Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Hired in Healthcare

Learn how to master the job hunt, what hiring managers are really looking for, ways to stand out from the crowd, and more best practices for landing a great healthcare job out of college.

Last Updated: 07/21/2020
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MEET THE EXPERT

Andrea Clement
Andrea Clement

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Andrea Clement is the President of Clem.co, Healthcare Communications and Career Collateral. She has more than 20 years of experience in the healthcare staffing industry, including ten years as a healthcare recruiter placing physicians and advanced practice clinicians in hospitals and health systems across the country, and more than a decade of experience providing media relations and communications for a variety of corporations including healthcare staffing, clinical research, medical publishing, and physician consulting firms. From 2007-2018, Andrea wrote about healthcare careers and provided online medical career / job search advice for About.com, which is now VeryWell.com and TheBalance.com, both of which host much of her health career content currently.

On This Page

As an upcoming or recent graduate of a healthcare education program, your knowledge and skills are in higher demand than most and the job market tends to be tilted in your favor. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that landing a job is a sure thing right out of college. Getting hired in healthcare, like any other industry, requires careful planning and a systematic approach that begins well before you submit your first application.

This guide teaches you how to land a job in healthcare step-by-step, from building a professional network to signing that final job offer. We’ll walk you through the entire process, and provide expert tips along the way to help you create a winning resume, find good job opportunities, stand out from other candidates, and nail your interviews.

Step 1 Build Your Professional Network

The first step to getting hired in healthcare is developing a solid professional network. Ideally, this will begin well before graduation and continue to grow as you inch closer to employment.

During College

Building a strong professional network starts in school. As you take courses and complete program requirements, you’ll meet new classmates and colleagues, and interact with faculty familiar with the industry. These people will form the basis of your new network and may be able to connect you with other resources that can help your job search.

Internships & Clinicals

Most healthcare programs require some sort of practicum or hands-on component. Some may offer internship placements, while others may involve clinical rotations. The main purpose of these experiences is to give you the on-the-job-training most employers require, but they are also a great place to network and build new connections.

Site supervisors who have observed you are in a good position to give solid recommendations. Some may even be able to give you some inside insight on upcoming job openings in your area. Likewise, the new colleagues you meet during clinicals and internships can help you establish important connections with human resource managers and other professionals who make hiring decisions. You can learn more about internships and clinicals in our full-featured guides below.

Mentorship Opportunities

Mentors serve as important guides throughout your academic and professional life. These individuals are usually seasoned healthcare professionals, but can just as often be experienced peers. They have been where you are going, are in a good position to offer important job search advice, and likely have an established network for you to tap into.

Internships and clinical placements are an excellent place to find good mentors. Most mentors will already have a robust professional network in place and will be able to connect you with the resources you need to build your healthcare career.

Try to find mentor candidates who work in your own field or have some familiarity with your area of expertise. For example, if you are interested in landing a job in healthcare information technology it will be best to find a mentor with some knowledge or experience in that field. Experienced, relevant mentors will be in the best position to offer actionable advice and provide resources specific to your area of work.

To see how the benefits of mentorship go far beyond professional networking and where to find quality opportunities, check out EduMed’s complete guide to healthcare mentorships.

After Graduation

Step 2 Optimize Your Resume and Review Your Online Profiles

Fine-tuning your resume and reviewing your online presence are also important measures. This is something you should consider doing before you begin the job search and send out application materials. Your resume and social media profiles are often the first impression potential employers get, so it is important to make sure they accurately reflect your accomplishments and public image.

Resume Tips

Optimizing your resume is one of the most important preliminary steps to a successful healthcare job search. Not only does it have to impress a hiring or recruiting manager, your resume will likely first need to get past an AI screening tool known as an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) if you’re applying through an online form. Here are a few tips and resources to help you build a resume that has the best chance of breaking through and making a great impression.

  • Start by updating your resume so it accurately reflects your strengths and aptitudes. If you recently finished school or completed an internship make sure your resume prominently displays those accomplishments.
  • Keep your formatting clean and uniform so hiring managers don’t have to hunt for your qualifications. You may also want to consider swapping out old jobs in the past for newer ones that more closely relate to healthcare.
  • Many job candidates make the common mistake of crafting a single, one-size-fits-all resume they can submit to a variety of different employers. This may be easier in the short-term, but it can ultimately limit your possibilities. Healthcare is a large, competitive industry so it’s critical to tailor your resume to the specific jobs you plan to apply for.
  • Find ways to beat the AI screening tools. You can learn which keywords to focus on, find gaps in your resume, and highlight the best skills or credentials depending on the position using a tool like JobScan.

How to Make Your LinkedIn Profile Stand Out

Tips for Cleaning Up Your Personal Social Media Profiles

Step 3 Master the Job Hunt

Once you have refined your resume and cleaned up your social media profile you are ready to begin the job search in full force. First, you need to know where to look. Most healthcare employers use online job sites to publicize new openings, but you can also find some possibilities through word-of-mouth in your professional network.

Where and How to Look for Jobs Online

You may already be familiar with large job search sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, and Monster. These are broad resources that list new employment opportunities in nearly every industry. They are a good place to start at this stage because you can cast the net as wide as possible. You can then narrow the results based on your own interests and areas of expertise.

As you search progresses, you may want to narrow things even further by using job search sites specific to healthcare. Sites like CareerVitals and HealthcareJobSite cater to professionals in your position and often yield more promising and relevant results. Professional organizations in your subfield will also likely host exclusive job boards.

