How Employers are Narrowing the Field

by Howard Gerber on December 27, 2012

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How Employers are Narrowing the Field

So there you are, brand new nursing degree in hand, ready to start your first job or take your experience to a new job. You should be aware, though, that hiring isn’t what it used to be. HR departments are high-tech and savvy, and they are looking at more than just your resume to make a decision.

Even in a field with plenty of job openings, the competition can be fierce. As an applicant, it’s up to you to make sure your resume is not only up to date, but properly formatted…and that a web search won’t turn up reasons not to hire you.

Keywords

Most employers get hundreds of resumes. The only way to deal with that kind of volume is by scanning them in to a document scanner with software capable of loading scanned text into a searchable database. Then employers can search for specific qualities, education, or experience. How can you be sure your resume comes up? One of the best ways is to include keywords that allow potential employers to find what they’re looking for much in the same way keywords help you find things online.

Your resume should contain job-specific words. Start with the company itself, and its job listing. They usually tell you what they are looking for. In fact, look at other job openings in the same field and make a list of keywords common to all of them. Once you have a list of 8 to 10 keywords, they should be worked artfully into the text of your cover letter and resume.

For example, a labor and delivery nurse (LD RN) might include a phrase that details stages of care: “Experienced in antepartum, intrapartum, postpartum and neonatal stage care.”

In addition to clinical terms and qualifications, you also want to convey a warm and caring approach to patient care. Add a sentence or two that describes your dedication to patient-centered care and your commitment to patient education. New moms need lots of help, and your potential employer needs to know that with you, the patient comes first. Throw in something about monitoring vital signs (and your diligence with regard to same), and your resume has searchable keywords exactly tailored to the job you’re seeking. Keywords make you easy to find, even in a great big stack.

Formatting

If you’re a little older, you probably remember choosing high quality paper and creating an attractive, professional-looking resume. You spent time picking out the perfect font that said “this person is serious and professional, but also caring and flexible.” Then you added flourishes, like centering the name and adding your contact info in smaller lettering under a solid line, similar to a classic letterhead. Each section had an underlined header and maybe the employer name and dates in italics.

Throw all that out the window. Do anything fancy, and your resume might as well be written in Japanese, as far as scanning software is concerned. Keep it simple, left—justified, and use a common, sans serif font like Arial (10 to 12 point).  Under no circumstances should you underline anything. The fanciest thing on that paper should be…bold. Bold is ok.

Web Presence

Lastly, Google yourself often. See what turns up. Your potential employer will do it, and trust me, you want to know what they are likely to find. If anything negative turns up, it is extremely difficult to make it go away. But what you can do is drown it out. Post in volume…blog, social networking, authoritative articles, Pinterest…the goal is to post enough positive entries that you would want your employer to see to knock that drunken vacation picture from the Y2K end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it party down to page 10. If there’s extraordinarily good press out there, like your picture in the paper for saving kittens from a burning building or delivering a baby on an airplane, get all your friends to put a link to the story in their blogs or Facebook pages with your name as the anchor text.

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