Like many other in this forum I have been searching for a nursing job since graduating nursing school and passing the NCLEX. I live in California and have interviewed at hospitals as far east as Washington DC; as far north as Washington State and of course throughout California. I've sat down and talked with about 20 recruiters, emailed/called even more. Through these trials and tribulations I've learned about myself and this abyss they call the hiring process. This is what I found worked for me; I hope some may also work for you.
1) Apply, apply apply -- I sent out about 230 applications in the past 4 months (about 2/day). No matter how down I felt about putting in an application I made it part of my morning routine. Wake up, get up, get dressed, fill out some applications. It has been mentioned before, but I found: http://www.theagapecenter.com/Hospitals/California.htm an excellent resource.
2) Bypass the nurse recruiters -- Apply for a job and a couple of days later put on your Sunday clothes and show up at the unit with resume in hand. Ask if the unit manager is available and say you are following up on an application you submitted. If the manager is not available - ask if they have five minutes in the next week and if you could schedule a tour of their unit.
3) A lot of managers rely on you to reiterate your certifications, skills and abilities (even when they are in bold on the front of your resume).
4) Be ready to answer interview questions - there are like 5-6 questions that I found most interviewer ask.
- Why nursing/this hospital/this department
- Tell us how you resolve conflict/cultural difference/stress
- What are your Strengths/weaknesses
- What would your peers/coworkers/employer say about you
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years
- Why should we hire you/what have you done to prepare.
5) Write an essay response to each potential interview question. Practice your answers with a tape recorder, in front of a mirror, your significant other, your pets, while driving, etc. Be enthusiastic about the answers! The more passion you can interject into the more you come across as genuine.
6) If the interview is concluding and they haven't asked why they should hire you -- tell them. After asking chit-chat questions about scheduling, preceptors, etc. I would ask if the manager minded if I told them why I think they should hire me.
7) Always send a thank you card the next day.
8) Sign up for the hospital website 'job search email notification' and check hospital websites at least every week; the 'job search agents' will often miss jobs.
9) Do something in the community - Reread class notes, browse through old med/surg textbooks and find somewhere you can volunteer (the Red Cross is always looking for volunteers).
10) Don't give up.