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Polish up your job application process to reach qualified candidates

BY: Eileen Williamson on November 7, 2018

Whether heating up or cooling down, the nursing job market changes all the time.

What doesn’t change is your role as a nurse recruiter in finding the right candidates to fill nursing positions and keep your organization moving forward.

“According to HR professionals, it’s getting harder to find people for the jobs they are trying to fill, and the top reasons are a low number of applicants, lack of needed work experience among those who do apply, competition from other employers and a lack of technical skills among job applicants,” Jennifer Schramm, SHRM-SCP, manager of workforce trends at the Society for Human Resource Management, said in an article on the organization’s website. qualified candidates

Dealing with too many vacancies and not enough qualified candidates may be an ongoing dilemma, but a good application process can help.

Have you taken a good look at yours lately? If not, now is the time to do it, as you work on strategic plans, budgets and goals for the year ahead.

Begin by asking yourself some important questions about the user-friendliness of your job application process:

  • Is it timely?
  • Is it responsive?
  • Is it professional?

Look at how well you are tapped into the talent pipeline and whether it’s getting you the applicants you need. And, most importantly, look at how you are treating the applicants and candidates you do receive.

Don’t forget to reach out to passive job seekers! Our nursing salary research report found 49% of all nurses — across all generations — are open to changing employers. So if the talent pool you’re attracting isn’t meeting your standards, you should try reaching out to nurses who aren’t actively looking for new jobs and offering incentives such as sign-on bonuses and tuition reimbursement.

Listen to experts in your field

In addition to reviewing your application process and talking to passive job seekers, stay tuned into market trends and news, remain connected to your colleagues and professional organizations, and keep listening to what the experts have to say.

Undercover Recruiter, for example, lists seven steps that are needed for an application process that lives up to job seekers’ expectations:

  1. Post job advertisement
  2. Provide speedy feedback
  3. Streamline the process
  4. Practice good employer branding
  5. Be available for interviews
  6. Make a timely offer
  7. Send out appropriate paperwork

Workopolis also offers a few other tips , such as to keep instructions clear and the process short, make the process user-friendly and mobile-optimized, and always send confirmation emails to keep lines of communication open.

Communication with applicants should stay top of mind and on your to-do list, according to an Survey Monkey, which reminds us that every applicant should receive six specific emails:

  1. Welcome email
  2. Upcoming deadline email
  3. Confirmation of receipt email
  4. Status change email
  5. Disqualified/declined email
  6. Thank you email

An article by iCIMS offers tips on questions to ask to improve your process to attract more qualified candidates. “These key points are simple but a useful discussion starter,” wrote author Cecilia Rae, in the iCIMS article. “Each question is a starting point to creating a strategy around improvement to garner more applicants, leaving you feeling less stressed and more prepared. After all, no matter what your new year hiring goals are, chances are there’s plenty of room for improvement within your existing job application process that will help you find an abundance of candidates going forward.”

job application process

Make a smooth transition from paperwork to qualified candidates

Are you doing too much online and not enough in person? Are you invisible to applicants? Are you treating them like numbers in a system?

If you don’t ask yourself hard questions like these, your assessment won’t be complete.

You may have good information and great people and resources in place, but the human part of your process speaks volumes to applicants about your organization. It tells them loud and clear how you’ll treat them as employees. They will remember the people they meet first and judge the organization based partially on their perception of these individuals.

Applicants are customers. They are, in fact, some of the most important customers your organization has, and your work with them is among the most important aspects of your application process.

You wouldn’t be recruiting if you didn’t need applicants, so make it very clear to them from the start that you need them and value them.

Ways you can make your applicants feel valuable include:

  • Welcome them warmly
  • Make them feel comfortable
  • Be respectful of their time, who they are and what they have to offer
  • Set up a nice room for the interview
  • Don’t rush through the interview, but don’t drag it out unnecessarily
  • Stay focused and engaged during the interview and ensure your staff does the same
  • Don’t allow interruptions or take any calls
  • Always include your best staff in front office roles — on the phone, online and in interviews

According to Zip Recruiter, the five biggest mistakes you should avoid when interacting with candidates include job descriptions that are not fully informative, a poorly-prepared interview team, negative staff behaviors when dealing with candidates, not following up after interviews and treating applicants like second-class citizens (always be polite!).

At the heart of your application process is believing nurses who apply to your organization had other options, yet chose you. They spent time preparing a resume, completing an application, writing a cover letter and making an appointment for an interview. Never, ever neglect to thank them.

Steve Jobs once said: “The secret of my success is that we have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world.”

Work to have the best application process you can, and you will find the best people.

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Eileen Williamson

Eileen Williamson, MSN, RN, is a former senior vice president and chief nurse executive at OnCourse Learning, where she led nursing programs and initiatives. She continues to write and act as a consultant for Nurse.com. Before joining the company in 1998, Williamson was employed by North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in New York, where she held a number of leadership positions in nursing and hospital administration, including chief nurse at two of the system’s member hospitals. She holds a BSN and an MSN in administration, and is a graduate fellow of the Johnson & Johnson University of Pennsylvania Wharton School Nurse Executives program. She also is a board member and past president of the New Jersey League for Nursing, a constituent league of the National League for Nursing.