I Got The Call! Now What?!


When Can You Start? Here are some strategies to get into your dream job. Your key to opening doors to new opportunities may be in plain sight!

Specializes in ED,Tele,Med surg, ADN,outpatient,homecare,LTC,Peds. Has 33 years experience.

New nurse looking for a job?

I Got The Call! Now What?!

When a former student of mine called me out of the blue, sixteen years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to catch up with her. She asked me for a favor. Could I look at the resume of her Cousin Dina? Dina was a new graduate looking for a job. Working as the evening manager for a busy ED, I was skeptical but agreed to look at it. I was impressed that this new nurse had done an internship at another ED and had worked as an EMS Volunteer during her student days. I called her and set up an interview. I was impressed by her calm demeanor, honesty, and potential.  I ran it by Human Resources who also interviewed her and screened her. I got the green light from them and I hired her. I left a few years later. Today she runs that ED as the evening manager! 

Getting your first job can be nerve-racking. Getting through Nursing school is tough but has gotten tougher in these Covid times. So how did people get their first jobs?

Here are some tips.

Early Preparation

While in school, lay the groundwork. Make connections at clinical sites. Know the nurses and their manager's names. Get the numbers of all units and the secretary's name who normally picks up the phone during the day/evening. Find out about internships and mentorship programs for new graduates and the requirements to get in.  Start looking at job opportunities, descriptions, and requirements while in school to get familiar with what skills you may need. Let people know when you expect to graduate and that you are looking for a job. Sometimes it's a friend of a friend who may know of an opportunity. Tell family, friends, teachers, and acquaintances and ask them if they have any contacts. An opportunity may come from an unexpected source. 


This is a good way to get your foot in the door. If you plan to volunteer in June 2021 after school is over, apply by January 2021. Most health systems will put you through their medical, criminal, interview, reference, and clearance process which is time-consuming. So, by applying early, by the time you are ready to volunteer, your paperwork will be ready.  You also come to know people when you volunteer and if you have great work ethics, you may land a job there or maybe get a recommendation letter or reference for another job.


Spruce up your resume. Don't make it long and drawn out. One page is ideal and there are many resources online for preparing professional nursing resumes. My rule of thumb is to start with your name address email and working phone number in the top middle section of the paper. Avoid placing headings like objective and aim but instead, start with headings like work experience (if any, including Summer jobs), educational experience with clinical placements, volunteer experiences, certifications (if any) like Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS). Language can be the next heading and you can end with References: on request. Keep it short and sweet.

Tailor your resume according to the job, by highlighting common themes to the job offered if possible. Use words from the job description in the resume like 'fluent in Spanish, multitasker'. I would recommend a master resume with all experiences included in a folder and then a subfolder with the tailored resume along with the job description and when you send it out. When you get a call, make sure you note the name of the person calling you, a callback number, a fax, an email number, and a brief bullet on subsequent conversations for later reference. This way if you send out 15 resumes, you know who is calling for which job. Do not be afraid to clarify who you are talking with. Take a deep breath, talk slowly, and calmly. If this job is meant for you, it will not slip away from you.

Make sure your email is appropriate. Your voicemail box should not be full and your voice message appropriate. Check your messages and email daily and respond to messages during working hours and not after hours. Be mindful of time zones especially for out of state jobs.

Social Media

My hospital like many others has an entire building of teams that not only monitor medical records for inappropriate use by employees but also monitor their social media accounts. So don't use real names, keep your accounts private, don't accept stranger requests, do not post pictures in beachwear, smoking and sharing the peace pipe, and holding alcohol into these accounts. I know for a fact that these accounts are checked by potential employers. You will not be taken seriously if you do leave them on the account and not scrub your account. A case in point was a nurse who lived close to a pediatric facility that she had applied for a nursing supervisor position. Her application was rejected when her racy beach pictures were reviewed by the hiring team. She was not taken seriously and never received a callback. Even though you have the freedom to post something you would like to share with the world, use your judgment before posting pictures as a potential employer may not look at it favorably. An appropriate website to join, to be noticed, is LinkedIn and also other professional nurse organizations. I always feel that as nurses we are held to a higher standard due to the care we provide despite the stereotyping by the general public and media.

