Travel nurses, watch out for these 5 recruiter red flags

Finding the right travel healthcare recruiters changes everything. You can make hundreds more each week – in the same exact job. You get to hear about the best jobs quickly so you have a chance to apply. You will have advocates who tell you the truth. They have your back. I made 2k less each month than my coworker doing the same job as me, with the same start date. I just happened to pick the wrong recruiter. My coworker was with the same company as me, just had a different person representing her. She had a good recruiter and I had a bad recruiter.

My recruiter was nice and funny and I would have said we were friends. I trusted him and never knew to negotiate or question the amount he told me the job paid. It’s the short game that he was playing. A quick win for a quick buck to his commission check that 13 weeks. There is no coming back from that and recruiters who play the short game hurt the industry by creating walls of distrust. They will forever have a rotating desk of travelers as each one learns that they are with someone they can’t count on.

The truth…

Great recruiters love making sure you are paid fairly. They would never have you walk into a job where you show up and find out you are ridiculously underpaid. The great recruiters want you to be the one who is paid well. They want you to be able to brag about them, so each of your co-workers will want to have the relationship and trust that you have with your recruiter. They want honest referrals from doing a great job and they want you to succeed and be happy.

It’s embarrassing as a traveler to be really underpaid and it makes you angry as you go to work throughout that assignment. We, travelers, are juggling enough as we move across the country, as we show up as the new person (again and again), and the whole saving lives or rehabbing someone back to health thing. Having to realize we got ripped off is the worst.

My mistake was only working with one recruiter. And having NO clue what red flags to look out for. Because my recruiter was “nice” and made me laugh, I thought I could trust him. If I had been working with 3 this could not have happened. It’s checks and balances- one of the others would have showed me another job (or the same one) and I would have seen what I was really worth. I also would have seen other ways recruiters ran their desks and could have realized some things that were strange about this one.

Learn from my mistakes, please! Every traveler deserves to have honest recruiters.

Here are the top 5 red flags that you should walk away from:

1. Blind submitting your resumé

Blind submitting a travel nurse means your recruiter submitted your resumé and personal information to a travel assignment before you explicitly said yes to that job. This puts travelers in a hard spot, and here’s why: When a recruiter submits you to a job, this tells the facility or hospital two things:

  1. That you are interested in that job with them and want to interview.
  2. That the recruiter who submitted you is who you have chosen to represent you. The facility assumes you told your recruiter to submit you to this job.

Once you are submitted you are pretty much locked in to being represented by this company for that job. That’s a loss in negotiating power.

It doesn’t feel good to have something so big and meaningful happen without you knowing. It’s your future at play. You don’t want the awkward interview call that you didn’t even know was coming. “er, um, who is this? What hospital? Who submitted me?”
But then don’t get me started on the…

The double submission

Double submission is when two different travel nurse recruiters (from different companies) submit you to the same job. The. exact. same. one. And this is where that blind submit business gets real.

It could look like this: You are working with Recruiter A from one company and Recruiter B from another. So far you are doing everything right, it is always best to have more than one recruiter when job searching. It helps you hear about more options and make more money.

Recruiter B calls you with an amazing job opening at your dream location. You respond to them with “A thousand times yes! Submit me, submit my resumé, submit my dog if you have to!” And now you’re in.

… But little did you know, Recruiter A submitted you to that same dream job about 10 minutes before you heard from Recruiter B. And you didn’t even know it. Not because you weren’t paying attention, not even because you didn’t want that job, but because Recruiter A just never told you.

That blind submission by Recruiter A turned you into a double submittal. It confuses the MSP or the facility trying to hire a traveler. It is unclear who you want to represent you (or worse, they could just assume you don’t know what you’re doing). It could also hurt your relationship with Recruiter B. You and Recruiter B decided to go in on this together. You had a good thing going! And now, you could be stuck with Recruiter A’s company or, at the least, a tricky situation in getting the facility to let you switch representatives.

2. Not showing (the full) pay upfront

Seeing the full pay package from your travel nursing recruiter is key to managing your expectations. But more importantly, it helps you to be empowered in negotiating and comparing your options.

But how do we know when a recruiter isn’t showing us the full pay package? Let’s say you check your email and see something like this from your recruiter:

A great job in the location you like with:

  • Gross Weekly Pay: $1850
  • Taxable Hourly Rate: $20
  • Tax-Free Weekly Stipends: $1100

Hmmm… It seems like a pretty good package, right? Although all of this information is helpful and accurate on the dollar amount, the truth is, your recruiter has not given you enough info to make a decision or to compare the two offers.

A good recruiter should provide you with a full pay package when you ask for it.

