July 9, 2017

40 Leaders in Nurse Education Share Their Best Advice for Getting Hired

40 Leaders in Nurse Education Share Their Best Advice for Getting Hired

We asked 40 influential leaders in nurse education to share their best advice for getting hired after graduation. Here's what they said.

Kim W. Hoover, PhD, RN

Dean, School of Nursing,
University of Mississippi

You have an awesome career ahead of it. Be enthusiastic about your work, the health care facility if that is where you choose to work, the potential to learn and grow and most importantly, about your patients.

Employers are looking for new graduates who are knowledgeable but not afraid to ask questions. Give them examples to support your resume. If you have been involved in community service or service learning activities, include this. This kind of experience means that you may have had more opportunities to develop leadership skills than others who are applying.

Know thyself and how to articulate who you are. You aren’t just a new graduate. You are a person who has core values. If those core values include respect, integrity, accountability, excellence, caring….I could go on. The point is that these are the kind of values on which to build a successful career. Recruiters and talent acquisition personnel may not think to ask you questions like this. Have them written down so you will be ready when asked if you have anything to add that might not have been covered. Look around as you walk through the organization. Does the environment appear to match the core values given? Are colleagues friendly to each other? Are staff friendly and helpful to you?

Equally important is the match between your core values and the organization’s core values. You will not be happy in an environment that constantly challenges your core. Do your homework. Find out about the organization before the interview. If you are unable to find what you are looking for, ask. The person conducting the interview will ultimately rate you higher if you appear to show initiative.

The obvious advice is to dress appropriately, be well groomed and polite and leave your phone in your vehicle unless you can put it out of sight. Shake hands firmly but be alert to medical conditions such as arthritis that might cause someone to be sensitive. Smile. Don’t be afraid to ask for a question to be repeated or reworded if you don’t understand or need more time. Always thank the interviewer for his or her time and send a handwritten note of thanks.

Finally, if you haven’t been cautious about what you have posted on social media sites, scrub anything you would not want future employers to see. They will search and they will find it. Remember that even when you aren’t at work, you will still represent the organization. 

"Employers are looking for new graduates who are knowledgeable but not afraid to ask questions." -Kim W. Hoover
Tweet This

Randy A. Jones, PhD, RN, FAAN
BSN Program Director

University of Virginia

After graduating from a school of nursing, a student is full of excitement, while at the same time feeling slightly anxious and unsure what the future may hold in regards to getting hired or starting your profession as a nurse. One must be aware of your own values & vision, be persistent, and willing to network. Finding that first “right” nursing position is important. Look for an institution that will be supportive of you learning, values mentorship, shares your values, and will help advance your educational/professional aspirations. Utilize your network of previous nursing faculty, nurse preceptors, friends, and nurse mentors to learn more about an institution that you are interested in applying to. These individuals may also write letters of recommendation for a nursing position at the institution of your choice. Be sure to apply to multiple institutions that you feel will help you grow your skills as a nurse. If you do not get your first choice at a particular institution or specific clinical unit, keep optimistic and apply to another facility or have an open mind to work on another unit that you would find rewarding and could lead to future opportunities. 

"One must be aware of your own values and vision, be persistent, and willing to network." -Randy A. Jones
Tweet This

Catherine Todero, PhD, RN, FAAN

Dean, College of Nursing
Creighton University

1. Be open. Many graduates have in mind that they want to work in a certain facility, community/city or nursing practice area such as a pediatrics or ICU and they are locked into those ideas. But graduates who are willing to think broadly about the job opportunities that are out there will likely be the most successful in landing a position. Any experience can be a great learning opportunity and could serve well to launch a successful nursing career.

2. Showcase your soft skills. While new graduates often focus on the technical skill set that they have learned and mastered, educators and employers know that the ability to think, care and communicate well is critical in nursing. Establish eye contact with the interviewer and don't say "like" every other word. Make sure that your care and compassion for patients comes through in the interview and don't make it all about what is in it for you (i.e. Work hours and benefits etc.) You went into nursing to care for others...or at least that should have been your motivation. Articulate that.

3. Dress for success and distinguish yourself. Show up looking like a professional. Even though most nurses will wear scrubs at work it is important to come to the interview in your most businesslike attire. Wear a business suit and a tie if you are male. Human nature being what it is, given a choice of two graduates, perhaps equally qualified, the job will likely go to the person who looks the most professional.

