More and more health care organizations are using big data, predictive analysis, and data metrics to streamline the process of recruiting nursing talent. Over one-third of human resources departments rely on analytics to manage staffing, according to the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report. That trend has exploded over the last few years, as organizations lean on technology in earnest. For example, approximately 95% of hospitals use an applicant tracking system (ATS), which is like a gigantic digital filing cabinet full of resumes, according to industry experts.
Big data (or people data) may sound intimidating to nurses who aren’t tech savvy, but the information that they refer to is often quite simple. “Facebook, Google, the U.S. government—even my own tiny website has its own big data,” says Brittney Wilson, BSN, RN, an informatics expert based in Nashville, Tennessee who owns the popular blog The Nerdy Nurse.
Big data usually means extremely large data sets, which help reveal patterns and associations, especially relating to human behavior or that look at trends and systems and help make a determination, explains Wilson.
“Data is everywhere and almost all of it is discoverable. I always tell nurses to not post anything online that they wouldn’t put in front of a recruiter when they’re applying for a job. You have to assume that someone is scraping that data and applying it to an algorithm,” she adds.
How Organizations Collect People Data—and What That May Mean for You
In a recruiting context, a nurse’s personal information can be culled from social media profiles, consumer data, and public records, in addition to a hospital’s personnel data or those of a third-party recruiting program vendor. That nurse’s individual data points can then be merged into bigger data sets, so analysts can create algorithms or statistical models that aim to predict which candidates are equipped to succeed in a given role.
For example, automated systems can spit out resumes from applicants in a certain zip code, based on an algorithm set to predict turnover. Perhaps previous employees with that zip code may have been short-timers, due to a grueling driving commute or unreliable mass transit.
Then even if nurses knew why they were getting the cold shoulder from a piece of software, there’s not much they can do about it. Their home address data is out there and available to hospitals, even if they attempted to hide it by using another street address, through a UPS or other office forwarding service, say.
But what if that undesirable zip code is for an area with a large minority population? Recruiters and IT folks are starting to realize how digital “gates,” based on zip code and such, may adversely impact underrepresented populations. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission frowns on practices which essentially “profile” applicants and employees.
“We need to attract more racial and ethnic minorities to nursing,” says David Wilkins, chief strategy officer of Woburn, Massachusetts-based HealthcareSource, a provider of talent management systems for hospitals. “We’re thin in labor supply and there’s a high labor demand.” The unemployment rate in health care is so low—RNs at 1.4%, and NPs at 1.1%, according to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. “With such an acute shortage, it’s hard to believe that people are consciously turning away any candidates.” Wilkins wonders if unconscious bias, such as when an applicant has an ethnic sounding name, may be at play.
Crowdsourcing, One Surprising Cyber Trend in Recruiting
Relode is an innovative crowdsource referral platform for health care recruiting. “In 2014, we saw there were lots of inefficiencies in the hiring process and wanted to use software to solve this problem,” says Joe Christopher, chief technology officer at the Brentwood, Tennessee-based firm. “The platform allows our small team to work on thousands of jobs. Health care is profession-centric, so staffing agencies are ultimately working with the company. We’re trying to help you, as a nurse, to take your next step.”
A nurse can sign up on the Relode portal, then work with a talent adviser who will set up a profile and then make a match with an appropriate job opportunity based on the nurse’s experience, skill set, goals, and other desires. “As a new grad, you may have to take what’s available, but if we know you ultimately want to go back to California, we can help. What if we can connect you to this great employer [in another state] who can train you? And then after a year or two, you can go back home to California or wherever. Or you might like it and want to stay longer.”
Relode offers nurses a way to earn side income through its crowdsourcing platform. “Nurses are used to thinking, ‘if I need extra money, I need to work an extra shift.’ But we believe the best nurse knows another best nurse. So as a travel nurse, for instance, you may know nurses in Dallas and Phoenix, and if you connect us and that person gets hired, we pay $3,500 directly into your account,” says Christopher. In fact, one nurse signed up with Relode and referred seven other nurses, earning money for connecting people she already knew to new opportunities, he adds.
Make Sure Your Online Application is Optimized for Search Engines
Human resource experts claim that very little recruiting happens without technology anymore. “Your first point of entry is very likely going to be a piece of software, an applicant tracking system. It has to determine the degree of fit between you and the job. So, make sure your resume is well-structured, clean, and easy to parse for an applicant tracking system,” says Wilkins. “Focus less on making it look pretty, and instead, make it very scannable and readable. The average time someone is going to look at it is six seconds.”
