No matter how new or how experienced you are as a nurse, keeping your skills current and transferable is one of the best ways to stay relevant in today’s job market.

But what exactly does it mean to have skills that transfer? And how do you get that across in a job interview? Whether you are looking to make a lateral move or to move up with a new position in another organization, you have plenty of skills that will make you seem like a better fit for the job even without direct experience. But you have to make sure your interviewer hears those stories.

So you’re a newly graduated nurse with plenty of clinical experience, some work experience, and lots of assorted employment not in health care. If you are going for a med/surg position, how can you get across to your interviewer that you know you can do the job?

In a job interview, you have to do more than say you can do the job, you have to prove it. To do that, think of lots of relevant stories from any employment you’ve had that can show your skills. Did you receive an employee of the month award for your dedication or for your customer service skills? Mention the award was for your customer service position in a big box store, but back it up by explaining how your award was based on a specific positive interaction you had with a difficult customer.

Did a customer send your boss a note when you were teaching nursery school? Did your lab manager praise your meticulous attention to safety and detail when you worked as a lab assistant? All those accolades, although they may not seem related to the position you are interviewing for, are especially important when you use them to show solid details of your work ethic, your dependability, your attention to detail, your honesty, or your positive work with the public.

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Any hiring manager is looking for those exact qualities in a new nurse—you just have to show, not tell, how those qualities reflect your own work history.

What if you’re a more seasoned nurse looking for a career shift to a new unit or a whole new aspect of health care? All your years of experience do count for something, but just like a new nurse, you have to tell your story. Three decades of nursing experience is impressive, but won’t get you hired unless you can show how effective you were as a nurse for those 30 years.

What do hiring managers look for? They want to see that you helped the organizations you worked for, so it’s up to you to tell them. You can’t assume they will take all those years of work as a nurse and consider you a shoo-in for the job.

But it’s especially tough for veteran nurses to promote themselves because in all those years of work they have likely seen everything and went above and beyond the call of duty almost every single day. That’s what nurses do.

You need to think outside the box a little and tell your story with details about how you saved your hospital money by implementing a new structure to crash carts that saved nurses time and made your floor more efficient. Did you head up a mentoring group for new nurses? Did your commitment to patient safety cause you to be the catalyst for a new approach to preventing falls and make your organization’s safety record improve?

Hiring mangers then interpret all those vivid and very relatable stories into skills their organization needs. You might see your actions as normal activities that any good nurse would do, but you need to promote them so the hiring manager sees you as an excellent nurse that their organization needs as an employee.

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Even if your perfect GPA or your years of experience are on your resume, you cannot let your resume speak for you. You have to speak for you if you want the job. At your next interview, tell your story, explain your skills with examples, and show how you belong in their organization. Even the best resume can’t do that for you.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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