Hey everyone, welcome to The Truth About Travel Nursing Podcast! My name is Kyle Schmidt and I am your host. This is episode 23 of the podcast and in this episode we’re going to discuss travel nursing job postings. [Please note that this is a transcript of a podcast episode. As such, grammar and spelling are not optimized for written content.]
You may be wondering how it’s possible to devote an entire podcast episode to job postings. Well, anyone who has been traveling for a while knows that there are a lot of questions out there about job postings. There is also a general sense of dissatisfaction with travel nursing job postings. So we’re going to cover a ton of useful information that help us understand the industry better and, more importantly, make better use of job postings in general. In my view, this means that you will waste less time when searching for jobs and ultimately end up having a greater chance of landing the jobs you want.
Okay, so agencies are faced with a very unique set of challenges when it comes to their job postings. Mainly, their jobs aren’t really their jobs. Instead, the jobs are actually owned or generated by the agency’s client hospitals. Moreover, an agency’s client hospitals almost always work with other agencies. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find even one hospital that worked with only one agency. Even hospitals that agree to exclusive staffing contracts with one agency are actually using multiple agencies by virtue of the fact that their exclusive provider is working with other agencies to help fill all the needs. If you recall, we’ve referred to this as the Managed Service Provider model in previous episodes.
This creates a few tough challenges for the agency. First, because the agency’s job orders come from multiple sources, they’re transmitted in multiple ways and in multiple formats. For example, some hospitals will email an excel spreadsheet with all their job openings. Some hospitals will send them in the body of an email. Some hospitals will convey them over the phone. Some hospitals use vendor management systems, which as we’ve discussed on previous episodes are software platforms designed to help hospitals and agencies manage their supplemental staffing needs. And there are many different vendor management systems, so even these orders are coming to the agency in multiple formats.
The second challenge is that the agency is often unclear as to what’s going on with the jobs that it has listed as open. I mean, obviously, if an agency just received a brand new job opening, then they know it’s fresh. However, the more time that passes, the more uncertainty there is. The agency often has no way of knowing if the hospital has received candidates for the opening from other competing agencies yet. And they sometimes have no way of knowing whether the job is still open or not.
Now, in some cases, the vendor management system might be able to give the agency an idea of what’s going on with the job. For example some systems show how many candidates have been submitted for the opening. Some even show which particular agencies have submitted candidates for the opening.
In other cases, the hospital might do a good job at keeping the agencies they work updated with the status of their job openings. However, this is pretty rare. The hospital really doesn’t have an incentive to do this and it could potentially be pretty time consuming. I mean, as long as the agencies the hospital works with thinks that the jobs are open, then the hospital can rest assured that the agencies are trying to staff the position. So, the worst that can happen for the hospital is that they keep getting profiles, which isn’t much of an incentive to keep the agencies updated.
Finally, the agency could contact their client hospitals to find out what’s going with the job openings, but that would take a ton of time. I mean, with hundreds of hospitals, doing this would require too much in the way of manpower to be worth it.
So ultimately, when it comes to knowing the status of job openings, agencies are really at the mercy of their client hospitals and the vendor management systems that some of them use.
The third challenge that agencies face is that they often have limited information about the jobs that they have available. Now, there is certain information that’s fairly common to passed along by the hospital in the job requisition…basically when the hospital notifies the agency of the opening. For example, hospitals will almost always include the unit, shift, desired start date, contract duration, location, and any special requirements like required certifications and years of experience.
Agencies also know the bill rate either because it’s provided in the job order or because it’s part of the agency’s contract with the hospital. Similarly, agencies should also know the shift cancellation policy. In other words, are all shifts for the job guaranteed or can the hospital cancel a certain number of shifts before getting penalized and being forced to pay the agency anyway?
However, beyond that, agencies can often be in the dark. And as it turns out, many of things that they’re in the dark on, are things that travelers would like to know. What’s the nurse to patient ratio? What types of support staff are provided? What computer charting system is used? What types of equipment does the hospital have? What’s the parking situation? These and tons of other details could be completely unknown to the agency.