A big part of what applicant tracking systems search for is keywords and phrases. Recruiters may be carrying 100 plus openings at one time so they can’t look at all the resumes for each position. “In order to be seen, yours must be in the top 10 or top 20 ranking,” he says. “You should have multiple resumes to make sure the keywords match. Most of the time organizations tailor job titles and descriptions to a particular opening.”
A Travel Nurse Weighs in on High-Tech, Low-Touch Recruiting
Jake Schubert, RN, BSN, travel nurse and owner of Nursity.com, an online NCLEX prep course, is no stranger to the recruiting process and shares a few key insights.
1. The nurse-recruiter relationship is becoming less and less personal.
I get hundreds of emails from travel nurse recruiters all saying basically the same thing: “would love to work with you… would love to work with you… would love to work with you…” Don’t spam nurses with phone calls and emails. You don’t like it when people do that to you, so why would you do it to them? But if you really want to be effective, stop with the spam and make your message personal. For example, you can go to my Instagram and you’ll see that I love to scuba dive. Then reach out to me there with something personal like, “Hey I noticed you like to dive. We have contracts with three hospitals in Florida that are close to some great dive sites.” But no, they don’t do that. Instead they fall back on the same line: “Let me know when you you’re ready to start traveling with the best recruiting company!” I feel like responding: “Let me know when I’m relevant to you.”
2. Many nurses are naïve about a recruiter’s role and motives.
New graduates and some other nurses may think: “This recruiter is really on my side.” But they’re not—they’re being paid by their company so that’s where their loyalty lies. They know when you’re not asking for enough money, for instance, but they won’t tell you where you’re leaving money on the table. It’s not like other industries where people are required to disclose a conflict of interest—when real estate brokers represent both sides in a transaction, they’re legally required to disclose their dual agency.
3. Nurses have the power to create better relationships with recruiters.
I’m one of the thousands of nurses working with Kaiser Permanente right now. You go online and create a profile on their portal, and they email you when an appropriate job pops up. But that’s not how all jobs get filled in a hospital. It’s all about relationships. Managers are always asking me “Jake, do you know anyone who’s looking for a job?” Every hospital is looking for good nurses, and nurses who have good communication skills are hard to find. If I had one piece of advice for new graduates, it’s “Don’t text a recruiter, and don’t think of email as a long text. Email is an online version of a letter, so don’t leave out the niceties.” When you communicate fully, you show that you’re different and that you have professional communication skills.
So, for instance, if you were applying for a job as a dialysis nurse, Wilkins would advise the use of a preponderance of keywords related to that specialty. “Of course, use the word ‘dialysis,’ but also all the words alongside it and related terms and synonyms.
Dialysis in an elder-care, or long-term care setting, is different than working with general patients at an outpatient dialysis care clinic. Use senior care words, long-term care versus outpatient care words. The care job is probably the same but the stuff on the edges is different.”
Wilkins offers a final caveat regarding online application systems, which sounds basic, but could torpedo your candidacy if ignored. “The average completion for an online application is around 15%, which means 85% of online applications are never completed. While in some cases, this is because a candidate changes their mind mid-process, most of the time it’s just because the process is long and complex,” he explains. “But the really scary data is that 15% of people think they’ve actually fully submitted their application when they really haven’t. Sometimes they just miss the ‘submit’ button at the end. Go back and make sure you completed all the steps.”
Nurses shouldn’t forget to update their own employer’s human resource portal—it makes it easier for the department (or a hiring manager) to identify internal candidates. When there’s a job requisition for an assistant nurse manager with a master’s degree and a set of relevant experience, for instance, a recruiter can look through the hospital’s internal database of qualified nurses before posting the job publicly.
How to Protect Your Online Privacy When Job Searching
“We need to educate nurses that when you put your resume out there on any career site—upload it to CareerBuilder, Monster, Indeed—you’re selling access to that resume,” warns Christopher. An applicant may upload a resume and forget about it, but when they get an email or call from a recruiter, wonder: “How did they get my number?!” When you trace it back, almost always it was that uploaded resume and the terms of service that allow recruiters to contact you.
There are workarounds though, that will protect your privacy without hampering your job search. “Lots of people are able to set up an email address specifically for this use—you’d check it once a day if you’re in the job market, or once a week if you’re not,” says Christopher. “Sometimes the systems also require a phone number. You may be able to set up a Google voice number or use another solution like that.”
