Why Can’t I Get a Job? 3 Tips to Getting Hired as a Nurse

by | Oct 5, 2015 | 16 comments

I Can't Find a Job! 3 Tips to Getting Hired as a Nurse #YourNextShiftI recently saw a post in an online forum that caught my attention. I’ve changed some of the details, to protect this person’s privacy. However, I wanted to share this here on the blog, as I hear from many nurses that they find it challenging to get a job. And I find this fascinating, as I read all about how we are still experiencing a nursing shortage. It went a little something like this…

“I am a new grad and I am looking for a position in a local hospital. I have applied to numerous positions, however, I have only had 1 interview in 3 months. I am not sure if my resume is stopping me from getting an interview or if it is my lack of medical experience. I was in the banking industry at the front desk for over 11 years and nursing is a second career.”

Following the nursing career conversations online and being an active participant in many nurse forums, I read about this a lot. A nurse graduates, with or without medical experience, and cannot seem to find work. How can this be when we simultaneously discuss  a nursing shortage?

Well, nursing shortage or not- you want to find a job. And quickly, no doubt!

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  1. Stop Trying So Hard. I know this tip will be difficult to take. Yet sometimes we simply have to back off. A great colleague of mine, Nat Couropmitree, once shared with me how trying too hard actually creates a backfire effect. What happens is we begin to get so frustrated and desperate that we spread that energy into everything we do. So if we are trying (and I mean TRYING with clenched fists, tight jaws, and gripped teeth) too hard to get a job… we are probably propelling them away from us. If this is the case, if you feel as though you are attempting to force a new nursing career to happen… you may want to take a break. Yes, I can imagine that you want to work and need the money. And at the same time, give yourself a short break. Step away from the job search and go do something else. Take your mind off of your nursing career- you may be surprised by what happens next!
  2. Get Crystal Clear. Another one that can create some discomfort. Many times we are unable to secure what we want because we are all over the place. Kinda like throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping one strand will stick. If you ‘just want a job’ you may be out there interviewing for everything under the sun. Even jobs you would never consider or enjoy doing. And guess what? The universe is going to deliver you mixed results. Now, when you get crystal clear on the exact role you want to be doing- really envision yourself in this ideal job- you’ll have much more success. When you do what’s suggested in tip one (take a break), you can use this time to practice a visualization exercise that will attract your nursing role to you.
  3. Open Up to Opportunity. OK- so you’ve taken a break and used that time wisely visualizing the dream nursing job. Now it’s time to stay still. What?? More stillness? No really, sometimes in our constant movement of doing (looking for that nursing job) we miss subtle cues. If you’ve done the steps above, then you’ve increased your chances for support. Sure, you’ve taken the action steps (resumes, letters, phone calls, and interviews). Now it’s time for some non-doing to allow your nursing career to come to you. Again, I know this sounds tough. And somewhat counterproductive. However, trust me. It works! When I stopped looking for a new job… the one at the gym just came to me like that! It was so super simple. I just had to open up to the opportunities that were presenting themselves to me. So while you might be sending out resumes to hospitals- can you find a nursing role in a non-traditional setting that has everything you want and need?

I’d love to hear what I missed. What would you add to the list above? How do you think you might use some creativity and innovation to land a nursing career? Share a comment below and thanks for reading!

Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RNAbout the Author: As a keynote speaker, bestselling author and virtual conference host, Elizabeth partners with hospitals, organizations, associations, and nursing groups to help transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the bestselling author of ‘Nursing from Within‘, Elizabeth guides nurses and nursing students to a change in perspective, helping them make the inner shift needed to better maneuver the sometimes challenging realities of being a caregiver.


  1. Big Red Carpet Nurse

    I’ve had far more success with some tactics than others. Networking through professional orgs has provided a few positions with very little effort. On the other hand, knocking myself out on job listing sites got me lots of wasted time and nothing else. My conclusion? It’ s not about how hard you try: to succeed, you need to track results and focus your energy where it matters. It’s also far less work & struggle. It’s far easier to secure interviews and interview well when you feel rested, relaxed, focused. It’s much harder to even get an interview if you give off a sense of desperation, fatigue, and failure, the kind of feeling that trying to push 110% in every possible direction tends to produce.

    • Elizabeth

      It’s great to hear of your perspective, Greg. I love that you agree it’s even harder to get an interview when you are feeling fatigued and desperate. I appreciate your comments.

  2. Miss Marie

    Elizabeth, I love your post, and completely agree. I was between travel assignments by choice, and started to really get anxious after just 2 weeks. I sent out tons of resumes, and exhausted my friends with reference requests. At one point I went on an interview, and was feeling so insecure, I know that I choked. I also somehow forgot, that HR departments at hospitals take forever to even respond to applications. I calmed down, and within 3 weeks, offers started rolling in. I learned a lot about myself, and just how over the top I was about identifying myself by my career.

    Deep breath…..It really does work out, and we end up where we are supposed to be.

    • Elizabeth

      WOW! Miss Marie. This is music to my ears. Not that you were stressed for those two weeks and feel that you choked in the interview… but that you see the benefits for taking a break, a deep breath and trusting that things will work out. When we release our tight-fisted grip… it’s amazing what shows up. I am so happy for you! Thank you for sharing your comments and insights based on your experience.

  3. exceptionalnurse

    Love your advice, Elizabeth!
    I also encourage nurses to start doing volunteer work. Demonstrate your capabilities, get some new experience, feel good about the work you are doing, network….and BINGO something just may happen!
    The volunteer work can also be a great addition to a resume.