Of course, the obvious question is why don’t agencies just find all of this out? Well, here again, finding this out for every job that the agency had available at any given time would be totally overwhelming and it just isn’t feasible all the time. There are some situations where agencies are able to easily obtain this information, but in most cases it’s just too labor intensive to collect it all. For example, some hospitals provide descriptions of their facility and the various units. Others are fairly responsive to telephone inquiries from agency representative. But these hospitals are the exception not the rule.
The fourth challenge is that agencies are working with tons more job openings than the average business of their size. So here’s an example. Proctor & Gamble employs 121,000 people worldwide. I went to their website today and they have 729 open positions worldwide. I’m guessing that the average travel nursing agency has more than 1,500 open jobs right now. That’s a truck load of jobs to keep track of for a smaller company like that.
Okay, so what does all this mean for travel nursing job postings? Well, these challenges affect job postings on several levels. So what we’re going to do next is discuss all the ways that agencies post jobs. And in doing so, we’ll discuss the impacts that these challenges have on agency job postings.
Now, agencies will post their jobs on all the standard platforms, but let’s start off by discussing travel nursing agency job boards. So, you’ll find that many experienced travel healthcare professionals complain about the service they receive from agency job boards. And just to be clear, when we refer to agency job boards, we’re talking about the job postings that agencies publish on their own websites.
One of the biggest complaints about agency job boards is that they’re not updated. For example, you may visit the agency’s website, find a job and then immediately call the agency to express interest and be told that the job is no longer available. Worse yet, you may decide to apply for the job online and go through the entire application process, then call the agency and find out the position is already filled. I think travelers get most frustrated when they find out that the vast majority of the jobs on an agency’s job board are in fact no longer active, they’ve been filled already.
How can agencies let this happen? I mean, can’t they just keep their job board updated? The answer is that very few agencies have acquired the ability to do this on a routine basis. And this is largely related to the challenges we discussed. Let’s consider what agencies would have to do to make this happen…to have a job board that was always up-to-date and accurate.
First, they need to build a job board from scratch or they need to purchase some job board software. If they decide to build it from scratch, then they’ll need to hire a really good and proficient coder, or they can outsource it to a contractor as opposed to hiring somebody. The advantage of building their own job board is that they can get exactly what they want. Of course, that’s assuming that they can afford to have all the features that they want developed. And a job board that’s capable of centralizing all these job orders from different sources and in different formats will be a major undertaking with tons of features.
And that’s the main disadvantage of building from scratch; such a project will be quite expensive. It’ll be expensive to get the job board up and running. And once it’s up and running, it will require maintenance over time in order to make sure that it continues to perform the way they’ll need it to.
Which brings us to buying software. There are tons of job board software packages out there and premade internet job boards. The problem is that none of them will have the unique features that the agency needs. So the agency will be stuck using job board software that is designed for general purposes. Or they’ll need to pay someone to customize the software for them. This is in fact what most agencies do. They either purchase job board software and make do without the unique features that they need, or they pay for some customizations.
Now, you might be wondering what the big deal is. Why can’t agencies just use the standard job board software and get great results? Well, the main problem is getting the jobs entered into the system and keeping them updated. That’s the real challenge. First, it’s really difficult to develop an automated software program that would do this. Programs that do this are typically referred to as “scrapers”. A scraper is a software program that is designed to take information from one location and put it into another.
These programs are fairly simple to develop. What makes the travel nursing situation so difficult is that all the jobs come in different formats and from different sources. So for starters, you’d need to develop multiple scrapers, one for each different format. Then, you’d need to maintain the scrapers because every time the format of a job order format changed, the scraper for that format would break.
So, why can’t an agency just have one of their live representatives or recruiters manage this task? This would be an absolute nightmare to have a person responsible for this. Remember, there are hundreds to thousands of jobs all in constant flux and coming from different locations in different formats. Manually keeping that jobs database updated would take 1 or maybe even 2 full time employees to keep totally up to date.
