Getting your first nursing job

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Yesterday’s blog was about writing a cover letter, I said I would write resume tips today, but we need to back up a step first.

how Human Resources department does their job.

Applying for a job is a process, with many steps and decisions along the way.  As with the cover letter, there are some elementary housekeeping rules for a resume. The Human Resources department of any given agency, will need to systematically organize all documents they receive, including yours. Typically, they make a file for each applicant, which can be as simple as gathering an oak tag folder, stapling the checklist of minimal documentation to the inside, and then completing the file by inserting each document as it comes in.

Do the arithmetic

Let’s say the HR department is working to fill ten jobs. There are five applicants for each, and ten steps or documents to gather before each file is complete. Simple arithmetic will tell you that they are trying to keep track of five hundred pieces of paper at any given time. It’s one of the reasons that so many HR departments try to computerize their process, but in the meantime, you can ease things if you label everything clearly. If there is a job requisition number, be sure to put that on the resume and cover letter. If you send the resume as an attached file, be sure to use a sensible name for it, otherwise the HR department may have to rename it when they save. For example “resume for Joe’s class”  is not useful. “Smith, Janet, resume for staff RN position at QMC Jan 2012” is helpful.

Screening function of H.R. department

There is a saying out there that the HR department’s job is to screen you out, as opposed to including you in. For each job, especially entry-level ones, there is a deadline by which a decision needs to be made. Since they don’t know you, any decision have to be based on what they do happen to know. It is very easy for them to use the completeness of the file to decide which ones get forwarded or not. So – you can also help your case by tracking the documents from your side. If a written reference or transcript was required, did you followup with your team to see that it got sent?

If you are applying for multiple jobs at multiple hospitals, make a simple grid of all documents that might be required, and set up a system to track all correspondence with each agency or hospital. Make a file folder for each possible place. You yourself can track the documents.

Know the time frame and work with the timing

During the application or query process, it’s okay to ask about the number of positions available and the time frame for decisions to be made. Nowadays many of the bigger hospitals will conduct a formal orientation for new graduate nurses every few months, with a specific start date. They can only absorb so many new nurses at a given time, and if you learn about this, you can work the calendar backwards to get an idea of timing. In other words, if the orientation starts Monday the first of the month, the hospital needs to decide who is on the roster by the fifteenth of the previous month. In that case, your part of the deadline is to submit your documents two weeks before that date. A month before the time the orientation starts. As more requirements are needed, the lead-in time becomes longer.

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2 Comments

Filed under nursing education, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Getting your first nursing job

  1. Thanks Joe, very helpful. What about letters of recommendation? How does that system work? Each time we apply to a job that’s asking for them, do we have to go to the clinical instructor and give them the address and ask them to mail it? Or, do they make one and give it to me in a sealed envelope and I send it myself? If I’m applying to, say, ten jobs and 4 are asking for letters of recommendation from clinical instructors, what’s the best way to approach the instructor so as to minimize the work they’ll need to do?

    • It’s about relationships, and that is especially true when recommendations come into the picture.

      I will talk more about what I call “assembling your Board of Directors” in a future post. in the meantime, feel free to pass this along. i wish to develop more subscribers.

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