Travel Nursing Podcast

TTATN 031: Travel Nursing Agency Applicant Tracking Systems

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Hey everyone! Welcome to The Truth About Travel Nursing Podcast! My name is Kyle Schmidt and I’m your host. Thank you so much for joining us for episode 31 of the podcast. In this episode, we’re going to take a detailed look at the software systems that agencies use to manage their businesses. These systems are commonly referred to as Applicant Tracking Systems. Discovering how these systems work will help us understand the impact they have you as a travel healthcare professional so that you can navigate the system better and know what to expect. [ Please note: This is the transcript of a Podcast. As such, it is not edited as written content. ]

What Is An Applicant Tracking System?

Okay, so what exactly is an Applicant Tracking System? Simply put, an Applicant Tracking System is a software system that enables the electronic handling of recruitment needs. These systems are used by companies small and large in every industry. Of course, each industry has its own unique issues and challenges, and the travel nursing industry is no different. In fact, travel nursing is filled with tons of unique issues and challenges. As a result, the applicant tracking systems used in the travel healthcare industry have tons of unique features.

Now, I’m sure that you’ll come across some small agencies that don’t use applicant tracking systems, but these agencies are few and far between. And it’s fair to say that only the smallest of agencies don’t use these systems. Instead, they use some combination of electronic forms and paper forms.

We all know what paper forms are and it’s easy to understand how they can be different from an Applicant Tracking System. But what’s the difference between an electronic form and an applicant tracking system? For example, let’s say you go on to a tiny agency’s website and fill out their electronic application. How do you know whether or not that application is part of an applicant tracking system?

Well, one of the surefire signs that you’re dealing with an Applicant Tracking System is that you’ll create a user name and password. So if you don’t create a username and password, then chances are really good that you’re not dealing with an applicant tracking system. This is because the fundamental basis of the applicant tracking system is that each person in the system has a unique account, or a unique file. That’s how the files are tracked. And, each person is going to be able to log in to their applicant account in order to make updates, complete more required documentation and perform a host of other tasks as well as access the various services provided by the ATS.

Why Are Applicant Tracking Systems Important For Travel Nursing?

Okay, so, if you don’t see fields for a username and password, or at least a password because sometimes the system will just use the email address as the username, then you’re probably dealing with a small company that doesn’t use an ATS. The question is, should you be concerned about this? I hate to say it, but I think today’s job market, there is cause for concern in travel nursing agency is not using some form of applicant tracking system.

You see applicant tracking systems are designed to streamline and organize the process. And this has a lot of ramifications for you as a travel healthcare professional. I mean, it matters a lot more for travel healthcare than it does for permanent jobs. For permanent jobs, the lack of an applicant tracking system might only result in a little bit of a lengthier hiring process.

In travel healthcare, the lack of an ATS puts the agency at a competitive disadvantage. Remember, agencies are competing with other agencies to get their candidates accepted for assignments. It’s important to move quickly, to get your candidates submitted quickly. It’s also important to submit a profile that looks professional and includes all the details that hospitals require. And it’s important to stay organized with the paperwork process once a job offer has been made. You can’t start a job until all the paperwork is completed and turned into the hospital. And there is a ton of paperwork so having a system that helps track it all is a major advantage.

I mean, stop and think about it. Do you want an agency faxing documents to you or emailing documents that need to be printed and filled out by hand…then returned to the agency? Even if these documents were created using one of the new electronic document creators that are on the market, it would still be a nightmare for the agency to track it all.

Now, if you stop and think about it, almost everybody hates filling out online job applications. And the longer they are, the worse they are. And travel nursing job applications are among the longest in the world. Not to mention all the rest of the paperwork that travelers have to complete. But applicant tracking systems are still used because the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

Travel Nursing Applicant Tracking System Developers

Okay, so now that we know what they are, why they’re used and why they’re important for travelers, let’s take a look at how they work. For starters, there are many different applicant tracking systems out there in use in the travel nursing industry. In fact, many travel healthcare agencies have invested in developing their very own proprietary systems. Large companies like American Mobile and Fastaff have their own systems. And smaller companies like Travel Nurse across America and The Right Solutions have their own systems as well.