All that said, it’s obviously possible for agencies to get jobs entered into their databases because they have jobs posted on their job boards. Again, the problem is that they’re not kept totally up to date. Now, some agencies do a really good job with this. Some agencies even claim that their job boards are 100% up to date.
For example, Travel Nurse Across America claims that their job board is updated daily. If you visit their job board you’ll see a statement that says all jobs are posted in real time. I know that Valley Healthcare Staffing had real time job postings at one point as well. I’m not sure if they still do though. Anyway, the bottom line is that there are some agencies out there that are able to keep all or significant percentage of their jobs postings updated in real time. I think it’s fair to say that these agencies are the exception not the rule at least for now.
But why wouldn’t all agencies do this? I mean, if some agencies do this, why can’t all agencies do it? Simply put, not all agencies have the resources to do this and some agencies simply choose not to. Those that choose not to keep their job postings updated in real time most likely don’t get a lot of traffic on their job boards. You’d need to get a pretty high volume of traffic on your job board in order to justify the expense of doing this. And you’re not going to get traffic simply by keeping the job board updated. Getting search traffic onto an agency website is a whole other ball of wax. So, most agencies don’t keep their jobs completely up to date.
All of that said, almost every agency has a job board on their site, so how do they do it? How do they get those jobs there? Well, some of them do have sophisticated job scrapers. They’ve invested the time and money to create an automated system and they probably need to invest the money to keep it running. Other agencies use some form of automation and live human input. But the bottom line is that every system has its own set of deficiencies and imperfections.
Many agencies will first enter their jobs into their own applicant tracking systems. This allows their recruiters to work with the jobs on the back end. Then, the agency could set up their job board to scrape all the jobs that are entered in the applicant tracking system. Other agencies might enter their jobs into a CSV file, which is basically like an excel spreadsheet. This CSV file will be formatted in a way that allows it to be uploaded to the agency’s job board so that all the jobs on the spreadsheet can be added to the job board. Other agencies might enter their jobs in their job boards individually as they have time. In any case, this is going to happen at varying intervals. So some agencies are updating their job postings more often than others.
Now, another complaint that many travelers have about travel nursing job postings is that they often don’t include much in the way of details. One common thing to see on travel job postings is the same exact description or details over and over…on every single job posting. For example, the job posting might have some standard information about the travel nursing company itself, or the benefits that the travel nursing company offers. This is probably the most common thing you’ll see. It’s basically a canned message they include in every job posting. Tons of agencies do this.
Then there are some agencies that at least include some information about the facility in question. For example Fastaff’s job board includes details about facilities that their job postings are for. So at least you get a little information about the facility.
So, how is Fastaff able to do this while most other agencies aren’t? Well, my guess is that Fastaff has a system that allows them to enter standard, canned descriptions of all the hospitals they work with. Then, when a job gets entered for a particular hospital, the system automatically pulls the job description and enters it on the job posting. It’s a nice little benefit, but all you’re really getting is a canned hospital description for each job posting.
Now, beyond these types of job details, I think the more important details that travelers are concerned about when it comes to job posting are the pay figures. I routinely see travelers expressing their frustration that pay is not advertised on job postings. I see it in the travel nursing forum on Delphi forums. I see it on LinkedIn groups and Facebook groups as well. And I understand the concern.
Basically, travelers argue that there is no way of knowing if they’re truly interested in a job unless they know the pay package for the job. There is also a general sense that agencies play games with the pay packages in a way that seeks to maximize profits for the agency. So, when an agency doesn’t include pay rates on their job postings, many travelers view it as a shell game that they don’t want to play.
Again, I understand all of this, but there are some really good reasons that agencies have for not advertising pay rates on their job postings. But before we go into that, let’s discuss one agency that does advertise pay rates on their job postings because looking at them first will help us understand why the vast majority of agencies don’t advertise pay rates on their job postings.