When the Call Comes in for an Interview

Stay calm, focus, and write the date, time, and address where the interview will be at. Request an email with the information with a callback number for emergencies. Thank the caller sincerely. Don't pepper them with questions. This may be the preliminary interview or the only interview depending on the organization. Do a dry run to find out how long it takes, if there is parking, factor in rush hour traffic, and if there is a Covid screening ahead of time to enter that building. To be on time for an interview, I used to arrive around an hour early but walk into the building only half an hour before.

Prepare for the Interview

Most of them start with a medication test, medical terminology test and some even have a personality test. Most of the tests are timed. So review your math calculations, drip rates, and side effects of common drugs given. Check out websites for interview tips as well as nurse-friendly websites like allnurses® that has great career tips on a variety of topics.

Once you pass the initial tests given, you may be interviewed by the Human Resources (HR) department. So be ready with your research which I have described below. Be honest and relaxed. They want to see how you are on a regular day. Being nervous does not inspire confidence in the potential employer! So chill and be your professional self. Once HR clears you, the next interview may be set up with the clinical team.


If you are serious about the job, research it. Go into the facility website. Look at their vision and mission, read about the job and responsibilities, Google reviews about the facility, go into Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), and Department of Health (DOH) and hospital compare websites to learn more about the facility you are interested in. Read customer reviews about the facility. Find out if possible, who is interviewing you, and check them out on LinkedIn. You can then ask about common topics of interest or comment on an award they received at the actual interview. Also, read up the latest news from the facility website like press releases stating "Facility X got a 3 million NIH grant to do dementia based research study to assist vulnerable seniors". The interviewer(s) may not even be aware of the latest press release or will be impressed with your interest in the facility. Knowledge is power when used wisely and at the right time! Later, after the interview, if you are able to, don't forget to talk to others who work in that facility especially if you know someone or a friend/ family knows someone. You will get valuable insight and may be able to make a wise decision to accept or decline an offer preventing future grief especially if it is a quick turnover / high burnout place!

Documents to Bring to the Interview

Invest in buying a zippered file holder with a strap, where you can put all your original certificates. Make four copies of your resume and have a copy of all your certificates. It is always good to have 2 pens (make sure they work!) and a  legal pad to write, in that file. Some of the commonly requested documents are a degree certificate from the school, nursing license and registration from your state, BLS, ACLS, PALS, child abuse certificate, infection control certificate from a state-approved provider, your driver's license, passport, proof of green card or citizenship, work permit and the name and contact information of three references. Having these ready when requested never fails to impress a potential employer and makes you look very organized!

Dressing and Conducting Yourself at an Interview

Dress appropriately for the interview and be on time. A business suit can never go wrong. Avoid wearing scrubs to an interview. Wear minimal jewelry and makeup if used to wearing it. Subtle colors go well and wear comfortable shoes (avoid sneakers). Dress professionally as those are first and lasting impressions. Keep your nail length short and avoid neon pink, green, and blue hair. Try and take off the day before, if working a night job, and always plan to reach 15 minutes to 30 minutes before the interview. If held up on the day of the interview or need to cancel due to an illness or emergency, call and inform the interviewer. This is true especially if you have Covid symptoms or the flu. Be honest, cancel, and request for a reschedule. Be patient on getting a callback date as they have to arrange a scheduled time convenient to all and coordinate everyone's schedule which takes time. 

When you arrive for the interview, compliment the interviewer on excellent directions if asked if your commute was good!  Have a firm handshake (practice ahead of time, avoid too many rings that can get squeezed), look and smile directly at the person talking to you. In Covid times you may get a wave or smile instead of a handshake.  Don't stare but hold a soft smiling gaze. If you are on a Zoom interview, be aware of your surroundings and make sure your door is shut and room clean. Warn family members not to wander in and lock the door if possible. Have some water, a pen and paper to write down information. Body language is crucial, and practice sitting with a relaxed stance and watch videos on the same that deal with eye contact, posture, handshakes, hand gestures, and subtle clues. Be prepared for some stock questions and practice ahead. Practice with your family members, friends, your pet (cat, dog, bird, hamster, fish, snake) or at least looking at a mirror! Practice makes perfect!

