Veterans Health Administration (VHA) deeply values its nurses and is always looking to welcome new nurses to our team. While our application process can sometimes be strenuous, it’s because we want the most qualified and driven health care providers caring for our Veterans and their families. To provide insight into the process, we reached out to our recruiters for tips on how applicants can stand out, and what they need in order to be ready for applying and interviewing. Read on to find out what National Healthcare Recruitment Consultants Hillary Garcia and James Marfield have to say.
What documents or information should an applicant have ready prior to applying?
Make sure you have the following ready to go before starting your VA application process:
- Structured resume or CV with thorough details on your current responsibilities, roles and outcomes related to your position
- School transcripts or a letter stating when and where you’ll receive your degree
- Up-to-date or renewed license – your BLS or ALS, if applicable
- Information on any formal training you’ve received
- If you’re a Veteran, include a DD214 with the character of your discharge
What is the biggest mistake a nurse can make on an application?
Both Hillary and James agree that failing to submit all required documentation and not fully describing current duties and responsibilities are the worst things a nursing applicant can do. “Even though you list clinical responsibilities, a staff nurse may have different roles that need [to be] well-described,” Hillary explained.
Using acronyms that recruiters may not know (see our blog about resume tips) and listing outdated contact information should also be avoided.
What makes a resume stand out?
When it comes to making your resume stand out, experience and details are the key. While your work history is obviously important, Hillary advises including any patient care committees or work groups you’ve participated in. Also, be sure to list your research, publications and presentations. If your experience is part time, be sure to include the number of hours per week. James recommends also listing your salary for each work location to help recruiters ensure the best fit.
How can nursing applicants follow up? Should they?
Hillary says, “[I] absolutely recommend following up! This sets you apart from the many candidates [who] are applying.” Applicants can call the contact listed on the job announcement to make sure they sent everything that was required. About a week or two after the position closes, be sure to email the human resources contact or recruiter with a personal message explaining why you want to work with VA.
What’s the one thing a potential VA nurse should know before they interview?
Both Hillary and James stress that competition tends to be high for VA nursing vacancies, but that does not mean you can’t stand out. Hillary says “you should smile, be comfortable, shake hands [and] take your time.” James advises applicants to “know the VA mission and the local [Veterans Affairs Medical Center] and how you can immediately step in and add value.” Be detailed in your answers and don’t forget to ask questions. Hillary recommends asking what the interviewer loves about their position and what a typical day in your desired role is like. “Don’t worry about asking about money,” she says. “That will come if they extend a tentative job offer.”
When the interview is coming to a close, ask the interviewer how they will contact candidates with their decision. Most importantly, send a thank-you note within 24 to 48 hours. It shows you are truly interested in the position and value the experience.
BONUS: What’s your No. 1 piece of advice for nursing applicants?
“Stick with it!” Hillary says. “VA has many applicants with impressive credentials. Apply for all positions you think you may enjoy – moving from one unit to another or from one facility to another is seamless in VA. Stay diligent until you succeed in obtaining a position.”
We would love to have you join our team as a VA nurse, providing quality care to our Nation’s Veterans and their families. Learn more about nursing opportunities with VHA and search for available positions, Join Us and get started on “the career of a lifetime!” (Hillary says so).