Healthcare Professionals

Finding the best recruiter for your travel nurse journey.


September 14, 2022

As a travel nurse or allied health professional, having a solid recruiter and staffing agency at your side can make or break your career. Therefore, it’s important to know what questions to ask to find the best travel nurse recruiter and how to pick a healthcare staffing agency that meets your needs. While this post is written through the lens of a travel nurse, these same principles apply to the techs, therapists, assistants, specialists, and more that are working across various sectors of the allied health community.

What does a travel nurse recruiter even do?

Recruiters are trusted by the staffing agency, therefore the hospital, to fill open needs with a qualified nurse. Easy-peasy … right? Not so much. Just anyone with a pulse won’t do here. These hospitals rely on staffing agencies to fill often critical shortages, quickly. Finding the right nurse at the right time is a challenge. So above all, this is a travel nurse recruiter’s primary focus.

Recruiters juggle hundreds of job requirements and hit the (digital) streets to hunt down the most qualified nurse. Any ol’ nurse won’t do. There are complex and specific requirements around licenses, professions, specialties, skill sets, certifications, competencies, and more to identify a nurse that meets the unique requirements of a hospital. As a result, finding a match can be a needle in a haystack. With the current nursing shortage, often times it comes down to one needle in a really big haystack.

Does it matter what recruiter I have?

Yes. Having a solid recruiter and staffing agency at your side can make or break your career as a travel nurse. The recruiter you work with often determines the difference between being the first one submitted for a hot job that everyone wants, or missing it because of miscommunication and disorganization.

A strong travel nurse recruiter takes the extra step to secure a hard to get contract. Once your contract is locked in, a strong recruiter advocates and negotiates on your behalf to provide a smooth flow into your new position. They recommend specific career advancement opportunities to make your professional portfolio more competitive. Present the best pay package and advise against lousy ones. Steer you away from nightmare hospitals. Bargain with unit managers to request days off. Educate you on the complexities of travel nursing. Identify your motivations to suggest creative alternatives when your plans don’t play out. Set realistic expectations.

Recruiters are like a travel agent, business partner, and pen pal all in one. You don’t want a lousy one. Plus, they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. So, it’s worth taking the time to find the best recruiter that meets your needs.

What happens if I have a lousy recruiter?

Best case scenario, your values aren’t aligned, so communication is poor and you simply annoy each other. But rushing into a recruiter relationship can often lead to partnering with someone that is misleading, selfish, or dishonest. Your travel nurse recruiter is your business partner. They advise you on your options and how to approach them. They see and understand more than you do when it comes to these options.

In other words, trust and transparency is crucial. If you don’t have the same agenda, things are not going to go well for one or both of you. Having a lousy recruiter can result in the horror story of candidates being submitted without their approval, being lied to about contract details, or being pressured into positions they end up hating.

Side Note: The best travel nurse recruiters tend to work for better agencies. Agencies are not solely focused on hiring more nurses. They also work to gain access to more contract opportunities. If your recruiter is working hard for you as a nurse, chances are their agency is working just as hard for the hospitals they staff for. Therefore, these better agencies tend to have better jobs. This means access to more job opportunities. So, finding a good recruiter is a win-win.

So how do I find the right recruiter?

It’s easy to find a travel nurse recruiter — they’re everywhere. But as a nurse you want quality, not quantity. Good recruiters get noticed and attract good talent quickly. They have limited time and resources for their candidates. Therefore, they give the best contracts to the nurses they have strong and long-term relationships with. Interview your recruiter while they are interviewing you to make sure they are the best recruiter for your needs.

What questions should I ask my travel nurse recruiter?

There are many questions to consider throughout the process.

  • How long have you been a travel nurse recruiter?
  • What types of roles do you typically recruit for and where?
  • How long does it typically take to receive an offer or interview after I apply for a position?
  • What communication channels do you prefer?
  • How would you describe your communication style?
  • What benefits or perks does your company offer?
  • How do you think other travel nurses would rate their experience with you on a scale of one to five, with five being excellent?

In reality, there are no right or wrong answers. It’s all about finding a travel nurse recruiter that makes you comfortable and confident that they will advocate on your behalf. Ask yourself what else is important to you and go from there.

Assess your recruiters like you do your patients.

You make initial assessments on patients all day. You wouldn’t do a lousy job assessing a patient. Why not do the same with recruiters? Don’t make any commitments until you understand the entire picture. If you’re feeling pressured, pump the breaks. Ask questions. Don’t be shy. Respect and appreciate the good travel nurse recruiters, but don’t take baloney from the lousy ones. This is your decision, and it’s a big decision to make.

Thanks to Shemeka Jones of Nurse Owned Staffing Agencies for collaborating on this post! As a travel nurse herself, Shemeka mentors, coaches, and supports others who want to become a travel nurse recruiter or start their own healthcare staffing agency. Learn more about Shemeka and NOSA here.

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