At The New Grad Nurse Interview: Be a storyteller

how to get a new grad nurse job - be a storyteller Your interviewer loves stories. In fact, you love stories. Everyone loves stories. So it only makes sense to become a great storyteller. To secure your first job as a nurse, you have to perfect the art of storytelling. About yourself.

I royally screwed up telling the story about myself. Twice! My first interview, I wasn’t prepared at all and just said whatever came to my head. My second interview, I didn’t focus my story about being a clinical nurse and drifted off into ‘health policy’ –that was a no-no.

I got better after learning the hard way. For my third interview, I started to focus my answers and got the job at a nursing home. By the time my current employment interviewed me — my fourth and fifth interview — I had some real nursing experience and relied on that to come up with some great stories.

So what’s the difference between a tale and a story?

A tale is simply stating something that happened. People don’t usually care about what happened. However, a story has a moral, a meaning, a takeaway point to it. We care about the 3 major things – the ‘bad situation’, the ‘thing you did to make it better’, and the ‘aftermath.’

Here’s an example for a question: Tell me how you dealt with a difficult situation.

A tale: a women wouldn’t take her medications. Later she did after I convinced her.

A story: a women wouldn’t take her medications. After thinking about why she wouldn’t, I realized that she wanted more control over what was happening to her. Instead, I gave her a choice and asked her, “would you like to take your medications in 10 minutes or 20 minutes?” She replied, “in 10 minutes. Thank you.” 10 minutes later, I went back to her to give her medications and she took them like a champ. Giving her the options allowed her to gain some control but not complete free-reign. This compromise allowed me to accomplish my goal (to give her meds) and made the patient happy.

Here’s another example: Tell me about your greatest strength.

A tale: I ask a ton of questions because I always want to learn.

A story: As a new nurse, I know that I have a lot to learn. I understand that sometimes I will be asked to do something that I’ve never done before but I am not afraid to ask questions to make sure that I’m competent the next time it comes up. I wasn’t sure how to put someone on a bedpan so I asked the ancillary staff. The next time I did it with someone. Another time I wasn’t sure if I heard the breath sounds correctly so I asked another nurse to confirm what they heard. Asking questions is my strength and understand that this is key to learning fast.

Here are some common questions. Think of your clinical experiences and come up with a story for each question.

  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • “Tell me about yourself.”
  • What made you interested in nursing?
  • What do you like about nursing?
  • What was your favorite clinical rotation? Why? (please relate this directly with the position you applied for)
  • Tell me about a time when you had to prioritize.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to delegate.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to problem solve.
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • Do you have plans on going back to school?
  • Tell me about ‘x’ experience that you wrote about on your resume.

Work on becoming a great storyteller and you’ll find that you’ll use this skill over and over again during every handoff report. And hopefully you’ll get a job offer! Good luck! Let me know if you have something crafted but would like a little help looking it over.


I wrote this article as a part of the “Most Marketable Skills” Campaign on Webucator. I have to thank Bob Cleary for letting me be a part of the campaign! While I personally haven’t utilized their resources, they look helpful! Currently they are offering a free Microsoft Word 2013 class that involves learning about advanced formatting, using Word 2013 drawing tools, creating and managing tables, and working with column layouts. Each month they offer a new free course, so check it out even after this post is long done.

In case you missed the campaign, here are some of the other blogger’s input:

Achieving Success in the workplace – What is your most marketable skill? by @cjperadilla

What makes you marketable by @amandastrav

Self Brand Marketing : Social Proof To Boost Your Career by @CustomerRivet

Preparing for the workforce: Why learning to write well is worth your while by @moses_says

The Success of Mimicking by @Lbee27

How to Get a New Grad Nursing Job in NYC

Updated 11/21/12: I wrote a short piece on how current new graduate searching for a job can find one. Scroll down.

Updated 9/15/14: Courtney, RN from volunteered first before she got her first paying job. Learn more by reading her guest post and checking out her website.

I am writing this for current NYU Nursing Students because I wished I had an adviser who told me what I should have done to start my career right away. In hindsight, I see that if you really want a job in a NYC/Long Island/Westchester hospital right after nursing school (and not 6-8 months after graduation), it starts DURING NURSING SCHOOL. Now that I am learning from my mistake, I hope that you won’t make the same mistake. Here are some tips.

1. During your clinical rotation, meet the nurse manager. Get her business card. E-mail her and let her know your interest. Once you graduate, e-mail her and let her know that. Once you pass your NCLEX, let her know that you have your license. Keep in touch. This is how you keep a relationship alive — through frequent contact!

2. Volunteer where you are interested in working. Yes, you are volunteering to help people, but you are also volunteering to meet the nurses on the unit to show them that you are awesome and you work well with them. Keep talking. Here is your timeline:

1st and 2nd semester: Study hard and do well in school!