When using online job engines and portals, be aware that there are games that some unscrupulous recruiters play, says Christopher. For instance, “a staffing agency that does lots of work with nurses may put up a job listing for an opening that doesn’t exist” at the moment. That gives them a running start for handling hard-to-fill roles, “so that when an employer asks for an ICU nurse, say, they already have 10 nurses that have applied for that. Indeed will no longer host agency jobs, the listing has to be from the employer,” because of recruiter abuses. “Even now Indeed offers applicants a way to filter jobs—there’s an employer of record option.”
Present Your Best Cyber Self to Snag a Job
Nurses and talent recruiters are both figuring out the new communications etiquette, with some stumbles along the way. “I get text messages from recruiters pretty frequently. I was shocked the first time because they contacted me on a very non-professional manner, in my opinion,” says Regina Callion, RN, MSN, travel nurse and owner of ReMar Review, an NCLEX review program.
“Greetings will be skipped, and it will pretty much say ‘Make 10,000 dollars in a month! Sign up today for xyz.’ The lack of formality and information provided is a turnoff.”
That anti-text sentiment is common, even among some Millennial, digital native nurses. “My cell number is the last bastion of privacy for me,” Wilson says. “I don’t want to get a text from a recruiter without my consent. It feels like you entered my living room and sat on the couch and don’t even know who I am.”
But recruiters say that reaching out to nurses in the traditional way isn’t efficient, so they have to employ new channels. “Our team has found that texting is a really great way to communicate for nurses. They’re busy and so instead of leaving a message and waiting for a call back, a text is a brief but direct conversation,” says Christopher. “Obviously, you have to know who the person is and agree to it, but texting is a really efficient way for us to say: ‘Here’s a great opportunity that meets three out of four of your criteria. Do you want to talk about it?’ Or if there’s a simple question from an employer, we can get a quick answer: ‘Are you licensed in California? I know you graduated from school there but …’”
The nurse-recruiter dance requires sensitivity and cooperation from each partner. Recruiters do a service for nurses, exposing them to opportunities they might not otherwise discover and fast-tracking their applications through the hiring process. Nurses can help recruiters by making themselves easier to find and by being open to approach. “It takes a lot of energy to look for a job, and it’s a lot like dating—when you’re not looking, that’s when you’re most desirable,” explains Wilson. “My job before this one was with a startup who found me because I’d SEO’d [search engine optimization, or the process of affecting the visibility of a web page] my profile online so well… I always tell people—take a phone call. You never know.”
Are you like most nurses, filling your days with taking care of everyone else but yourself? That may seem heroic, but putting yourself last ultimately leads to a dip in on-the-job productivity and career burnout. But when you take care of your own needs first, not only do you benefit, and so do your coworkers and patients.
Is there a secret formula to boosting your health and happiness? Fortunately, there is no secret. It’s simple, though not easy, to make yourself a priority in your own life.
By attending to your own self-care, you’re more likely to head off the symptoms of overload which can cut your nursing career short. But where do you start, when there are so many components of a happy, healthy life?
Self-care is easier to establish if you know what’s most important to you at this particular point in time. You may want to focus on a major life activity—eating, exercise, sleep, or relationships—because they seem like obvious drivers of well-being. Improvements in any of those important areas can certainly yield major benefits, but they’re usually tough to crack.
Even if you highly prioritize self-care, it’s difficult to say “No” to that big slice of cheesecake, fit in workouts, or turn in for bed on-time. Especially when your schedule is already jam-packed, your shifts are long, or you work nights.
Why not try another tactic? Consider setting a self-care habit in motion by starting with baby steps toward your ultimate goals. Improvements don’t have to start in your “hot zones” either. Like dominoes, a shift in one habit or routine will cascade down to every other area of your life.
Here are two powerful ideas to spark your thinking:
1. You Need a Budget.
Who even uses a budget anymore? It sounds so old-school, like playing music on 8-track tapes and paying with paper checks at the supermarket. But sitting down to crunch the numbers, and getting a grip on your income and outgo, can be an effective stress-reliever. Your financial situation may remain the same, but seeing the actual facts can stop the free-floating anxiety that’s fueled by imagination.
Your budgeting system doesn’t have to be fancy, either—just use a notebook and pencil to note and track your household expenses and income. Some people like to allocate cash to specific purchases, using an envelope system popularized by Dave Ramsey. One envelope for cafeteria lunch money, another for…
And don’t forget to plan for seasonal outlays (holiday gifts or taxes) and emergencies. That way if you need to replace a dental crown, you’ll have a buffer fund to cover it, and won’t panic as much.
There are also many apps out there for budgeting, including the grand-daddy, You Need a Budget (YNAB).
2. Do a Digital Detox.
Are you always texting, Skyping, Tweeting, Facebooking, or otherwise deep in your digital stream? That’s the case for many “social media natives” and even for their oldest colleagues.