A transparent travel nursing pay package looks like this:

  • Taxable Hourly Rate
  • M & I Reimbursement (Non-taxed, usually shown as weekly or by shift)
  • Housing Reimbursement (Non-taxed, usually shown as weekly or by shift)
  • Travel Reimbursement (Non-taxed, one time)
  • Overtime Rate
  • Extratime Bonuses
  • Holiday Pay
  • On-Call Pay
  • Guaranteed Hours
  • Call-Off Allowance (How many shifts the facility can call you off with no pay in a contract)
  • Cancellation Policy (Great to know this as soon as it’s available. Nothing like getting canceled 6 hours into your ride!)
  • Extension Pay (Will they work the travel reimbursement back into your pay if you extend?)
  • License Reimbursement and any conditions that go with it
  • Insurance costs per week

Quite a list! But it is the one way to guarantee you see the whole picture for each job option. By not knowing something as simple as the insurance cost per week, your pay could be hundreds of dollars different. Or if you are someone who loves to pick up extra shifts, one company might pay you over $30 more an hour than a different company for the extra hours worked.

It pays to know the details. And an experienced recruiter can put together a full pay package in 5 minutes or less depending on the technology the company has in place for this.

3. Not putting promises in writing

Picture this: You and your recruiter are having such a great conversation about all the details of a job. Your recruiter started to woo you with words like “You’ll be paid three times your taxable hourly rate for any overtime” and “Yes, you have guaranteed hours!” and “Of course you can get a week off to go to that wedding in Bali!” They have sealed the deal now. You’re hooked!

Pro-tip #1:

Things might sound too good to be true, but many things are possible. The important thing is to always ask if your recruiter can put these call details in writing and that they send them to you after the call. If what you discussed can truly be built into your contract, there should be no reason your recruiter cannot write it and provide it to you.

Pro-tip #2:

YOU take good notes on your recruiter calls. That way, whether you have a note-taking recruiter or not, you always land on top.

Empowered travelers are proactive, not victims, and take control of their life.

It takes two to keep this relationship going, so take the step and email your recruiter the clear list of all the things you discussed or agreed upon. And end the email with a call to action for the recruiter. “Will you write me back with a ‘yes’ that I have this all right?”

And hey, putting a kindness cherry on top never hurt. Be an awesome travel nurse to work with, it pays off to have your recruiters like you. End the email positively and warmly. It doesn’t have to be “Love ya, boo!” (and hm, maybe it should never be that), but write “I appreciate you!” or “Thanks for walking me through that today.”

Getting verbal promises in writing helps you and your recruiter keep expectations clear and keep accountability.

4. Being ghosted

Ghosting is never cool, especially for our recruiters. This isn’t a first date gone wrong or avoiding that strange new number that keeps calling. This is about you and your dream job! And every second counts when you’re ready to submit to a travel nursing contract. Not kidding, some jobs close in minutes! Minutes!

Your recruiter’s job is to be there for you.

Best practice: They get back to you within hours. But remember, they are still a fellow human with really busy jobs, and these things we call life can happen every once in a while. So be forgiving if they’ve been really good to you so far.

Good, but not great: They get back to you way later on the same day. Not ideal.

Unacceptable: They wait for days to get back to you. Days?! If opportunities are closing in minutes, imagine the effect of waiting days.

Um, hello? I’m calling to land that dream job in California you told me about. It’s open right now…. Hello? Hellllloo?

Yeah, did you just cringe too? Why aren’t they answering? What are they even doing?

Bye, bye, non-responsive recruiters.

5. The guilt trip

Ah, the guilt trip. Not exactly the trip you had in mind when you started this amazing traveler life. And there’s no reason for it either.

If a recruiter makes you feel guilty when they know you’re working with more than one company, that would be like Amazon trying to make you feel bad for checking Google to compare prices on that new latte machine you want.

Of course, we are going to shop around and do our homework. The recruiters know they would also if they were in our shoes. Plus, it’s super important to know this: not all companies have the same jobs. So not only is working with two or more companies helpful in getting us fair pay, but it’s smart and really expands our options on the job search.

Bill rates change, regions that have the most need for your specialty change, and sometimes companies can even offer you different money for the same job for lots of valid reasons. Have three recruiters! Three, three, three!

Vote with your feet (It’s okay to walk away)

If your travel nurse recruiter shows any of these red flags, make a move. Make a change. Be bold and brave and make sure you have three recruiters you truly like and trust.

I would shout this part from the rooftop if I could. It makes all the difference in your journey to have great recruiters. Don’t feel bad about being empowered to have a dream team that is working for you with integrity.

Cheers to honest recruiters and empowered travelers!

Laura Latimer

Laura Latimer

Travel OT and Founder of Nomadicare

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