Tag : NP jobs

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
     

Employment Contracts and Never Having to Say You Are Sorry

Count contracts among the top things you want to get right, or as close to right, as you can before you sign on the dotted line.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
You should receive a copy of the employment contract either at the same time the offer is extended to you or shortly thereafter.  NEVER, EVER accept an offer until you have had time to fully review the contract.  In my experience, it is not so much that NPs and PAs regret the items they agreed to in their contracts as much as they lament what they neglected to include.

A typical contract is 1-2 pages and commonly uses boilerplate language.  It is sort of a one-size-fits-all form where the employer fills in the proposed pay rate, whether employment is full time or part time and a general description of benefits.  Many may also include a non-compete of some sort.

 
THE BALL IS IN YOUR COURT
Upon receipt and review of the contract you can either 1. accept it, 2. reject it, or 3. negotiate the terms.  Life is easy if you just sign it, which is what the employer is hoping.  And to be honest, quite a few of us feel just a little intimidated and so we close our eyes, hope for the best and comply.  Why? One reason is because we lack the training on employment contracts.  This is especially true for the new graduate NPor PA who has no prior experience in contracting and feels unsure about what is appropriate or how to respond.  It can also be a little intoxicating to receive that first job offer. I often compare it to a marriage proposal in which we are so flattered that we just say “yes” before thinking it fully through.
COUNTER OFFERS
Contracts needn’t be “standardized”. It’s your prerogative to negotiate and you can choose to include anything that is important to you.  In addition a wise NP or PA will clarify any points that they find to be murky or lead to possible confusion down the line.  So, rather than just signing as is use the option to add or delete information and send the edited the contract back.  That’s called negotiation.
*Note – etiquette dictates that you submit a counter offer only once. Employers have little appetite for a prolonged back and forth so you need to carefully think through your response.  In other words, you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you are countering your counter.  Know your bottom line and leave it at that. 
WHAT TO INCLUDE
Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a handy checklist of items so you could more fully evaluate a proposed employment contract?  I want to share with you a reference that is the most comprehensive list for contract negotiation that I have come across.   It is identified as a “sample NP contract” but would work nicely for a PA as well. Click here 
The only thing I disagree with in this sample contract is the term length.  The sample utilizes a term of 5 years.  That’s an awful long time to commit to a new relationship!  I suggest a shorter term of 1-2 years.  Healthcare is changing rapidly and a shorter term gives you the chance to renegotiate sooner.
If you need more explanation on how healthcare changes can impact your employment please read my article “Contracts:Avoiding the Wrong Regrets”

 

I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you over what your clothing was saying!

Initial impressions are strong and lasting.  It has been said that we will form our opinion of someone within the first 5 minutes of meeting them.  Of course, since we cannot truly begin to “know” another person in only 5 minutes it only stands to reason that our first opinion will be based mostly on what we can readily observe.   

Let’s apply this information to your next job interview.  An interviewer’s first, and most conscious, observation is going to be your attire and grooming.  Both of those factors create a very strong first impression. Unfortunately it is one of life’s little ironies that bad impressions will tend to make a bigger impact and last longer than do good impressions.   

 

This is why you need to get it right.  If you want to have a successful interview and get hired it is essential that you be remembered for what you had to say rather than for what you were wearing. 

Do not make these 3 mistakes: 

  1. 2001 is calling and wants their outfit back.  You really should update your interview wardrobe more often that you vote in a presidential election.  Yes, even the “classic” looks change over time.  Have you been holding on to an old suit because you think it will come back in style? Oh it will, but those sneaky designers will change it just enough that everything you saved will now look old rather than retro cool. 
  2. It’s never a good idea to look too trendy during your interview either.  Here is another tip – if you look in the mirror and think “oh, that’s really cute!” then don’t wear it.  Adults shouldn’t look “cute”. When you interview you want to appear to be professional not juvenile.  Stay away from loud colors, flashy shoes, plunging necklines and pretty much anything else that could do double duty on a Saturday night at your favorite nightclub.   
  3. Remember, it’s an interview and not a date.  Keep your jewelry simple, skip the perfume and tone down your makeup.  I recently interviewed a perfectly nicely dressed and otherwise very mature candidate, that is, except for the white sparkly eye shadow she was wearing.  I couldn’t stop looking at it!  What was she thinking? Well, I know what I was thinking – here is somebody with poor judgment

Stress is Contagious all Year Round

 

Have you heard about “secondhand stress”?  Turns out that stress may be transmitted from one person to another as easily as germs.  Dr. Amit Sood, who is an expert on stress at the Mayo Clinic, recently told the Star Tribune that “Stress travels in social networks,” and “It is highly, highly contagious.”

