What Nurse Managers Look for in Nurse Candidates


By Megan Murdock Krishke, contributor

Nursing Leadership and Executive Jobs“The traits I am looking for, first and foremost, in a nurse candidate is that they have a passion about caring for patients and they want to make a difference,” began Nancy Lee, MSN, RN, chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services at Stanford Health Care in California. “The nurse needs to communicate that passion to the interviewing nurse manager.”

She notes that recent nursing graduates looking for RN jobs may have little clinical experience, but they can express passion through their volunteer efforts—perhaps working at a vaccine clinic or taking blood pressures at a health fair or teaching about health topics in a local school.

“When it comes to new grads, we have become very interested in second career nurses,” she said. “They bring a different level of maturity and experience. They tend to come in excited about being able to make a difference they can see every day.”

Why some nurse applicants stand out

Lee notes that nurses who have taken on leadership roles stand out to her over similarly qualified nurses in her hiring process.

“It doesn’t mean they need to have been a nurse manager, but, have they helped craft evidence-based practice, participated on a shared governance council, been promoted or been a charge nurse?” she offered. “I also think most hiring managers are drawn to nurses who have had experience in a similar type of facility.”

What nurse managers look for when hiring travel nurses

Lee advises nurses who are planning to work as travel nurses get as broad of a clinical experience as possible before they travel. She also indicated that nurses with experience in the OR will likely have their pick of locations and never be without a job.

Perioperative nursing is just one of the specialties where travel nurses are in high demand, and recruiters can help nurse candidates find the highest paying RN jobs. They can also match nurses with the assignments that best fit their desires for location and training.

“Travel nursing is very flexible and we typically can find contracts for different stages of a nurse’s career,” explained Brandi Gallegos, senior recruitment manager for Onward Healthcare, an AMN Healthcare company. “The most important things are to have a minimum of one year’s experience, all your certifications up to date, and to invest in applying for and obtaining your RN license in states that are on top of your list.”

If you are open to different locations, Gallegos recommends pursuing your California RN license as early as possible, because there are numerous job opportunities in the state and the licensing process can take several weeks. Onward Healthcare and other AMN Healthcare staffing companies are currently offering an expedited California RN licensure program to qualified nurse candidates. Gallegos pointed out that several locations in California offer some of the highest paying RN jobs for travelers.

“Hiring nurse managers are looking for travelers who are flexible and demonstrate that they are willing to help them meet their staffing shortage needs,” she stated. “I’d also recommend reaching out to get professional references from nurse managers or charge nurses with whom you have worked. Any additional certifications you can obtain can also make a big difference.”

Going from traveling to a permanent position

Travel nursing jobs can also help nurses try out a new area before moving there permanently. “We often hire our travelers into permanent positions,” Lee mentioned. “I look for travelers who demonstrate that they can handle a patient load independently and seek out the resources their patients need. I also want to see that nurse engage with their unit, not just punch in and out. If a traveler functions as a patient advocate, that is a person I want to hire...

Preparing for your nurse interview

“Our interviews are behavioral interviews, meaning that our questions ask nurses to tell the story of a time they were in a particular situation, such as: ‘Recall for me a time when you disagreed with the attending physician about what was the best for a patient; how did you handle that conflict?’” Lee explained.

“Behavioral interviews allow us to see how a nurse makes decisions, what their thinking process is like and to hear how they have been successful in the nursing environment,” she continued. “Before going to an interview, think through times when you have successfully handled difficult situations and be prepared to tell those stories.”

Lee added that she is surprised by the number of nurses who show up to interviews in jeans. She encourages nurses to dress professionally and to remember that most interviewers will be of their parents’ generation and will expect more formality.

Travel nurse interviews are normally done over the phone, and Gallegos encourages her travelers to write down the questions they have for the interviewer ahead of time. Thoughtful questions that demonstrate interest can distinguish a nurse candidate and help them get the assignment.

Ready to take the next step in your nursing career? Whether you are seeking a new staff position, a travel assignment or per diem work, you can conduct your job search quickly and easily with NursingJobs.com.

Suggested for you

Sign up and stay in the know with NursingJobs.com

We just need a little bit more from you...