Job sites work like employment search engines and, like any search engine, they are only useful if you know how to use them. Start by searching for the specific job title or subfield that applies to you and go from there. Experiment and try multiple keywords similar to the ones used in your resume until you get the results you’re looking for.

Most sites will have broad search parameters and filtering options that can help you sift through results to find the perfect position. You can filter by location, work environment, and salary level. You can also isolate job openings by number of required years of experience. Most healthcare positions will call for some professional experience, but these requirements vary widely by employer and position.

Healthcare Job Search Sites

Using Your Professional Network

Contacting Hiring Managers Directly

Step 4 Start Applying for Jobs

First you built a strong professional network. Then you optimized your resume, cleaned up your social media profiles, and initiated a targeted job search. Your search probably returned a ton of possibilities that you narrowed to suit your own interests and needs. Now you are ready to take the most important step: submitting applications. Here are some things to keep in mind as your gather your materials.

Crafting Your Cover Letter

Your cover letter represents you and your professional intent. It is a chance for you to make the case that you are the most qualified candidate and have something unique to offer.

Follow this checklist to follow as craft your cover letter.

  • Include the name of the hiring manager: 
    Avoid generic greetings and instead address the hiring manager by name and reference their title.
  • Tailor your professional strengths to meet the job description: 
    You didn’t submit a boilerplate resume, so why copy and paste the same cover letter? Read the job description closely, research the company, and tailor your letter to meet the needs of both.
  • Keep things brief and concise: 
    Long, rambling cover letters are ill-advised. You don’t want the hiring manager to get bored. Keep things compelling, but brief.
  • Coordinate with your references: 
    If the job requires recommendation letters, let your references know the deadline well in advance.
  • Be sure to proofread: 
    Nobody likes to read a document riddled with typos. Cover letters should give hiring managers an accurate reflection of your qualifications, not your grammatical mistakes.

Sending Out Applications

Step 5 Prepare for the Interview

Once you’ve sent out applications, resumes, and cover letters, you will hopefully start hearing back from hiring managers who want to schedule interviews. Interviews can be stressful, but being well prepared will help the experience go smoothly. Here’s some advice to help you with that.

General Preparation Tips

  • Research is the name of the game. You already conducted some preliminary research, but now it is time to go deeper. Hiring managers are interested in candidates who are not only skilled, but also informed about their organization. As you prepare, take a look at the company’s history, its mission, and unique characteristics.
  • Reference your research findings during the interview and show how your accomplishments directly align with the employer’s needs. This shows initiative and highlights your fit in the position.
  • Consider researching your interviewer in addition to the company itself. This not only signals your interest; it also shows that you are a congenial potential coworker.
  • Review your application materials before the interview, including your resume and cover letter. The interviewer already knows most of this information so try to offer some additional selling points. Construct a compelling narrative that shows how you can contribute to the company’s endeavors.

Finally, practice and review! Take a look at the job description again and be prepared to discuss it. Practice answering questions and consult your professional networks for advice. Interviews for nurses likely differ than those for healthcare administrators, so make sure you are informed on what to expect.

Day of the Interview

Step 6 Evaluate Job Offers and Make a Decision

If things go successfully, once you complete the first round of interviews, you should start receiving job offers. Ideally, you will have more than one. So how do you evaluate the opportunities and weigh your options? You’re not obligated to take the first offer you’re given, so take some time to consider the factors most important to you.

Evaluating Offers and Making a Choice

The most important considerations are salary and location. You probably won’t want to take a job if the pay isn’t right and unless you want to relocate work outside your current locale could be prohibitive. Even local jobs may require a commute, so you may want to consider how that will affect your day-to-day. Depending on your circumstances it could be worth it to accept an offer with a longer commute if the salary is enticing.

Additional factors include company culture and room for professional advancement. Everyone wants to work in a healthy, supportive environment so it will be important to land at an organization that fits your own profile. Likewise, jobs with some opportunity for promotion will be much more attractive than those with little room for advancement.

Learn more about how to evaluate job offers, including advice for negotiating the terms, in EduMed’s full guide to navigating healthcare job offers.

Tips for Getting Hired in Your Healthcare Field

Job Search Insights from a Healthcare Staffing Expert

Andrea Clement
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Andrea Clement is the President of Clem.co, Healthcare Communications and Career Collateral. She has more than 20 years of experience in the healthcare staffing industry, including ten years as a healthcare recruiter placing physicians and advanced practice clinicians in hospitals and health systems across the country, and more than a decade of experience providing media relations and communications for a variety of corporations including healthcare staffing, clinical research, medical publishing, and physician consulting firms. From 2007-2018, Andrea wrote about healthcare careers and provided online medical career / job search advice for About.com, which is now VeryWell.com and TheBalance.com, both of which host much of her health career content currently.

Most healthcare students and recent graduates start planning their initial entry into the workforce fairly early. What are some concrete, actionable things they can do to get a leg up on the competition?

Start building up your experience and knowledge by volunteering in healthcare settings or working in entry level healthcare jobs that don’t require high-level degrees. Not only will this build your skill set, it will help you to begin to organically grow a network of people. If you are interested in dermatology, for example, you can get an assistant job at a dermatology practice. If you find that you enjoy it you could take it a step further to get a certificate as an aesthetician.

How does the hiring process in healthcare differ from other industries? What do new and aspiring job candidates need to know?

As a healthcare hiring professional yourself, what are some of the most common mistakes you see candidates make? What can applicants do to set themselves apart and ensure they get an interview or a second look?

How important is professional networking in this process from the applicant’s perspective? Can those connections lead to direct hires?

What additional, industry-specific advice would you give to new job candidates in healthcare?