Questions to Ask New Employers
Interviewing for a new job can be both an exciting and stressful time. Asking a handful of well prepared questions can ensure you have an accurate description of your potential new position. Here’s a few helpful tips I’ve picked up after many interviews for hospital & clinic based positions.
Do Your Homework
It is important to do your homework and research the employer/company. Being knowledgeable of the company’s mission statement and history can provide a great jumping off point for the rest of your interview. Does the company’s overall vision align with yours? Asking a question related to the mission statement demonstrates your interest in the company and its culture. It shows you're thinking on a larger scale instead of just about your individual position. For example, “Your mission statement mentions ______, can you give me an example of how this is put into everyday practice?”.
Let's Talk Numbers
An open discussion regarding compensation should occur during your interview and is typically initiated by the interviewer. Is it a salaried or hourly position? You should also receive a clear explanation of how they determine pay. Is there a clinical ladder? Is pay based on years of experience only? Are there any differentials available for night, weekend or holiday shifts? If you are looking into a full or part-time position you’ll also want to obtain information on benefits (medical, dental, life, etc) and company perks (discount cards, employee assistance programs, etc).
While it may seem counterintuitive to mention time away from a job your don’t even have yet, a work-life balance is something that both employers and employees should value. Taking a break to recharge can increase our overall well-being and make us even better employees once we return.
As the new kid on the block, you may be interested to know how vacation requests are handled. Are they approved based on seniority? First come first serve? Are there department restrictions on how many days/weeks can be taken consecutively? For example, some units may have staff take only one to two weeks during the summer months in order to ensure everyone receives time off and shifts are still covered. How are holidays and weekend shifts assigned? Are there any mandatory overtime or on call shifts necessary?
There has been ever increasing discussion and education regarding nurse burnout. A question based on self-care can be another opportunity to show your knowledge of current nursing issues, specifically in a peer panel interview. I have been asked how I personally practice self-care in an interview (and was a bit unprepared truthfully). Why not ask how they practice as a unit? For example, are there appropriate break/lunch rooms, maybe even an on-site gym or wellness program? Are there group outings for special events/team-building? Inquiring about their self-care practices can better shape your overall impression of your future team. Ultimately, to consistently give our best care we must first ensure our basic needs are met.
Keeping up on your nursing education is not only beneficial to you and your developing career, it can provide you with crucial information that can improve patient care - or even save a life. Many states also require a certain amount of continuing education hours in order to maintain your nursing license.
With all of this in mind, asking questions related to nursing education is in your best interest. Inquiring also puts forward a progressive attitude to your future employer. You are willing to educate yourself in order to stay current and informed in an ever-changing field. Some questions to keep in mind: Is additional pay offered for specialty certifications? Do you provide paid hours for nursing education or reimburse for things like textbooks/outside courses? Should you decide to pursue another/additional degree, is there any form of tuition reimbursement?
Ask the Tough Stuff
Some hospitals and clinics have fellow staff members participate in nursing interviews. This is not only a great chance to show you’re a team player, but can also allow you to assess your future team. One of my favorite questions to ask new employers and staff is, “What are the challenges your unit faces? How do you try to best overcome them?”. If they reply, “We’re always short and there's nothing we can do about it” ...run, run fast. There’s a nursing shortage - an unfortunate but current reality. The way the staff/employer handle this question is key. If they instead answered, “We’re sometimes short staffed but we have a really supportive team and take care of each other. We also have tried to develop an on-call list” - this is a place you might consider working. Not only do they have each others back but they are also proactive in solving the problem. Every unit has their own issues. How they handle them can be telling of the underlying culture. Want to know how their RN to MD relations are? Or maybe if they have had any issues with lateral violence/incivility? Just ask. The format of the question previously mentioned above can be interchanged to address any of these prevalent nursing topics. Not only will it show your awareness of unit based issues, it may show you the true colors of your new unit.
