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Uncensored Thoughts of a Nurse Interviewer

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The job market for new grad RNs is competitive. You need all the help you can get to land your first nursing job, especially in acute care. Last week I met sixty plus new grads at a New Grad Banquet. Our hospital will hire only a small handful of them. Here are my uncensored thoughts from that evening to give you a hospital insider's point of view.

by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist)

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

What do nurse recruiters look for?

Uncensored Thoughts of a Nurse Interviewer

It's Spring and it's New Nurse Graduation Time!

Last week I attended one of two New Grad Banquets hosted by my hospital for the graduating classes of our local colleges. This one was for our community college ADN program (my alma mater).

The purpose of the New Grad Banquets is to celebrate new grads and for the students to meet us and get a sense of what we stand for. At the same time, we begin to identify the stand out candidates.

We are looking for new grads who will be a good fit.

CONGRATS! and welcome!

The conference room, located at a very nice local hotel, was beautifully decorated. Round tables were dressed in floor length heavy-weight white tablecloths with shorter square black overlays. Black folded napkins stood upright at each place setting. Red twist-wrapped hard candies were strewn for accents.

Each table had a centerpiece tent placard printed with the name of a nursing unit- ICU, ED, MedSurg/Oncology, MedsSurg/Peds, L&D, etc. Students could sit at any table they chose, and table-hop.

Encircling the room were long, narrow tables featuring trifold conference style poster boards showcasing each nursing unit, to encourage circulating and conversation before dinner.

Large colorful banners with our hospital name, logo, and mission statement swooped down from the ceiling.

The first hour was to meet and mingle. Our hospital's Versant Program Director, Nurse Recruiter, CNO, Nurse Managers, Directors, and Educators were all there to congratulate the nursing students. And to make mental notes.


We are looking for new grads who will be a good fit.

After awhile, the Nurse Recruiter announced that dinner was served and said a short prayer. Seated at my table, I focused in on our group and listened. They all had such interesting stories of why they had chosen nursing, and how they overcame challenges to get through school. Each one inspired me.

Sitting back and surveying the room, I noticed the same animated conversations going on at every table. The room was chock full of bright, fresh young people. You could feel the positive energy.

But I know that fewer than a handful of these bright young candidates are going to land a job in acute care within the next six months.

What separates the successful candidates from their peers?

Here are two stand out candidates I met, and my uncensored thoughts (in bold).

New Nurse Grad STAND OUT Candidate A

I met Javier, whose wife had delivered a baby that morning in our hospital! Now you certainly can't plan that kind of attention-getting event, but it definitely worked in Javier's favor that night.

It's their first, a healthy girl, 9lbs 12 ounces. His mother-in-law urged him to leave as both mom and baby were doing well, and to attend the banquet. Wise mother-in-law.

Javier is on the quiet side, a big guy with an open face and humble demeanor (he's teachable, he listens well. Non-entitled. He'd be appreciative to be selected ).

He gave the impression of solid. Steady. Family guy with family values.

A good fit


The Program Coordinator and I texted back and forth later about Javier (all names are covered by the hearts). I'm sharing the texts to because hospitals do compete and pursue new grad nurses who stand out. Right or wrong, first impressions count for a lot when hiring. Javier made a good first impression because he is authentic and genuine. His values are a good match for ours.

New Nurse Grad STAND OUT Candidate B

This young woman wowed! Ashley approached our table with her hand extended, introduced herself, and shook everyone's hand.

We were all still talking about Javier's baby. Ashley hadn't heard yet that Javier's wife had delivered. She instantly teared up, which I could tell embarrassed her a bit. (OK, a spontaneous cryer. I get her. Like me) Turns out Ashley has children of her own, so it was a mother moment. We bonded.

Warm and assertive and nice... a good fit

First impression: outgoing, confident, spontaneous. Ashley seated herself and asked us some well-planned questions.

"Does the hospital support nurses who go back to school?"

(do we ever! what days do you need off?)

"Your Peds unit is imbedded on MedSurg. Do you plan to expand?"(she knows about us. Did her homework)

"I want to go on and get my NP. Do you think it's important to get MedSurg experience?" (smart, smart girl- she shared her future goals while asking our advice)

Ashley came to the banquet prepared and with purpose. She understood that this was a working dinner, and she worked it. Turns out she is President of her Nursing Class (why was I not surprised?).

My uncensored thoughts: The window for Versant applications has not even opened yet at our facility- no matter! Don't wait for her app-do whatever it takes to hire this young woman. Do not let her get away. Call her in the morning.

New grads who stand out and are good fits have the best chance of getting hired.

YAY!! We found some awesome new grad nurses!

I hope my uncensored thoughts help you understand what's important to hiring type folks. And the very best of luck to you in landing your first nursing position.

