Tag : job search

Cover Letters and Nurse Practitioners

There seems to be some confusion about cover letters.  I have seen some advice on the big box job sites that is telling job seekers that the advice to include a cover letter may be a thing of the past.  No doubt this will have many of you jumping for joy – I mean, who likes to write a cover letter anyway? 

As always I feel compelled to issue my standard warning: Caution! The majority of advice you will find online is geared towards job seekers in the business community and are therefore may not be applicable to the Nurse Practitioner profession.  
When you read general job advice columns it is important to slow down and read the fine print. First, make sure that you are comparing apples to apples.  What I found is that if you read carefully you will find that the advice refers only to email inquiries and applications.  In other words, you must be emailing an actual person rather than submitting an online application directly into the system.  As most of you already know, that doesn’t happen very often.  Most “apply here” links take you into an automated applicant system and not to an actual HR representative. 
The article makes the assertion that since you are emailing then your email can take the place of the cover letter. Fair enough. I do agree with that point.  Of course, what is not clearly stated is that it is necessary that your email be formatted and written exactly like, well …a cover letter.  So you can see that the reports of the demise of the cover letter are indeed premature and greatly exaggerated. It seems that the point the articles are making is that your cover letter information should be in your email rather than sent as an email attachment.
Here is the NP Career Coach’s advice on covers letters for Advanced Practice or NP jobs. 

 

1.      You still need one.  Cover letters are not mere decoration for your resume.  A cover letter tells the prospective employer you are capable of professional-grade written communication skills and that you possess at least a minimum understanding of the social graces.  Nothing starts you off on the wrong foot with an employer quite like a sending an email that states only “I am interested in your position” or “attached is my resume”.  No greeting, no closing, just bad manners. 

 

2.      Cover letters are a great way to fill in areas that are not always clear on a resume. For example, explaining gaps in employment and articulating your goals and interests. You can also let the employer know whether or not you are interested in any other positions.  Oh, and if you know someone who works there you can (and should) name drop. J

 

3.      Do it all. Attach it, put it in the body of your email too.  Who cares if they receive two copies of the same thing?  It’s just not that big of a deal.  Some prefer to have an attachment and some prefer an email so do both and give them options.  Attachments look better than emails when printed and that can be a plus.  Putting your cover letter in the body of the email will increase the chances it is read upon opening.  But as you all know an inbox can get cluttered and saved emails sometimes get deleted.  Adding an attachment allows the recipient the ability to download and save your cover letter. 

 

4.      One of the most frustrating problems I encountered as a recruiter was receiving hundreds of attachments titled “cover letter” or “resume” which made it very difficult to find a particular candidates file. Problem solved.  You can easily avoid this confusion by naming your attachments with your name rather than “cover letter”.  See how easy that was?  Remember, the idea is to stand out and make your application easier to find.

 

5.      And finally, if you don’t already have one you should create a professional email account with your full name.  Busy recruiters and hiring managers don’t have the time to scroll through an inbox or contact list trying to guess which email is from you.  Using your full name as your email address just makes it that much easier to find you.  It also makes you look more mature than using an email address such as “proudmommy” or “catluvver”.    

You can’t “redo” an interview. Tips to get your interview right the first time

 

There are good interviews and there are great interviews.  Simply showing up on time and rehashing your resume does not constitute a good interview, much less a great one.

 

But before I can teach you how to ace your next interview let’s first be clear about the purpose of an interview.  In today’s healthcare market employers are looking for more than just the right skill set, they want the right fit.  The interview is the best method an employer has to get a glimpse into WHO you are and what you are like as a person. Interviews are an opportunity for an employer to see firsthand how you think and how you organize your thoughts and to determine whether or not you will be a good fit with the culture of their organization. 

 

I just recently sat through a round of several interviews and while the candidates said all the right things many of them still didn’t make the right impression.  I realized that even though they all were bright talented clinicians they made some errors that undermined their skills and left a poor impression.

 

These easily avoidable errors fall into the following categories.  