That said, most companies use third party services that they pay to use. The two most widely used services are called API Healthcare and BlueSky. I’m sure there are many others, but to the best of my knowledge, these are the two most widely used services in the healthcare staffing industry.

I have pretty extensive experience with API. The agency that I used work with used them, so I’m going to describe how applicant tracking systems work with that particular service in mind. However, all of the applicant tracking systems are going to work relatively similar from an overall standpoint. They might have different bells and whistles or they might organize things a little differently, but overall, they’re quite similar.

Now, there is one key difference between API and most other applicant tracking systems used in the healthcare staffing industry. You see, API has its own proprietary testing features. As you know, the onboarding process for travel nurses includes a bunch of assessment tests and various other documents. Some of these things are universal and others are facility specific, meaning that they’re only required by a particular facility or a particular hospital system.

So, for the universal testing and evaluation documentation, things like skills checklists, unit exams, core mandatories and stuff like that, these are things that the agency is collecting for every travel healthcare professional they bring on, so they can be standardized. Anyway, API offers these things as part of their applicant tracking system.

I think this is a huge advantage for them. And I think that’s true for both travelers and agencies. You see, agencies that use their own applicant tracking systems or agencies that use BlueSky, they still need to get these test taken care of. So they have either developed their own evaluation tools and systems or they are using a different service for this.

I think that the most popular testing and evaluation service in the travel healthcare industry is called Prophecy. According to Prophecy’s website, they’re used by Fastaff, NurseFinders, Medical Soultions, Medical Staffing Network and many other agencies.

So, why is any of this important? Well, if you’re working with a company that uses API, then things should be a little more convenient. Everything is taken care of through the same system, using the same username and password. It’s all centralized.

However, if you’re working with a company that uses their own service or BlueSky, then there is a good chance that these evaluation documents are going to be taken care of through a different system. This means a different username and password a different site to keep track of and so on.

Now, I also think it’s interesting to point out that some staffing agencies that use API, might actually use Prophecy for their evaluations. This might be because many hospitals also use Prophecy and I’ve heard rumors that some hospitals require Prophecy evaluations. I think that’s a little over-the-top as far as a requirement, but many hospitals are of the mindset that onboarding a traveler should be exactly like onboarding a new permanent employee so they literally require the traveler to jump through all the same exact hoops as their perm staff do.

Okay, so that’s one key difference between these applicant tracking systems. And like I said, I’m sure there are many others between these systems, however, in general and at least as far as our discussion here is concerned, the applicant tracking systems tend to have the same general thrust, the same set of general goals and features. So, let’s take a look at those.

The Travel Nursing Agency ATS Back-end

So, for starters, you’re going to complete an online job application. In the process, you’ll most likely create a username and password. Once you submit the information, the data is transmitted to a database and your account is created.

Now, at this point we have to start taking about the backend of these applicant tracking systems. This is where all the magic happens. I mean, Applicant Tracking Systems are like icebergs. The biggest part of them is unseen by those on the surface. The vast majority of what they are is hidden.

You see, the backend of an applicant tracking system has way more going on than the front end. Once you submit your online application, you’ve actually created an account for yourself on the backend. This is where the recruiters are logging in. The backend includes your application and everything that entails along with all your documentation like your licenses, certifications medical records and other documents. It includes the job order management system, a database of the hospitals the agency works with along with all their hospital contacts, the rate sheets, a payroll system, a billing system and all kinds of other little features.

So, the backend is really where all the magic happens. And this is how it works. It pretty much starts with the candidates and the hospitals. These are the agency’s customers. And the agency is pretty much trying to match them together.

Hospitals In The Travel Nursing Agency’s Applicant Tracking System

So, for hospitals, the agency is able to enter all sorts of information. I mean, for starters, all the basic stuff that you can think of can be entered. The name, address, telephone numbers, the names and contact information for all the point people at the hospital and that kind of stuff can all be stored. Additionally, documents can be saved to the Hospital’s file in the applicant tracking system. So the agency can save their contract with the hospital, and any other document that they want to associate with hospital, into the hospital’s file in the ATS. These documents can then be viewed or downloaded at the agency’s convenience.