8 Frequently Asked Interview Questions

Tell me more about yourself.

Choose three words that describe you. The interviewer wants to know if you are a good fit and if your values align with theirs. Remember the mission and vision of this organization when answering this question.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Example strengths-dependable, on time and courteous. Weakness-time management and prioritizing tasks that you are working on and remembering that nursing is 24/7 especially at the end of a shift.

Tell me when you made a difference good or bad?  

Example of good-calming an irate family member whose mother was having an emergency procedure. An example of bad-patient misunderstood what you said and got upset. Had to get a supervisor to resolve this.

Tell me how do you handle conflict-with coworker or supervisor.

Example- I will try and resolve it one on one but if it does not work, will escalate it to the next level.

Why should we hire you?

Focus on your strengths, flexibility, willingness to learn and being a team player.

How would others describe you?

Your fellow students, teachers or coworkers if you have another job?

What do you know about us and this job? 

If you don't know an answer say, "that's a good question and I have to think about it", and then smile naturally (not a creepy fixed smile).

Do you have any questions for us?

This is an opportunity to ask. You may see fellow staff who are part of the interview team. Ask them to walk you through a typical day, what they like about the facility, what are their challenges, and about why they think other staff leave the unit/clinic. Another good question to ask is how many years has the staff with the most seniority been in that unit?

Other questions you can ask are:

  • What is your ideal candidate like?
  • What are your expectations for the person you want to hire for this job? Have you had any new projects or initiatives in this unit?
  • How did Covid affect this unit?
  • What changes have you put in place?

Use humor as people love to laugh. Do not be afraid to say no if you don't feel you are a good fit but be diplomatic in how you word it.

Don't ever discuss salary, benefits in the job interview with the interviewing unit manager. That is an HR question! Once you are offered the job by HR, be ready with the questions (That is another article by itself). The basic concept is to research and find out the salary range (indeed.com has ranges or a ballpark salary). Then ask on the higher end and hopefully, you get a midrange!

Job Offered

A handwritten thank you letter/card or email 2-3 days after the interview makes you stand out even if you are offered or not offered the job. Be upfront about when you can start. Normally a 2-4 weeks later start date is reasonable especially if you are working and have to give notice. If you have another job never quit that job on the spot and tell people off before you leave. Nursing is a small field and it will come back to haunt you. When leaving a facility for another, never burn your bridges and try and leave on good terms. The staff or supervisors there could be valuable references for you for this job and future jobs. It is always good to have a reference from people you trust. Ask them if they can be a reference and the best time and way (phone or email) a recruiter could call them at. Try and get three references and alert them to check for phone calls or emails from a recruiter.

Now is the time to talk about pre-scheduled vacation or approved vacation/time off if it is a transfer before starting a new job. If you are a believer in God, pray about your decision. Always follow your gut instinct. Don't take every job offered even though it may look good. Do a pro/con list about that job. Look at the commute time, parking, safety, salary, benefits, future prospects for education, unionized position or not for job protection and how it will affect your family life. If unsure, ask if you can shadow on your own time to see the flow. I did that with a Nurse Practitioner job in a nursing facility for drug rehabilitation. After two weeks of watching unsafe practices and cutting corners, I told them no thanks and ran as fast as my legs would take me!

When I spoke to many nurses about their first jobs, they talked about moving up the ladder from CNA to LPN to RN in the same facility and keeping good relationships with other staff. Don't take everything personally at work but as an opportunity to improve. Attempt to have healthy relations and friendships in your professional and private life. The less you mix both lives, the fewer complications you would have to deal with!

How to Keep the Job

Come and leave on time. Avoid gossip. Dress and act professionally. You are not at home, so behave like a professional. Don't put out your personal business for others to speculate on. Voice modulation and self-awareness is key. Don't speak loudly, ignore patients while talking to other staff about your weekend, and be unaware of your surroundings. Take your AirPods off and put your phone on silent or vibrate. Be helpful to others and plan and request vacation ahead of time except if it is an emergency. Remember the end of probation does not automatically set you up with this job for life! Ask for help, learn, and read all policies especially during orientation. Meet and discuss your orientation with the manager if you have issues or need more time. Give yourself at least six months to adjust unless it is an extremely toxic environment. Learn to advocate for yourself and do not tolerate bullies.