Even if you’re following social media guidelines for nurses in your workplace, you may find that digital is a distraction, always in the back of your mind, ringing, buzzing, or vibrating to get your attention. You could get relief from all sorts of social media ills, from text neck to FOMO, by choosing a set time to disable it, for hours or days.
Some people like to set aside long weekends to go away on formal retreats, like the ones offered by Digital Detox while others simply reduce everyday use. Digital refers to all smartphones and computers (sometimes TV’s too), so resolving to stay away from electronics and screens after 8:00pm could be enough to calm your down, and make it easier to get to sleep at a decent hour.
Oh, but wait, what if you ditched your alarm clock? There are all kinds of new devices for improving your sleep hygiene that you may want to check out. One example is the Philips Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock with Sunrise Simulation, which costs less than $50. The light on this clock slowly gets brighter over a 30-minute span, to gently awaken and welcome you to the new day.
It’s important for you (and your patients) that you engage in self-care every single day. So resolve to take a baby step toward making yourself a priority in your own life.
Why not start today?
Are you about to start a job search and confused by all the changes within the world of nurse recruiting and not sure who to ask?:
“A recruiter sent me a DM on Snap—what do I do?”
“I got a recruiting text from a bot—what do I do?”
“I submitted a ton of online applications to hospitals but I’m not getting call backs—what do I do?”
Well, who better to advise you on your job search than a nationally-known recruiter? Nick Corcodilos, publisher of the popular website Ask The Headhunter has all the answers. His work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, USA Today, The New York Times, Fast Company, and PBS NewsHour.
In this Q&A interview, Nick delivers hints and tips specifically for minority nurses, who may have unique roadblocks along their job search journey.
For example, there is some evidence of name-based discrimination in recruiting. So, a resume with a “white-sounding” name will result in calls 50% more often than one without. The University of Chicago study is titled: “Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination.” Though not a health care employer-focused study, the researchers do note: “The racial gap is uniform across occupation, industry, and employer size.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hospital unemployment is at an extreme low of .9%. And yet, discrimination may be so unconscious that it continues, even in a market where health care employers are scrambling to fill long-empty positions.
Ask the Headhunter Nick Corcodilos
Is there anything a minority nurse applicant can do to sidestep hazards of the current recruiting landscape?
Digital “recruiting” and job hunting create special problems for minority job seekers because—and I’ll be very blunt about this—it enables biased employers to waste your time. If you get selected from an online application and then invest your time for an interview, only to find that the employer suddenly realizes you’re of a certain race or the “wrong” sexual preference or other characteristic, you get suddenly rejected out of hand.
You’ve wasted your time because their bias never allowed you to really demonstrate your abilities and value so that you might be chosen for what you can do.
How should a minority nurse go about applying for a job, if not through a hospital career portal or a recruiter’s texts/emails/calls?
The smart alternative is to invest some time tracking down either the hiring manager, or at least someone who works for or with that manager.
(Studies, again and again, suggest that up to 70% of jobs are found and filled through personal contacts, not random digital applications.)
Of course, bias can be introduced into the hiring process all kinds of ways, but I find that doing this person-to-person also helps you quickly identify people who are more interested in your abilities than your sex, race, or football team preference! They’re the people who will speak up and personally recommend you.
This is the only way I know to avoid the almost random, rote digital process of recruiting that often results in rejection due to discrimination and bias that surfaces too long after you’ve already invested your valuable time.
Employers don’t realize how this process hurts them, too, because it costs them potentially great hires.
For tips on how to make professional connections, Nick recommends his blog post: “Network, but don’t be a jerk!” Also, read his post on working with recruiters: “How to Judge A Headhunter”.
Any final food for thought for minority nurses embarking on a job search?
All those conversations you have with people who surround the manager will build a very personal picture of what you can do—and that’s how you get presented to a hiring manager as a great worker who’s worth hiring for their abilities.
I would rather have an early opportunity to recognize biased and discriminatory employers so I can avoid them, rather than let them waste my time.
Of course, the very powerful option you always have is to file an Equal Opportunity complaint. But my job is to help you identify and meet worthy employers. And the best way to do that is to get introduced to them by people they know and trust. Your challenge is to cultivate relationships with those “friends and associates” of the hiring managers—people who are not biased and who will recommend you for your skills and great work ethic.
Did you greet 2019 with so much enthusiasm that you set big, audacious New Year’s goals? Maybe you thought: A fresh year to grow (and glow) personally, an exciting new beginning, with endless opportunity to slay professional goals!
So, what happened to those goals?
