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How Nurses Can Avoid Common Missteps in the Hiring Process

Why Nurses Don't Get Hired

Getting a job in nursing can sometimes seem difficult, but it shouldn’t be impossible. Each step of the hiring process presents unique challenges that can make getting hired difficult. Understanding the common missteps that nurses make during the hiring process can help you to identify areas that you can improve to optimize your chances of getting the job you want.

Application Missteps

The application is the first step of the hiring process for most facilities. There are several areas that people make mistakes in at this stage that you can pay special attention to.


Your resume is a great tool for presenting your strengths and the reasons that a potential employer should hire you, but it can also hurt your employment chances if it is not created correctly. If you have spelling or grammatical errors, unexplained holes in your work history, or have a resume that is difficult to read, then your chances of getting noticed will be lower. The average recruiter spends less than 10 seconds reading your resume. Be sure that your resume is written to highlight key areas that you want noticed, without a lot of heavy text that will not be read. Be sure that the resume is professional and presents your qualifications and backgrounds accurately and concisely. It can be a good idea to have the resume proofread by someone who is comfortable giving candid feedback.

Proofing Online Applications

Online application software will often pull information from your resume but will often not format everything correctly. If the software pulls information from your resume, be sure that it is all formatted correctly and placed in the correct fields.

Cover Letter

An individualized cover letter is a must for a professional application. It can seem like a nuisance to have to prepare a cover letter for each job application but having a cover letter is necessary. You can cut down on the time that a cover letter takes to write by writing a cover letter that can be quickly individualized for each application.

Follow Up

Most of the time, your online application enters a database and must be pulled up and screened by human resources before it will reach the hiring manager. It can help your chances of getting hired if you call the human resources department where you have applied one to two weeks after applying and ask if the hiring manager has reviewed your application. Sometimes applications never make it to the hiring manager and following up can ensure that the manager actually reviews your application.

Interview Missteps

The interview stage is the second main area of the hiring process that can create difficulties in trying to obtain a nursing job. There are several areas of the interview process that you can focus on that can help you to be successful in your job search.


Being prepared for an interview is vital. Come prepared for common questions, such as how you resolve conflicts with others, what your weakness are, and why you should be selected for the position. Also come prepared with questions of your own. Not asking questions indicates that you are not interested in the position. Have at least three well thought-out questions going into each interview.


Interviews can be scary or intimidating. Unfortunately, if you let this show, it can hide some of the positive aspects of your personality that could appeal to the interviewer. If you struggle with pre-interview nerves, consider practicing beforehand with someone who is willing to ask difficult questions and be candid with their feedback. It is also important to have a friendly attitude. Sometimes a conversation during the interview will go off on a tangent about a shared interest, or even about the manager’s family. Discussions that seem off topic but are related to your interviewer personally can help you to come across as friendly, as long as the interviewer seems okay with continuing the topic. Do not stray off track if the interviewer is trying to keep the interview to topic.

Emphasize Strengths

It’s easy to get off topic during an interview or to focus too much on answering the question. Be sure to always steer the topic around to your strengths and to emphasize your strongest areas as much as possible, using facts to back up your strength. It is important to emphasize your strengths without appearing braggadocios; be sure not to come across as arrogant and use only facts when discussing your strong areas.


By focusing on some key areas during the application and interview process, you can avoid some common pitfalls and significantly increase your chances of getting hired.

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About Benjamin "Caleb" Williams RN, BA, CEN

Caleb is an Ivy League-educated nurse consultant with a strong clinical background, including supervisory positions within ICU and ER settings. In addition to his clinical work, Caleb practices as an expert nurse consultant and nurse writer, having written hundreds of healthcare-related articles and advised major businesses across the country on healthcare matters. He is a member of the Emergency Nurses Association and the American Association of Critical Care Nurses and holds multiple advanced certifications in emergency and trauma nursing.