We are taking a closer look at how you can make your nursing resume work for you and get that all-important interview

Nursing is a much-sought-after skill, and correspondingly, a hugely popular vocation. Increasingly, due to your resume being one of potentially hundreds for any one advertised position, hospitals and healthcare providers are more and more relying on ATS software to initially vet applications. An Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) is a software application designed to help an enterprise recruit employees more efficiently. An ATS can be used to post job openings on an aggregate website or job board, screen resumes, and generate interview requests for potential candidates by e-mail. Other features may include individual applicant tracking, requisition tracking, automated resume ranking, customised input forms, pre-screening questions and response tracking, and multilingual capabilities. 

But what does this mean for you and your nursing resume? Well, the first thing people think of when talking about automated systems is keyword searching. But although this is used to help the HR Manager pick out certain role-specific skills or adjectives that denote your attitude to your profession, seasoned recruiters realise that the right person is not always recognised just via keywords. A talented HR professional will use the software sparingly and strategically. However, it is incumbent upon you to do your homework and not hope that a one-size-fits-all resume will do the trick. Read up on the hospital’s vision and any speciality areas and pay special attention to the position description and search for keywords you can use organically and congruently within your nursing resume. But this is also where keyword optimisation comes in. It is not just about using certain keywords; it is how often you can use them without making your resume unreadable. 

In any case, several things can happen when your resume is uploaded to an ATS. Firstly, the ATS might break down the content into its relevant parts and automatically add it to the online application where applicable. Secondly, the ATS may extract all of your resume’s content and enter it into a separate file in the ATS. Recruiters and hiring managers may use this version of your resume instead of referring to the actual document you uploaded. Yes, you read that bit right – it is entirely possible that your actual resume is never even seen.

It is possible that the ATS will assign a ranking to your nursing resume. The ranking is based upon how the resumes’ content matches the content that the employer programs the ATS to look for. Then, the Applicant Tracking System may score all the resumes from highest to lowest score. Recruiters can then start reviewing the highest-ranking resumes first.

Despite anecdotal evidence, this type of scoring is not overly used, only in jobs with far higher applicant than would normally be the case – i.e., in the several hundred. It might sound unfair to you, but you can appreciate the sheer amount of text HR departments need to process to find the right applicant. But knowing the system helps you stack the odds in your favour – making your resume work for you, not against you. So, to cover all bases, you must still optimise your nursing resume for the employer’s desired content.

That being said, for a vast majority of smaller, regional hospitals, a recruiter is the first human to review resumes. Afterwards, recruiters may or may not contact desirable candidates to ask a few questions and determine if the candidates are still interested in the job. Once this process is complete, recruiters typically provide the best candidates to the hiring manager. Here again, the hiring manager typically reviews resumes for the desired content and judges whether the candidate can excel at the position. But it is important to note that the “best” resumes are almost always the ones with all the critical details the employer desires. If the information is not there, then the resume stands a far greater chance of being removed from the process. Seems obvious? Maybe, but far too many candidates do not look at the duality of resumes. That is, the purpose is meant to both sell you as an individual, and to also mirror and reflect what the role and the employer demands. You cannot have one without the other on your resume; it has to be a seamless synthesis of both. If you can achieve that combination, you will have a nursing resume that works for you.