What are some of your favorite questions to ask employers & interview tips?Last edit by Ashley Hay, BSN, RN on Apr 20
About Ashley Hay, BSN, RN
Over 10 years of nursing experience in several areas of pediatric & adult oncology including clinical research, chemotherapy, transplant, hematology, proton therapy, GI surgery, wound care, post anesthesia recovery, etc.
Ashley Hay, BSN, RN has '10' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Oncology'. Joined Aug '16; Posts: 66; Likes: 220.Apr 21Depending on the position (Unit Manager, Staff Dev, Supervisor in LTC), I've asked about the 'dreaded survey'. Was there any special area of concern that I could tune into the would HELP improve the outcome for the facility? That usually allows me the opp'ty to queue into my strengths.
Just know that I've done some preliminary research to check out their track record. I've been in LTC long enough to know when some places really have problems or they were just struggling at the time and things can be remedied.Apr 21Wow. That's a great question! One I hadn't even considered. Thanks for sharing! That's definitely one all of us can definitely use & benefit from.Apr 23To Ashley - I've re-read your posting several times and I have to say, I really do have some concerns.
Firstly, 'mission statement'. In all my career's interviews, I NEVER discussed a 'mission statement'. I am being sincerely honest here. IMHO, a 'mission statement' printed in some laminated color brochure or on a professionally designed advertising web page is just a lot of big words meant for publicity. I made sure I read it, but I would NEVER bring it up. To me, it just sounded too phoney baloney. And my asking a recruiter about how their 'MS' affects everyday practice there could put the recruiter on an embarrassed defensive. As I say, JMO.
I would tune in to a teaching facility as being educationally driven. Or a small NH facility as being close-knit or family oriented. Or that I heard about good reputations, affiliations or positive experiences from other employees or pts.
Secondly, and most concerning in your post, you've devoted much of it to the concept of "what's in this job for me? mentality. In all the job-seeking literature I've ever read, the caveat has been to go easy when interviewing. And to be cautious as to when to broach the subject.
I would never leave any interview without asking about 'the numbers'. And I have actually called it 'the numbers' to the DON. But I wasn't expecting a minute detailed explanation of their bene package. Highlights, yes. And wages, most definitely, yes. But your questions re 'time away '& 'self-care' raised my eyebrows and seemed a bit pushy to me.
I even have real serious concerns re your 'educate yourself' section. Employers are becoming wary of interviewees who see the facility as a deep-pocketed education payor, past, present or future. We have had numerous posts here on AN that caution potential interviewees about scaring off potential employers with specific goals of wanting to go back to school.
One thing you didn't mention was the practice of newbie nurses needing to sign 'contracts' for preceptorships or extended orientations. Contracts with the expectation of a pre-determined length of employment. This has become a recent posting issue here at AN.
It might be considered under your 'tough stuff' section. I've also discussed unions, recent bad newspaper publicity, and mergers. There are polite ways to approach the topics. I don't want to alienate any prospects, but I do recognize that I want something that fits my wants & needs too. We have to acknowledge that employers really do hold all the cards. I know that interviews are opportunities for all parties to size up each other. Both sides want what's best for themselves. So if that was in your intention, it wasn't clear to me.
But questions that are more job function and skill related would seem appropriate to discuss also. Questions re computer systems, hospital/educational program affiliations, community cachement areas, any current clinical research projects, any unit-specific new protocols implementation, etc would be ideal to discuss.
Maybe these would be good for a Part 2 article. But for a one time only, or first 'first-impression' interview, your questions seem very lopsided. I operated under the dictum to show the employer 'what I had to OFFER THEM'. Not to see what they were offering me so much.
I do know 'the times, they are a'changin'.Apr 24Hi amoLucia,
Thanks for taking the time to read my article and provide feedback. Here at allnurses we have a strong community and can learn so much from each other.
I wrote this article with belief in the idea that if you ensure it's a good fit all around you'll be a happier employee down the line and more likely to stay with the company. Of course it's important to showcase what you bring as an employee as well. Everyone has their own style of interviewing and this was only meant to serve as an idea piece, certainly not a standard set of questions to ask or even a preferred style of interview. I like to invite readers to read what I write and take what works for them. I hope to give readers something to think about.
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