Now, another important thing that can be entered for the hospital in the ATS is the bill rates. To do this, agencies can create categories of bill rates for the hospital. Remember from episode 17, when we discussed travel nursing bill rates, there are tons of different rates, the specialty rate, the standard rate, the overtime rate, crisis rates and so on. All these rates can be entered and each can be assigned its on category.

So, why is all of this important? Well, these hospital files form the basis of how the agency handles their business with the hospitals. For example, they might be able to bill the hospital from this system. With all of this data entered for the hospital, it’s really easy for an invoice to be generated and sent to the hospital.

Travel Nursing Jobs In The Applicant Tracking System

It’s also how the agency manages the jobs that it receives from their client hospitals. And this is where we start to get into the interaction between the hospital files and the traveler files. You see, when an agency gets a job order, they enter it into the applicant tracking system. When they enter the job order, they have to tell the system what hospital the job is for so that the job is connected to the hospital. Then, the system pulls in the rest of the data associated with the hospital. Now, the agency can select the bill rate for the assignment. And all of this ensures that there is a smaller margin for errors and that everything can be updated from one central file when need be.

Travel Nursing Rate Sheets In The Applicant Tracking System

Okay, so now they have this job order entered. Your recruiter can now pull up the job on the backend and open up a rate sheet for the job. The rate sheet should automatically be populated with all the details. Things like the number of hours per week, the number of overtime and regular time hours, all of the bill rates for this particular job will all be present.

Also, all the burdens associated with this job order should be present. For example, if there are any non-billable-orientation hours associated with the job, then they’ll be included. The state and federal payroll taxes should be included as should any vendor management fee associated with the job order and any other cost.

With all of this data and information accounted for in the rate sheet, the recruiter is able to provide an accurate rate for the job. Now, the way the recruiter does this is to start entering figures for the various pay categories. They’ll enter a taxable base rate, the M&IE stipend, the travel stipend, the medical benefits, the lodging stipend and other compensation variables.

It’s also interesting to point out that some Applicant Tracking Systems will save preset housing options by zip code. Essentially, the recruiters and other folks at the agency will enter housing options that they use to house their travelers. Over time, a nice database of housing options gets built up and the recruiter can conveniently view them and add them right from the rate sheet. The rate sheet will pull in all the housing options located in and around the hospital’s zip code.

Okay, so meanwhile, while the recruiter is entering all these figures, there is a set of calculators in the rate sheet that are running real time calculations for the recruiter. The main things being calculated are the agency’s gross profit margin and the gross pay for the job. As the recruiter enters more money for the traveler the gross profit decreases and the gross pay for the traveler increases. This is how the recruiter knows how much they can pay for the assignment.

So, let’s assume that the recruiter quotes a rate that you’re happy with and you agree to be submitted for the assignment. The recruiter will then click a button to submit your documents. At that point, a list of all the documents they have available for you will be presented. The recruiter will select the documents required for submission and send them off. As we’ve mentioned before, this set of documents is almost always going to include your application, a resume, your skills checklist, and maybe a license verification that was downloaded from the state licensing board.

Submitting Profiles For Travel Nursing Jobs

At this point, your documents are either sent directly to the contact person at the hospital or to an Account Manager at the agency. In the vast majority of cases, it will be the account manager who gets these documents. And here again, the ATS is set up to know where the documents are supposed to be sent. That information is included in the hospital’s file.

The Account Manager will review the documents that they receive to make sure they look good. Agencies want to ensure that they’re sending over an impeccable profile. They check to make sure that all the information required by the hospital is there. They check for grammar and spelling. They make sure it’s professional and worthy of their standards. If there are problems, the file will be returned to the recruiter. And the file will be sent to the hospital by the Account Manager as soon as it’s approved.

Creating You Profile With The Travel Nursing Agency

Now, that brings us to the candidate side of things, or your side of things, the traveler’s side of things. For starters, you can see why agencies want to get you to complete an online application. They want to get you into that system so they can actually start working with you and get the process started.