 

Articulation and detail: Employers appreciate that when you are asked a direct question you provide a direct answer.  Simply asserting that you are organized, flexible or caring doesn’t set you apart or make it true.  In fact, it sounds as if you are pandering and just telling your interviewer what they want to hear.  For example, many candidates dance around questions relating to conflict, leadership and teamwork with indirect answers that seem to show they understand the concepts but in the end don’t really provide a satisfactory answer to the question. What your interviewer really wants to hear from you are examples of how you have demonstrated leadership, solved a problem or worked on a team.  When you relate a real life story it also has the added benefit of humanizing you and makes you sound more natural and authentic than simply reciting some well-rehearsed talking points.   And if you really want to impress your interviewer, make sure that the example you provide is pertinent to the position you are seeking.  This will also help your interviewer to actually envision you in the position.  

 

Planning: Expect the expected.  During your interview you will inevitably be asked classic interview questions such as “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” or “what are your strengths and weaknesses?”  There is truly no good excuse for job seekers who stumble and stammer when asked “what makes you the right NP or PA for this position?”  If any of these questions ever catch you off guard during an interview the employer will assume that there has been a lack of thought and preparation on your part. Seriously, these are Interview 101 questions that employers have asked applicants since the beginning of time.  Why would anyone want to hire a clinician who failed to see the foreseeable?   

 

Self-awareness:    If you know you have performance anxiety then why didn’t you take steps to address the problem?  Some nervousness is understandable but it’s almost painful to conduct an interview when a candidate has let their nerves get the best of them.  It important that you be perceived as poised and confident, not remembered for how stressed out you were during the interview.  Strategies such as staying away from caffeine, doing some relaxation techniques and arriving early are helpful but if you really want to lick your stage fright then you need to do what performers do before a big show – practice. Find a friend to do a mock interview with you, and then rehearse over and over until your butterflies are gone.     

 

Body Language: Great candidates are also in control of their non-verbal communication.  Be the first to extend your hand, because the person who initiates the handshake is perceived as the most confident.  Good eye contact is a must.  Find something to do with your hands during the interview if you tend to be fidgety.  It can be really distracting when candidates click a pen or touch their hair repeatedly.  And, you know, like, watch the, umm, annoying verbal fillers too.  

 

Social skills: Yes, it IS possible for you to talk too much in your interview.  One of the biggest complaints I hear from hiring managers is that the candidate “hi-jacked” and took over the interview.  Let the interviewer set the agenda and the pace. The best candidates understand that interviews also involve listening.  Employers want to share information about their organization and their open position.  Your job is to be engaged, don’t interrupt, and listen politely.  When it is your turn to speak, take a second or two to gather your thoughts before you begin.  No one will notice and you will sound smarter.  

 

Manners: Interviewers also appreciate when you save your questions until the end. This is especially true if the interview is highly structured. It can be difficult for the interviewer to stay on track and organized if a candidate is repeatedly interjecting with questions.  And please, always have some questions prepared.  There is nothing that makes you look more disinterested to an interviewer than when you have no questions.  

 

Attitude: There is a saying that people may not remember what you said but they will always remember how you made them feel.  People are drawn to people who have a good attitude and a positive outlook.  Complaining is a red flag, so you should always speak favorably about your previous experiences and former colleagues and leave out the negatives.  And smile.  Your behavior during an interview is a proxy indicator to an employer of how you might behave when you are with a patient. 

 

Now go rock your next interview! 

Hello! What Does it Take for a New Grad to get Some Attention Around Here?

 

Dear NP Career Coach: 

 

I am a new grad NP and I am in the process of job search. I am struggling to get even an interview. Could you help me with how to market myself so that I can get the recruiters to look at my resume?

 

Dear New Grad NP:    

 

