Interview, New graduate, New nurses, Nursing leadership, Professional career



  1. Hayes, Judy M. MSN, RN


Applying for a new job, or a first job, is a daunting experience for both the applicant and the employer. Nursing directors have many applicants, yet search for nurses who will be the best fit and prepared for a new future in healthcare.


Article Content

Every year, as new nurses graduate, I often think of my own career. How I chose my work setting, how they chose me, and what I really knew about my professional interests. I graduated at a time when entry-level positions, although not easily attained, were certainly more plentiful than they will be in 2015. I practice in a region of our country that seems to have so many talented new graduates and very few positions available. I regularly hear from personal and professional friends about these talented candidates and am asked what should they do to ascertain one of these coveted positions and begin their professional careers?


My advice is always the same. First, there is the reality of timing. Be sure to routinely scan organizations you are interested in for available positions. Most recently, my organization posted 4 positions for new-to-practice nurses and received 600 applicants. I share this as a means of highlighting the challenges for any would-be applicant. It is not that you were viewed as a candidate that would not be successful. It simply reflects the sheer volume of applicants.


So what to do? Call to show an interest. Speak with other nurses who are already practicing at the organization. Utilize your professors and clinical placement contacts. Most importantly, be prepared to share your own personal why. Practice your personal narrative, and use it in informal encounters and formal interviews. Communicate why you became a nurse and explain why you want to practice at this organization. Once you demonstrate why, be prepared to share how. Sharing stories of patients you cared for can demonstrate critical-thinking and clinical skills that you have a acquired. Be practiced enough that your nerves will allow your personality to shine through. Often, you will have only minutes to share who you are, what guides you, and what you will bring to the position.


What nursing directors look for most is the desire to care for patients and, often more importantly, the "fit" of the new employee within their unit. My own personal story is one I remember sharing on my very first interview. I had a strong interest in sciences while in high school, but more importantly, I had taken care of my grandmother who lived at home with my family. I recognized immediately the joy it gave me to be able to do this for someone I loved so much and could not think of a better career than nursing! Although I was nervous, I think my joy was evident! These personal stories give tremendous insight to the person you are and the nurse you have become. Don't be afraid to show emotion and enthusiasm.


I often hear directors recanting these stories about their new hires. They will often express that they expect a candidate to have a resume and appropriate interview attire. So be sure these steps are a given when you interview. After a successful interview, the nurse directors at my organization often say, "I can tell they will get it."


When I push for examples, it often takes them a few minutes to describe, but this is what I hear, "He/she is obviously excited about working here", " I can see them working side by side with the staff on the unit", "their questions for me were about the patients we care for[horizontal ellipsis] and the role staff on my unit play in that."


It is important to demonstrate your knowledge about nursing care models and evidence-based practice and other health care initiatives. However, those who seem to be successful in getting hired tend to ask questions and share their interest in the patients. They want to hear more about the colleagues they will work with and how the nurse director assures success on the unit.


Lastly. know the mission and vision of the organization. Know what their quality outcomes are. Encourage conversations about their successes and potential for the future. This is all information easily found on most organizations Web sites. Know the language of improvement science and use it to communicate your value toward improving patient outcomes and organizational goals.


The search for your first position may take longer than you expect, or your timing may be right on. In the end, you will be starting a career full of opportunity. I often laugh when asked about my path to become a chief nursing officer. Admittedly, it was not an intentional one. I have been so fortunate, as there has not been 1 position I have held that I did not enjoy and learn from. So know this, no matter where you start your career, being a nurse is a privilege, and each experience will point you in the direction of your true passion.