The travel nurse recruiter you have is the person who will either have your back on an assignment 1,000 miles from home or completely leave you hanging. Your recruiter is the person who will either give you fair pay when you extend on a travel nurse assignment or keep the higher profit margin for their company. They will either blind submit you to a job and make you feel bad for working with more than one company or they will feel like a friend and have your best interests at heart.
And I know which I would rather have on my team.
Every Medical Surgical RN, ICU RN, Labor & Delivery RN, Emergency Room RN, etc. has a say in this industry. Who you decide to work with is how you vote for what practices you want to stay in this industry. Your “no” is very powerful!
Let’s raise the standard of this industry, starting with the travel nurse recruiters we work with.
Questions to ask your travel nurse recruiter:
How many jobs do they have in your preferred location for your specialty?
As travelers, the more flexible we can be on location, the better pay and more exciting opportunities we will have! That being said, sometimes we only want a certain location. Before we start this relationship with our travel nurse recruiter, we need to know that their healthcare staffing agency has jobs in our specialty and in the locations we want.
If you are more flexible, ask them where the most jobs are or where the best-paying travel nurse contracts are (it can change every month).
Do they have any direct contracts or sister companies?
Did you know when many travel companies start, they only have VMS jobs? This means up to 100% of their jobs are duplicates and other companies have them as well. Other companies have direct contracts, which are unique to them. However, it’s getting harder and harder to get these types of contracts with healthcare facilities.
And many companies have “sister companies”. This means they share the same parent company (for example, AMN is a huge company that has many companies under its’ umbrella). Acquisitions of companies happen all the time too, making this more common.
Our goal is to have 2-3 different companies with tons of jobs (that are unique)!
So when finding your next company, ask them what percentage of their jobs come from a VMS vs direct contracts. There are also lots of different VMS/MSP systems, so it’s possible to work with two different companies that use different VMS systems.
If they are a company that has direct contracts, ask them what location/region they have the most direct nursing jobs in. Having a direct contract is a big deal for agencies and us. It means when we get submitted, we will be at the top of that resume stack! And there will already be trust established between your staffing agency and the facility.
Do they have the benefits you need?
The main questions you need to ask about benefits are here! They can differ from company to company.
Do they have day-one health/medical insurance or do you have to wait 30 days (or more) for their insurance to kick in?
Do they deduct the cost of health insurance regardless of whether you have your own insurance or not? (ie: if you have your own insurance, will you make more money than those who take their insurance benefit? For more on this, see our post on taking the company insurance here.)
If you do want to opt into their health insurance options, how much will that cost you each week? (average in the industry is between $45 – $75)
Do they offer any additional benefits? Do they have 401k options? When can you start contributing and will they will match that at any time?
If you are taking company housing, ask if they have a dedicated housing department or if it is just the recruiter playing that role. (Fun fact: around 90% of travelers find their own housing!)
Do they offer CEU resources? Some companies partner with online CEU companies and give you unlimited access while you are working with them.
Do they offer resources or education to travelers that are new to the travel industry? Do they have clinical mentorships/liaisons? If you have a clinical question, will they link you with someone who understands the ethical and clinical side to travel? This would be a great resource to support your professional growth!
Do they accept written references or do they have to call each reference?
Will you be with one recruiter throughout your journey with that company or do you get shuffled around between each assignment? Some companies have location-dependent recruiters.
How many travelers do they currently have on assignment?
AKA… Do they have time for you and do they know what they are doing?
If they have less than 3: They are most likely in their first 6 months of recruiting. That first year in a recruiter’s life is hard and takes a lot of hustle- so be kind. But pay a lot of attention to their answers to these questions to make sure they know what the heck they are doing. All recruiters make rookie mistakes, but they don’t have to be on you 🙂
If they have more than 25: They are rocking what is considered a pretty full desk. Some companies have recruiters working over 70 travelers at once! But 25 is an average company’s “full desk” status. So if they say this, pay extra attention to how quickly they get back to your calls and emails.
