Tactics for Getting Hired, from New Nurses to Seasoned RNs

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By Debra Wood, RN, contributor 

April 16, 2013 - Looking for an RN nursing job? Job prospects for registered nurses remain strong, but to snag a rewarding position, nurses of all experience levels must project themselves well and tailor the message to convince a potential employer they will bring value to the organization. New nursing jobs may even require a new approach.

Donna Cardillo new nursing jobs are not just in the hospital.
Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, recommended nurses follow their hearts and carve their own path in nursing.

“It’s about how nurses present themselves,” said Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, a recognized career consultant and author of The Ultimate Career Guide for Nurses. “Employers are looking to hire someone with personality, good energy, a positive attitude, someone who presents as a professional with social savvy.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the demand for nurses will continue to grow faster than the average for all occupations. New nurse opportunities will open up due to technological advances, a greater emphasis on preventive care and services required by the aging population.

In the meantime, as hospitals close or restructure, experienced nurses may find themselves displaced, and novice nurses may find the job market challenging.

“We have a competitive market, because health care is changing,” Cardillo said. “Nurses need to look for jobs in a completely different way than they are accustomed to in the past.”

As care delivery moves to community settings, nurses are realizing that they don’t have to start their careers in a hospital. Rehabilitation facilities, long-term care, home health, clinics, and wound and hemodialysis centers offer nurse opportunities. Some home health agencies have begun offering preceptorships for new nurses.

“Care is permanently shifting out of the hospital,” Cardillo said. “You have to expand [your options]. … I tell nurses to follow your heart and carve out your own path in nursing.”

Lynn Berger; Tips to get RN nursing jobs, at any age.
Lynn Berger said an older worker has to appear energized and the younger person should show interest in learning.

Lynn Berger, a career counselor and coach in New York, recommends nurses conduct a self-assessment of their skills, values and temperament and shadow a nurse in the position they are considering.

Résumés, etc.: Selling yourself on paper and in person 

New nursing grads should highlight activities at school, special projects, work with a well-known professor or involvement in a student nursing association. Past job experience, even if not in health care, can demonstrate good work habits and skills.

Berger suggests newer nurses talk about their willingness to learn and give examples of how they can be a good worker, while more seasoned nurses can emphasize their experience and the value they can add immediately.

“The older person has to display they are still enthusiastic,” Berger said. 

Mature nurses should indicate how they have stayed current, gained additional education and are eager for new challenges, Cardillo added.

Increasingly, people are turning to nursing as a second career. Berger suggested those nurses talk about the thought process behind the career change and how committed they are. The skills they acquired in their early career may translate well to a nursing position. The nurse should mention those skills on the résumé and during an interview.

“That experience is very relevant in a complex health-care world,” Cardillo said. “Every nurse can benefit from business experience as well as clinical experience.”

Finding nurse opportunities 

Networking is the most effective method of finding a job, and FaceBook, LinkedIn and Twitter can help with that. Face-to-face networking is most advantageous, and nurses of all experience levels should attend professional meetings, career fairs and conferences, even if they do not join the organization, Cardillo said.

“You have to get out and meet people, press the flesh, make eye contact, have intelligent conversations,” Cardillo said.

If a paid job becomes illusive, Cardillo suggested volunteering as a nurse, to learn more, to gain experience and to make new connections.

“Volunteer work is a stepping stone to paid employment,” Cardillo said. “It helps to build confidence, expands your network, gets your foot in the door. There is more than one way to get a job.”

The nurse should find out what the employer needs and describe how he or she can help the organization achieve its goals.

“Let people know you would like to work there [where they work],” Cardillo said.

Social media can bolster in-person connections. Cardillo finds LinkedIn most beneficial, because it allows candidates to connect with hiring authorities and other people in the company to learn more or obtain introductions.

Additionally, when employers receive a résumé or meet a candidate in person, they will often go to LinkedIn to review the more in-depth profile posted there by the nurse.

Cardillo recommends all nurses become social media savvy when looking for a job, and also to demonstrate that ability, which may be a requirement of the job. Those without such skills and unable to join in the discussion will be left out.

“Someone with good social media skills will be more marketable than someone else,” Cardillo said. “This is part of the world we live in, and it is a vital part of being in professional circles.”

Berger agreed, saying, that “everyone must present a good social media face.” That includes cleaning up existing pages and tweets to project a professional image.

Nurses must be able to articulate their strengths but may not have that opportunity unless they present well from the get-go, Cardillo said.

On the interview 

Whether new nurse or experienced, Cardillo said, a “can-do” attitude will stand out to hiring authorities looking to fill new nursing jobs.

“Your image, skills, knowledge and energy level should be upbeat, modern, current and relevant,” Cardillo said.

Berger added that employers also are concerned about how a prospect will fit in with fellow employees and the culture of the organization. An older person can describe how they have succeeded in similar organizations, and a novice nurse can show how their values are aligned with the organization. Both should give examples.

“The older worker has to appear spry and energized and the younger person interested in learning,” Berger said. “All of them need to appear flexible.”

A new graduate who comes across as professional and communicating well has an advantage over someone not as enthusiastic.

“Many managers will take a chance on the right personality,” Cardillo said.

Cardillo cautioned seasoned nurses not to assume employers are not interested in hiring them because of their age. Doing so will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. With so many middle-aged nurses practicing, she finds employers are not discriminating.

“Because the job market is more competitive and will stay that way, it’s important for all nurses, at every level of practice, to keep their education current, get further education, and stay current with clinical, communication and social skills,” Cardillo concluded.

Related articles and resources:
Five Tips for Advancing Your Nursing Career
What Not to Share on Social Media 


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