Staying competitive in the job market

BSN student Amber McAlpin compiled this information to help nurses navigate today's job market.

"Be and Stay Competitive"

Find Positions

Use the internet to find job postings on institutions’ websites, the newspaper, and Craigslist.

Use your alma mater’s career office or center to find positions (example: UW Career Center lists local job postings).

Career fairs offer exposure to potential employers, professional interactions, and feedback on your candidacy and preparedness.

Do Your Research

When applying for a position, it is important to be familiar with the institution’s background, mission, and future plans.

The internet is your best friend; study facility websites.

Research a potential employer’s goals, mission statements, and patient populations. This information helps determine what is a good “match” for the employer and prepares you for interview questions.

Position postings on facility websites describe expectations for potential employees and what skills and characteristics are needed to be “attractive” to that facility.

Expand Your Résumé

Update your resume to include volunteer work, workshops, internships, elective or extra nursing courses, special projects, and all relevant employment.

Add certifications, nominations, accomplishments, and organization memberships.

Provide Professional References

References should include professional acquaintances: employers, instructors, and professional peers.

Ask individuals for permission before using them as a reference.

List references who are able to speak to your capabilities, especially to critical thinking and clinical competency.

Practice Interviewing

Career centers at universities provide mock interviews and interview workshops for students and alumni.

Browse the internet for interview preparation tips; practice interview questions.

Exposure to the interviewing process can make position interviews less intimidating and allow for practice demonstrating critical thinking during job interviews.

Nurses changing positions or employers should also practice interviews; having job experience does not guarantee an offer of new employment.

Dress for Success

Interviewers expect you to look professional, neat, and clean.

Appearance is key in making a first impression.

Looking sloppy for an interview suggests apathy toward the activity and position.

Patients are more confident in nurses’ competency levels if they look clean, professional, and ready to work.

Getting Experience

Volunteer for the American Red Cross as a disaster action team member, hospital volunteer, health & safety instructor, or blood drive nurse.

Volunteer at a college or university to be an emergency/disaster plan leader.

Become certified and teach first aid and CPR courses.

Stay Competitive

Stay current on evidenced based practice and complete ECUs.

Take advantage of seminars, workshops, and certification courses.

Volunteer in areas outside your usual or preferred specialty.

Real Advice from practicing RNs and RNs on hiring committee members:

  • Be willing to take direction.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help or admit you are unsure of an answer or task.
  • Be enthusiastic, eager and willing to learn.
  • Be prepared to demonstrate critical thinking skills.
  • Present yourself in a professional manner, dress, and hygiene.
  • Be confident in yourself, without being cocky.
  • Get some experience i.e. volunteer, or work in a related field.
  • Stay current on evidenced based research.
  • Be a team player.
  • Practice interview scenarios and questions.
  • Keep current on skill set.
  • Be flexible with scheduling.
  • Communicate clearly.
  • Be honest and genuine.
  • Join a nursing organization.

References and Links:

Once in high demand, new nursing graduates face hurdles finding jobs. (2009, February 23). Community College Week, 21(13), 8. Retrieved from:

UW Seattle Career Center

UW Tacoma Career Development & Education

UW Career Guide

Johnson & Johnson Campaign for Nursing's Future

National Student Nurses Association Career Center

What can I do with this degree?

Franciscian Health System

MultiCare Health System

Providence Health System