If you’re anything like most of us, they were ditched (long-forgotten, even) way before Valentine’s Day rolled around. That feeling of inspiration that struck on January 1st, which is symbolic of unlimited potential, turned into discouragement, apathy, and dismay.
So, what can you do now if you still really want to do and be your best self this year? You can still look forward to making the most of the coming months, even if that means starting over again with resolutions and goal setting.
In fact, you may have seen the meme taking over social streams that says: “I’ve decided 2019 doesn’t start until February 1st. January was just a free trial.”
Consider mid-February your chance for a do-over. Only this time, go with something other than the traditional goal-setting systems, which may work for productivity gurus, but don’t for the majority of us regular folks.
One offbeat method you may want to try that is to choose one word for the coming year, to represent what you want versus listing specific actions or results. That single word will guide you and help you focus, so you live more intentionally day to day, month to month.
Here’s how to choose your word for the year.
First, brainstorm a long list of words that feel meaningful to you and “hang out” with them for a while. You’ll find that some relate more closely to goals you’ve had in the back of your mind for a while. They may even suggest some action steps that you can do in the coming months that will bring you closer to your dreams. Soon, one will present itself as the clear winner.
Some examples of word of the year, culled from recent conversations about this “right-brained” goal setting method: Positivity, Intention, Simplify, Pause, Restore, Build, and Believe. Other popular choices that show up year after year include: Balance, Focus, Organize, Grow, Gratitude, Grace, and Finish.
Okay, now that you’ve picked a word for the year, write it down wherever you will refer to it often during the day. A good place to add it is on the front of your paper planner (or write it out in fancy lettering, with doodles even, at the top of every page, to really drive the message home). Type it up, print out, and slap it up on the wall above your desk, or on the fridge, or your bathroom mirror. Use it as part of your login password, like L1Ve_L0Ve<3, so that you’re reminded of your focus word everyday.
You’ll be amazed at how your subconscious mind gets to work, suggesting actions to further your intention. For example, say you chose the word “Build” as your focus word for 2019. You’d like to build community, build connections, and build trust. You find yourself inspired to join a local nursing organization and regularly attend their meetings. At the end of the year, you might be surprised at how you have indeed built strong, trusting relationships. And that it happened without setting specific, quantifiable, time-sensitive, or sensible goals.
We hope you had a happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and maybe even a three-day weekend! The U.S. celebrates it as a federal holiday annually on the third Monday of January, but not every nurse or health care employee in a 24/7 workplace gets that time off.
There were many celebrations around the country to commemorate the life and achievements of this great American leader. Some events, sadly, reminded the nation that we’re still struggling to achieve Dr. King’s dream of racial harmony.
Maybe it’s time for all of us to once again listen and reflect on, Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” speech. His legendary civil rights-era address to the nation is ranked by scholars as one of the greatest American speeches in modern U.S. history. Most of us can easily recognize parts of it, such as this famous line:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
You can hear audio and read a transcript of the entire “Dream” speech that Dr. King delivered in 1963 at the March on Washington, here.
As a nurse, you no doubt hold tight to similar dreams of equality, justice, and compassion for the patients and communities you serve. You might also feel called to lead the charge on social justice issues that impact every level of society. Nurses are caretakers, but they’re often also change-makers at heart, educating and empowering others by sharing powerful, informative, and inspiring messages of healing and hope.
You might have sparked change by taking part in the wave of social and political activity we saw in 2018. As you already know, a record 113 million people are estimated to have voted in the November midterm elections. That’s an incredible number—the highest since 1966, when Dr. King was expanding the campaign for civil rights from the South to the northern cities, like Chicago.
Additionally, a record 117 women won political office in what has been called the “Year of the Woman” and now about one in five members of Congress are women. This 116th Congress is also the most racially diverse, with 42 women of color, including Native American and Muslim congresswomen. These are great advances, but not nearly enough in a nation where women make up over 50% of the population.
Nurses have always advocated on behalf of patients, their families, the community, and the entire nation. Sometimes that advocacy is on the front lines of politics, as we recently reported in a magazine feature, Nurse Legal Rights in the Workplace.
One such nurse, Martese Chism, RN, a Chicago-area nurse had a role model in her great-grandmother, Birdia Keglar, a civil rights activist that marched in Selma with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and lost her life because of it. Chism felt called to advocacy as a nurse, and with the support of her union, has spoken out about the closure of public hospitals and other health care facilities in minority communities.
There are so many ways to affect social justice as a nurse, even if it’s in a small, quiet, and non-political way.
What’s your dream for patients and nurses in 2019? We’d love to hear about it.