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10 Crucial Insider Tips You Need to Land Your First Job in Acute Care

10 Insider Tips to get hired as a new grad Get hired as a new grad- 10 Insider tips

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Here are 10 tips from an insider to get the job you want, even as a new grad, and even in acute care.

In today’s job market, you need all the help you can get AND a Hiring Plan.

Someone will be chosen for the job and it can be you. IF you know how it works from the inside!

Getting hired is just another challenge for you on your nursing journey, much like passing organic chemistry was a challenge. Here’s 10 tips and a plan to master that challenge.

Everyone’s bright, Everyone’s above average, and Everyone’s hungry.

So You have to Set Yourself Apart. Here’s how:

10 Insider tips to get hired as a new grad

Set yourself apart from the others to get hired

1. Mindset of a Successful RN

Right now, chances are you see yourself as a student or desperate new grad. Wait. Take a step backwards… and look forward.
Visualize yourself as a working RN and a sought after commodity! This gives you the confidence and initiative to launch your Hiring Plan.

10 Inside tips for new grads to get hired

Confident you. Their organization needs you…they just don’t know it yet!

Reframing your thinking and following the next nine steps will bring you opportunity.

2. Start Your Hiring Plan Early

Strategizing starts now. Preferably first semester. It is never too soon to start planning. Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 5.09.36 PMYour study partner may only see as far as the next care plan or maybe upcoming Neuro test. Diagnosis: Tunnel Vision.

Unlike your peers, you must never lose  sight of the ultimate end goal here, that is…to be a practicing RN. Oh, yes, which requires getting  hired. Back full circle. Early Strategizing.

3. Know Who Holds the Hiring Power

Know who holds the hiring power. Nurse Managers. That’s who. Not Human Resources and not Nurse Recruiters, although they are both involved in the process. The Nurse Manager has the final say.

It’s easy for a student on a nursing unit to be completely unaware of Who’s Who, organization-wise. Everyone looks the same in their lab coats or business attire, right?
Besides, you’re not an employee, you’re a student. You’re not motivated to learn the org chart, you’ve never even seen it, and the primary authority figure on your radar is your Clinical Instructor.

But as a job seeker, you need to learn who the Nurse Managers are by their names and their departments. Think of it as homework.

10 Insider tips to get hired as a new grad

She who must be impressed

Keep in mind that Nurse Managers are busy people and seek the counsel of (informal) “Advisory Councils” when making hiring decisions.

“Advisory Councils” are comprised of  Charge Nurses, select trusted nursing staff (which includes Nursing Assistants as well as RNs) and other Nurse Managers.

All of which means that you have plenty of people to impress and lots of opportunity to do it.

4. Work as a Nursing Assistant

Work as a Nursing Assistant if at all possible. Many hospitals will accept a first yr nursing student in lieu of a Nursing Assistant certification. Work summers, school breaks, holidays. This is GOLD. You will be GOLDEN. Nursing students who work as Nursing Assistants have home field advantage.

10 insider tips to get hired as a new grad

Golden Nursing Assistant who WILL get HIRED as an RN

Nurse Managers will know you, staff will have your back, and it’s all around fabulosity. It goes without saying that you have been a reliable, hardworking, team player extraordinaire during your audition, I mean, tenure as a Nursing Assistant. Voila! You have thus made yourself a No Brainer Hire for the Nurse Manager.

They will love you for making their hiring job easier.

They already know that you fit in and that you deliver outstanding patient care. It’s a beautiful win-win.

5. Optimize Your Clinical Rotations

Clinical rotations are a job seeker’s dream! It’s the next best thing to 4. In what other jobs do you get a chance to see and be seen?  Impress the Nurse Manager and/or Charge Nurse during clinical rotations. How to do that? I know you’ll figure out a way. You’re smart!

It doesn’t matter that you’re not on your Dream Unit. Hate Stepdown? No worries. Later on, when you apply to work in the Emergency Department (ED), Stephanie, Stepdown Unit Manager, will speak favorably of you to her BFF Jessica, ED Manager.  Jessica WILL snap you up!

10 insider tips to get hired as a new grad

Supportive and Helpful Nurse Beth

10 Insider tips to get hired as a new grad

NOTE: This is a thank you note!

6. Write a Note to the Manager

Write a note to the Nurse Manager after your clinical rotation. By write, I mean use a pen, and by note, I mean paper and envelope. Do it.

