“Give yourself enough time” is the biggest piece of advice Quentin Campbell would share as you get ready to lodge your first ACE job application.

The recruitment consultant for ACE Nursing knows this is easier said than done.

“The application timeframe is very tight as it’s leading up to exams and often during your final clinical placement,” says Campbell. But time spent on applying for your first nursing position is time well invested.

Since 2012 all students seeking Nurse Entry to Practice (NETP) or New Entry to Specialist Practice (NESP) graduate training programme places go through the centralised, online ACE Nursing recruitment process.

Each year the ACE (Advanced Choice of Employment) team visits nursing schools around the country to talk third-year students through the application process and point them towards further information and advice available on the ACE Nursing website (see links below). “We try and take as much stress out of it (the application process) as possible,” says Campbell

He says if there is one area where first time applicants do make mistakes it is not allocating enough preparation time to complete the documentation required

Though registering too early on the ACE website – that is before ACE applications formally open – is not recommended either. It just heightens the risk you will forget your password. “Students are quite notorious for doing that,” laughs Quentin

So he encourages you to wait until the opening date, which for the end-of-year applications will be Wednesday 16 August, before creating a login on the ACE site.

Cover letters need time

What you should not be leave to the last minute is preparing the documents required for your application – particularly your resume (CV) and covering letters.

Campbell says if you have all the documents and information required on the checklist it takes about half an hour to lodge an ACE application.

What takes longer than many students realise is finishing your resume (CV) and writing up to three covering letters. “I think a lot of people take that for granted. What I advise students is that resumes will take a little bit of time and you need to choose your own way to present that document to your employers.”

“But it really is the cover letters that are taking the most amount of time for the students.” Cover letters need to be quite strategic and targeted for each employer.”

While most students are clear about their preferred employers some of you may not make a final decision about your preferred areas of practice until you are close to completing or have completed your final placement

Then it is a matter of completing your research about the job and employer and pulling it all together in a cover letter that communicates clearly and concisely to the NETP coordinators around the country why they should employ you.

“It can take a good two or three hours to just write a letter to one employer,” says Campbell. And he encourages you to write individual cover letters to each of your up to three prospective employers.

Time for proofing and revising also needed

You also need to build in time for your resume and cover letters to be proofed to ensure there are no spelling or grammatical errors that could put your potential employer off.

“Students are encouraged to get their resume and cover letters proofed and revised by their friends, colleagues or members of their whānau u as well – and that does take time.”

Campbell acknowledges finding that time can be challenging as you juggle working shifts in your final clinical placement and prepare for upcoming exams.

You also need to approach and ask a clinical tutor and a nursing preceptor to be your referee and complete the referee report within the four-week application timeframe.

This can one of the most stressful parts of the process and Campbell says you need to pay attention when inputting their referee details as sometimes students make mistakes –like typing in incorrect email addresses for referees.

For many of you ACE is your first formal job application and sometimes it is not until undertaking a big application like ACE that you fully realise how much time it requires. Campbell says this only dawns on some students when they are stressing to get their applications to ACE complete on time.

But he adds the vast majority of students successfully lodge their applications in a process that has become increasingly streamlined since getting underway in 2012.

Answers to many of your queries can be found on the ACE Nursing website and guidance is also available from the ACE contact centre, your nursing tutors and preceptors, your polytechnic or university careers guidance centre and the NETP coordinators.

And take the advice of Quentin Campbell – and allocate yourself sufficient time for preparing and lodging your application – as it just may take longer than you expect.


  • The application timeframe is tight and at a busy time for many students
  • So allocate yourself a generous amount of time to prepare and complete your application documentation (particularly CV and cover letters)
  • A single cover letter can take at least two to three hours to write
  • It is advised to write a separate cover letter for each of the employers you are applying to
  • Answers to many of your queries can be found on the ACE Nursing website (see below) and the ACE contact centre can help direct you to the appropriate place.
  • Guidance and support is also available from your institutions’ careers guidance service, nursing tutors and preceptors and the NETP coordinators.
  • Allocate time for your colleagues/ whānau to help proof and revise your cover letters and CV
  • Make sure your cover letters and CV are free of spelling or grammatical errors.
  • Double check you have correctly entered the contact details – i.e. email addresses – of your referees when lodging your online application.


ACE Nursing website: https://nursing.acenz.net.nz

ACE Nursing Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ACENursing/

ACE Nursing guides: The ACE Applicant Guide 2017 and ACE Nursing CV template can be found here:https://nursing.acenz.net.nz/content/ACE%20Resources

What should I include in a cover letter?

Check out advice on cover letters and other application tips in the ACE Nursing website’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section:



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