When crafting your new grad resume keep these points in mind.  
  1. Your resume needs to demonstrate that you have the skills the employer wants.
  2. The only thing that matters is what the employer wants. 
  3. As a new graduate the most marketable experience you have is your clinical rotations. 
    To be successful your resume must contain clear and easy to find information.  You can’t get an interview if the recruiter can’t determine whether or not you meet the requirements.   Your resume will have about 30 seconds to catch the eye of the employer, so it’s important to be sure all the info in your resume is easy to find.  The reader shouldn’t have to strain or work hard to figure out who you are. 
    In today’s market employers are expecting to receive a resume that is tailored to the position.  When creating their first NP resume many new graduates get carried away and include too much extraneous information.  Remember, your resume is just a snapshot to show the employer you are a match – not your entire life history.
    First, you must make it clear to the reader that you possess the appropriate educational preparation.  Place your educational section at the top of your resume. Make sure you have included your degree and the dates it was earned (or will be earned).   You can safely omit elements like your GPA, thesis, or doctoral project.   This simply adds clutter to your resume without increasing your marketability.  I know you worked hard for your GPA, but it doesn’t belong on your resume. 
    Second, clearly indicate your certification.  You will be seen as ineligible for the position if information relating to your certification status is missing. Identify the name your certifying body and note either “current” or the expiration date of your board certification. If you have not yet taken boards note “pending” or your scheduled test date.     Also, be sure you list your RN licenses.  This may seem like a no brainer but it is important that your nursing license(s) be on your resume.
    Next is your experience section.   As a new grad your clinical rotations are your most pertinent and relevant experience.  Take a look at the job posting and find the skills the employer has stated are a requirement.  Then make sure you mention those skills in your student experience section.   Avoid statements that reflect minimum entry levels skills.  It’s a waste of space on your resume to say “manage acute and chronic conditions” or “history and physical exam skills”.  That won’t set you apart.  Give the recruiter some real data about procedures, specific conditions and populations.   You should find this data in your clinical logs. 
    Finally, take care not to focus on your RN experience.  Employers like to see that you had RN experience but they are not interested in your RN duties.   A simple entry indicating the department where you worked in will be sufficient.   You are applying for an NP job and you are a new NP graduate, however, you are competing against candidates who have NP experience.   To put it bluntly, what you did as an RN will not trump actual NP experience so it’s best not to waste the resume space because it won’t make you more marketable.  If the employer wants to hear more about your RN jobs they will ask you about them in an interview. 
    Oh, and a nice cover letter will help you get noticed too. 
    I will send you my cover letter and resume guides via email. 
    Good luck and keep me posted on your job search. 
    ~Renee
     

Nurse Practitioners: Have you Branded Yourself?

 

Nurse Practitioners specialize in a number of areas from Acute Care, Family, Adult, Oncology and Woman’s Care just to name a few. Because of these highly specialized required skills set employers can have trouble finding top talent to fill their positions through traditional job postings. That means corporate healthcare recruiters turn to recruitment agencies and social media for help source the right candidates. Nurse Practitioners should take this opportunity to brand themselves on their social platforms because recruiters are looking to the web in places like Google Plus, FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs and other online platforms to find the best talent!  

 

What do I mean by branding? Branding is simply a way to promote yourself much like the way Pepsi brands and promotes their products. Personal Branding is a way to showcase your unique abilities and skills as a professional nurse practitioner. Check out Dan Schawbel’s PersonalBranding Blog. He’s an expert on building personal brands and has incredibly useful information to help you brand yourself. I also recommend using the platform Brand Yourself. The Brand Yourself website is free and will help you clean up your online identity with the goal of your name and brand rising to the top of recruiters’ organic searches for “Nurse Practitioners”.

Once you have established your personal brand and identity it’s time to update your social media profiles to host the same information. Keeping your message clear and consistent will help your profiles rise to the top of Google searches and will nicely package your online personal brand. Carefully select which social media profiles you wish to be professional. Starting with LinkedIn is always best and then make decisions as to whether you want to add Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and blogs. When settling up your profile information make sure key information like your name (first and last) and title are public. The information that is public is the information searchable by recruiters.

After your brand has been establish and your profiles are updated you can begin to network. Start with linking in to like professionals, past professors and any professional connections you’ve made through your work and schooling. Participate in LinkedIn groups and Twitter conversations. Seek out companies you wish to work for and their human resources recruiters and/or hiring managers and make connections. Just like in the “old” days networking has been very effective in helping people find and gain employment. In today’s world both traditional and social media networking is important in building those relationships and will help you stand apart from the rest of the competition.

As a professional healthcare recruiter I see firsthand how online branding can increase the chances of top talent being found. So go forth and take ownership of your personal brand today!

Guest Blogger:My name is Bonnie Ungaro. I am a corporate healthcare recruiter for Centegra Health System. We are a fast growing healthcare system in McHenry County Illinois (A northwest suburb of Chicago). Currently we are seeking multiple Nurse Practitioners to fill our newly created Acute Care positions.. We are also seeking Nurse Practitioners to support our physician practices in local nursing homes.
If you’re interested in this opportunity we would love to hear from you!!  To learn more about our positions I invite you to check out our Careers page here.