What if a travel nurse recruiter has a full desk? It could mean a couple of things:
- Sometimes a recruiter loses their hustle and passion when their desk gets full.
- They are just rockstars. They could have figured out a system and flow to take care of everyone.
- They are not keeping up at all. Many times great recruiters get promoted to leadership and training positions. When this happens, they have to re-learn how to balance everything again.
Just watch the time it takes them to respond to your emails, phone calls, and texts early on in the relationship. A few hours tops (during business hours) should be your standard.
A few days?? Oh my goodness. Walk away from that.
When and how will they show you your pay?
You want to see your full pay breakdown as soon as you know you are interested in a job. Being on the same page about everything upfront is SUCH a win/win.
The biggest frustrations come from bad expectations. So when a travel nurse recruiter lays it all out for you and shows you what they know, you can make the best decisions for your career.
When should they show you a full pay breakdown? Before you say “yes” to submit your resume to a job, unless you tell them to submit you as soon as a certain job/location opens up (aka you gave them permission to “blind submit” you.
And how they show it to you matters too. A full pay breakdown should be clear, easy to understand, and not withhold any details.
Talk about expectations upfront.
Two of my favorite questions to ask initially are:
- Are you okay with me working with more than one recruiter in between each assignment? Assure them you will openly and honestly communicate with both. The energy they use when they answer this question sometimes says just as much as their answer. Is there passive guilt in the answer or is it a “You should absolutely work with more than one recruiter!” answer?
- Would you ever submit me to any job without my explicit approval? (They better give you an enthusiastic NO! NEVER!)
Do they actually understand the travel industry?
And no, this surprisingly has little to do with the amount of time they have been working as a travel nurse recruiter. Whether they have limited experience or ample experience, they still might not truly understand the complexities of the industry we’re in.
I’ve done interviews with recruiters of 11 years who cannot explain the basics of a tax home (just in case you are unclear on tax homes yourself, we made an awesome post here!)
Tax homes are a great place to start when determining if your recruiter is proactive and an expert in travel healthcare (or more like a friendly job board).
Ask them what happens to a traveler if they don’t have a tax home. Do they know why this is important? What’s the worst-case scenario if you don’t have one? How can it affect your nurse career?
And ask them what actions you need to take to truly have a tax home.
Sure, they can say “I’m not a CPA” but they should have a baseline of knowledge to share with you and should be able to guide you to a place that can tell you more. Travel Tax is a great FAQ starting place.
Trust your gut when deciding on a new travel nurse recruiter
Just ask yourself:
- Do I like them?
- Do I trust them?
- Do I believe they will be there for me through the ups and downs of every travel assignment?
- Do I feel comfortable and listened to?
- Do they feel kind, professional, and confident?
Is your answer yes?
Yay! Time to bring that travel nurse recruiter into your inner circle. And remember…
Thank the recruiter for their time in this interview- even if they did not pass. A recruiter’s day is SO busy and their hours are usually way more than 40 a week. Your life is also so busy! So just remember to be grateful for recruiters who will patiently and kindly take the time to answer all these questions before they have any clue if they are going to be on your team!
Be nice, say thank you, and let them know your intentions. You could say at the start “I want to make sure we are a great fit! If we are, I will be sending my resume and paperwork your way to add you to my team!”
Then do that! If they pass – send over your paperwork and get yourself set up to have this new, great recruiter working with you!
Don’t want to ask potential recruiters all these questions?
I don’t blame you! It takes us, at Nomadicare, two hours per recruiter to get them vetted and interviewed.
But that is good news for you!
We do the hard work for you and save you time. We are experts in this- so we can read the non-verbal cues and we know what to listen for. We make sure only the best pass this test to get matched with you!
And you can get a new vetted, transparent travel healthcare recruiter here! It’s easy like Sunday mornings.