"Make sure that your care and compassion for patients comes through in the interview." -Catherine Todero
Tweet This 

Laura C. Dzurec, PhD, PMHCNS-BC, ANEF, FAAN
Dean, School of Nursing 
Widener University

My best advice for being hired after graduation is to develop a sense of self that allows you to envision a future for yourself. This means having an idea of the kind of nursing you hope to practice, and then being open to shifting your thinking as opportunities and new awarenesses come along. Know that the work you have chosen is challenging and that it requires excellent communication skills. Don’t lock yourself into one path that seems ‘ideal;’ rather, ask good questions when you interview and listen carefully for the responses that the HR person offers. Look for places that offer good interpersonal support right up front; those will be the places that will foster your success. Also, think about being willing to move away from your home base. There are many opportunities nationally, and as you’re new in your career, you probably have the best (and free-est) opportunity to pursue them.

"Develop a sense of self that allows you to envision a future for yourself." - Laura C. Dzurec
Tweet This

Alvita Nathaniel, PhD, APRN-BC, FNP, FAANP

Chair, School of Nursing
West Virginia University

1. Familiarize yourself with the organization to which you are applying, including the types and numbers of patients and the programs that are offered. This will allow you to talk about how you can contribute to the organization.

2. Show up for the interview on time wearing clothing that blends with manner of dress of the nurse practitioners and physicians within that organization. You want to look as if you “fit” there.

3. Research reimbursement levels for the services you are most likely to give. How much does Medicare or Medicaid pay for a Level 3 visit, for example. It will be impressive if you have some knowledge about how much you can potentially contribute to the income of the organization.

4. Go the interview with a list that includes the numbers and types of patients you saw as a student, the procedures that you performed, and any special skills or certifications you have.

5. Be prepared with a short list of well thought-out questions for the potential employer. Good questions that you tailor to the organization show that you are motivated and inquisitive. 

"Be prepared with a short list of well thought-out questions for the potential employer." - Alvita Nathaniel
Tweet This

Sally L. Maliski, PhD, RN, FAAN

Dean, School of Nursing 
University of Kansas

My advice to new graduates is to take a position in a community hospital.

This will provide a greater breadth of experience than a specialized unit in a large tertiary care hospital.

Mary M. Lopez, PhD, MSN, RN
Dean, College of Graduate Nursing

Western University of Health Sciences

Take time to reflect on your best experiences in clinical nursing while you were in nursing school. Did you like caring for children and talking with parents? Perhaps you enjoyed analyzing the hemodynamics of a critically ill patient on a ventilator in ICU. Or maybe you enjoyed the precise skill of caring for a patient in the operating room. Think about what type of nursing resonates with you and then pursue that dream. Do not let anyone convince you that you must start in a certain nursing specialty first before transferring into your dream job. Medical Surgical nurses have a unique approach to patients as compared to Emergency Department nurses for example. Working as a nurse in one area does not prepare you for another. Each specialty requires nurses to have a unique tone of voice, distinctive temperament in approach to patients and families, and a characteristic pace of work. Know what you like and go for it! Your passion will shine through during an interview.  

"Know what you like and go for it! Your passion will shine through during an interview." - Mary M. Lopez
Tweet This

Jenny B. Schuessler, PhD, RN, CNE

Dean, School of Nursing 
University of West Georgia

Pay attention to your resume and cover letter. When applying for that first job after nursing school, make sure your resume is complete, succinct and professional. Develop a template cover letter that shares unique things about your experiential and academic background (don’t merely repeat your resume), and revise that cover letter for the specific job that you are applying to. Don’t forget interview basics. Dress professionally, arrive early, make eye contact, practice your handshake, stand until the people interviewing you are seated, practice answers for the typical interview questions. Have questions that make it clear you are interested. Your college/university likely provides mock interviews through career services, take advantage of those. Be yourself. Let your love for our noble profession shine through. Talk enthusiastically about the kind of job you are looking for, but be open to considering positions that may not fit your idea of the “perfect” first job. Answer truthfully, even if your answer is not what you think they want to hear.

"Have questions that make it clear you are interested." - Jenny B. Schuessler
Tweet This

Sue McFarlan, DNP, RN, NE-BC
Assistant Professor & MSN Coordinator
Webster University

My advice for any new nurse seeking employment is to first spend time in self-reflection. Know your strengths and opportunities for improvement. Be transparent and honest with yourself and your potential employer, while offering thoughts for your goal of addressing the opportunities. Being self-aware and vulnerable enough to share these things is actually a strength.

