Embarking on a new journey as a freshly minted nursing graduate can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. In this blog post, “10 Steps to Getting Hired as a New Graduate Nurse,” we aim to provide you with the essential tips and strategies to navigate the job market and land your dream nursing position. From polishing your resume to acing the interview, this guide will walk you through each step of the process, ensuring that you stand out from the crowd and make a lasting impression on potential employers. Whether you’re preparing to enter the workforce or simply seeking advice on refining your job search, this post will equip you with the tools and confidence you need to launch a successful nursing career.
This post was originally written in 2015 by Beth Hawkes, MSN RN-BC and updated in 2023 by Kati Kleber MSN, RN.
Table of contents
- 1. You Need a Strategy as a New Graduate Nurse
- 2. Job-Seeking is Your New Job
- 3. Beware These Easily Avoidable Mistakes
- 4. Smart Resumes Stand Out
- 5. Creative Cover Letters Stand Out
- 6. Interview to Win
- 7. Networking Nets Jobs
- 8. Risk-Takers Stand Out
- 9. If You Are a Nursing Student – Even Better
- 10. Never Ever Ever Give Up
1. You Need a Strategy as a New Graduate Nurse
Many new grads are discouraged and panic once they discover it’s not easy to get hired. At every contact point with your prospective employer, you have to stand out from the hundreds of other applicants. This isn’t something that just unfolds organically. People who land fantastic jobs have put a lot of work into doing so.
2. Job-Seeking is Your New Job
Let me ask: Is job seeking your full-time job?
- Have you studied and rehearsed your interviewing skills as much as you’ve studied for anything in school?
- Have you gone outside of your comfort zone in your job seeking endeavors? Yes? When? What did you do? See, I’m tough 🙂
- Do you get up early Monday through Friday, dress in business casual, and devote eight hours to getting a job?
Once job-seeking becomes your full-time job, you will see results.
3. Beware These Easily Avoidable Mistakes
Here are some basic easy fixes.
- Having an unprofessional email contact easily remedied
- Having grammatical errors anywhere on application no excuse
- Failing to follow application instructions to the letter fastest way to the shredder
- Not smiling during an interview confident candidates project warmth and openness
- Offering a weak handshake at interview passive and insecure
- Not making eye contact during interview confident candidates get the job
- Not having knowledge of the company at the time of interview savvy candidates are prepared
4. Smart Resumes Stand Out
Stop them cold with your savvy resume. If your resume doesn’t stand out, it doesn’t matter how perfect you are for the job. You won’t get an interview. Wow them even though you are a new grad with limited experience.
- Customize. If you are applying to five different employers, you need five different resumes. Target to each employer by modeling the language of the job description using their keywords
- Visually appealing layout and use of white space. One page long, mistake-free. Clean, neat, easy to read format.
- Highlight relevant accomplishments, volunteer work, projects, honors, that illustrate how your skills match their needs.
- Avoid cliches. Everyone is self-motivated and detail-oriented. Instead, give examples “Led senior class in a community project to educate the public on handwashing”
5. Creative Cover Letters Stand Out
Your cover letter lures them in. Captivate them with a creative headline, make them nod at a personal story, and make them want to reach for the phone to call you in for an interview.
Are you finishing nursing school and worried about how you’ll land that first job? Not sure what to put on the resume, what to wear to the interview, or what kinds of questions to expect? In this course you will learn how to write a resume, market yourself, finding jobs, interviewing and more.
6. Interview to Win
If you are interviewing but not getting called back, the problem is most likely your interviewing skills. Interviewing is a learned skill.
Many new nurses mistakenly believe that if they have a Tele interview, they should review Arrhythmia. Or to prepare for an Oncology interview, cram the night before on chemo medications. Wrong. They are not looking to see if you have in-depth knowledge of a specialty. They know you’re new.
Interviews are often panel interviews consisting of the Nurse Manager, Clinical coordinators, and staff RNs. After the interview, the Nurse Manager will turn to them and say “Well, what did you think? Will he/she fit in?”
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Nursing units are a group, a family if you will, and Nurse Managers want to make sure you’re a good fit. Fitting in is about projecting warmth, openness, and learnability.
