Landing Your First Nursing Job after Graduation

landing your first nursing job

It is no secret that landing your first nursing job straight out of nursing school is no easy feat. We hear time and time again that there is a “nursing shortage.” Despite this, it is still challenging for new nurse grads to get their foot in the door without having previous nursing work experience, and because not all hospitals and facilities are willing to train new graduate nurses. When I was a new nurse grad, I was fortunate enough to land a job shortly after graduation. Here are some of the biggest tips I used to land my first RN gig.

1. Organize a list of hospitals you want to apply to

Six months before you graduate, put together a spreadsheet listing the different hospitals you are interested in applying for. List out their requirements: How many LORs do you need? How do they want your resume formatted? Most importantly, write down the dates that the application cycle opens and closes. New grad jobs are highly competitive, and the application cycle is usually only open for a couple of days. While the order that the applications are received does not always matter, some hospitals remove job postings once they receive sufficient job applications, so I would highly recommend having everything ready to submit on the first day.

2. Treat Rotations as a Job Interview

Every time you are in the clinical setting, think of it as a job interview. If you have a rotation at a hospital or unit you want to work in, be proactive about introducing yourself to nurses around the unit, and the nurse manager. Let them know that you are expecting to graduate nursing school soon, and look forward to applying for their new grad positions. 

3. Be Flexible with the Job Search

If you are applying for specialty units (Critical Care, Labor and Delivery, Pediatrics, etc.), keep in mind that there are fewer new graduate positions available, making these spots even more competitive to land. Be open to the idea that your first job may not necessarily be your top choice hospital or even top choice specialty. Apply to a broad range of jobs. After you have a couple of years of experience under your belt, it will be much easier for you to switch positions if you wish to do so.

4. Be Over Prepared for Your Interview

Compile a document with all of the potential interview questions, and write out your answers. Have at least 5 patient scenarios prepared. Print everything out and practice regurgitating the information in the mirror until your answers flow naturally. You may be surprised that your facial expressions are different than you had imagined!

5. Send Thank You Notes 

After your interview, send a thank-you note to your interviewers. It is important that you do this within 24 hours of meeting them. Make sure that you personalize the thank you note by mentioning something that resonated with you during your interview. This is not only polite, but it also helps keep you at the forefront of the interviewers’ minds. 

These are some of the things I did when I was a new nurse grad in 2018 that helped me land my first nurse job. I hope my tips can help serve as some guidance to help you stand out among the competition and get your foot in the door to a successful and fulfilling nursing career ahead of you.

Is your NCLEX® Test Day coming up soon? Check out my blog post on NCLEX® Test Day Preparation Tips.

Miki Rai, RN

Miki Rai is a Registered Nurse based near San Francisco, California. She graduated from the UCLA School of Nursing in 2018 and has worked in the Pediatric ICU and in primary care. In her spare time, Miki is passionate about content creation on social media on various platforms, such as Youtube, Instagram, and TikTok.