Many employers like to ask behavior based questions in an interview. You may be asked how you handled a mistake or a near miss, or perhaps a conflict with a classmate or coworker. You may be asked what happened and how you feel about how you handled the situation. It is an indicator of your professionalism and maturity when you express accountability and self-reflection rather than placing blame for the situation outside yourself.

It isn’t easy being new, but embrace it with openness and find ways to feed your spirit of resilience on the rough days. Remember why you became a nurse, the patients for whom you care, and how you would want your family member cared for. Ask for help when you need it and remember, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” (Eleanor Roosevelt, 1940). If you passed school and boards, you have already shown amazing strength. Good luck in your nursing career.

"Express accountability and self-reflection rather than placing blame for the situation." - Sue McFarlan
Tweet This

Ruby D. Johnson, RN, MSN/Ed
Division Chair, Allied Health
Ozarka College

Getting hired after graduation of any nursing student can be a little scary. Unsure of the expectations and self-confidence can waiver. As a long-term nursing educator and Director of Nursing, my advice to all graduate nurses, would be to stand proud, put your best foot forward, be considerate, on time, confident and respectful. Nursing school is no walk in the park, if you have managed to come this far don’t be held back, you got this. You are a “Nurse” a “Professional” held in high regard in all walks of life. There will be times when your new role will be tough, but life is tough. You will not know everything, be humble and ask questions-lots of questions. You are a compassionate caring individual, show those who are willing to take the time to interview you that you are what they are looking for, someone they should hire. A truly good hearted individual that will work hard, step up to the challenge, seek clarification, and be timely and respectful in all you do. You are a nurse. 

"Stand proud, put your best foot forward, be considerate, on time, confident and respectful." - Ruby D. Johnson
Tweet This

E. Carol Polifroni, RN, EdD, CNE, NEA-BC, ANEF

Dean, School of Nursing 
University of Connecticut

Several years ago I wrote a piece for the Connecticut Nursing News about new graduates and my advice then holds for today. Flexibility, a commitment to quality and patient safety, an understanding and appreciation of what team work is and your role as a team member, a sense of shared governance and being part of solutions, and knowledge of the institution are essential characteristics and components for new hires. A plan for further and continuing education, a quest for new knowledge, an ability to address conflict, an appreciation and respect for diversity, and an unwavering use of evidence for care delivery are also essential knowledge, skills and attitudes. Nursing care in a work setting is about patients and providers; it is not about you. Therefore, you need a strong sense of what nursing is as you represent the nursing profession even as a novice.

Kimberly A. Hansen, RN, MSN/Ed

Director of Nursing
Pratt Community College

My best advice would be to continually build on professionalism skills, specifically in preparation for an interview. It’s important to represent yourself well and stand out among the rest. Of the interviews I have led, one interviewee stands out to me above all others. This individual came to the interview well prepared. She researched the institution’s website including its Mission, Vision, and Philosophy and asked well thought out questions. She provided all of the members on the interview committee with a thorough and concise resume, neatly gathered inside a presentation folder. In addition, this individual sent a note to the committee a few days later thanking them for their time and the opportunity to interview for the position. All of the individuals who interviewed for the position discussed above were well qualified. However, this individual was offered the position due to her qualifications as well as her outstanding professionalism skills including interview preparation, organization, professional appearance, and follow-up. Best wishes as you begin your journey. 

"Continually build on professionalism skills, specifically in preparation for an interview." - Kimberly A. Hansen
Tweet This

Kathleen Reeve, DrPH, ANP-BC, FNP-C

Associate Dean, College of Nursing
University of Houston

Be realistic when seeking your first professional nursing position. You have graduated with basic nursing competency – you still have a lot to learn. Seek employment that offers the broadest orientation available that will prepare you to work with individuals suffering from a wide range of disease processes. Continue to study and learn.