But you need more than luck! You need to prepare. For example, how can you make your resume stand out?

I'm Beth, a MedSurg Educator and professional writer. I love new grads. I was one once :) I write a lot about how to get hired at http://nursecode.com

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46 Comment(s)

Thank you for the article, Nurse Beth! I enjoyed reading it. What are your thoughts on the salary difference between male nurses and female nurses? In a profession dominated by females, is it surprising to see that?

Brenda F. Johnson, MSN

Specializes in Gastrointestinal Nursing. Has 29 years experience.

Well written article, enjoyed reading it even though I'm an old, old nurse! I'm sure this will help new grads

Nurse Beth, MSN

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

Emilija, BSN thank you. I was pretty surprised and dismayed about the salary difference. How about you?

Nurse Beth, MSN

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

Thanks, Brenda F. Johnson :) New grads have a whole lot different experience getting hired than we did, right? I want to help them get started :)

It was very disheartening to see that especially since I didn't expect it in nursing. I wonder what we can do in order to bridge that divide. I only asked that question since I wanted to get your opinion as a hiring manager. I feel like nursing is becoming so competitive these days and it is discouraging to hear that the salary gap between male and female exists even in our realm.


Specializes in Neurosciences, stepdown, acute rehab, LTC. Has 8 years experience.

Thanks, this is nice , but where is part one?

ReadyToListen, CNA, EMT-B

Has 2 years experience.

This helps so much! I'm always wondering if I'll get skipped over.


Specializes in Rehabilitation,Critical Care. Has 1 years experience.

I am aiming for a nursing internship job at the moment. Thank you for this article. Reading through it made me take out some pointers on how to make myself stand out. Also, do you have any advice on how to answer the question "how can you be an asset to our hospital?" I would like non specific answers and if you can include on what direction should I answer this question if asked? Thank you!

I graduate in 1.5 mos. Your article is great. Hoping to get hired sometime in July and I'm definitely looking for all the advice I can get.

Nurse Beth, MSN

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

Hi thevez! The question "How can you be an asset to our hospital?" is really a version of "Why should we hire you?" The key is to highlight your attributes while keeping in mind what they are looking for. Here's an example " All through school my classmates wanted me in their study groups. It's because I thrive when I work in a team and I'm a people person" Best wishes! What area is your internship in?

Nurse Beth, MSN

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

Emilija, BSN I hope it will serve as a wake-up call for nurses. We will never get what we don't ask for.

@hawkesbe thank you for your post. It was very insightful. I'll be starting nursing school this summer and I'm planning early. I've heard that some hospitals are reluctant to hire new grads because they may resign to attend grad school after the hospital has invested a lot to train them. Is that true? Would it be better not to mention about grad school in an interview? As an honest person, I'm not sure what to say. Thank you.

PS. I've visited your site. Would definitely revisit as I progress through nursing school


Specializes in Rehabilitation,Critical Care. Has 1 years experience.

It's for an ICU internship. No interview confirmation yet but I am very interested. Thank you.

explorereb96, ADN, BSN

Specializes in Pediatrics Telemetry CCU ICU. Has 34 years experience.

Thank you so much for this article. I would like to know how you feel about a new grad that was previously an L.P.N.? I am going back to school next semester. I have been an LPN for 27 years. Two years of med/surg, then 9 years in CCU(mostly) float to SDU. Fill in for the Cath Lab and ICU/ER. After the hospital that I worked in decided that they wanted an all R.N. staff, I went to a sub/acute Pediatric Facility. Do you think I would still be considered "a good fit" for the acute care setting now? I am hoping that experience matters.

Thank you again.

Nurse Beth, MSN

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

Congrats on going back to school! Here's my impression- I would want to talk to you if your app came across my desk, yes- and if I were hiring for Peds. It looks like you'll be a new grad RN with 16 or so years of Peds subacute-nice! The acute care exp., while solid, is also not recent. Best wishes, exploreab96 !

Nurse Beth, MSN

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

Hi anewsns I'm glad you like it, thank you much. Part I is published at my blog nursecode.com. Sorry for the confusion. And stay tuned here, I plan to write more - such as interviewing tips, and resumes. What would interest you? :)


Specializes in Neurosciences, stepdown, acute rehab, LTC. Has 8 years experience.

I've been working in a SNF for a bunch of years and want to go into some kind of Tele/cardiac floor but would also do other stuff to get my foot in the door. (And to explore possible venues) This article was really well written so I'd like to read anything you want to add.

Oh I just read the one on your blog too. Thank you a lot that made me feel a lot more confident. I'm a little nervous competing against the more competitive , very confident, or type A people so it was nice to read this and make me feel like I have more of an edge than I realized.

Edited by anewsns