Wondering why you can't get hired or promoted: Resume + Interview hints!

I've been reviewing resumes in my department and can't believe the resumes I've received: misspelling, words crossed off, no cover letter, including personal information about family life. Read to learn "Why am I not getting hired?!" Nurses Career Support Knowledge


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Wondering why you can't get hired or promoted: Resume + Interview hints!

UPDATED ARTICLE @ Resume Tips: Perfecting Nursing Resume, Cover Letter, Online Job Applications

Look at your resume!

I was taught in LPN and BSN program how to prepare a resume. Is this a lost art being skipped??

Also agree with our BB members that calling facility and finding out who is department manager, then forwarding your resume to them along with hr is great idea.

I work in smaller organization than hospital but has taken me over two months to get open positions advertised and three weeks to get resumes sent to me...those that sent to me directly have interview same week.

Resume Writing

Resume writing and interview tips for nurses from Univ. of Pennsylvania:

Job Search Prep: Resumes, Cover letters & Interviews

Resume tips for nurses

Sample resume for a nurse

Final cut: Words to Strike From Your Resume

Cover Letters for the Resume

Cover Letters That Sell - this article contains an outline and guideline of what each paragraph of a cover letter should contain

Cover letter mistakes you should avoid

c. Interview Advice

Learn to Answer Difficult Interview Questions

You are interviewing the hospital too:

Questions for Management Positions:

  • If I called a member of your current staff and asked them to tell me about you, what would they say?
  • What actions would you take if you came on board?
  • How do you lead?
  • What's your secret to getting subordinates to follow you?
  • How do you motivate employees?
  • How do you reward employees?
  • Describe your management philosophy and management style.
  • Some managers supervise their employees closely, while others use a loose rein. How do you manage?
  • How have you improved as a manager over the years?
  • How many people have you fired? how do you go about it?
  • How would you deal with an employee who broke a policy (ie: late for work)?
  • How would you deal with an employee who was not open and honest in communication?
  • It is very hard to attract (critical care, er, or, ob etc.) nurses to this area. What are some strategies you might use to have enough qualified nurses to be sure patients get quality care in the facility?
  • What single professional event made you most proud to be a manager/leader?
  • What event made you least proud to be a leader?
  • In prior positions did you have budgeting responsibilities? If so, what was the size of your operating budget?
  • Do you know how to figure fte's?
  • What is your definition of empowerment?
  • What is your definition of quality assurance (QA), and who should be responsible, for QA?
  • Tell me about a time when your manager made a decision you disagreed with. What actions did you take and why?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to handle a disruptive employee. what did you do? what were the results?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to deal with an irate physician, patient, employee etc. how did you handle it and what was the result?
  • How have you managed to foster a successful team in your past positions?
  • What methods have you found successful in determining the priorities when you start in a new facility?
  • What methods do you use to foster open communication with staff and management?
  • Tell me about a work incident when you were totally honest, despite a potential risk or downside for the honesty.
  • How did you handle a recent situation where the direction from above was unclear and circumstances were changing?
  • Describe how you motivated a group of people to do something they did not want to do.
  • Who is your most effective subordinate and your least effective subordinate?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of each? What have you done to develop each of these subordinates?
  • Tell me about some of the people who have become successful as a result of your management. What was your role in their development?
  • What are the major training and development needs of the people in your department? How did you identify them? What are you doing about them?
  • Are there any techniques you have found useful in identifying particular subordinates' needs and potentials? Tell me how they worked with a particular person.
  • What do you do differently than other managers? Why? Examples?
  • What is the farthest you've had to bend your standards in order to succeed?
  • What job duties would you like to avoid if at all possible?
  • Describe a time in which you weighed the pros and cons of a situation and decided not to take action, even though you were under pressure to do so.
  • All of us have been in situations where we assigned work to other people and they didn't do what we intended. Can you tell me about some of those? What were the circumstances and how did you handle it?
  • Have you ever had problems in getting your subordinates to accept your ideas or department goals? What approach did you use? How effective was it?
  • Have you ever needed cooperation from groups that did not report to you? What did you do to gain cooperation? What were the satisfactions and disappointments?
  • Is there a trait or characteristic about you that you find is frequently misunderstood, that surprises you when you find out that people think that about you?
  • What 3 things do you hope to accomplish in your first year?
  • What do you expect of those who report to you? If candidate responds with a one word answer (for example saying, "support" you can probe further by asking the candidate to describe three behaviors that she/he would view as being supportive.
  • If you had an unfavorable plan (I.e., budget) to implement, what would you do to get the managers' buy in and support?
  • With the current nursing shortage, what are two solutions you would like to see put in place?
  • What kind of support do you offer managers, directors and front-line staff, knowing the stress of the nursing shortage and the increasing acuity of our patients?
  • Tell us about a high level innovative idea/change that you implemented. Was it or was it not successful?