Lisa Kirkland, PhD, RN

Nursing Department Chair
Tennessee Wesleyan University

Throughout your educational program, you have been equipped with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to fulfill your role as a nurse.  As you let go of college life and take hold of the future, I encourage you to lead by example. Someone is always watching and judging you - how you act and react, what you say and how you say it, even what you wear or don’t wear.  I think it is necessary to role model the behaviors you want to see in others but do not expect to be perfect – it is impossible.  What makes you better is how you react to your personal situation or circumstances.  Remember, to be a good leader you have to be a good follower.  Do not grumble when someone asks you to do something - if you expect people to do things for you.  Value people over income.  Look for opportunities to build relationships in the workplace but also focus on your family – find the right balance.  Above all, demonstrate a spirit of humility by not seeking personal recognition or a position in the spotlight. After all, it’s not about you – it’s about the many lives you will touch as a nurse.

"Someone is always watching and judging you - how you act and react, what you say and how you say it" -Lisa Kirkland
Tweet This

Nina Beaman, PhD

Dean, School of Nursing
Aspen University

As nurses, we should always begin with assessment. Assess your strengths/weaknesses, needs, and goals. Seek a position in which you can use your talents, but develop your weaknesses. Make sure it meets your intellectual, professional, ethical, social, and spiritual needs. Be sure the position your are seeking will help you achieve short-term and long-term goals. Then, prepare yourself to show off your best qualities with an impressive resume, proof of demonstrable talents and skills, and necessary background research on the company and position. When you secure the interview: Sleep and eat well beforehand, go early, be prepared, and answer questions in the way you showcase your fitness for the position. Always express appreciation to the interviewer for the opportunity and excitement about the position. Send a thankful follow-up email after the interview. 

"Always express appreciation to the interviewer for the opportunity and excitement about the position." -Nina Beaman
Tweet This

Jan Lee, PhD

Nursing Department Chair
Clark University

1. Graduate from an accredited, reputable school of nursing.

2. Pass NCLEX-RN on the first try. (In other words, be prepared!)

3. Be confident of your current knowledge and skill levels.

4. Be eager to learn.

5. Be prepared to make a commitment to the agency/institution hiring you.

6. If you aren’t able to secure a position in your preferred specialty area, be open to working and learning in another area.

7. Remember that being a nurse is a privilege – one you have earned, and that all patients deserve a nurse who is committed to their care and best outcomes.

"Be confident of your current knowledge and skill levels." -Jan Lee
Tweet This

Kimberly J. Sharp, PhD, RN

Dean, School of Nursing
Mississippi College

Commit to being diligent; a real team player who is willing and eager to complete your own workload responsibilities but who is ready and able to assist in the needs of the unit. A willing spirit is a blessing.

Act, don't react! Be like a sponge in your first six months of nursing, soaking up all the knowledge and experience you can. You may be brimming with ideas and innovative ways to improve your unit, but allowing yourself a settling in time to get the feel of the unit also helps to ensure that you are being respectful of the wisdom of the existing team.

Find a mentor that you respect and is someone that you can model your best care practices on. Learn what they do that sets them apart, and ask them to give you care "tips" to help you organize patient care more efficiently. Remember ... it is not about me, or you ... it is always about the patient! Be the best you can be for them, not for any recognition you may aspire to.

"Find a mentor that you respect and is someone that you can model your best care practices on." - Kimberly J. Sharp
Tweet This

Sarah C. Fogel, PhD, RN, FAAN
Director, ASN-MSN

Vanderbilt University

Since I can only speak for nurses with graduate degrees in nursing (MSN, DNP or PhD), my best advice for getting hired after graduation is to make sure that you investigate the agency or institution from which you are seeking employment. If in practice, education or management/leadership, make sure that your sense of professionalism and commitment to evidence-based practice aligns with theirs. With most nurses having strong opinions on social justice and cultural sensitivity, it is equally important to question the people hiring you as to their involvement within their communities. Go into interviews prepared to address how you would contribute to the practice or other employment environments. Demonstrate your experience in a tangible way; work on your resume or curriculum vitae so that is stands out from all of the others that they may receive. Be forthcoming about your abilities, strengths and areas where you may still need assistance. Be open to suggestions that may provide an opportunity for you to grow in a direction that you may not have considered. Most of all, if you really want the position, show enthusiasm about what is already there; help them see how hiring you is their best possible move.

