Travel Updated November 28, 2023

By Melissa Wirkus, contributor

What Qualities and Skills Do Hiring Managers Seek in Recent Nursing Graduates?

The current state of the economy has resulted in a higher retention of experienced nurses in the workforce, intensifying the competition for nursing positions. As a consequence, new nursing graduates must approach their job search with preparation, poise, and strategic positioning. Being proactive is essential for aspiring nurses, as coveted positions at leading hospitals and programs are swiftly filled.

To distinguish themselves from other candidates, new nurses must conduct thorough research, ready themselves for interviews, and showcase both confidence and clinical expertise. In this context, nurse leaders divulge insider insights into the specific qualities and attributes that hospitals truly value in new nursing school graduates.

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Kimberly Horton, MSN, RN, FNP, DHA, Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at Mercy Hospital and Mercy Southwest Hospital in Bakersfield, California, emphasizes the significance of personality and critical thinking skills in the hiring process for new nursing graduates.

Recognizing that technical skills may be limited in new nurses, Horton emphasizes the importance of readiness to embrace the profession. She states, "We seek individuals genuinely prepared to step into the nursing profession—those who are genuinely dedicated to improving the lives of those experiencing hardship."

Horton outlines several key characteristics sought in new graduates, including compassion, nurturing qualities, and a strong commitment to continuous learning and development.

Maria-Jean Caterinicchio, RN, MS, Director of Workforce Development for Orange County Memorial Care University and board member of the Association of California Nurse Leaders (ACNL), echoes the emphasis on personality, attitude, and talent in the hiring process for new graduates.

Caterinicchio underscores the expectation for fundamental nursing knowledge in new graduates, while also emphasizing the importance of qualities such as compassion, teamwork, accountability, and effective communication. She emphasizes the value of an attitude characterized by collaboration and strong communication skills in prospective candidates.

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Regarding the interview and hiring process, Horton offers a twofold piece of advice for new graduates—always prioritize honesty and maintain a proactive approach to asking questions.

"The most valuable advice for new graduates is to be transparent about their strengths and areas for improvement," Horton emphasized. "Never hesitate to seek clarification by asking questions."

Caterinicchio echoes the importance of honesty during interviews and recommends that graduates arrive well-prepared with specific examples illustrating both strengths and areas for growth.

"In interviews, we request candidates to provide concrete examples showcasing traits such as accountability, teamwork, and communication," she explained. "Share experiences from your clinical background or describe how you handled feedback or managed challenging patient or customer interactions."

Research, Preparation and More…

An important element to any hiring process is research, Caterinicchio stressed. “Come prepared,” she said. “Research the organization. It makes a nurse look so much better when they have done their research. They need to see if the facility is a good fit, and ask themselves, ‘Is this a place that is going to support and nourish me in my growth as a nurse?”

She also recommends that every nurse arrive at the interview with a résumé. “I really recommend having a résumé. It should state where you have done your clinicals and any certifications such as EKG and ACLS. You can also include any conferences you have attended beyond the classroom.”

Preparation and a positive attitude are key to standing out amongst other new nurse graduates, especially during these uncertain economic times.

“Every hospital is facing financial challenges,” Caterinicchio said. “They are looking at the best new grads out there that they want to invest money in. Even though there is a nursing shortage, it is still very competitive.”

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