5 Tips to Get Your Nursing Resume Read by an Applicant Tracking System

Posted By:   Posted On: July 22nd, 2015

Nurse writing resumeEarlier this year, we shared tips on what should go into a successful nursing resume and in that article we mentioned that you are writing your nursing resume for applicant tracking systems as much as you are writing for humans.

This article focuses on providing tips to optimize your resume so the applicant tracking systems will understand who you are, your skills, and how you match up with the jobs for which you are applying.

What is an Applicant Tracking System?

An applicant tracking system is a ranking system that scans your resume and ranks it through an automated process. Most employers use an applicant tracking system, which means most of the time humans are not looking at your resume first. This means that while your resume needs to be easily understandable and appealing to humans, it has to first rank well in the system your potential employer is using.

Who uses applicant tracking systems? According to Wikipedia, “Almost all recruitment agencies and most major corporations with an in-house recruitment function use some form of applicant tracking system to handle job postings, applicants, resumes, interviews.” Wikipedia also states that ATS are now expanding into “small and medium-sized enterprises,” so applicant beware: your resume is probably going to be exposed to an ATS at most, if not all, health care organizations to which you apply.

Since your resume is going to be “seen” by a computer before a human, you need to understand how the applicant tracking system “thinks” so you have a better shot of making it through the initial scan and into the hands of a person who will give you an interview. Here’s five of the most powerful tips we can recommend to help your nursing resume rank well.

1 – Tailor Your Resume

An applicant tracking system will scan your resume for phrases related to the job posting. Tracking systems are looking for the the specific terms used in the job posting. So if you create a general resume and don’t change it for each job, you will likely not have as many relevant terms from the job posting as you could have. Read the job posting, make a copy of your resume, modify your copy to include the terms from the resume wherever you possibly can. Remember that there is a balance between making the tracking system happy and making sense to a human, so if you read your tailored resume and it sounds like spam, you need to scale back a bit. But if you can read your resume out loud and the terms you have added to your resume flow naturally, you’re probably on the right track. When tailoring your resume, instead of making it longer to include specialized terms, see if there’s phrases that can simply be changed. This might mean a sentence needs to be restructured a little as well, but this is a better approach than making a resume too long.

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2 – Terms to Include in Your Nursing Resume

If you have ICU experience, you should incorporate “ICU” and “Intensive Care Unit” into your resume.

At a minimum, review two things when tailoring your resume: The terms used in the posting and the potential employer’s “career” section. You want to familiarize yourself with the terms and phrases commonly used by those who post jobs. This is because the applicant tracking system is likely to be set up by the same people who post positions. You need your resume to be written in terms the hiring organization understands. And, if you can’t find these things out, at a minimum use industry standard terms to describe your work history rather than a term only your current employer cares about or understands.

3 – Graphics Be Gone

A resume that is readable is a beautiful thing. A resume that has lots of lovely borders and unique fonts will distract the human and confuse the applicant tracking system. Remember that computers don’t understand borders and images. These embellishments can sometimes trip up a computerized system, so increase your odds of good readability by keeping design elements to a minimum.

4 – Simplify Symbols and Fonts

Standard fonts, like Arial, Helvetica, and Times New Roman are all you need for a clean, modern resume. The standardized fonts are better because the applicant tracking system will have a much greater chance of interpreting each letter and word properly when it is presented in font faces it easily understands. This is also true of bullets and other font symbols. A standard bullet in your resume is fine. An arrow, emoticon, special character or symbol can confuse an automated system, so leave them out of your resume.

5 – List Relevant Skills

Your resume should have a section highlighting skills and job-relevant software experience. Carefully go through the position you are applying for and make sure you have included every skill you have related to that position in your skills section. If you call a particular skill one thing but the job position is calling it something slightly different, you need to change your wording to match the phrasing used in the job posting. In addition to a skill section, the specific terms you find in the posting need to be worked into the sentences and bullet points throughout the resume.

Resume Optimization Help and Tools

If all of this information has your head swimming and you’d like some help with your nursing resume, an excellent place to start is with a hiring service for your area of interest. Desert Medical Careers has decades of experience in helping nurses get jobs in Arizona. Because we specialize in the Arizona health care job market, we are more aware than most as to what is happening in the local job market and can give you insights into your resume that will help you get placed into your next nursing job fast. Contact us to set up a time to go over your resume at (602) 468-6300.

Additionally, there are automated tools to help you see how your resume is being processed by applicant tracking systems. Here are a couple:

Don’t Like Applicant Tracking Systems? Try a recruiter!

Recruiters are trusted by employers to be an excellent source for pre-scanned applicants. Recruiters are special because they have a relationship established with the hiring organizations and can get your resume to the top of the stack because the recruiter has a personal connection to the hiring organization. The hiring organizations have likely worked with the recruiter before and trust their judgment. The recruiter can do things no software can do for you: they can give you personalized advice on everything from improving your resume to tips about the specific employer before you interview.

Are You Looking for a Nursing Job in Arizona?

Desert Medical Careers has a high demand for registered nurses and nurse practitioners. We are typically able to easily place full-time and part-time nursing positions throughout the Phoenix Metro Area. With over 20 years’ experience placing healthcare employees throughout the Valley, DMC is an expert at matching healthcare workers with their ideal work environment. Contact DMC today at (602) 468-6300.

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