"Work on your resume or curriculum vitae so that is stands out from all of the others." - Sarah C. Fogel
Tweet This

Tricia Ryan, PhD candidate, MSN, BS, RN, CNE
Director, School of Nursing
Westminster College

My best advice for getting hired as a nurse after graduation is to know yourself and be open to new opportunities. You are going to be nervous in the interview whether it is your first or one-hundredth time. Have your resume and a prepared portfolio with you. Begin with a firm handshake and good eye contact. Offer your thanks for the interview and start by telling the interviewer a little about yourself such as where you completed your nursing program and why you chose to become a nurse. Nothing too personal, just a way to “ease” into a conversation. Most likely you will be asked to explain some of your strengths and at least one thing you would like to improve upon. I recommend that my nursing graduates use their professional portfolios to gather examples of assignments they did well on, awards received during nursing school and outstanding evaluations from instructors. Ask about what clinical areas have openings and consider all. Be open and flexible. Even though a certain area or type of nursing may not be your dream job, you will be surprised at the amount of experience and knowledge you gain in your first position. 

"Ask about what clinical areas have openings and consider all. Be open and flexible." - Tricia Ryan
Tweet This

Elizabeth Sorensen, PhD, RN, CNOR
Director, School of Nursing
Wittenberg University

Remember that every person you encounter will potentially decide whether you get hired: faculty, administrators, preceptors, administrative support staff, student peers, and grocery store check-out clerks. All are someone’s colleague, someone’s relative, or someone’s friend – and you better believe that we talk to each other. Ask your faculty for letters of recommendation addressed to an actual nurse manager rather than “to whom it may concern”. Practice kindness, respect, good manners, and a great work ethic. Say ma’am and sir. Research your work site – look up everything you can find on their website including the institution’s mission statement and other guiding documents. Drive to your interview site – including parking and finding the actual room where your interview will take place – the day before your interview. Remember that no one is obligated to hire you but that you are blessed contribute to the institution’s mission success while practicing your profession. Pay it forward. Get sleep. On your interview day, arrive 20-30 minutes early for your interview. Be focused intellectually, physically, and emotionally – leave your home problems at home. Wear a suit. Ask questions that reveal your preparation rather than ones that reveal your lack of preparation. 

”Ask questions that reveal your preparation rather than ones that reveal your lack of preparation.” -Elizabeth Sorensen
Tweet This

Lorraine Chiappetta, CNE, MSN, RN
Washtenaw Community College

Getting hired after graduation starts when you enter a nursing program.

1. You will need references from your instructors. Make sure you consistently demonstrate personal and professional qualities that make you an outstanding candidate. Some qualities employers are looking for include:

An eagerness to learn and openness to challenging yourself both academically and in the clinical setting

A high level of respect and professionalism towards your instructors, fellow students, preceptor nurses in the clinical setting, your patients and yourself

The ability to handle stressful situations in productive ways

The ability to communicate effectively and handle conflict productively

2. You want to demonstrate that you understand the health care environment by successful employment in health care while in school. Head nurses frequently hire a former nurse aide that has already worked on their unit. Make sure to demonstrate the above characteristics in your work. Positive references from a head nurse can be important.

3. Look for opportunities to demonstrate formal and informal leadership while a student. This may include participation in a student organization; volunteer activities, peer mentoring or tutoring, etc.

"Look for opportunities to demonstrate formal and informal leadership while a student." - Lorraine Chiappetta
Tweet This

Sharon Souter, RN, PhD, CNE

Dean, School of Nursing
University of Mary Hardin-Baylor

The most important piece of advice for getting hired as a nurse after graduation is professionalism…professionalism in everything they do. Graduate nurses need to make sure they have a professional looking resume and dress professionally when interviewing. They need to articulate themselves well in the interview and make sure they show interest in the unit for which they are applying. When interviewing, they need to sell themselves, have a resume printed and ready to hand out, and they need to try to research the unit and show interest in each area of the floor.

Heidi Shank, DNP, MSN, RN
BSN Program Director
University of Toledo

1. Know yourself. Self-awareness enables the novice nurse to better identify what area of practice within nursing they will flourish in. The confidence that comes with self-awareness and designing a vision for their future career translates into developing a confident (but not arrogant) entry level nurse.

2. Know the organization. Research the potential organization prior to interviewing. Note key facts to share while interviewing. Take the time to find the right organization that compliments you.

3. Develop a strong portfolio. A candidate with a well-organized physical portfolio who share excerpts with interviewers during group interviews will get noticed; not many people bring a portfolio to a group interview, let alone share it. The ideal portfolio should be an organized professional representation of applicable accomplishments and strengths.

