Advice from someone who hires

by Patti_RN | 29,236 Views | 70 Comments

After years of hard work, you finally graduate from nursing school and in spite of rosy predictions of a great job market, you're finding it's really hard to find a job. Maybe even worse than finding a spot in nursing school, or harder than passing the NCLEX. I hire employees and I know what goes on on the other side of the application process.

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    Advice from someone who hires

    First, you probably read books about putting a resume together, or even hired someone to polish yours. Those are good steps, but to set yourself apart from the masses, you need to do more. Before you even start writing your resume, talk to your friends, classmates, professors and employers. Ask them what they perceive your strengths to be. Take inventory of ALL your skills and accomplishments. Women in particular have a hard time promoting themselves. Don't be shy. Start an informal list of your achievements. If you won awards, jot that down; if your GPA was high, put a little check mark beside that, did you spend time supervising others? Think hard... this doesn't have to be a job title, just a job responsibility. Compile your resume in the way that best suits your skills. If you're a young new grad without work experience find a resume template that highlights your academic history; ditto for someone with vast work experience.

    While you're talking to those professors and employers, ask their permission to use them as a reference. Get their preferred contact information. Don't limit yourself to a few people because you don't want to ask the same people for letters over, and over. (It's flattering to be asked, but time consuming to actually write letters for people. Have a number of references you can rotate through as needed.) And, of course, don't have them contacted by prospective employers until the end of the hiring process.

    Now, decide what kind of job you want. There are thousands of people out there who apply for every job they find. You may feel anxious, but casting your net too far and wide won't bring many calls for interviews. There is a reason for this, which I'll explain later. Be realistic in your expectations. You probably have a sense for what jobs are most desirable and where competition is intense (Labor & Delivery, peds, etc.) If this is your goal, it'll be even harder to land your dream job. Not to say those jobs are impossible to find as a new grad, but there are many others applying for them. If your ultimate goal is a job with lots of competition, find another way in: if you want to work in a NICU, maybe start at a Children's Hospital working with more difficult patients. Once you figure out where you want to be, concentrate your efforts to those jobs. Write your resume with that in mind. Using the peds example, focus your resume on your experience with kids; your peds rotation, and any other experience you have that shows you're interested in children.

    Now, scour the ads, but don't limit yourself to posted or advertised jobs. Talk to everyone you know, tell them what you're looking for and ask if they have any leads. When you do hear of a possibility, focus on that one job as you write your cover letter. Talk about why you fit into THAT organization, talk about their mission, their organizational structure and why you want to work THERE. (You can find organization's mission statements on their websites and learn other details about them, too.) So, your letter reads something like, "I share Washington Hospital's committment to serving the underserved memebers of the community..." Then talk briefly about your volunteer experience giving flu shots to uninsured patients through your church's medical efforts. You want to make sure you set yourself apart from the other applicants. Your cover letter should be less than one page of easy to read text (no tiny font!)

    Making your application specific to an employer or organization is time consuming, but it pays off. This is why you want to be specific in your job hunting efforts. When people tell me they sent out 2000 applications, I know that virtually all of them were read briefly and put in the 'big pile'. You're better off sending 20 specific applications than 2000 general ones.

    After you send your resume and cover letter, follow up with another letter expressing continued interest. You may even make one phone call to check in. If you hear nothing after three months, send another resume and a new cover letter (can be basically the same, just tweak it to say you're still intersted in working for them). Tell them you're available for an interview and be upbeat, professionally enthusiastic and pleasant.

    Speaking of professional, please do NOT include emoticons, or write your cover letter on pink stationary (honest, I've seen this!) When someone is looking through a pile of resumes (whether electronic or hard copy), the first ones cut are those with such glaring unprofessional appearances, or terrible spelling or grammar.

    And, if you're lucky enough to be invited for an interview, wear something professional. A suit is better than slacks and a blouse, but do not show up in jeans! Even though it may be perfectly acceptable to wear jeans to class, to restaurants, etc., it is NOT OK to wear jeans to a job interview. If you have to borrow something or even buy a suit at Goodwill, it would be a great idea... trust me! The person interviewing you will notice what you're wearing.

    When you get home from the interview, write a thank you note to the person who you spoke with (or several notes if you were interviewed by several people). Thank them for their time, express your strong desire to work there, and express that you look forward to their decision and "if there is anything else I can do..." If you don't hear something in a week, email or phone them and politely ask if they have made a decision and that you're very anxious to be part of their team.

    Yes, writing multiple, specific letters is time consuming, but there is a pay-off. Think of it like this: would you rather get a generic birthday card from someone with a stamped signature? or open a card that you know was chosen just for you and had a handwritten note inside saying what a great friend you are?