Enjoy being a nurse! It's a great profession! I have attached video links and other helpful links below as resources for you.

Best of luck with your dream job!  Now that you have aced the interview new graduate, when can you start?


5 Registered Nurse RN Interview Questions and Answers

New Grad Nursing Interview Tips + MOST Frequently Asked Questions

Body Language During a Job Interview

How to Prepare for Your Nursing Job Interview: Nurse Interview Tips

Body Language Tips for Your Interview

Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are: Amy Cuddy TED Talk

Spotangel has 31 years clinical experience and has worked as an educator and administrator. Education- DNP, RN, APRN, FNP and specializes in ED, Tele, Med-surg, ADN, outpatient, homecare, LTC, Peds. She loves God above all!

45 Articles   509 Posts

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4 Comment(s)

On 10/20/2020 at 2:28 PM, spotangel said:

Don't ever discuss salary, benefits in the job interview with the interviewing unit manager. That is an HR question! Once you are offered the job by HR, be ready with the questions (That is another article by itself). The basic concept is to research and find out the salary range (indeed.com has ranges or a ballpark salary). Then ask on the higher end and hopefully, you get a midrange!

As someone that hires for a company I help run, I couldn't disagree with this more.  The interview is a sales meeting.  I read an advertisement for a person selling a service.  In my current case, someone selling their marketing skills.  In context of this thread, someone selling their service as a nurse.  I reached out, and scheduled an interview.  That's our time to question each other, and sell ourselves to each other to reach an agreement for employment.  Part of my job is knowing what the pay range is, knowing what benefits there are, knowing the perks. I am the one that's selling this job to the applicant, not HR.  If I am not ready with that information, it says A LOT about my company.

And what do I see from an applicant that asks me about pay, benefits, and raises? Someone planning on working for me long-term, because those details actually matter to that person.  When pay doesn't come up, I see that as the person more likely to only use me as a temporary job until they move on.  Every single thing in life that we pay for, the cost is a part of it.  Why is this applicant not bringing up what we're going to be paying him to work here?  I don't know about you, but I am 100% positive that people work to make money.  That SHOULD be a major issue.

And then, ask the hard questions.  What are the most common complaints that nurses have? What is the retention rate of new hires over the last year?

A job interview is an interview for your livlihood.  Don't be afraid to ask.  There's nothing wrong with caring about where you're going to accept a job.

spotangel, DNP, RN, NP

Specializes in ED,Tele,Med surg, ADN,outpatient,homecare,LTC,Peds. Has 33 years experience. 45 Articles; 509 Posts

Thanks for your input! I appreciate it!

I would say in reply, "Different strokes for different folks!"

I am not sure if the company you hire for is for nursing. If you are recruiting, then yes it is a sales pitch and you do want an idea of the salary range the candidate is looking for. Most hospitals  that I am familiar  with are not set up that way. After the initial reach out from HR to the candidate to schedule the candidate for an interview with the clinical team,HR waits for the clinical team's approval of the candidate before starting negotiations and an offer.

  Sitting on many interviews as part of the clinical team, the answer we always give the candidate is to discuss salary with HR. They handle all questions about benefits, salary, insurance, 401 or 403s etc. That being said, the setup may differ depending on the organization.

5 hours ago, TheDudeWithTheBigDog said:

And then, ask the hard questions.  What are the most common complaints that nurses have? What is the retention rate of new hires over the last year?

I do agree with you that these are great questions to ask. Thank you!


Specializes in Canadian Nephrology nurse. Has 33 years experience. 3 Posts

All newgrads must read this and understand how to get your first job! Not only the first job, but many tips in this article can be used for any interviews for any positions. Great article!

spotangel, DNP, RN, NP

Specializes in ED,Tele,Med surg, ADN,outpatient,homecare,LTC,Peds. Has 33 years experience. 45 Articles; 509 Posts

Thanks @Latha