Again, when you go to the agency’s website and complete their online application, you essentially create your file in the agency’s applicant tracking system. When you complete a skills checklist, it gets added to the document folder in your file. And once you’ve created your file, most applicant tracking systems have a feature whereby documents can be assigned to your file for completion. For example, the recruiter can assign a unit exam to you. When you login, the exam will be there waiting for you to complete. Once complete, the results are rendered as a PDF document and saved to your document folder. And some ATS’s even have a feature that lets agencies upload a document and mark the spots on the document that they need to be completed. The ATS will insert fields so that the form can completed on line. The form can then be assigned to you to be completed online.

Now, another thing to know about agency applicant tracking systems is that they have been designed to record all of the details that agencies need. You see, different hospitals have different requirements as far as what they need to see on an application In order to accept it. They’re really stringent about it too. Profiles can get rejected if they don’t indicate the number of beds in the units you worked on for example.

So, agencies will set their applications up to include everything they need from every facility they work with. This is because they want to make sure your profile is ready to go for all their facilities. They don’t want to review the application every time it gets submitted in order to add some random detail like whether or not the facilities you’ve worked at are teaching facilities.

So, this is the main reason that travel nursing job applications are so long. And different agencies handle this in different ways. Some agencies put every last detail on the online job application and mark all the fields required. My guess is that their application abandonment rates are really, really high. In other words, people start to fill out the applications and they get frustrated and abandon the process.

Some agencies recognize this problem and they’ll do one of two things. First, they’ll include all these fields on their online application, but only mark the main ones as required. This way, you can fill the whole thing out if you want to, or you can complete only the required fields.

Some other agencies take this to a whole other level. They won’t even show you their full application until you’ve completed their so-called “quick application”. The quick application is a way to get you to enter your basic contact information and maybe upload your resume. It gives the appearance that you’re actually applying for a job, but really they just want to give you a quick and easy to give the agency your contact information. Remember from the last episode, episode 30, your contact information is like gold for agencies. Once they have it, they’ll call you to try and convince you to complete their full application.

This is becoming a very popular tactic with agencies. In fact, there are a couple of marketing agencies that focus on the healthcare staffing industry as their niche and these marketing agencies recommend that agencies take this approach. Essentially, they’re sort of turning their websites into lead generators of sorts, like we discussed in episode 30.

Getting Help With Your Travel Nursing Job Application

Okay, so either way, one of the main things for you to know about applicant tracking systems is that recruiters and other agency representatives have access to your file. I’m sure you’ve noticed this yourself. Your recruiter can edit details, add work history…essentially, when it comes to your application, they have access to everything you have access to and then some, and it’s all on their backend system.

And it’s not just that they have access to your file; they can also create a file for you in most cases. They can do this in one of two ways. First, they could just go to their website and go through the process as if they were you. The most they might need is your email address to set up your account.

The second way they could do this is to just create your profile on the backend. Applicant tracking systems typically have a feature that allows this to happen. And when they’re done, they can push the profile to the front end so that you would be able to log in and take care of everything else.

So as a result of all this, you’ll find that many recruiters are willing to help you get your application completed. Some of them will fill the application out with you over the phone. Sometimes, they’ll take your resume and just enter the information on your behalf. This is a HUGE help for you. I mean, these applications might be the lengthiest application out there so finding a recruiter to help you out is huge.

That said, a lot of recruiters will tell you that they are unable to do this. And there is actually a really good reason for that. You see, at the end of completing the application, you’re supposed to read the application signing statements and sign the application. So, if the recruiter completes the application for you, then you can’t rightly read and sign the statements…at least not in a legal sense.

And the application signing statements are really important. They give the agency your consent for a background check, for your references to be checked, and to take a drug screen. And they also certify that the information you provided is true. So, these statements are important.

Now, these same recruiters will probably get into your file and make changes or additions. This is something recruiters need to do in order to make sure a profile is perfect. So, if they’re willing to make changes and additions then why aren’t they willing to just take care of the entire document?

At any rate, it is a fair for recruiters to say that they need you to complete the signing statements on your own. That’s actually part of the impetus for some of the features on BluePipes. Again, BluePipes is a professional networking website like LinkedIn, but it’s dedicated to healthcare professionals so it has some really powerful tools specifically for healthcare professionals.