    Best of luck to all!
    Last edit by Joe V on Apr 14, '12
    LindsayAshlyn, Mariachi, Nkiru14, and 40 others like this.
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    About Patti_RN

    Patti_RN has '10+' year(s) of experience and specializes in '.'. From 'U.S.A.'; Joined May '09; Posts: 382; Likes: 836.

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    70 Comments so far...

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    Thank you!
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    every time I read about this I get nauseated
    MissM.RN, theleaf, whichone'spink, and 4 others like this.
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    I think that even with the shortage out there, there's a misconception that nursing jobs are easy to get. There is still a lot of competition, and it's really important for new grads to put their best foot forward, so to speak, and treat finding a job... like a job. I love when I've seen applicants send thank you letters and notes, because it does make them stand out among the others, just like those who dress for the interview (you'd be amazed at how many people don't think a professional appearance is important).
    i<3u, Aongroup1990, sunflowergrl, and 3 others like this.
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    Linda, I see this first-hand. I've had people come to interviews wearing scrubs, jeans and t-shirts, and even a young woman wearing pajama bottoms with a spaghetti-strap top! I think she really did just roll out of bed (it was an 11AM interview!)

    You're so right that finding a job IS a job! And, sadly people dismiss this kind of advice as old fashioned or 'we don't do that anymore', or 'that's what my parent's generation did'. Applicants need to present themselves to their audience, and most likely the interviewer will be older and professional.
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    Quote from patti_rn

    you're so right that finding a job is a job! and, sadly people dismiss this kind of advice as old fashioned or 'we don't do that anymore', or 'that's what my parent's generation did'. applicants need to present themselves to their audience, and most likely the interviewer will be older and professional.
    i couldn't agree with you more on this issue. however, my last interview which occur many moons ago, was conducted by someone younger than me. having said that, in numerous occasions i have interviewed candidates that i chose by reading their resume. consequently, for my astonishment the individual didn't match their resume let me explain, my last applicant came to her interview wearing a red sequin dress and her perfume could have given anyone a headache from 5 feet away. moreover, on another occasion i was going over an applicant resume which stated in her list of hobbies, that her goal in life is to marry a doctor!. needless to say, one can accuse me of being old fashion, but when someone is applying to any given position they should use common sense, they ought to portray themselves as close as they can to their professional resume.
    browns0507, VickyRN, willowLA, and 1 other like this.
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    If people really dress and act like ridiculous, or can't be bothered to write in complete sentences, then I feel way more confident about my prospects. Seriously! People do this stuff? Wow!
    *4!#6 and willowLA like this.
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    ​great advice/ well stated. thanks.
    Esme12 likes this.
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    Thank you Patti! I'm glad you clarified for us what to wear to the interview. In CNA school and my Phlebotomy Tech course, our teachers told us to wear scrubs when applying for jobs AND to the interviews! They said to make sure they were pressed and clean :/ I wonder why I never landed a job LOL. Well, I'm awaiting my acceptance letter to RN school and will use your wonderful advice in the future. Thank you again, much appreciated!!
    Last edit by RED1984 on Apr 13, '12 : Reason: Typo- darn auto-correct!
    lindarn likes this.
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    Quote from LindaBright
    I think that even with the shortage out there, there's a misconception that nursing jobs are easy to get. There is still a lot of competition, and it's really important for new grads to put their best foot forward, so to speak, and treat finding a job... like a job. I love when I've seen applicants send thank you letters and notes, because it does make them stand out among the others, just like those who dress for the interview (you'd be amazed at how many people don't think a professional appearance is important).
    I'm sorry there is NO shortage......jobs are hard to find.

    Has the Nursing Shortage Disappeared?

    It's that time of year again. Graduating nursing students are preparing to take the NCLEX and are looking for their first jobs. This year, many are finding those first jobs in short supply.

    Reports are rampant of new graduates being unable to find open positions in their specialty of choice, and even more shockingly, many are finding it tough to find any openings at all.
    These new RNs entered school with the promise that nursing is a recession-proof career. They were told the nursing shortage would guarantee them employment whenever and wherever they wanted.

    So what happened? Has the nursing shortage—that we've heard about incessantly for years—suddenly gone away?

    The short term answer is clearly yes, although in the long term, unfortunately, the shortage will still be there.

    The recession has brought a temporary reprieve to the shortage. Nurses who were close to retirement have seen their 401(k) portfolios plummet and their potential retirement income decline. They are postponing retirement a few more years until the economy—and their portfolios—pick up.

    Many nurses have seen their spouses and partners lose their jobs and have increased their hours to make ends meet for their families. Some who left the profession to care for children or for other reasons have rejoined the workforce for similar reasons.
    In addition, many hospitals are not hiring. The recession brought hiring freezes to healthcare facilities across the country, and many are still in effect. Help wanted ads for healthcare professionals dropped by 18,400

    Has the Nursing Shortage Disappeared?
    Gold_SJ, dmdmd, SE_BSN_RN, and 1 other like this.


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