Questions to ask the employer:

  • What unique challenges has this unit faced over the last year? (I.e. successes, failures, etc.)
  • What sets this organization apart from it's competitors?
  • How long is the orientation phase and what can I expect?
  • Will I work with one preceptor throughout or will I have several different preceptors?
  • How does the administration view nursing in terms of importance to the hospital?
  • How much independence do nurses have in being creative problem-solvers?
  • What kind of professional advancement is available to nurses here?
  • What are some of the attributes of working for your hospital?
  • If I were to get a job offer from another hospital, why would I want to work for this one?
  • What is the criterion you will use to select the person you are looking for?
  • What kind of support can I expect from the nursing educators and preceptors?
  • How does the hospital handle new grads that might be slow in becoming oriented to their new jobs?
  • How long have you been the manager of this unit and what is your nursing background?
  • How many nurses have quit and how many hired for this unit in the past 6 months? How long have some of the nurses been working on this unit?
  • Who will be precepting me? Can you tell me something about them? Will I always have the same preceptor or will there be more than one?
  • Have you ever had a new grad who didn't seem to work out? How was it handled?
  • If for any reason it seems that orientation is just not going well for me what will happen and who should I talk to about it?

Questions about the following are illegal to ask at a job interview here in the US:

  • your personal life (married, divorced, children)
  • family planning
  • pregnancy
  • provision for child care
  • religious preference
  • club memberships
  • height
  • weight
  • dependents
  • age (birth date)
  • ethnic background
  • maiden name
  • native language
  • physical problems
  • psychiatric problems
  • spouse's employment and/or earnings
  • credit rating
  • home ownership
  • automobile ownership

Resigning from position

Check your facilities policy and procedures--most require that you give notice equal to amount of vacation provided, often 2-3 weeks; long term employed rns can be 4-5weeks.

Managers often need 1-3 months notice to be eligible for rehire -- Don't burn your bridges.

Resign from a healthcare job gracefully

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Patient and Nursing advocate offering advice and support to Allnurses nursing community.

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104 Articles; 5,349 Posts

Specializes in Gerontological, cardiac, med-surg, peds.

Thanks, Karen! Excellent resources!

We have one faculty member (not a part of our nursing school, but a part of our community college faculty) whose specialty is writing resumes and cover letters, and any other qualifications that students need on interviews to get the job! She even has a nice little notebook she has prepared that goes over all aspects of job hunting (how to dress, what questions to anticipate on an interview, etc.). The mission statement for our community college is - equipping local residents (who are unemployed or underemployed) with marketable job skills so they can go to work!

Jolie, BSN

6,375 Posts

Specializes in Maternal - Child Health.


Could you make a "sticky" of your resume and cover letter sources? Thanks!

Great post! Thank you Karen.

I also had resume writing in LPN (14 years ago) and BSN school. In fact, it was a required assignment to hand in a completed one, just last semester in my 'professional leadership in nursing' class.

Good advice about finding out who the manager is and forwarding the resume directly to them.

And it never hurts to send a thank you note after the interview. :)

Specializes in Education, Acute, Med/Surg, Tele, etc.

Yes! The thank you letter seems to be a dying art as well, but my bosses admitted to me that it was the cover letter, resume, additional contact list (separate), letters of recomendation, and thank you letter that got me the job! I was worried that I was sending in TOO much info, but no I was sending in a very good reflection of myself!