Okay, so, one agency that advertises pay rates on their job postings is Fastaff. Fastaff started out as company focused on Rapid Response contracts. These are contracts that require travelers to start very quickly, sometimes within a week, and they typically have higher bill rates and therefore higher pay rates associated with them. However, there are jobs on Fastaff’s website that have start dates as far out as 3 to four weeks in the future, so they aren’t only about rapid response contracts anymore.
Lots of travelers love that Fastaff posts their pay rates. They say that it’s a “what you see is what you get” approach. They prefer to this to negotiating because they feel as though they’re not going to get the wool pulled over their eyes.
Now, Fastaff is able to do this because they have a very ridged way of structuring their pay packages. Essentially, Fastaff offers a taxable hourly rate, plus a travel stipend, plus they provide housing or pay a housing stipend if you choose not to take their housing. They typically provide housing in an Extended Stay or extended stay type of hotel like Candlewood Suites or Homestead Studio Suites. If you choose to take the lodging stipend you’ll find that it is usually in the neighborhood of $350 per week, which is about $1500 per month, which is pretty low.
By having a rigid pay package, Fastaff is easily able generate rates for the assignments that they have available which is why they’re able to publish their rates on their job postings so easily. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they have automated job posting software that includes a feature that automatically generates the pay rates for the assignment. Again, this is possible if the agency is very ridged about their pay packages. They simply allocate a certain amount of the bill rate to their stagnant and predictable costs and profit margins, and then the rest is left for pay.
However, most companies don’t want to be so ridged. They want to give their travelers options. And travelers tend to like options. They would like to have a choice between a fully furnished apartment and an extended stay hotel. They would also like to maximize the amount of tax free money that they’re going to receive. In order to do this, the agency really needs to know what each particular traveler wants as part of their pay package.
And remember, as we discussed in previous episodes, agencies have to make sure that they don’t violate wage recharacterization rules. They’re not really supposed to say that they can allocate more money to your pay if you take the cheaper housing, so they’re reluctant to advertise it this way. And this is why you’ll find that most agencies will not post pay rates on their own website’s job board.
Now, you will certainly find jobs posted by recruiters on social media sites and in travel nursing forums that include pay rates. In fact, you’ll probably find more pay rates posted on these sites than you will on any other site. And there is a reason for this.
Usually, not always, but usually, recruiters are posting pay rates for the highest paying jobs that they have. They’re happy to do this for the highest paying jobs because these jobs serve a dual purpose. First, and obviously, the recruiter would love to fill that job. But second, that job, with its attractive pay rate, is going to lure candidates in and get them talking with the recruiter, at which point the recruiter can find out more about what the traveler is looking for and hopefully pitch them additional jobs. It’s a cat and mouse game of sorts. Recruiters want to know what travelers are looking and travelers want to know what recruiters have available.
Okay, so that’s what you should know about pay packages being posted on travel nursing job postings. Let’s move on to another thing that many travelers don’t like about travel nursing job postings and that’s when you contact an agency and they won’t provide any further details about the job posting until you’ve competed a job application.
For most experienced travel nurses, this is a flat-out deal-breaker. They are not willing to invest the time and effort to fill out yet another online job application just to discuss the details of a job that they can probably find with 50 other agencies. I’m inclined to agree with travelers on this one. However, I can sympathize with the agencies because they have good reasons for requiring this.
First, agencies are concerned that they’ll tell you everything you want to know about the job and then you’ll turn around and contact all the other agencies that you’ve already filled out the paperwork with and ask them if they have the job. So these agencies view completing an application as an indication of your commitment to work them.
Second, they know that they need your submission profile ready to go in order to stand the best chance at landing that job. In fact, it’s highly likely that the job will be filled by the time your profile is completed. And of course, this leads travelers to question whether or not agencies post bogus jobs just to get travelers to complete their paperwork. I mean, it can look really fishy when you apply for a job and as soon as you have the application completed, you’re told the job was filled already.