 

No surprise to any of us who have experienced stress in the workplace.  All it takes is one chronically anxious or irritable co-worker to start the wheels in motion and next thing you know the whole atmosphere at work has become toxic.  Early symptoms include decreased productivity, lack of morale and general mistrust.  Eventually, if not treated will result in chaos, back-stabbing and rapid staff turnover. 

 

No one wants to work in a toxic workplace.  The problem is that like many disorders, the condition is not always apparent to the casual observer.  And some organizations have become quite skilled in hiding their dysfunction. 

 

Since there is no known vaccine to prevent secondhand stress the best defense is primary prevention. In other words, you should avoid contact with the afflicted. 

If you are searching for a new Nurse Practitioner job,
the following suggestions will help you identify a potentially troubled workplace so that you do not fall victim to secondhand stress.     

Ask questions  

 

What happened to the person who was in the job before?  Why did they leave?  If your interviewer is hesitant or stumbles over their answer this could signal a problem.  Be especially alert for signs that the previous employee left suddenly or unexpectedly for reasons other than personal illness. 

 

Are there any other new staff?  If there seems to be an awful lot of new employees it could mean the organization or clinic has recently had a mass exodus.  If that is the case then you need to know why all those folks left.  

 

How long has the clinic manager been in their position? If there is new management, it could mean the organization is currently undergoing big changes and staff is still adjusting.  Some changes might be good ones, but change is still stressful.   

 

How long has the position been open?  Some jobs are open a long time for a perfectly good reason, but it could also mean no one wants the job. 

 

Do some cyber-snooping

Google the organization.  Many healthcare websites have ratings and allow comments.  Disgruntled patients can be a sign of an unhealthy environment.  Facebook and twitter might also give you a snapshot of what employees and patients are saying about the hospital or clinic.  Granted there will always be a one or two complainers but if you see a pattern then you should start to wonder what is going on. 

See for yourself

 

If you still have that nagging feeling that something doesn’t seem quite right you might consider asking for a “Shadow day”.  It’s easy for an employer to put on a good face or talk a good game during an interview.   Spending a half or whole day shadowing is a great way to get a feel for an organization.  Stress is hard to hide.  According to the article, the source of the stress can be compared to a vibrating tuning fork that causes everything close to it to vibrate as well.  Trust me, it won’t take you long to pick up on vibrations. 

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

NP Career Coach interviewed for Contraceptive Technology Updates

Most people think of January as the season for snow and winter activities, but for your NP Career Coach it’s season of the annual Salary Survey.

And with the salary survey comes interviews…

Recently I was interviewed by Contraceptive Technology Updates and asked for my thoughts on how to be best prepared in the event budget cuts result in a decrease in your work hours or find you out looking for a new NP job.

In the article I discuss the value of having a “master resume” ready to go, the importance of flexibility in this market and whether it can benefit you to consider signing on with a recruiter.

Family Planning Salaries Hold Fast – Where will 2012 take Employment Levels?

Click here to read the entire interview which begins on page 13.

Your resume should fit the job

Weekend Update: Competition for Nurse Practitioner Jobs remains intense.

There are dozens of applicants for every job posted. This is not expected to change anytime soon. It’s important when you apply for an NP job to distinguish yourself so that you stand out from the rest of the crowd.

One of the ways you can do this is to tailor your resume to each job for which you are applying.

Take some time to research the healthcare organization and the position they have advertised. Take that information and use it to revise your Nurse Practitioner resume so that you can best showcase how YOUR qualifications and experience meet their needs. Highlight areas of your work experience or education that demonstrates why you are the best Nurse Practitioner for the job.

In this current market a one-size-fits-all resume will get you a one-size-fits-all rejection letter.

In other words each job you apply for should have a unique version of your resume.