If you’re interested in learning more about our Acute Care Nurse Practitioner positions please contact me at: bungaro@centegra.com

5 Steps for an Effective New Grad NP Job Search

Hello New Grads!

Abe Lincoln once advised “If I had 8 hours to chop down a tree, I would spend 7 sharpening my axe”.


Don’t get worried, I don’t actually want you to chop anything down! My point is that I want you to be well prepared before you begin your NP job search.

In my last column for Advance for NPs & PAs I outlined 5 essential steps to include in your job search plan.

In my column you will find advice on

  • Applying too soon (yes, you can apply too soon)
  • Finding and choosing the proper references
  • How to sell yourself and your skills
  • Handling the dreaded “strength and weakness” interview question.

Click here to read more

New Grad Class of 2013 – this blog is for YOU

Graduation is exciting but also a little stressful. New grads (or maybe I should call them “soon-to-be-grads”) spend almost as much of their last semester worrying about getting their first job as they do studying.

Well, I personally have never seen any value to worry. It’s far better to spend your time preparing instead of worrying.  And luckily for new grads there is some good advice out there.

Advance for NPs and PAs puts out a great “Guide for NP & PA New Grads” every year and it is chock full of both practical and valuable advice.

This year 2013 the guide has gone digital and you will find 4 extremely helpful articles.

The first (which just happens to be written by me!) is Salary Tips for the New Grad.  I discuss realistic salary expectations as well as the proper time to negotiate.  You might be surprised at what I have to say.  Read more

There is also a nice article on Building a Better Resume. This piece includes some nice tips on social media, keywords and paper resumes.  As your trusted NP Career Coach I can say without reservation that the advice is spot on and will help you be more successful in landing that job interview.

Speaking of interviews, did you know that the new trend is to do your interview via Skype?  Check out the handy tips in Get Psyched to Skype.  You will be glad you did.

And finally, read Networking Know-How and find out how to make the most out of your networking.

Access the entire guide HERE 

 

HAPPY GRADUATION CLASS OF 2013!

 

Not sure? Shadowing might be the solution.

Have you received a job offer but you just aren’t sure if you are ready to accept?

You may have left the interview feeling a little rushed, and that your questions were not fully answered. This is not unusual.

Receiving an NP or PA job offer is a bit like receiving a marriage proposal. It’s very flattering to know that you are wanted. But sometimes you can find yourself so overwhelmed by the notion that someone truly desires you that you don’t consider whether or not the feeling is mutual.

Starting a new job is not unlike a marriage, it is big commitment and shouldn’t be left to one’s emotions, because once done, it’s not easy to undo. It’s one of life’s little ironies (or jokes) that getting out of a bad relationship can be much more complicated than entering into one.  (We will leave the topic of how to gracefully “divorce” a job for another blog!)

So for those of you entertaining an offer but still feeling unsure I recommend you consider a longer engagement. Before you think I have completely gone off the rails let me explain.

Ask for a “shadow” day. This has become more and more common in recent years. Requesting to spend a shift or two with one of their current providers, “shadowing” is a good way for both parties to get to know each other better.

As a clinician, you will get a clearer idea of not only the job duties and patient flow but also the personality of the practice. Remember, an interview lasts usually no more than an hour and everyone is on their best behavior. It’s a little harder to hide dysfunction for an entire day. If there is an undercurrent of tension or disorganization you are going to pick up on it.

So what’s in it for the employer? A good fit, that’s what employers get out of the shadow. Employers are just as eager to find an employee who fits in with their practice culture as you are to find a practice that fits you. A happy employee is a long term employee. As I have said many times before, clinicians rarely leave jobs where they are happy even if they can make better money elsewhere. Great pay and benefits aren’t enough for happiness.

Now that I think about it, that is the case for many marriages as well…

From a blog originally published on Advance for NPs and PAs

Pick me! Pick me! How can you get a recruiters attention?

A reader recently asked me why employers choose one nurse pracitioner application over another.

I offered up this advice in my latest blog: Advanceweb.http://community.advanceweb.com/blogs/np_6/archive/2013/02/06/applications-and-interest.aspx

Dear NP Career Coach: What can I do to get employers to notice my application? I would like to know if there is anything you can recommend that will increase my chances of landing an interview. Can you help?

