Landing Your First Job: Tips for New Graduate Nurses

How to hone job seeking and interviewing skills

Today, more than ever, an abundance of opportunities exist for new graduate registered nurses (RNs) in large health systems across the country. However, the new graduate nurse recruitment and hiring market remains competitive.

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In this Q&A, Meg Duffy, MS, BSN, RN, Senior Director of Staffing and University Outreach for Cleveland Clinic’s Stanley Shalom Zielony Institute for Nursing Excellence, shares several tips to help new graduate RNs further prepare to begin their professional nursing journeys. Duffy warmly welcomes inquiries and more from new graduate RNs regarding possible job opportunities within Cleveland Clinic health system, Cleveland Clinic’s renowned New Graduate Nurse Residency, and more. She can be reached at mduffy@ccf.org.

Q:  In today’s hiring market, how can new graduate RNs better prepare and not feel overwhelmed as they begin to explore opportunities?

A:  First, develop a plan that includes a great deal of exploration and investigation. Colleges and universities do a great job of providing nursing students with on-site recruitment events. Healthcare organizations often travel near and far to attend these events and meet with soon-to-be new graduates (as well as undergraduates). Although these opportunities provide a one-stop shop, they can be overwhelming, thus having an interview plan is essential.

I recommend breaking the plan into two parts: Plan A and Plan B. If a new graduate has a strong desire to work at a certain hospital in a certain unit (Plan A), such as where they spent clinical time for example, and that opportunity does not exist, the new graduate should have an alternate plan in place (Plan B). Plan B should be a position that will provide the experience needed to help develop the skills that will allow an eventual move to Plan A. One of the many great things about the profession of nursing is that each and every position and experience creates another layer of expertise, skill and knowledge.

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Q:  What is the first step a new graduate RN should take when ready to start applying for positions?

A:  First and foremost, review hospital websites. Cleveland Clinic has a great career site, including a search tool that offers access and information for all relevant new graduate RN opportunities throughout the system. After reviewing a posting, which includes job location, department, status and shift, if a new grad is interested, he or she can quickly and easily complete the application in its entirety.

Additionally, always have an updated resume and a list of references with contact information on hand when applying for positions.

Q:  What attributes do nurse managers typically seek in new graduate candidates?

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A:  Most often, nurse managers are seeking new graduate RNs who will be a good fit not only for a specific unit, but also for the organization and the patients the organization serves. At Cleveland Clinic, we seek compassionate new graduate RN candidates who outwardly display and clearly exhibit attributes that support our guiding principle of “Patients First.” These include: motivation, enthusiasm, flexibility, empathy, dependability, authenticity, character and integrity, as well as the ability to connect with patients and families, which is essential in establishing trust. Attributes like these not only enhance patient and family experiences, but also support quality and safe patient care. In addition, they help ensure Cleveland Clinic is a healthy, vibrant and viable choice for new graduate RNs.

Q:  Do you have any other advice on how new graduate RNs can better prepare for interviews?

A:  Thoroughly researching the hospital or healthcare organization is a must. This research can help new graduate RNs formulate questions that can be used during an interview. In my experience, it is imperative that new graduate RNs are prepared to ask questions when being interviewed. Often, taking the time to prepare carefully thought-out questions, as opposed to generic off-the-cuff questions, can be a huge differentiator when comparing candidates.

Additionally, professionalism is key. This includes everything from appropriate attire and punctuality to attentiveness, eye contact and sending a handwritten or emailed thank you note following an interview. (Handwritten will win major bonus points!)