Clinical Scenarios During an Interview
They’re not going to trick you with clinical questions. Commonly they will describe a patient scenario where the patient is in some kind of distress. No matter what the clinical details, they are really looking for responses that show you are competent and safe. Here’s what to say:
- You stay with the patient shows a safe nurse who doesn’t panic
- You call for help shows you know your limitations (rated most important by many interviewers)
- You initiate any basic interventions (example, apply o2, re-position: cue from the scenario) shows basic clinical competence
- Bonus points: You anticipate what the provider will order (EKG, labs) shows critical thinking
Prepare for Behavioral Interview Questions
Anticipate that the bulk of the interview will be spent on behavioral questions. Prepared candidates will not say “I’m a perfectionist” when asked, “What is your greatest weakness?” It’s a cliché and a cop-out. A prepared candidate will be ready with a valid weakness that is not a core skill for the job and quickly segue into the positive.
Are you prepared for “Tell me about yourself?” Use the Present/Past/Future model. Tell them where you are now, mention your previous positions, and close by saying you’d like to work for them in the future. Not rambling takes practice.
Within twenty-four hours after the interview, send a handwritten thank-you note. This common courtesy is not so common and will make you stand out.
(We have word-for-word scripts for thank you notes in our course, Hired!)
7. Networking Nets Jobs
Networking is one of the best ways to get a job. Contact clinical instructors. Clinical instructors are well connected and have Nurse Manager friends. Contact classmates who graduated before you or with you and have a job.
Reach out at church or the gym to find other nurses and start talking. Join a professional nurses’ organization. Volunteer and make contacts.
8. Risk-Takers Stand Out
Some of these are risky, and only you can weigh the personal risk/benefit. Ask yourself: “What do I have to lose?”
- Consider relocating as the nursing need is geographical.
- Cold call a nurse manager. Respectfully, with resume in hand, “I just wanted to drop this off in person.”
- Call HR. Applications get lost, it happens.
- If you’ve had interviews and not been selected, call and ask for feedback on your interviewing skills.
9. If You Are a Nursing Student – Even Better
Work as a PCA in the hospital you want to get hired as an RN. You almost certainly will get hired with your home-field advantage. Smart nursing students understand that clinical rotations are a time to be seen, make contacts, and stand out.
For some inspiration on high-impact jobs for nursing students, click here.
10. Never Ever Ever Give Up
Tolerate this uncomfortable and ambivalent stage in your life with patience and grace. This too shall pass. Remain hopeful-you didn’t come this far to fail. You will succeed! Remember, new grads get hired every day – and with a solid hiring strategy, you will, too!
More Resources on Getting Hired as a New Nurse
- Resume Tips for Nurses
- Nursing Interview Questions: The Good, Bad, and Ugly
- Nursing Interview Questions and Answers
- When You Don’t Land Your Dream Job
- What to Wear to a Nursing Interview
Are you done with the guess-work of applying and interviewing for nursing jobs?
Hired from FreshRN is a self-paced, online course for ambitious nurses who want to be the ideal candidate for their dream job. Amber Nibling, MSN RN-BC, and Kati Kleber, MSN RN have interviewed hundreds of nurse applicants and they give you the inside scoop of what interviewers are thinking. Learn everything you need to know to impress potential employers (and yourself) by learning what the hiring team expects from you, so you can not only meet, but exceed those expectations.
Megan Riedy says
This is a great article! I would also like to add the importance of treating a “job shadow” as an extension of your interview. I often am asked to have prospective nurses shadow me in home health field. HR asks me for direct feedback on how I think candidate would be for position and if they should hire. It still amazes me how many candidates HR and or management want to hire that show up late to job shadow without a call to me and/or are unprofessional. I understand if coffee gets you moving in the morning but would you show up late to your interview because Starbucks had a long wait? Treat this as a second or third interview if you really want the position. Also be honest with yourself if it really isn’t going to be a good fit!
FreshRN Team says
That is a great tip. Often we think of a job shadow as part of the training, and not an extension of the interview process.
Kati Kleber says
Megan, this is a REALLY good point! Whenever hospitals offer shadowing as part of the interview experience (which is brilliant, if you ask me), they can and should rely heavily upon that nurse’s thoughts/impressions. I have a short story: I know someone who was in your shoes (experienced nurse on the unit), and a prospective nurse went to shadow. This person had a great resume and interviewed beautifully for the cath lab. They were in the cath lab, and the prospective nurse complained about the lead aprons all shift. This gave them a pretty bad impression because wearing these aprons was a basic aspect of this position… needless to say, she didn’t get the job. However, had they gone merely off of her interview/resume, she would have… and they would have figured out how bad of a fit it was going to be.