater percentage of their contracts. As a result they have access to fewer jobs and a higher percentage of their jobs are highly competitive and/or have lower bill rates. They’re concerned that if they have to discuss pay up front, they may lose the candidate early. There’s a better chance that a candidate will accept a job after it’s offered, especially if there are no other options available at the time they’re ready to start an assignment. Now I’m not saying that you’re going to get horrible pay with these companies. You may in fact get a better rate due to any number of reasons.
Scenario 3: The travel nurse plays hard-ball
In this scenario, the traveler takes an aggressive approach to determining where they can be submitted and which companies have permission to submit their profile. This scenario can result in a little more compensation, but it will also require more work on the your part in order to maximize the potential. In order to be successful with this approach, you’ll need to be familiar with the landscape of your top choice job markets. For example, if you’re licensed in Colorado and California, and you want to go to Denver or Los Angeles, then finding all of the hospitals in these areas is the first step to determining which company is going to represent you at each hospital.
You can use the American Hospital Directory’s website (ahd.com) to find all the hospitals in a given area. Remember to search for hospitals located within the entire metropolitan area if you’re willing to accept assignments within the entire metropolitan area. For example, Denver’s metropolitan area includes Aurora and Broomfield. If you search AHD for Denver only, then you won’t see the hospitals in Aurora and Broomfield. Once you have a list of all the hospitals in your desired locations, you can begin to determine which companies are going to represent you at each of the hospitals.
When you speak with companies, you’ll ask them which of the hospitals on your list they have contracts with. You’ll then ask the companies for pay package quotes that include the standard set of compensation variables you’ve decided are most important to you. This will ensure that you’re making an “apples to apples” pay comparison between companies that have contracts at the same facility.
Once you have the pay package quotes, you can decide which companies will have the green light to represent you at the various hospitals. Remember, compensation isn’t the only variable to consider when making this choice. You’ll also want to consider the relationships that the various agencies have with the hospitals, the level of service that the companies provide, and your relationships with the recruiters.
Once you’ve decided on a company for a particular hospital, then I recommend calling the other companies first to let them know that you’re choosing another company, and why. Doing so may result in better compensation offers. For example, you may call a company and let them know that you’ve decided to go with a competitor because the competitor offered a higher level of compensation overall. The losing company may up its offer to get you to work with them. It’s okay if they don’t make a counter offer. The important thing is that you’ve let them know you’re going with another company so that there’s no confusion during the submission process, and you’ve tried to negotiate a better deal in the process. There’s no harm in this. It’s business, not personal.
This approach accomplishes two key objectives. First, it ensures that you’re getting a solid pay package for jobs at the hospitals in question. By shopping around for rates and playing one company off of another, you can rest assured that you’re receiving a good deal. Second, this approach ensures that you can be immediately submitted for jobs as they become available thereby increasing your chances of landing a job. There should be no confusion among the companies as to who can, and cannot, submit your profile to any given hospital.
There is another base you have to cover with this approach. You should let all of the companies know that they’re welcome to contact you with other jobs that they believe you may be interested in. It’s best to keep your options open when it comes to jobs. You never know when or where something great will pop up and you can never be certain if the timing will work out for landing a travel nursing job in your most desired locations.
Scenario 4: The travel nurse plays soft-ball
In this scenario, the travel nurse takes a more passive approach to dealing with the companies. Essentially, you let them do what they want. Of course, the basic information is still going to be exchanged. You’ll let companies know what you’re looking for in terms of the start date, shift, unit, contract length, and location. You may even give them a basic idea of the minimum pay package you’ll accept. But other than that, you give all the companies you’re working with the green light to submit your profile as they see fit. This approach is great if you’re looking to expend minimum effort. It also ensures that your profile will be submitted immediately as jobs become available. However, this approach also has its share of disadvantages and fallout.
You run the risk of getting submitted for jobs you’re not interested in with this approach. You may not be interested in a particular job for any number of reasons including its location, its shift, or its compensation to name a few. This is a tragedy for some people. I’ve worked with many nurses who felt that they had to be 100% willing to take a job before they were willing to be submitted for the job.
However, there’s nothing really wrong with declining an offer. Sure, companies don’t like it, but you’re their customer. Perhaps they should do a better job at heeding your stated expectations before submitting your profile willy-nilly. Hospitals aren’t too fond of their offers being declined either, but they’re a little more understanding than most travel nurses think. Hospitals understand that travel nurses apply for more than one job at a time. They understand that something may have come up during the interview that deterred the candidate from accepting the position. Furthermore, if you decline a job somewhere, then chances are you had a pretty good reason for doing so and probably wouldn’t want to work there in the future anyway.
You also run the risk of being submitted by multiple agencies for the same job. Contrary to what recruiters say, this is rarely “frowned upon” by the hospital. Most hospitals and Vendor Management Services have policies in place to deal with multiple submissions for the same candidate. And this is where you can run in to some trouble. You may end up getting stuck with a company that isn’t your top choice. For example, the hospital may have a “first come, first served” policy that results in the first company submitting the candidate becoming the company the candidate must work with. It’s also possible that the hospital contacts you for an interview and asks you which company you’re going to work with, which could potentially put you on the spot to make a decision without knowing the pay packages being offered by the various companies.
Again, each of these scenarios is offered as a possible example of what could transpire in the process of getting submitted for jobs. They may not always play out in the manner described here and I’m sure there are other scenarios as well. What’s important is that you have a basic understanding of the mechanisms at play in this process. What’s the company thinking? How can you improve your negotiating position? How can you get what you want out of the process?
Finally, you should be open to having your submission profile submitted for multiple jobs at the same time. Counting on one job to come through is a bad strategy. Again, it’s a competitive market. You have to get submitted to multiple jobs to land one. The company knows this very well. In fact, this reality serves as logic supporting part of the metrics by which a recruiter’s job performance is measured. For example, a company may hold a belief that for every 5 submissions a recruiter completes, they can expect 2 interviews and one offer. Many travel nurses believe that if they get multiple offers they’ll have to let someone down by declining. Trust me, hospitals are aware that people need to find jobs and that they’re not the only game in town. Besides, this is business and you have to look out for yourself.