Your journey in the Marian University accelerated nursing program is, in many ways, a 16-month interview. You have the opportunity to make a strong, positive impression with staff, faculty, hospital RNs, nursing leaders and your peers. You make a difference in the lives of many patients and their families. You volunteer in a variety of capacities. You have the opportunity to meet with St.Vincent nursing recruitment staff for career and application process orientation.
There will be challenges as you navigate the online hospital application systems. Ah, the dreaded online application system, referred to internally as an applicant tracking system or ATS. There will be many other challenges too. When it comes time to apply, remind yourself you received a bachelor’s degree in nursing in just 16 months, so you can work your way through the application process and secure a job. Above all, have faith. It brought you this far.
So, you may be asking “How did current nurses secure their jobs?” Here are some tips to landing a nursing job:
1. Pay attention to application keywords. A hospital may post an RN position, and within a few days, receive hundreds of applications. The ATS acts as the gatekeeper. It reduces workload of recruiters responsible for getting those applications in the hands of hiring managers. It starts by sorting out all those who think it would be cool to be a nurse but have never gone to nursing school. (If that’s you, reach out to us today.) When a hospital states “BSN preferred,” there’s a reason, particularly for those with Magnet® Recognition Status. They have to show continued evidence towards the goal of having 80% of their nurses baccalaureate prepared by 2020.
Just like Google, an ATS is going to look for the best match. It doesn’t hurt to have your BSN degree stated several times. Next to your name: Jane Doe, RN, BSN. In your objective: Successfully completed accelerated BSN program. In your education: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
The same keyword matches will apply to other posting requirements, so read through postings and ensure you have keywords covered in your resume and application. How about the requirement “Current Indiana license as an RN?” Whether you’ve passed boards or are scheduled to complete NCLEX-RN, your objective could read, “Successfully completed accelerated BSN program and hold current Indiana license as an RN” or “…scheduled to complete NCLEX-RN in March 2013 to obtain Indiana license as RN.” Starting to catch on?
2. Don’t apply to a job for which you aren’t qualified. If the job posting states “2 years Med/Surg experience required,” and you don’t have that, don’t apply. Not only does it waste the recruiter’s time, it puts your attention to detail into question. Recruiters would much rather spend their time setting up interviews and extending job offers than sifting through unqualified applications. Furthermore, you don’t want to waste your time applying to jobs that you aren’t suited for. Go after the right jobs to see results.
3. Look for the words “experience preferred.” That’s your ticket. It means the unit hires new graduates. This is also where you’ll compete against new RNs with a variety of degrees from a variety of schools. It’s your time to shine. Know your degree from the Marian University School of Nursing carries tremendous credibility. On top of that, make sure your resume, cover letters and applications include that you completed an accelerated BSN program and completed 750 hours of hospital clinical rotations. Hospitals love second degree, accelerated BSN graduates for the business and life experiences they bring from their first or second careers.
4. Remember that timing is everything. If we go back to the amount of applications received within 24 or 48 hours, you have to realize that hospitals need to, at some point, cut it off. In some cases, three days might be the longest a job is posted. And then it’s gone. It doesn’t mean it’s been filled. It just means the recruiters and/or applicant tracking systems are now working behind the scenes to determine who meets job requirements. Multiply that by 50-100 openings on one recruiter’s desk. Did I mention not to apply if you aren’t qualified?
Let’s say 50 people apply to a posting for an ICU position in the three-day window. Of those, 20 meet the requirements. All things equal, the first 10 who submitted an application will be routed (or forwarded) to the hiring manager for review. If they don’t see a fit, the next ten are routed. A polished resume, a detailed application and enthusiastic cover letter are important.
5. Set up job alerts. Some systems call them job agents. What it means is you will get an email alert when a position is posted that meets your established criteria. I remember sitting in our break room with some students, and one of their cell phones started vibrating with an unusual pulse. She screamed and immediately jumped on a laptop. I asked her what was going on and she said, “They just posted a NICU position for new grads!” She had set a customized vibration for the sender of job postings. How smart was that? I learned later she was the fourth qualified applicant to apply.
P.S. She got the job.
6. Use your network. This part is probably the most important step of all. So important, in fact, I plan to write my next blog all about networking. It’s time to go from a piece of paper to a person. Use the connections you’ve made. Use your references. Call on those who you met throughout your educational journey.
Here’s where I hope current students take note: There are so many people willing to help you with introductions as you go after your dream job. Hopefully, you compile a strong contact list in Outlook or Excel while you’re in our program. Hopefully, you remember to send personal notes of thank you to those who have help you along the way. Reach out to those people, outline your goals and ask them for any help they can give as you look for a job.
7. Don’t forget your values. The job search will get frustrating at times. What part of life doesn’t? You’ll have already accomplished so much in accelerated nursing school. When it comes time to apply to jobs, remember why you set out to become a nurse and harness that to find the job that’s right for you.
Get started today by contacting an advisor. Soon, you’ll be graduating and looking for your first nursing job! You can also reach out to me directly using the information below. I’d love to talk to you about how Marian University can help you become a nurse.
Kris Shallenberger serves as the outreach coordinator for the Marian University for St.Vincent Health ABSN program. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org, request information here, attend one of her information sessions or call 866.892.4355.