I see this question on forums and social media quite often. There is plenty to say about it, but as a prelude to what will be a four-part series, I thought we'd start with this question from the perspective of a new grad RN.
I've worked as an in-house recruiter (not a staffing company, I work directly for the hospital) for over 10 years in different Health Systems and there are a few more things going on with your application & resume.
I've worked for health systems ranging from 2,000 to 60,000 employees and have never seen us use automated screening for RN positions. There are many misunderstandings with ATSs but that's a story for another day. Almost without exception we are expected to review the resume of any RN that applies.
That being said, there are several common scenarios as to why you are being rejected. Some of this applies to new grads, some to experienced nurses, or both.
1. New Grad - You're applying for a Staff Nurse job posting and unbeknownst to you, the position is really only for Nurses with at least a year of experience. I see this happen 10 times a day during certain times of the year. So in that case, I have to reject the application. However, I always email the candidate and inform them that we have a separate job post for new grads and invite them to apply. Of course not all recruiters do this, so you may need to go about it another route.
2. Let's say I have 5 openings for a Staff Nurse in the step-down unit. You apply for one of the postings but so does another great candidate. And again, unbeknownst to you, we are already in the interview/offer process with that other candidate. She accepts the offer and everyone else who applied to that one particular job posting will get a rejection email. The recruiter SHOULD contact those other candidates and explain/invite them to apply for the positions that are still posted. Actually, a great recruiter will have a strong relationship with the nurse managers and a proven history to deliver, and therefore, should call you, go through a few questions, and schedule an interview with the manager. But I realize that doesn't help you today.
3. If you're a former employee of the hospital, even if you weren't a nurse, and left under negative terms, you could be listed an "do not rehire". Each facility is a little different in this regard, and it likely will depend on how long ago you worked there.
What can you do?
1. Don't worry if you get system generated rejection emails. Apply for various departments, but don't over do it. Most ATSs will allow you to apply for up to 10 positions.
2. If you're a new grad, scour the career page for info on new grad programs. Call HR and let them know you're a nurse, and ask for a nurse recruiter. If you don't have the number for HR just call the main line for the hospital and ask for HR.
3. Create a LinkedIn profile and download the app. Make sure your current job title is "Registered Nurse", even if you're a new grad and not actually working as an RN yet. Start connecting with people who work at the hospital(s) you are applying to. Specifically, try to connect with Nurse Mangers and recruiters. Many Recruiters are actually called Talent Acquisition Specialist, because titles. Message the Recruiters and Nurse Managers "hey, I'm a new grad RN and would love to work at xyz hospital. I applied but keep getting rejected. Is there something else I need to do, or someone I need to speak with? My phone number is -_ and my email is --Thanks, etc". If no one responds, try connecting with the CNO or VP Patient Care, some sort of nurse executive. And send them a similar message. The CNO will probably email the VP-HR and you'll have a recruiter calling you right away.
In the last 10 years I will say the approach towards candidates has greatly improved, but there's a lot that HR needs to do better. Getting through the process can be difficult, it's not your fault, but you still have to work around it.