4. Be prepared to demonstrate critical thinking skills. Organizations are looking for critical thinkers. Candidates may be asked to work through hypothetical scenarios specific to the area of interest, e.g. a neuro inpatient unit interviewer may present a hypothetical patient with stroke symptomology to see if the potential candidate can articulate appropriate care decisions consistent with entry level nurse expectations.

5. Lastly, be your genuine self. 

"Be prepared to demonstrate critical thinking skills. Organizations are looking for critical thinkers." -Heidi Shank
Tweet This

Anna Ross Seaman, DNP, RN, CNE

Associate Degree Nursing Program Head Vance-Granville Community College

New nursing graduates typically begin their careers searching for their “perfect fit” related to an entry-level professional nursing position. Nursing students may have no idea of the area of nursing in which they are interested until well towards the end of their nursing program. My best advice to nursing students is to treat as a job interview every day they spend at the clinical agencies as a student — on the client care units, precepted experiences, observational experiences, orientation sessions, simulation settings. Nursing staff, nursing leadership and the health care facilities’ administrative team are always on the lookout for bright and shining stars to hire as professional nurses both during nursing school as well as after graduation. Show off and demonstrate your best professional behaviors, growing clinical judgment, decision-making abilities, and safe nursing care practices. Best wishes in your journey to a gainfully employed practicing professional nurse.

"Treat as a job interview every day they spend at the clinical agencies as a student." - Anna Ross Seaman
Tweet This

Ann D. Stoltz, PhD, RN, CNL

Director, School of Nursing
Touro University California

The most important advice I can give to new graduates is to thoroughly prepare for the interview. First, practice how you will answer the question, “Tell us about yourself.” Think of a short story that reflects why you went into nursing or that tells the interview team who you really are or that demonstrates your best quality as a nurse. Avoid retelling anything that they can read in your resume. Second, prepare a concise description of three to five specific situations that demonstrate your ability to think critically, get along with others, helped a patient and/or family, handled a difficult situation, or solved an ethical dilemma etc. Last, prepare at least one question to ask, at the end of the interview that reflects the mission of the agency or opportunities for continuing education/ career growth. Leave them with a thank you, a smile, and a positive attitude! 

"First, practice how you will answer the question, tell us about yourself." - Ann D. Stoltz
Tweet This

Carolina G. Huerta, EdD, RN, FAAN

Director, School of Nursing
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Dress appropriately, no provocative clothes or casual clothes, make sure your shoes are clean and in good shape. Know something about the institution you are applying at. Watch what you say. Think before responding to a question. Have a list of your own questions to ask about the job during the interview. As an aside, please watch what you put on Facebook. Many employers look at your Facebook page. 

Darlene H. Ridley, RN, MSN, CNE

Director, School of Nursing 
Wiregrass Georgia Technical College

The best advice for a new nursing student is to arrive at the interview prepared. Our students at Wiregrass Georgia Technical College prepare a portfolio and resume in their final nursing semester. We provide mock interviews and review potential questions in advance. Students are taught to answer interview questions in complete sentences with depth furthering the dialogue rather than yes or no answers. Students complete their portfolio inclusive of the following components: Cover letter, personal mission statement, resume, references (work and personal), BCLS card, ACLS and PALS card, any other credentials, health information, nursing school checklist, academic transcripts, learning style inventory, example of teaching plan, example of care plan, code of ethics, Georgia RN Nurse Practice Act, article review, and verification of any other community service. An additional benefit we offer our students is all students are ACLS/PALS certified upon graduation. Not only does this certification prepare them for the state board examination, our employers are excited to learn the student has gained this additional knowledge. Each student provides the interview committee member with a copy of their portfolio. The portfolio is largely visible on their desk days after the interview; a reminder that the Wiregrass graduate is prepared! Following the interview, graduates prepare a hand-written thank you note to their interview committee.

Carolyn Hart, PhD, MSN, BSN, RN
Chair, Division of Nursing and Health Sciences
Wilson College

Increasingly, employers are looking for three things: a collaborative attitude, a baccalaureate education, and the ability to clinically reason.

Collaborative attitude: Nurses need to recognize that patient outcomes are the bottom line. When we work as a team, outcomes improve. Nurses need to enable the flow of information between physicians, the healthcare team, and family members and to do so in a manner that promotes positive outcomes. We also need to just get along with other nurses on our unit and work together in a civil manner.

BSN: The more education one has, the better! The addition of a minor or bilingual skill can strengthen your resume.

