What Do Recruiters Look for in Nursing Job Candidates?

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By ANA Career Center Staff – September 2014

You’ve probably heard a lot about the nursing shortage. But if you’re a recent graduate, you may be wondering, if there’s a shortage, why does it take so long for entry-level nurses to get hired?

Hiring managers told CareerBuilder that the gap reflects the difference between the skills entry-level nurses possess and the specialized training many employers need. The study also found applicants often lack proper training, strong communication skills and realistic salary requirements.

If you’re finding yourself frustrated in your job search, consider these four things recruiters are looking for in nursing job candidates.

In-Demand Skills
One way to stand out from the crowd of new grads is to highlight on your resume any in-demand skills that you may have. Shawnee Major, an account executive at Fortus Healthcare Resources, says some of the special skills in high demand include:

Bilingualism.
The ability to use specialized equipment, such as dialysis machines.
Computer skills, including EMR skills.
Quality assurance knowledge.
Leadership.
Critical thinking.

If you held any internships while getting your nursing degree, mention those as well, says Sharon Roth Maguire MS, RN, GNP-BC, who is Chief Clinical Quality Officer at Brightstar Care. “Internships of significance -- more than just a ‘clinical rotation’ -- during their education experience can help demonstrate that they have had practical experience,” she says. “Working as a nursing/personal care assistant during summer or semester breaks is also helpful.”

Flexibility
Entry-level nurses may need to be willing to try new things as they look for a job, says Lisa Kapps, an account executive at Fortus who specializes in the placement of direct hire and travel nurses. “Flexibility is key when getting your start. The larger the geographic area and the more disciplines you are open to, the greater your chance of finding an employer willing to train.”

If you do find an opportunity that looks promising but you don’t like the location, Kapps says to keep in mind that many large network providers allow internal transfers within six months to a year.

Polished Professionalism
As you move through the job-search process, it’s important to position yourself so you stand out to recruiters. Major recommends customizing your résumé to every position you’re applying for, and being responsive to calls, voice mails and emails from recruiters. Use the keywords from the description of the job you’re applying for.

In addition, you should strive to behave like a professional at all times, Major says. “A team attitude is a must, as well as accountability. Because we work with dynamic and growing health care organizations, we look for nurses who have a desire to grow in their careers, expand their skills and further their educations.”

Don’t be afraid to check in with recruiters, Maguire says: “Follow up, follow up, follow up – folks are busy and may not remember or even take time to get back to you, so make it a point to reach back out to them weekly; you won’t be perceived as a pest, but rather someone who is responsible and interested.”

Desire to Grow
Once you get your first job, don’t stop there. Build hours toward getting a certification that can boost your own sense of accomplishment while adding value to your résumé.  According to an American Nurses Credentialing Center survey of nurse managers, 86 percent said they would hire a certified nurse over a noncertified nurse, if all other factors were equal. A vast majority of those respondents said the main reason was that certification proves a nurse has a knowledge base in a given specialty.

Eventually, you will want to consider whether furthering your education would be useful. “As the demand for physicians increases, so too does the demand for advanced practitioners, including nurse practitioners and physician assistants,” says Kathy Jordan, president of Jordan Search Consultants. “We are seeing an increase in candidate searches for these positions.”
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