For example, the BluePipes profile is highly detailed and it’s designed to help you recognize and record all the details agencies and hospitals typically require. It also has all the main skills checklists that you can complete and save. And it has some standard documents like application signing statements and background questions. You can complete all of these documents if you want and then render everything to PDF documents. Your profile can be rendered as a resume, and full job application and you can send the documents to anyone you’d like. And that’s all free.

You know, I can’t tell you the number of times that I hear travel nurses ask why there isn’t a website where all these standard documents can be completed and sent to agencies. And that’s what we’re doing with BluePipes. And it’s free for healthcare professionals. So you should definitely check it out. Thousands of members have joined and we’re getting tons of positive feedback.

Your Travel Nursing Resume And The ATS

Okay, so another thing to know about these applicant tracking systems is that when they’re used, it usually means that your resume will not be used. Many travelers are under the impression that the resume they created on their own is actually sent to the hospital. That’s actually rarely the case when applicant tracking systems are used.

Instead, the ATS has a feature that generates a resume based on the information entered into the system. Agencies almost always prefer to use this because it ensures that their client hospitals are always receiving a uniform set of documents from them. Their clients get used to looking for the information they need and finding it in the same spot every time.

And the resumes created by applicant tracking systems are quite different than standard resumes. They tend to have a lot of blank space which makes them much easier to browse through and find what you’re looking for. In other words, things aren’t all crammed together like they usually are on a standard resume. You know, with standard resumes, people are always trying to get everything to fit. ATS resumes don’t care about that. It’s all about presenting the information in a form that is scannable. So, these resumes are often quite long.

That said, it’s still important to maintain a good travel healthcare resume. This is because it can be used to help recruiters fill out the application on your behalf. And it’s much easier to get a recruiter to agree to do this if you have a resume that includes all the details they need. Now, we’ll actually be discussing how to create a travel healthcare resume in our next episode.

But if you want to get a head start, we’ll link to some blog posts that have all the details in the show notes for this episode. Also, remember that you can use BluePipes to generate your own travel healthcare resume. This way, you get walked through everything and you don’t have to worry about formatting the resume and that stuff.

Managing Everything Else

Okay, so once the agency has all of your basic documentation paperwork together and loaded into the applicant tracking system, they can get you submitted as we discussed earlier. And let’s say that you accept the job. At that point, the agency will mark the job order as filled, and select you as the traveler who is filling it. They’ll also set the rate sheet to active. And all of this communicates to the all the other departments that it’s time to get everything else together. Credentialing will start the credentialing process, the payroll department will do everything they need to do to make sure you get paid on time and correctly, and so on.

Additionally, all of your documentation will have expiration dates entered in the applicant tracking system. This way, the system can send email notifications to the agency’s credentialing representatives, and even directly to you, that the documents are set to expire. This helps keep the documentation on track so you don’t get booted off the floor in the middle of a shift for expired documentation.

Okay, so that’s a really good place wrap up this episode. As you can see, these applicant tracking systems are really powerful. They tend control how agencies function to a certain degree. I hope that discovering all of this helps inform your interactions with agencies and get more out of your time as a travel healthcare professional.

As always, we’ll have links to everything we discussed in the episode along with the transcript of the show up on the show note page. The link is blog.bluepipes.com/episode31. You can also leave any questions or comments there and I’ll gladly address them. While you’re there, be sure to join BluePipes and take advantage of all the networking and career management tools designed to help simplify your travel nursing career and your healthcare career in general!

If you’ve been enjoying this podcast, then I would greatly appreciate it if you would provide us with a review on whatever platform you’re listening through. Whether it’s iTunes or stitcher, it really goes a long way toward helping us move up in the rankings so we can get this information out to more travelers and keep the show going.

Again, thanks so much for listening and until next time, have a safe and prosperous travel healthcare adventure.

Links:

TTATN 030: How Agencies and Recruiters Find Travel Nurses

TTATN 017: Travel Nursing Bill Rates

What Travel Nurses Should Know About Agency Applicant Tracking Systems

Sample Travel Nursing Resume – Free Template

33 Items to Include on Your Travel Nursing Resume

Travel Nursing Resume Length

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