I bring that thank you card with me to my interviews, make sure I get the names correctly, and put it in the mailbox on my way home from the interview! Nothing fancy...I just got those nice white with gold letter thank you cards from an Office supply store. They are simple and classy! I always bring up one thing positive said to remind them it was a positive interview (or at least leave with that note :) ).

Thanks Karen-

I had a class on resume writing and interviews in college also. However, it always helps to brush up. I'm interviewing for two positions this week. I appreciate the interview tips & links. I haven't interviewed in a few years, so this post is very timely! :)

Specializes in Cardiac, Step-Down, Psych, Recruiting.

As a hospital nurse recruiter, I couldn't agree with you more, Karen! I would also add:

Follow all of the instructions and fill out your application completely. If a company instructs you to fill out an electronic application, please do so -- many hospitals have moved to a paperless hiring system. If you insist on filling out a paper application, you will be seriously disadvantaged.

Do not let the first questions you ask be: "How much is your sign on, relocation, hourly wage, differentials, etc." The nursing shortage is not as severe in some parts of the country as others. If money is the only reason you are considering a position, some hospitals won't want you. Hiring and retaining the right employees is becoming more important than just hiring as many nurses as possible. The same goes for a generally entitled attitude -- you will make yourself look bad if you make multiple demands early in the hiring process. Save these questions for after you have interviewed or at least until you've been offered an interview.

Be polite to everyone that you come into contact with. I've tossed applications because the applicant was rude to our HR receptionist!

Do not show up to talk to a recruiter or for your interview in sweats, jeans, halter tops, with dirty hair, with 4 kids in tow, accompanied by your mom and boyfriend, etc.

You would think all of these things would be common sense -- but they're not! I see them all every day. Many nurses have developed a very entitled, rude, and demanding attitude because of the nursing shortage. I never cease to be amazed at the way some people go about their Job Search!

llg, PhD, RN

13,469 Posts

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development.

As someone who has read a lot lot of resumes, applications, etc. and done lots of interviews ... I wholeheartedly agree with the previous posts in this thread. In fact, as coordinator of a nursing student extern program, I have decided to emphasize job hunting, career planning, and employee skills in our extern classes as opposed to offering a lot of physiology and nursing care classes. The applicants who "do it right" really stand out from those who don't know how to make a positive impression on a potential employer.

Here is another tip for resumes:

Do NOT pad your resume or try to make school experiences look like employee experiences. I've seen a lot of that -- and it makes a very bad impression. It makes me think the applicant is sneaky, someone I can't completely trust. No one wants to hire a person they can't trust.


Quickbeam, BSN, RN

1,011 Posts

Specializes in Government.

WORD to all those looking for professional resumes. I did hire/fire as an RN case management supervisor for years and the resumes I'd get, Oy! Juvenile fonts, duckies, pictures of their kids and kittens....that stuff has no place on a professional resume. Save it for the Christmas letter. Really.


20,964 Posts

Specializes in Specializes in L/D, newborn, GYN, LTC, Dialysis.

This is a great thread, thanks. I did receive training on resume and cover-letter writing in my ADN program, thankfully. It was covered in the last weeks of our final semester. A plus for me was, being in the military, I did get the practice for writing resumes, as we had to often submit our own awards packages. And letter-writing was a huge part of my responsibilities in the Air Force, as well. I got really good at it!

But I think ALL nursing programs need to address this very important issue, not just here and there. I thank you for posting this thread-----we all, myself included----could stand to learn a few tricks and brush up our skills. Very informative.

And I do agree, a sticky would be a good idea, here or in the nursing career threads!

llg, PhD, RN

13,469 Posts

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development.
SmilingBluEyes said:
This is a great thread, thanks. I did receive training on resume and cover-letter writing in my ADN program, thankfully. It was covered in the last weeks of our final semester. !

I find it significant that most schools that include any of this content do so in the final weeks of the final semester. By then, it is too late for most people. Most students already have their jobs lined up by then.

Not that the problem is exclusive to new grads. I think it is even worse among experienced nurses, many of whom think they don't have to try anymore because they have experience. The thread could just as easily be titled, "Ever wonder why you can't get that promotion?"


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