As the new year begins I find myself looking back at the last time the job market was strong for NPs and PAs. It was a couple of years before the recession, I was recruiting, and at my staffing agency we had more jobs to fill than we had candidates to fill them. It was as if employers woke up one day and discovered that advanced practice clinicians were "in" and decided their practice simply "must" have one (or three).
Because we were experiencing an increased demand and a short supply, pay scales climbed rapidly and employers were racing to see who could offer the most lavish benefits. Extras such as relocation and signing bonuses were commonplace in a market where employers were frantically trying to attract more applicants. Even new graduates were entertaining multiple offers with shockingly high starting salaries. In a nutshell, it was a great time to be an NP or PA.
Today, we once again are moving from an employers' market into a clinicians' market. Job openings are steadily increasing, and job searches are getting shorter.
But every silver lining has a dark cloud, and just because there is less competition doesn't mean there is no competition. Every job has at least one other applicant, and a little carelessness can cause you to miss out on a new position. Even in the strongest of markets, a number of candidates will be rejected. Yes, even candidates who have the experience and the skills can fail to receive any job offers. And most will have no idea why. But I do.
I present to you 7 "secret sins" that sabotage a job search during a strong market:
1. The subpar resume. Just because the odds are in your favor doesn't mean you can cut corners when crafting your resume. Unclear or poorly organized information will spoil your chances. Sneaky tactics impress no one. And spelling errors are always a resume disaster.
2. Quitting your current job. Employers in any market tend to steer clear of the unemployed. Leaving your current position before you have secured a new job raises red flags because it makes you look impulsive and unreliable. Even if you are confident that you can easily find a new position, stay put until you have received a new job offer.
3. Focusing only on the money. Employers can tell when candidates appear more interested in the high salary than in the work. With salaries on the rise, you might be tempted to pursue a less appealing job for a bigger salary. Be aware that if you aren't truly passionate or sincere, it will come across in an interview. I don't care how desperate an employer may be, they still do not want to hire someone who is not a good fit. They understand that you won't stick around because eventually the money is not going to be enough to keep you happy.
4. Overestimating your worth. Even the most stellar candidate can get too aggressive with demands and offend an employer. Some haggling is expected, but turning a friendly negotiation into a hostage situation is a terrible way to start a new job. I've seen employers abruptly withdraw an offer when a new hire decided to play hardball and make unreasonable salary demands. Do the math before you make your counteroffer. If you are asking for more than 5% over the offer, you could be on shaky ground.
5. Counting your chickens before they are hatched. Don't assume that just because an employer has been searching a long time or has a small pool of applicants, the job is yours. Overconfidence is a turnoff. And remember, an offer isn't an offer until you have it in writing. Never quit your current job based on a hint or verbal promise of an offer (see number 2).
6. Forgetting your manners. With a surplus of jobs, you might be tempted to return calls a little more slowly or to ignore a few emails. Unanswered calls or emails make you look flaky and unserious - or just rude. No one wants an employee so badly that they are willing to put up with a lack of follow through.
7. Leaving an offer hanging. Once you have formally received an offer, either accept or decline it. In an up market, it is not unusual for a candidate to entertain more than one offer. Etiquette still demands that you respond. If you can't make up your mind, it is acceptable to ask for extra time. I've said it before and I will say it again: It's a small world out there and word gets around quickly when recruiters or hiring managers don't hear from an applicant after an offer has been extended. And if that other offer falls through, you just burned a bridge that can't be rebuilt.
Don't Be a Sinner
• Tighten the resume.
• Stay until you have an offer.
• Money isn't everything.
• Do the math.
• Wait for the chickens to hatch.
• Be polite.
• Respond quickly.
Renee Dahring is a family nurse practitioner who practices in correctional settings in Minnesota. She has experience as a recruiter and now conducts workshops on resume writing and interviewing (www.nursepractitionerjobsearch.com). Read more from Dahring in our Career Coach blog at www.advanceweb.com/NPPAblogs.