Clinical Reasoning: Clinical reasoning and judgment focus on patient safety and the quality of care. It involves nursing process and an ongoing evaluation of the situation. This usually takes time and experience, so as a new nurse you will want to present all you have done to promote this skill.

While things like involvement in organizations and mission trips will certainly look good, they will not take the place of a collaborative attitude, a solid education, and the ability to clinically reason.

Amy Beussink, MSN, RN, RNC
Clinical Instructor
Southeast Hospital College of Nursing and Health Sciences

 My advice and the best advice I was given is to place, "Takes constructive criticism well" on an application.

Employers want to know that you are approachable and open to learning new things to improve performance that can benefit all.

"Employers want to know that you are approachable and open to learning." - Amy Beussink
Tweet This

Pier A. Broadnax, PhD, RN

RN to BSN Program Director 
University of the District of Columbia

When seeking your first position, make sure you learn as much as possible about the facility prior to the interview. Seek the advice of your nursing professors, read as much as you can about the facility and be open to the recruiter's guidance. Prepare and practice, practice, practice for the interview.


Marlene Huff, PhD, MSN, BSN, CNS, RN
Director, School of Nursing
University of Akron

Face-to-face networking is very influential in securing employment. Beginning in your early clinical experiences, promote yourself in a positive and enthusiastic way throughout the program, and develop contacts with nurses and nurse managers in the units. To strengthen those relationships, ask relevant questions, be energetic and act in a professional manner at all times. When the time comes to select applicants to interview, hiring managers will recognize your name, lending a better chance at an interview. When you interview, share your volunteer experiences, additional certifications, work experiences and situations demonstrating flexibility and professionalism -- all will have a positive effect on the selection process.

Cathy Franklin-Griffin PhD, MSN, BSN, MA.Ed
Dean, School of Nursing
Mars Hill University

1. During the nursing program, stack the cards in your favor. Be your best in class, lab, clinicals, and through networking in Student Nurses’ and Nurses’ Associations. Networking and clinical experiences often lead to job offers. Nursing program professors provide recommendations.

2. As graduation nears, explore opportunities and research the organization to determine fit of culture, values, and skills. Present yourself in alignment with the organization mission, be professional in dress, bring resume and cover letter, and have questions prepared.

"Networking and clinical experiences often lead to job offers." - Cathy Franklin-Griffin
Tweet This

Rachel Van Niekerk, PhD, MSN, BSN
Director, Department of Nursing
Biola University

Nursing graduates are generally well prepared to begin in a variety of settings. Don't limit yourself too early. One of the great things about nursing is that it is easy to change units/populations if you don't feel like you've found your niche or if you desire to change things up. Graduates that insist on starting in very specific unit or on a specific shift or even a specific hospital may find it difficult to get a job whereas being a bit more open-minded and flexible at the start will allow you to get your foot in the door and then if necessary make changes from there. Regardless of where you start, you are guaranteed to learn and grow much your first year as an RN. 

”Being a bit more open-minded and flexible at the start will allow you to get your foot in the door” -Rachel Van Niekerk
Tweet This

Deborah Greubel, DNP, APRN-CNP
Director, School of Nursing
University of Tulsa

Today's market place is so different than in previous years. In this rapidly changing landscape it will be interesting to see what healthcare will look like five years from now. How will patients, providers, and payers respond to this ever-changing delivery system? How will shifts in disease patterns, technology and government policies shape the future of health and health care?

Today’s nursing graduates need to have a basic knowledge of present and future trends in health care across the community, region, and nation. The graduate nurse needs to be prepared to play an active role in research, service and educational programs that reflect issues in health care delivery for populations rich and poor, healthy and sick, urban and rural. Hospitals would really love to attract nurses looking to chart the future for hospitals, clinics, community-based organizations, insurance companies, and all entities that work within the health care industry.

Nurses who are highly sought after have a firm knowledge of the science of health care delivery, quality improvement, population health, and strategic planning in health care. These nurses understand policy and the practical side of bringing that into the daily activities within the health care system.

So, my best advice for getting hired as a nurse after graduation? Be prepared to be an integral part of a very important health care team that together can really understand the science of health care delivery.

Trish Huggins, MSED
Team Leader, Practical Nurse Program
Orange-Ulster BOCES/CTE Career and Technical Education Division

My best advice for getting hired as a nurse is to demonstrate a positive work ethic, be energetic, enthusiastic and assertive, not aggressive! Students are able to show this during their clinical experiences. Stand out and shine I tell the students. This is your opportunity to show the business how awesome you are!

