Getting Hired (Part 1): Maximizing the Online Application

UT Austin School of Nursing alumna

Peggy Adams, MSN, RN

Good news: Soon you will graduate from a highly respected nursing school and then you will pass the NCLEX with flying colors.

Bad news: Other top notch recent grads, as well as experienced nurses, will be competing with you for nursing positions in many excellent health care centers.

How do you get the position you really want?

Navigating the pathway to landing your first job can be daunting. The process may include online applications, telephone interviews, group interviews and one-on-one interviews. The competition is tough in places where there are few job openings. But you can prepare yourself to stand out among those who are vying for the best residencies, internships and other coveted positions. Here’s how…

Conquering the Online Application

For most large institutions, the gateway to the job search process is the online application. Start early and become familiar with the required forms, questions and documents since they are similar for most health care career websites. Formulate your content carefully so that it can be adapted to various formats. At this point, you may find that your amazing nursing experiences and skills seem flat and banal as you insert the information into the online structure set up by each employer. How can you set yourself apart from the other excellent candidates when all you have is an electronic application that consists of your resume and some generic information and short essays?

Powerful writing and customization

Remember that you are introducing yourself to an organization, so make every word count. Perfect grammar, strong verbs (not “being” verbs), concise wording and clear messaging are all important. The ability to present an accurate picture of yourself in words is critical to making a good first impression.

Another key to a superior written application is to make it customized even though it is a standardized process. This means that you will include your most important strengths, skills and experiences so that a complete picture of you is created even though the system may seem to limit these opportunities. You can do this by strategically using every option available: cover letter, resume, references and short essays. On all your documents and forms, thoughtfully fill up each space with meaty information that exhibits your current clinical knowledge and abilities and your capacity to learn and grow.

The nurse everyone wants to hire

What are the basic qualities that every employer is looking for in a professional nurse? Think about the nurses you most admire and would enjoy working with and then make a list of their outstanding attributes. Hopefully, some of these qualities also describe you! Select a few of these qualities and sprinkle them throughout your application documents. Here’s a list to get started:

  • Passionate about clinical excellence
  • Intelligent, teachable, good listener
  • Critical thinker, analytical, able to “connect the dots”
  • Energetic, healthy, not afraid of hard work
  • Organized and detail oriented while also aware of the big picture
  • Safety conscious
  • Attentive to customer service

Know your strengths

Make a list of your own personal strengths. Canvas your peers, teachers and family to get an accurate snapshot of yourself. Then weave these personal strengths into your application so that the reader can picture you as an individual. For example, a recent UT Austin School of Nursing grad noted that she could be calm during a crisis, looking for solutions in the midst of chaos. What a valuable asset in her new PICU position!

Know your potential employer

Educate yourself about the health care institution of interest to you. Look at its mission statements, values, model of patient care, professional statement about nursing, and ongoing opportunities for growth and development. Make sure that your values align with those of the institution so that you can truly support them if you decide to work there. Then select one or two values and integrate them into your written application.

Appreciate the investment

Understand the cost of hiring a new nurse. The institution that hires you will be making a huge investment in you throughout your orientation as well as your continual development and education. What will you give back? Take time to state what you intend to contribute to the organization; such as, loyalty to their mission and values, longevity in years of service, plans for career growth or other goals. Although they won’t ask you directly, your interviewers will want to know how long you plan to work for their organization. In other words, will you be a good investment for their institution? Make sure that they know you are committed to their success as well as your own.

Preparing for an interview

Once you have opened the door with your outstanding online application, you will embark on the path of interviews both on the phone and in person. What questions will employers ask? What is the best way to formulate an answer? What questions should you ask? What questions should you avoid? Stay tuned for the next blog…

Peggy Adams received her BSN at The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing in 1978 and her MSN at Texas Womens University in the Texas Medical Center in Houston in 1987.

She worked for 10 years in pediatrics at Hermann Hospital (now Memorial Hermann) in Houston. She currently has a consulting business (Adams Consulting) that specializes in individual and group training for those in nursing leadership and management positions. She also coaches new graduates who are seeking their first professional nursing position. Her interview preparation strategies are based on:

  • firsthand experience interviewing and hiring nurses as a supervisor,
  • personal knowledge of the professional nursing culture of many health care institutions, and
  • carefully honed writing and speaking skills.
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