I learned so much during my clinical rotation on your unit. The nurses were so supportive and helpful, especially Beth Hawkes. This is exactly the kind of nursing team I’d like to be a part of someday. Thank you for the experience.”

Or semblance thereof. Sign your name legibly. Stop by a week later to see if he/she got your note. Wait! there it is! Pinned above the Nurse Manager’s desk!

Because we LOVE handwritten notes!

7. Volunteer 

Get invloved in community health events. This is a must. Some nursing programs have their students take blood pressures at the county fair. Pursue opportunities to volunteer. Attend church camp and shadow the camp nurse. Go online to be aware of community events and opportunities.

When job candidates are running neck in neck, the tie breaker may come down to points awarded for community involvement. I’ve seen this happen. Did I say points? Yes. Resumes are often graded on a point system.

8. Network

Network, network! All things being equal, the person who is known will get the job over the person who is unknown. There is no bad networking except for no networking. Go to local conferences/CE events.

Are there RNs at your church, PTA, gym? Yes, there are, find them! Chances are you know somebody who knows somebody whose kid goes to grade school with the Nurse Recruiter’s daughter.

9. Contact Working RNs

10 insider tips to get hired as a new grad

Get hired, friend!

Open your phone contact list and make a list of nurses you know. For example, contact an RN (let’s say, Ashley), who graduated a class or two ahead of you and who works in the hospital you want to work in. Ask Ashley if she will mentor you on your job quest.  After all, Ashley was successful, right?

Ashley has insider credibility, and can put in a good word for you. You know RNs- we love to help! You have just enlisted one of the best allies known to job seekers. An insider.

Come to find out, Ashley knows of a job opening that is coming up but not yet posted because Ashley’s friend’s husband got a job out west.

10. Ask Your Clinical Instructors for Job Seeking Advice

Ask a Clinical Instructor what they recommend as far as landing a job. Who doesn’t love to help and give advice when asked? It’s best to make an appointment for a meeting rather than trying to catch them on the fly. Asking to make an appointment conveys your thoughtfulness for their schedule, and the importance of their opinions to you.

Clinical Instructors have close ties to community hospitals and most likely have worked as staff in at least one of them. Nursing is a small community. Trust me, Nurse Managers will be calling your Clinical Instructors to get the lowdown on you.

Every single semester, I called my Clinical Instructor friends to make sure I was getting first dibs on hiring the best and brightest students.

A sincere Good Luck in securing your dream job! Congrats to the lucky hospital that gets you!

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Why can’t I get a new grad interview?


Leave a reply and let me know which of these tips you find helpful, or share your own!

Until next time friend,



About Beth Hawkes (146 Articles)
Nice to meet you! I'm a Nursing Professional Development Specialist in acute care, a writer, speaker and career columnist.

9 Comments on 10 Crucial Insider Tips You Need to Land Your First Job in Acute Care

  1. Hi Beth, I loved the article and all of the tips. I am an advocate for nurses with disabilities and founder of Do you have experience hiring a nurse with a disability? Particularly a nurse who is asking for reasonable accommodations? If so, do you have any specific tips for them?

    • Hi Donna, Your website is inspiring I don’t know that hiring a nurse with a disability would be much different in terms of preparing for the interview, having a pristine resume and cover letter. And network! It seems to me that reasonable accomodations are accepted as a matter of course nowadays. I would enjoy hearing more and look forward to following your blog.

  2. Hi Beth, I just got a job as a Medical Assistant in a doctor’s office. Would you say this is less preferable than working as a CNA in a hospital? I like that Medical Assistants get to do more hands on work (shots, assist with pap smears, do EKG’s; etc) but I’m worried I might be losing out by not working in a hospital around nurses. Any help would be great. Thanks!

    • Hi Yvette, Congrats on your MA job! MAS get to do a lot of cool experience. If you’re asking how MA experience compares with CNA experience as far as relevance to nursing…CNA is closer to nursing bc the pts are bed bound, not ambulatory. So the nature of the CNA’s job is very different- vital signs, bathing, linen changes. Does that help, Yvette? Good luck!

  3. Lorraine Manoto // January 5, 2015 at 4:58 pm // Reply

    Hi Beth!
    Stumbled upon your post on FB’s New Grad RN group. Thanks for taking the time to offer your insight!

    Lorraine M.

  4. If I were a new nurse looking for a job. I couldn’t get better advise than this.

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