Dear Job Seeker: Obviously it is important that your resume show the employer that you possess the right qualification and skills for the job. However, you also need to convince them that you have a genuine interest and a strong desire for the position.

Employers tell me that if you are able to clearly articulate the reason you are applying for the position then they will be more likely to want to interview you. So how do you demonstrate to a potential employer you have a passion for their position? I have a couple tips to help you.

  1. Research the employer. Learning about their culture, mission and history is one way to show an employer you are interested in them. The information you gather will help you to emphasize why you are the right fit for them. And if you get a call or an interview it will also help you to formulate the right questions to ask. Start by checking out their website or Facebook page.
  2. Make clear the reason WHY you want this position and make sure that your reason makes sense. The best tool for you to express your motivating reason is the cover letter. Use your cover letter to explain why you feel drawn to the position. Perhaps you have previously worked with this population or specialty before. Or maybe your reason is that you did a clinical rotation in their organization. If you know someone who is a current employee who has inspired you to apply that is perfectly good reason as well. (Name dropping is allowed!) Just remember that whatever your rationale, it needs to be employer-centered and show clear benefit to the employer. For example, proclaiming that you want the job because the hours or commute better suits your lifestyle is not helpful.
  3. Don’t “over-apply” or be a “serial applier.” When employers see you submitting several applications for several different positions it makes you look like you either don’t know what you want to do or that you are desperate. Neither of those options is very attractive. Think carefully before applying; if you aren’t sure why you want the job, then you are unlikely to convince anyone else why you would want it either.

Returning to the Workforce

Dear Career Coach: I am a NP seeking to return to the workforce after a 10 year employment gap. I have experience as an adult nurse practitioner Occupational Health, Cardio-thoracic, Primary Care, and Student Health. I recently completed 150 CEU’s including 75 in pharmacy and passed the certification test for Adult NP in preparation for my NP job search.
Should I include this information in my resume and cover letter? How do I handle the lapse in my professional career? I have 3 kids and we moved several times. I was active with volunteer activities and held several leadership positions. Do employers really want to see this information in my resume?

Dear Reader: This information needs to be included in both your resume and your cover letter. I suggest you start your resume off with a “Summary of Qualifications” section, this will allow you to highlight your qualifications and future plans.

EXAMPLE:
“A nurse practitioner with a wide variety of experience with an emphasis in (list your specialties) Recently completed a total of 150 CEU’s including 75 in pharmacology and have used this knowledge to successfully pass the certification test for Adult Nurse Practitioner. Passionate to resume hands on patient care. Possess the energy and flexibility of a new graduate plus a wealth of past knowledge which will benefit both my patients and my future employer.”

Next on your resume list your experience starting first with your recent CEU’s that are pertinent to the job you are seeking. Highlight your proficiencies for each past job and communicate that you are still comfortable with those skills.

You also MUST write a cover letter. You can use your cover letter to discuss your passion for the position, highlight your proficiencies and emphasize the knowledge you recently acquired in your CEU courses. It’s also a good idea to mention your desire for a long-term employer. In the last paragraph, before your closing, you can then disclose and explain your employment gap.

Remember always to edit and tailor your resume and cover letter to match each and every position you apply for!

Good luck!

To Cell or Not to Cell

I was shopping today and as I was turned the corner into the soap aisle a young man was just ending a cell phone call. I heard him say a few stern words into his cell phone, then he hung up and exclaimed to a woman whom I presumed to be his wife “Can you believe it? They actually called me about a job I applied for while I am at Target!” Considering the job market these days this should have made his day, but no, he was quite indignant that they had interrupted his grocery shopping. Yeah, imagine that. He had given them his cell phone number and they actually had the nerve to call him, unbelievable.
I have long cautioned job hunters to think long and hard before putting their cell phone numbers on their applications or resumes because, well, employers tend to call them.
The great thing about cell phones is that they are portable, and the not-so-great thing about cell phones is that they are portable. If you listed you cell number as your contact number when you applied for an NP job odds are sooner or later a potential employer is going to call you at an inconvenient time (like when you are shopping at Target).
If your cell phone is your only phone then please think before you answer. If you are busy, in loud or bad reception area it’s better if you let the call go to voicemail and return it when you are free to talk. You get one chance to make a good impression and you don’t want to be deciding “paper or plastic” while taking a call from a potential employer.
Trust me, they won’t call back.