It’s a great feeling of accomplishment finishing nursing school.  But then you have to find a job and pass the NCLEX exam. There’s barely a chance to catch your breath and celebrate when you’re faced with an even more daunting task:

Landing your first nursing job.

Let’s face it, competition is fierce. Even with the expanding need for qualified nurses, there are limited positions and plenty of nursing grads who graduated top of their class, aced the NCLEX and have been working as volunteers or GNs. They may have all the marks, are comfortable in interviews and may already have prospects lined up.

That’s great for them, but what if you’re one of the thousands who worked their butts off, made decent grades but don’t have a super impressive resume.

You still have the passion and drive to be a nurse but may be asking yourself, “Are there still jobs out there for me?”

Yes, because nursing managers and recruiters are looking for more than just stellar resumes and interviews when they consider candidates to fill nursing positions.

The Perfect Candidate

There is no perfect candidate for any nursing position. You may think that graduating top of your class and scoring high on the NCLEX make you a shoo-in for your choice of nursing jobs.

That’s not necessarily true. What many nursing managers are looking for are qualities that are a bit more intangible. 

According to Terrie Garcia, Assistant Professor Tenure Track, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi a perfect candidate doesn’t just have a perfect resume and perfect answers to the interview questions. 

Recruiters are looking for a certain attitude and passion that isn’t found in perfect answers but in the way their positive attitude comes out in their demeanor”.

The qualities hiring managers are looking for include:

  • Positive attitude
  • Passion for nursing
  • Flexibility

These intangible qualities can often be more important and valuable than the “perfect” resume.

Other qualities hiring managers look for: attention to detail, being a team player, good communication skills, empathy and being responsible

How To Put The Odds In Your Favor

While a great academic record definitely sets you apart from the pack, showing passion and a willingness to work hard also gives you a leg up on the competition. And there are plenty of ways you can do this in nursing school and while you’re looking for a job.

  • Be flexible and open to working in other departments

Sure, you may have your heart set on being an ER nurse, but if you’re having a hard time finding a position, consider other departments to get your foot in the door.

  • Get an internship

Internships may not be paid, but the networking and experience you’ll get is invaluable. You also have a good chance to make it on the short list of hires for the facility you intern at.

  • Network, network, network

It may be a cliché, but it’s true: sometimes it’s who you know. Make as many contacts in the nursing and healthcare field as possible.

  • Widen your scope

There more healthcare organizations out there than hospitals. Broaden your search to include senior care facilities, healthcare providers, clinics, government agencies and rehabilitation centers.

  • Apply to a residency program not a department 

Most health organizations are willing to get you to where you want to be if you put in your time first.

  • Be trainable

Getting as many certifications and as much training as possible only increases your hirability. If you’re working as an intern or volunteering, ask if they have any training programs you can be a part of.

  • Show you’re a member of the team

Working as a nurse in any healthcare setting is being part of a team. Go above and beyond to make yourself indispensable to the team.

  • Be willing to relocate

Don’t be afraid to relocate to a city where there is a greater need for nurses.

  • Volunteer

Nothing speaks to your passion for healthcare than volunteering your time. Not only is it a chance to help others and practice your skills, the experience and networking is well worth your time.

So what are the secrets to landing that first nursing job?

They’re really pretty simple. 

The person hiring you wants to see your passion for nursing – that it’s not just another job to you. They want to know that you’re flexible and willing to learn. And lastly, they want to know you’re a team member that’s willing to put in the hours.

If you can show them these three things, you’re going to find the job you’re looking for.

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