When you’re thinking of a career move, you know your success depends on more than an impressive resume. Standing out from a crowd of highly qualified nurses takes a combination of professional skills, personality match, networking contacts, and knowing how to promote your best qualifications and qualities.

Minority Nurse recently caught up with Marisa Streelman DNP, RN, CMSRN, and director of the Academy of Medical Surgical Nurses (AMSN) to find out how nurses can emerge as front runners when they’re applying for a new role and seeking the best career move.

Q: When a nurse is thinking about starting a job search, what are the top three areas of a job history to really focus on?

A: When nurses are thinking about a job search there would be a different approach to job history depending on where they are in their career.

New graduate nurses would need to focus on their clinical experiences and highlight the skills they improved upon, location of their clinical, number of hours spent with direct patient care, and if they took a full patient assignment, specifically during their final clinical experiences.

For experienced nurses, the job history they would want to highlight would be dependent on the job they are seeking. I would recommend including areas that match the job they are seeking, as well as leadership roles, clinical or patient awards, quality improvement projects, and committees they have been a part of in their most recent roles.

For both the new graduate and the experienced nurse, highlighting any volunteer nursing work is also valuable, as it could resonate with the hiring manager and make the individual stand out from the other candidates.

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Q: What are some of the qualities and skills recruiters or hiring managers notice and want to see in a job candidate?

A: Hiring managers today are looking for job candidates who can discuss—and have participated in—quality improvement projects either in school or in their most recent positions. A nurse candidate who understands nursing quality indicators, such as Central Line Associated Blood Stream Infections (CLABSI), Fall Prevention, or Catheter Associated Urinary Tract Infections (CAUTI), and the evidence-based practice which is needed to improve patient outcomes, would be valuable to a hiring manager.

Leadership skills, precepting other nurses, teamwork, and being on a unit or hospital-wide committee are also valuable for a hiring manager. Many hands-on skills in nursing can be taught, some of the softer skills in nursing such as having a positive attitude, a good bedside manner, and working well within a team, are what hiring managers would be looking for during the interview process.


Q: How can nurses translate those good qualities and skills in a job search so they can stand out?

A: It can be hard to stand out in a job search, especially for new graduate positions. Adding bullet points or a cover letter to describe their nursing skills and attributes in a narrative form can help the hiring manager get a better sense if they would be a good fit for the position. It is important to always list the place they worked or completed clinical, their role, and time they were there—either years or clinical hours.

Many times new graduate candidates stood out to me with listing their non-nursing experience as well as their clinical information. For example, if someone managed in a restaurant, that tells me she is a leader, can multi-task, and probably has good customer service skills.

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As I mentioned earlier, adding volunteer experiences can also make a candidate stand out to a hiring manager, even if it is not all nursing-related. This lets the hiring manager know a little more about the candidates and their skills for the position.


Q: What are the best ways nurses can leverage all the job hunting tools at their disposal—LinkedIn, Indeed, job boards, networking, etc.—and how can they do that to get the best results for a good career move?

A: There are so many different sites and job hunting tools out there to use it can be very daunting to nurses starting their job search. Being a part of a professional nursing organization, like the Academy of Medical Surgical Nurses (AMSN), is one way to narrow the search to areas which you are familiar, or you are looking to go into, and can network with other nurses within the organization.

Many professional organizations have career centers and resources that provide current openings from around the country, as well as networking areas on their websites so nurses can ask questions of other members. AMSN has an entire web section devoted to med-surg specific career development.

LinkedIn and Indeed can be a quick way to find positions and alerts can be set up when new jobs post. AMSN and several of our partner nursing associations recently worked with Monster.com on a new nursing-specific part of their site.

I have found the best way to apply for nursing positions is to apply directly to positions on companies’ websites, and follow up with the nurse recruiter via phone. Also, referrals from friends, co-workers, or classmates are helpful to hiring managers.  As a manager, nurses would refer someone they used to work with or a friend, and I would always complete an interview with them. Sometimes they worked out, and sometimes they didn’t, but referrals are one way to get your resume looked at by a hiring manager.

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Another way to check out an organization is to attend a career fair, which many organizations have. These are a great way to talk directly to nursing recruiters and hiring managers. At times they complete an interview on the spot.


Q: How is the job search process for a career move changing right now and what do job seekers need to know to help them?

A: The major way the job search process is changing would be the number of positions in nursing may be lower than usual due to the coronavirus and the financial impact healthcare systems are experiencing currently and throughout the last five to six months. Some areas of the country are working on recovery while others are now dealing with a new surge of cases.

Candidates may need to widen their view of what they are looking for as the “perfect” job might not be available in this current environment. Certain units within organizations are so consumed by caring for COVID-19 positive patients they do not have time to respond to inquiries or interview requests, while others are actively hiring to fill vacancies, and still others are on a hiring freeze.

As a candidate, research is needed to understand how the pandemic is impacting their local area or the place they are looking for a new position. Another item to consider would be that many career fairs are now virtual. Candidates will need to have access to technology to attend and if selected for an interview, it might be virtual as well.


Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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