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Healthcare Job Search Tactics

"Just because a job market is hot does not mean it's not competitive."

Last Updated: 04 March 2019

NP PA Career Advice Job Search New Graduate

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Get a Competitive Advantage in Your Healthcare Job Search

How many times have you been told that as a PA or NP, you are highly sought-after clinician with a raging job market behind you? Probably a lot. How many times have you applied for a single job and received an offer on the first try? Probably not many.

If you find yourself applying for dozens of PA or NP jobs without any reasonable responses, your healthcare job search strategies might need a re-evaluation. You'll probably agree when we say searching for a healthcare job as a nurse practitioner or PA is a full-time job itself.

Why is this? Is the market for PAs and NPs less robust than we're told? Has the healthcare industry found a way to make due without any more clinicians?

Probably not. The healthcare industry still needs PA's and NP's. Clinicians in certain specialties are more in-demand than others, but overall, it's still a hot job market this year. However, you'll need more than a shiny new degree to land a good nurse practitioner job or physician assistant job.

That's why we've put together this interview with this former nurse practitioner and physician assistant recruiter Renee Dahring, FNP-C. Previously, she was the owner of her own agency and is now a career consultant helping new graduate PAs and NPs find their first clinical jobs out of school.

She was one of the first ever clinician-recruiters who was also a clinician. Her specialized knowledge helped her to improve the perception of healthcare job recruiters by helping hundreds of clinicians find jobs and educating thousands more on effective PA or NP job search techniques.

Her experience has taught her what recruiters, employers, and private medical practices want to see when they are searching for a new clinician to join them. She is filled with insider knowledge to help you land your next healthcare job using effective search strategies, resume optimization, and more.

And best of all, she is sharing them here!

Renee Dahring, FNP on the Clinician1 Podcast

Listen to the Clinician1 podcast above as Renee Dahring, FNP-C gives you the best information possible about finding your next PA or NP job. 

Before becoming the NP Career Coach, she was a partner in one of the first successful PA and NP recruiter agencies. She has been helping new NP and PA graduates (as well as experienced clinicians) land their perfect job for decades. After selling her agency, she continued to help clinicians find their ideal job and also started working clinically in correctional medicine, a truly unique experience you won't want to miss.

In the podcast, we discuss resume and CV writing for nurse practitioners and PAs, learn the sure-fire ways to sabotage your clinical job search, and will catch a rare but entertaining glimpse into a world most of us hope never to see: prison.

Lastly, because your career is so much more than your current job, we wrap up our conversation with strategies to boost your career by working to improve your profession.

And don't miss our collection of the top resources for healthcare job hunting, board review for new graduates, and leadership skills for your career at the bottom of this post. 

Don't forget to subscribe to the Clinician1 podcast. 

The Perfect CV for your Healthcare Job Search

According the NP Dahring, if you want your CV to get noticed, it needs to have three specific items. It also needs to avoid irrelevant information, as is often the case. 

Therefore, she advises that your CV should quickly answer the potential employer's main ‘checkpoint' questions. These are the questions that, if not answered satisfactorily, are deal-breakers.

Basically, if you don't answer them, you don't move on.

These questions are:

  1. Does this person have the education to do the job?
  2. Are they licensed appropriately?
  3. Does the applicant have the experience for this job?

Let me say that again. You need to show that you have the education, the license, and the experience. Here's how to look at it, in the order that best answers the hiring manager's questions.

Education. Your NP or PA CV should make it painfully clear that you are a graduate (or soon-to-be) of an accredited PA or NP training program.

License. Don't make the hiring manager search all over for the status of your license. That is, tell them that you have one, in what state(s) you are licensed, and when it expires. 

Experience. Your work history should unequivocally convince the reader that you are better than anyone else for this job. 

To learn more about crafting the perfect CV, visit Renee online or pick up one of the top guidebooks on this topic for healthcare professionals.

This Healthcare Recruiter's Pet Peeves

If you can make it through round one, you are doing pretty well. However, you can still derail yourself at this stage.

That's why you'll also need to know a few ways to ensure you do NOT get hired. Knowing what to say, how to dress, and how to prepare are key to acing the interview process. Being unprepared, or worse, inappropriate, will put you right back to where you started.

And you can bet Renee has seen plenty of people fail at this in spectacular ways you can only imagine. Don't be like them.

As a clinician, you are expected to display maturity and confidence to your patients, even in the face of uncertainty. That doesn't mean you have to know everything. However, it does mean acknowledging when you don't have the answers and finding a solution or a way to make move forward regardless. In a phrase; lying will get you nowhere.

Furthermore, there are certain roles and expectations clinicians must meet during a job interview. Like it or not, society has certain expectations for the way we visually present ourselves. And guess who else is a part of society? Employers. Patients. Office staff.

As you might imagine, arriving in an outfit that pairs well with loud music and alcohol will not bode well for your professional future. 