    • Elizabeth

      Volunteer work- great idea, Donna. Thanks for sharing that with our readers here!

  4. Dr Rachel Silva, DNP

    I’m not sure how you constantly create such relevant content for nurses, but these are some great tips. I particularly value your tip pertaining to being open to opportunities. Being flexible provides opportunities to consider and discover a new path in life you may have never imagined.

    One thing I always try to do is send a thank you either via snail mail or email after the interview. Each time I’ve done this, the employer told me after I was hired that I was the only candidate that showed gratitude for the time given to discuss the job opportunity together.

    • Elizabeth

      Sending snail mail definitely stands out these days. Great share, Rachel. Thank you. And thanks for the wonderful feedback on my articles. It’s certainly tough to come up with new content, so I really appreciate it!

  5. Kelly Payne

    I have been the spaghetti you mentioned, flailing around until I found my home in women’s health. I’ve been on the other end of requesting for positions in the supposed nursing shortage and believe me it feels like a nursing shortage on my floor, it is so hard to fight for positions with leadership. You have to basically make your case, show that you have been on budget with nursing productivity, etc etc. What I’ve learned over the years and more recently from nurses such as yourself, is that there are SO many different opportunities, I have only worked inpatient and only now have I allowed myself to open up to opportunities outside of the hospital setting. Thanks Elizabeth, great advice!

    • Elizabeth

      You’re welcome, Kelly. And I am glad that you have found your niche. Happy to hear you enjoyed the post. Thank you for the feedback!

  6. Ren, MSN/Ed, RN, CNOR

    I’m going to venture out on a limb, so to speak. There is no ‘nursing shortage’– there’s a shortage of facilities willing to support and nurture new graduates due to financial constraints. These new graduates are out there– hundreds, maybe thousands, have returned to their previous employment because they were unable to secure work in nursing.

    However, I do identify two common issues:
    1) Failure of administrators and management to support Nurse Residency Programs, focused/employee-driven orientation programs, and Dedicated Education Units (which feed prospective employees into the system)– there is going to be a vacuum effect, as older nurses leave our profession.
    2) Nursing curriculums with fewer clinical hours, pushing students through at an accelerated rate, and admission of students who do not meet basic criteria to become successful in nursing (lack of reading, writing, speaking, and math skills). The result is new graduate nurses with little to no nursing skills and facilities that don’t have the funding to ‘teach’ new graduates.

    As far as a tip for securing employment? Network, network, network– attend meetings for specialty organizations, create a simple business card (much more professional than a post-it note or napkin/scratch paper), thank you notes to interviewers, follow-up phone calls, dress for success, etc.

    • Elizabeth

      Hi Ren,

      Thanks for your comments. While the literature talks about nursing shortages, I do agree with you.. everywhere I turn I hear about new nursing graduates who cannot secure work. So it’s always been puzzling to me; thanks for your insights. Great advice in terms of securing a job. Networking and growing our professional connections is key. Thanks for stopping by, reading and taking the time to share your comments. Much appreciated!


  7. mnosuna

    I agree with Greg that networking is crucial. I got my interview in the ICU as a new-grad because I met the recruiter at a scholarship event. Granted, I had to win the scholarship in the first place, so hard work pays off! I also advise graduating students to prepare a nursing portfolio…this can really help you stand out from the crowd and shows you take yourself seriously. Good luck to all the new grads!

    • Elizabeth

      This is a great example! Thank you for sharing it here with us so other readers can see that networking truly does work. Great job!

  8. eholistic

    As always, GREAT ADVICE! Especially about slowing down, taking a break and a small rest period. The discombobulated (sp) desperation has literally set in for me as I am attached to so many different work sites, have applied for so many and any nursing positions, I can’t even seem to keep up so it does not sound very professional to get a call and not have a clue which job its referring to! I do have to say, now a days I am so shocked at the lack of respect of no follow through for those in which are not interested in you. I had a literally 4 hour interviewone time and left almost positive I had this job! I never heard a single word even as I called a few times inquiring!.

    As far as some of the other comments from our friends, I would have to say that the nursing shortage is there but in many different capacities; the reader/writer is correct in that we as administrators are creating some of this shortage but for safety reasons and skill mix assurance in my experience. I do know some new graduates already having to take refresher courses! I LOVE THE IDEA of VOLUNTEERING, thank you! New Nurses I would totally suggest try getting in somewhere early as a part to full time tech or CNA to get your foot in the door! Ask HR early on about new graduate programs to not miss out on any deadlines that would garauntee (sp) you a position…and like another person said NETWORK,it really has ALOT to do with who you know sometimes.

    My own lesson learned; always keep many other skills fresh in your back pocket! After being in Management for 12+years, my struggle is no ones me as a floor nurse and most hospitals are growing and raising from within through their own professional development academies so I am kind of stuck as many other areas of nursing want experience ! But I am getting GREAT advice and have no doubt that soon I will be landing a job 🙂 . Thanks for listening and all the great support!!!


    • Elizabeth


      I am so happy that this post spoke to you. Thank you for both the feedback and for sharing your experiences and additional insights. Your comments will truly help another reader coming along, so thank you very much. I was reading a book the other day and it said something along the lines of switching the focus of job hunting and interviews. When we narrow in on our ideal career, it becomes more about interviewing them to see if they are a good fit for us than the other way around. That might help with some of the frustration that you express about them not calling back (I will be totally irritated by that too, how unprofessional). Then again- if we use this author’s framework and flip the switch, well… if they didn’t call back.. then they weren’t a good fit for me! Get it? Enjoy the day, thank you for the comment.



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