When it comes to this, I highly doubt that agencies post bogus jobs on their job board, or any job board for that matter. Remember, it costs money to post jobs on other job boards and it’s pretty expensive, so it would be a waste of money to post bogus jobs. It would be a waste of time to post bogus as well. I mean, recruiters don’t want to work with travelers that they can’t help. They need to find travelers that they can help because they need to get people on contract.
That said, I know that some recruiters will discuss bogus jobs with travelers over the phone in order to get them to complete paperwork. These recruiters will get the traveler to complete the paperwork and then try to sell them other jobs. However, this is the exception, not the rule. Most recruiters wisely view this as a waste of time.
Okay, so we’ve talked a lot about the challenges that agencies have with their job orders and we’ve talked a lot about the agency’s own job boards. But we’ve only scratched the surface regarding job postings on other websites like the major job boards and social media sites. So let’s talk about that really quick.
When it comes to social media groups and forums, I consider these to be a great resource for travelers when it comes to job postings. The reason is that the job postings are almost always entered manually by a recruiter. And the recruiter is most likely going to enter a job that is fresh or that they have good reason to believe is still open. And don’t forget that you can almost always search social media groups and forums. You don’t have to scroll through for hours looking for what you want. Simply search for the city and or state to see what results pop up.
Many recruiters will even take the time to post the pay rates on their social media and forum job postings. And it’s important to note that this takes a significant amount of time. I mean, it may not seem like this would take a lot of time, but in the staffing world, most things are measured against telephone time. A recruiter can make 10 to 30 telephone calls in the amount of time that it takes them to write a really long and descriptive job posting with a pay package included. So again, don’t be surprised when you don’t see pay rates posted.
Anyway, I think that social media and forum job postings are better than most of the jobs you see posted on major job boards like Indeed or Monster because many of those jobs are likely older; they were posted a while back. You’ll usually be able to see a post date for the job posting. Moreover though, many of these job boards simply scrape the jobs off the agency’s website, or they have a system that lets the agency upload their job postings in mass. So you essentially get the same thing on these job boards as you would on the agency’s own job boards.
But, please don’t let that discourage you. This is simply the way things work with travel nursing job postings. You can make use of everything. For example, you can always count on the fact that if an agency advertises a job on a certain location, then it most certainly has access to jobs in that location. It doesn’t even matter if the job posting you’re looking at has the same specialty or shift that you’re looking for. You can still take it as an indication that the agency has jobs in your desired location. So that’s helpful. For example, you can call them and say, “Hey, I noticed that you have an ICU job in Denver, Colorado. I’m a Labor and Delivery Nurse. Do you happen to have any Labor and Delivery jobs there? What hospitals do you work with there? What type of relationship do you have with those hospitals? Is it direct, or do you go through a VMS or MSP? ” This is one of the ways that you can make use of these job postings.
And I also think it’s best to approach every job posting as if it is in fact open. Otherwise, you run the risk of missing out on opportunities.
Okay, so that’s probably a good place to wrap up this episode. We’ve covered a lot of information. We’ve primarily discussed the challenges that agencies face with their job orders and how that affects their job postings, both on their own websites and on job boards and social media. We’ve also discussed how you can benefit from job postings and the best places to find them.
As always, I hope you found this information useful. We’ll have the transcript of the show as well as links to tons of useful job posting related links up on the show notes page. The show notes will be at blog.bluepipes.com/episode23. While you’re there be sure to create you free BluePipes so you can take advantage of all the useful networking and documentation management tools designed to make your travel nursing job searches easier.
Again, I want to thank you for listening to the podcast. You are the reason we’re getting this information out there. If you’ve been enjoying it and you think that other travelers would benefit from it, then please provide us with a review on itune or whatever platform you’re listening on. It goes a long way in helping us get the word out so more people can benefit from the information and we can keep the show going.
Alright, until next time, have a safe and prosperous travel healthcare adventure!
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