Is Your Nurse Resume Optimized for the ATS?
Fact: Almost all travel nursing companies load your resume into an ATS (Applicant Tracking System). What gets loaded and how accurately has a strong impact on the number and types of travel nursing opportunities you will receive. There is often very little human interaction in this process. A recruiter, assistant, or marketing person simply presses a button that parses (automatically loads) your resume into the system and smartly fills in fields such as contact information, email, phone, work history, etc. Alternatively you may have uploaded your resume from the nurse travel company’s website. Later recruiters and the marketing team use this information to call, email, or text candidates that seem to match the assignments they need to fill.
Def: PARSE – To parse is to analyze something (such as your resume) in an orderly way. In this instance the analysis turns your resume into a candidate record inside of a nurse travel company’s database.
If your resume is not well formatted the parse may result in you not being informed of your dream assignment. To compound this, the bigger the travel nursing company (and therefore the most likely to have the job you want), the more dependent on ATS parsing technology they likely are simply due to the large volume of candidates they attract.
Here are tips to optimize your resume for an ATS system:
Tip #1: Stick to Industry Standards
When composing your resume use industry standard word processing packages such as Microsoft Word. If you don’t have access to Word then simply writing your resume in plain text using notepad can be just as effective. What we have learned is that fancy looking resumes with graphics, interesting fonts, images and the like are often the least likely to load into an ATS properly.
Tip #2: Don’t Use the Header or Footer Sections
From experience I have seen that with many ATS systems when candidates put their personal contact information into a header section in a Word document that the software does not read this information and the resulting record may be missing phone and email. So, unless a recruiter notices this and goes back in to fix this error you will never get called or emailed. I see this happen every day! Luckily, at Tailored Healthcare we run filters to find these records and fix them on a periodic basis.
Tip #3: Avoid PDFs
Almost all ATS systems that travel nursing companies use have the ability to parse a resume from a PDF. The reality is, however, that the quality of the resulting candidate record is usually not as good as if the information came from a Word or text file. Additionally, ATS systems offer the ability to view the resume
Tip #4: Never Submit Your Resume as an Image File
Resume parsers simply cannot read files that are defined as images. These include but are not limited to files with extensions such as JPG, TIF, BMP, and GIF. Resume parsing software simply sees this as a picture. Even if your resume is a work of art, do not attempt to submit your information in these formats. Enough said.
Tip #5: Colons Are More Than an Organ
Using a data label and then following it with a colon is an excellent way to tell an ATS to try to parse the data in. For example the text “Occupation: Registered Nurse” is easily read by an ATS and will lead to accurate data in the system. Imagine you are a computer and you are trying to interpret what to do with the above statement versus the following, “I have been a nurse for many years and have recently earned my Bachelor’s in Nursing.” Which statement do you believe that a computer system would have the better chance of understanding?
Using simple phrases like Profession, Licenses, Nursing Specialties, Education, Title, and more all followed by colons throughout your resume will greatly increase the chance that your information will be read into the ATS thoroughly and accurately.
Tip #6: If It Was a Travel Assignment, Say So
Don’t hide travel nursing assignments in your work history. SHOUT IT! Many of our clients only want to interview candidates with recent travel assignment experience. Further, if you don’t expressly state that a part of your work history was contract or travel and it is a short period of time, it could raise a red flag and be interpreted that you are a job hopper. The very best idea is to add the text “Job Type:” followed by the appropriate answer to each of your employment history records. For example, “Job Type: Travel Nurse,” or “Job Type: PRN.” Notice the use of the colons again!
Tip #7: Explain Lapses in Employment
Be sure to explain lapses of employment of a month or longer. I know it sounds a bit harsh but you would be amazed at the number of our clients that require this. So if you have 30 days or longer between assignments then be sure to include this in your work history. If you don’t, your recruiter will ask for this anyway. Simply put the “From: DATE” and “To: DATE” followed by an explanation of the why you were not working. Good reasons could be sabbatical, personal time off, vacation. Most importantly be honest and truthful. You chose travel nursing so you could have flexibility including choosing to take assignment when you want to after all. What a hospital client is searching for is if you were let go from an assignment. Don’t leave blanks in your work history to leave it up to their imagination to fill in the voids.
Tip #8: Use Common Nursing Terms and Abbreviations
The modern ATS searches both specific database fields and resume text for candidates that match job criteria, but it is all driven by a person setting up job match criteria. For example, a recruiter might search for nurses that have ICU experience and are licensed in California. A second recruiter might look for a nurse with “intensive care” experience and be licensed in “CA.” See the point in our minds they are the same thing, but to a computer “ICU” and “Intensive Care” are completely different. So, in your resume it just makes sense to use both common acronyms and verbose text for items like nursing specialties, certifications, and state licensure.
What an ATS-Optimized Resume Might Look Like:
i) Contact Information: Include best time to reach and best number to call.
iii) Objective/Career Goals
iv) Licensure: List both state name and abbreviations. Good idea to list status and expiration date.
v) Certifications: List verbose name, acronym, and expiration date
vi) Work History: Use the format below in reverse chronological order. Be sure to include explanations for lapses in employment
(1) Employer Name:
(2) Job Title:
(3) Job Type: Permanent, PRN, Travel
(4) Start Date: End Date:
(5) Job Description: Be sure to list specific activities and skills. More detail should be given to the most recent jobs.
Don’t worry so much about the length of your resume. It’s most important to ensure that you’ve included everything of relevance. Length was important when people were required to review thousands of resumes. The ATS doesn’t care.
Resume Secrets for Travel Nurses: In Summary
Being mindful of applicant tracking systems and tailoring your resume to maximize your chances of being “found” can greatly enhance your chances of being informed about your dream travel nursing assignment. Remember though, your information is going to be viewed at some point. Therefore, make sure that your resume is truthful and can be supported in an interview situation.