That's why NP Dahring advises candidates err conservatively when choosing their interview outfit. She doesn't like it any more than you, but the goal is to land a job, not change societal norms, right?

How Nurse Practitioners and PAs Specialize

From Business Owners to Prison

After learning more than one person should ever learn about hiring clinicians, Renee Dahring decided to return to clinical practice herself. 

She has now worked clinically in correctional medicine for decades, gaining unique insights into the entire healthcare system, especially PA and NP recruiting in the modern day.

According to our conversation, we can improve the healthcare system tens times over with one simple change. Send all the non-clinician administrators to jail…to learn from her expert insights, I mean. 

When you think of someone who goes from business owner to prison, this is the best way it could possibly happen. NP Dahring provides care to inmates in a truly unique setting – and gets to go home in time for dinner (most of the time).

She does procedures, but not orthopaedic surgery. She handles urgent complaints and emergency situations, but doesn't consider herself an urgency care or emergency medicine clinician.

Despite being happy in her work, she (like many of us) gets dozens, if not hundreds, or recruiter emails and calls every week. Most of them are desperate attempts by some cold-caller to place her in some unrelated specialty hundreds of miles away. Guess how well those are received.

Her point is that PAs and NPs specialize, too, and recruiters (and applicants) should recognize this. Most healthcare recruiters have never learned this and thus won't be able to find the best job for you. That's what separates the services of the NP Career Coach from the dozens of recruiter cold calls who have “a fantastic opportunity” to share with you. 

If you are interested in learning more about correctional medicine, listen to the podcast or pick up Mosby's Clinical Practice in Correctional Medicine

Representing Your Profession

Now that we've covered resume writing, deadly job search pitfalls, as well as PA and NP specialization via the lens of prison, let's cover one last topic. Here's how you can improve your career by working to improve your profession.

In addition to finding a job, there are higher-level challenges clinicians face in the course of their careers. One of those is choosing how you represent your profession. Some clinicians choose to be passive and allow their careers to just ‘happen,' while others prefer to take action. Take a guess as to who tends to have the more successful and satisfying career. 

Renee Dahring, as you might guess, is a passionate advocate for both PA's and NP's taking action. She has chosen to educate others about what we do and combat the oft-mired public misinformation every chance she can. However, that does not mean she (or anyone else) can do it alone.

She, like many of the podcasts guests, encourage you to get involved and give back to your profession. It's never too early (or late) to start.

One way NP Dahring has done this is by writing and sharing her knowledge to help others in their job search, often for free. 

Another initiative of hers was leveraging her role as an owner of a large PA and NP recruitment firm to educate health systems about PA and NP roles. Using her knowledge as a nurse practitioner to educate these companies helped them hire the right NP or PA.

There are many ways you can do this. You can follow in NP Dahring's footsteps, perform scientific peer review, offer medical malpractice consulting, participate in market research, and join your local advocacy society, to name a few.

NP Dahring's activities contributed to improving the image of healthcare recruiters from decades past and open the door to the hot job market clinicians enjoy today.

What will you do?

You Might Also Like:

4 Effective Ways to Stretch Your CME Fund Farther Than You Ever Imagined

Prerequisites to Landing Your First PA or NP Job

Check out our job searching resources below, including NP Career Coaching services so you can land that ideal PA or NP job.

To start, pick up a copy of Resumes for the Health Professional. If you are a new PA or NP, don't be afraid to pick up this guide to landing your first six-figure job

Pass the Boards

Before you can practice, you have to get licensed. That means passing the boards. Review for your PANCE or FNP certification with Board Vitals and get 15% off with code below.

For more strategies to pass the PANCE (or any board exam, really) you won't want to miss our post with even more resources.


Thinking of practicing in primary care, urgent care, or pediatrics? You'll need Hippo Education's monthly Reviews and Perspectives podcast. Annual subscriptions cost $195 and come with 3.5 hours of CME per month. Sign up through one of our invite links above and get a $25 Amazon gift card in return.

If your employer offers you a CME stipend (they should), learn how to use it effectively while maximizing your educational effort. 

About Renee Dahring

Renee Dahring received her bachelor's degree in nursing from North Dakota State University. In 2000, she earned her master's degree from the University of Minnesota as a family nurse practitioner. She is a Certified Correctional Health Professional and has a clinical practice delivering care to inmates in several Minnesota county jails while teaching part time at the University of Minnesota in the FNP program. She is the current president of the Minnesota APRN Coalition.

Several years ago, she helped to build a national staffing agency, and although she no longer works as a recruiter, she decided to utilize her five years of direct experience in NP recruiting to do workshops and author blogs and articles which give employment and job search advice to NPs.  You can read her blogs on the Advance for NPs and PAs website where she is known as the “NP Career Coach”.

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Podcast Credits

Recording, editing, production: Jordan G Roberts, PA-C

Creative Director & Web Development: Kristina Saric

Support: Clinician1 & Barton Associates

Music: “Backbay Lounge” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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