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The Job Shadow Interview

Get a Better Result From Your Job Search with Job Shadowing
Cathy Yeulet/123RF.com

The position sounded perfect on paper. The HR director slid a contract across the desk and handed me a pen. The salary was fair, the bonus was enticing, and the hours were exactly what I wanted. And yet, I wasn’t sure I was ready to abandon the comfort of a large hospital system for a relatively new private clinic setting. It was a big leap. I put down the pen and asked, “Can I spend a day on the floor and job shadow?”

It wasn’t what the recruiter was looking for, but he agreed, setting up a job shadow for the next day. I absorbed everything I could about the culture and values of the company, met the team I would be working with, and got a sense of what a workday looked like. I could see their systems and processes and it gave the company an opportunity to see how I would fit in.

Is it worth your time to job shadow? After all, you might have to take time off from your current position, which means losing money or PTO.  Keep in mind you will be spending a large portion of your waking hours at work, and getting a peek behind the curtain might help you avoid a situation that isn’t a good fit. Best case scenario? It confirms that it’s a great company and you really do want to sign that contract.

Some tips to ensure your job shadow experience is productive:

  • Whatever you do, don’t do patient care. Even if you are the grandmaster champion of starting IV’s and the nurse you are shadowing can’t hit the broad sign of a barn, don’t offer. If you get a needle stick, or get hurt moving a patient, you are not protected. And if you hurt a patient, you aren’t protected legally, and I guarantee that job offer will vanish instantly.
  • Timing is everything. Don’t wait until they are in the weeds or giving shift-to-shift report to ask questions. Respect that staff have a full workload, and they need to balance their responsibilities with talking with you.
  • You are being evaluated as well, so consider the time one long interview. Managers will want to know if you meshed with existing employees and what their first impressions were. You are expected to take notes, ask questions about processes, and to try and get a clear picture of what it means to work there.
  • Attitude is everything. Roll your eyes about a needy patient or slow staff member, and it will be noticed. Are you talking badly about your current employee, or suggesting one of their processes is done better at your current company? The best way to sink a job shadow is to bring a negative, know-it-all attitude.
  • Pay attention to red flags. Is the workload unmanageable? Does staff have the tools they need to do their jobs? Are they generally happy to work there?
  • You turned off your cell phone, right? The best way to lose a job in a quick minute is to check Facebook while you are observing.

And what about my job shadow? During my time in the clinic, I had the opportunity to chat with the Director of Nursing in ways I hadn’t been able to do during my initial interview. She talked about her nursing career and how she planned to retire from the company in a few years.  I left the job shadow with the promise I would make a decision within 48 hours. On the second day, I glanced through new job postings and was shocked to see that same facility had just posted the Director of Nursing position. Decision made. If the DON was replaced that quickly with no warning, then it wasn’t a company I wanted to work for. I wouldn’t have had that information had I not spent the day with the company. Time lost? Three hours. Avoiding working for a company that wasn’t right for me? Priceless.

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About Angie Best-Boss RN

Angie Best-Boss, ASN, BA, MDiv is a psychiatric nurse and freelance writer from the Indianapolis, Indiana area. Angie has three daughters and can usually be found with her nose in a book, crafting or, in warm weather, geocaching.