Flexibility is extremely important for nurses. Show your prospective employer that you show attention to detail, your resume is free of errors and concise; and 15 minutes early is the new "on time".

Jeanne-Marie E. Havener, PhD, RN, CNS, FNP
Director, Department of Nursing
Castleton University

Begin with the end in mind. Treat every day and every encounter as if it were a job interview. Distinguish yourself by going the extra mile inside and outside of the classroom. Come to class dressed for success, pay attention, ask questions, listen, be an active participant, and learn. Be engaged and involved in the school community through volunteer work, tutoring, attendance at alumni and recruiting events, faculty research, clubs and teams. Network with the nursing faculty, guest lecturers, alums, and the staff nurses whom you meet on your academic journey. While returning to your usual summer job may be lucrative, the experience you can gain in the healthcare field as a volunteer, employee, or intern is very valuable-the more time spent, the more comfortable you will be in the clinical setting and the more opportunities you will have to practice your newfound knowledge, skills, and behaviors. When given a task pay close attention to doing the best job possible. When asked to make decisions be patient-centered, be informed, and demonstrate moral courage. No matter what, patient care requires a team spirt so be a good team player and, above all else, demonstrate that you care.

”Network with the nursing faculty, guest lecturers, alums, and the staff nurses whom you meet.” -Jeanne-Marie E. Havener
Tweet This

Marcia Hobbs, PhD

Professor of Medicine and Microbiology Immunology
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

A new graduate needs to research the values/mission of the organization. Be prepared for the interview, dress professionally (no scrubs), and be attentive. For a first position, be flexible - one never knows what new doors can open. Demonstrate honesty, integrity, and a work ethic of compassion, timeliness, and a willingness to be a team member. Never in an initial interview, inquire about salary or focus on benefits. And always have some prepared questions to ask towards the end of the interview. Smile, sit up straight - and breathe.

"For a first position, be flexible - one never knows what new doors can open." - Marcia Hobbs
Tweet This

Elaine Foster, Phd, MSN, RN
Nursing and Healthcare Programs
American Sentinel University

Welcome to the wonderful world of nursing. As a professional nurse for over 30 years, I am excited to welcome you into the profession. Nursing provides so many wonderful opportunities during your lifetime. Some things to remember as you move forward in your career path:

1. Where do you want to be in 5/10/15 years? This is important to think about and plan in order to choose the right path and maximize opportunities

2. Be a life-long learner – whether this is through a formal education path or through attendance at conferences and seminars. The nursing profession relies on all of us to be current and up to date.

3. Support each other. We are many individuals but we are ONE profession. If we are going to advance the profession, we need to unite. If we take care of our profession, it will take care of us!

4. Get involved – whether that is through a professional organization or a small organization in your community where people can see what an awesome nurse you are and the contributions you can bring to your community.

5. Last, but not least, take care of yourself and then others. Remember, when you are on a plane, the flight attendant tells you to put your oxygen mask on first and then assist others. We can’t take care of others if we don’t take care of ourselves. I hope the profession brings you as much joy as it has me over the years. Best of luck. I look forward to the contributions that the upcoming generations bring to the profession.

Rose Kutlenios, PhD, RN

Program Director, Nursing 
West Liberty University 

When looking to be hired for your first nursing position, I would suggest looking at the websites of the hospitals or other agencies where you may want to apply. Next decide which ones seem to be a good fit for what your passion is. Then prepare well for the interview. From what you read on the website or from what you know from nurses who work at the hospital, formulate a short list of qualities or characteristics that are important to that organization. For each of those qualities, develop a personal experience that shows how you embody that quality. Many organizations, for example, are looking for nurses who can collaborate and work effectively on teams. Think of a specific short example that displays how you collaborated or worked well on a team from your experiences as a student in nursing or as a member of an organization. Keep these examples for the interview process. Remember to focus on what you will bring to the organization not on what the organization can do for you.

"Formulate a short list of qualities or characteristics that are important to that organization." -Rose Kutlenios
Tweet This

Rita Darby, RN, MSN, FNP
Clinical Assistant Professor
Winston-Salem State University 

My best advice for getting hired as a nurse after graduation is that you remember you are a professional. You have achieved that which makes the difference between a job and a career. Let this be reflected in your attitude. 

Go to the top of page