3rd semester: Apply for a volunteer position. It typically takes 1 month to 2 months to be proceed, go to orientation, and begin volunteering.

4th semester: Keep volunteering and definitely let the nurse manager know that you are a nursing student. Tell them about your career goals or what you hope you can learn and do. Some of my classmates volunteered 4-8 hours on their days off and it paid off!

3. If you’re interested in working at New York Presbyterian, I recommend that you become a nurse companion (~$9/hour). Majority of my classmates who worked there as a nurse companion either have a job or in the process of getting a job. Here is the timeline:

~1st semester: Study hard and do well!

~2nd semester: Study hard and do well! After you take your last final of 2nd semester, apply for the nurse companion. Check on their website at and click on careers. Type in nurse companion. If you don’t see it, then just check everyday.

~3rd semester: Chances are, you will wait 3 months before you’re called.

~4th semester: You’ll get a call for a phone interview. You may wait another week or two before you’re called again to go in for an interview. Once you’re in, you will choose one or two days to do 4 or 8 hour shifts. From what I’ve heard, you will be on one-on-one duty. That means you stay next to the patient’s side to talk to him and help him in any way possible.

4. Get to know your professors and ask them for help. There is a large group of NYU Nursing students (~300) so it is not the easy for each person to get to know the professors. It makes sense, right? The more people, the less personal each class becomes. However, if you can, your professor should be a good resource.


Remember, the whole purpose of nursing school is to:

  • Graduate
  • Pass the NCLEX to get your RN
  • Begin to work

At least in the beginning, that is your goal.

Yes, during nursing school, you will learn a lot about research and evidence-based practice, NP, DNP, PhD, and everything about how to elevate the profession of nursing. And yes, these are all topics that I personally enjoy (which explains why I interned at the NYU CSAAH B Free CEED: New York University Medical School – Center for the Study of Asian American Health – National Center of Excellence in the Elimination of Hepatitis B Disparities — it’s all about implementing research and public health). However, in the end, the biggest hurdle is school, NCLEX, and the first job.

For now, my focus is on obtaining my first job.

Please feel free to comment below to let me know if this was helpful. Thanks for reading!

Updated on Wednesday, November 21, 2012 — after securing my first job offer
Perhaps right now, NYC is not in a nursing shortage. So hospitals more than ever are dragging their feet when it comes to hiring new graduates. Some say that it is because the hospitals are out of money. Others say that the training for current nurses on the new computer system is more important than hiring new nurses. Whatever the reason, new grad nurses may not be high demand in hospitals but there are ways to get hired as a new graduate.

In hindsight, I say that it’s better to go out and visit the places where you’d like to work instead of spending majority of your job searching time online. Even though some people will say, “it’s all online now– just apply online,” others will be gracious and accept your resume and give you more appropriate directions on what to do next. Even if the website says that there aren’t any positions available, it is still worth a try by going there. You are a new graduate — someone fresh from school with the latest knowledge base and someone who can be molded. And someone who is excited to be a nurse!

Face to face contact is still the best way to make a connection with someone, especially one with hiring power. They can see that you are eager and read your body language. And if you were in their shoes and you met someone who told you that she was a new graduate looking for a job, wouldn’t you want to try to help her? In general, nurses are nice people, otherwise they wouldn’t be in the profession.

So what do you have to lose? If nothing happens, then you’re still back to square 1 – a new grad without a job. If a person likes you there, then you have a lead and something to go on!

Here is a step-by-step process on how to visit places.

1. Make a list of the places you want to visit (it is possible to visit all of floors of a hospital… The staff there probably won’t talk about you to each other. Or you can visit private offices. Or nursing homes.). Do this the night before you head out.
2. Dress business casual.
3. Make copies of your resume (I usually ask the Staples guy for resume paper and I make my own copies. With tax, it comes out to 11 cents a page. That’s still less than buying your own resume paper, which comes out to 13-17 cents a page depending on the number of resume paper you buy. Plus, that way you only buy when you need! If you have them do it for you exclusively though, it’ll come out to 22 cents a page. So if it’s your first time, just ask for help. Remember how they did it and you’ll be an independent copy machine person from then on!).
4. Hit the pavement! Try going there between 10-11am and after lunch 1:45-4pm. This is usually when they are least busy and have some time to talk to you.


Each organization is different, but I found a couple of similarities in ways to get hired:

1) You must know the nurse manager and appeal to her. If she is happy with you (determined through an interview that you got through persistent calls and emails to her), then she will tell the nurse recruitment your name for them to pull your online application that you put together after you’ve already spoken with the nurse manager. Nurse recruitment will then interview you to mostly make sure that you are a good person.

The best way to know that this is how a particular hospital does this is by the online application process. If you are a new grad and you have to apply to several different positions (and not one position that is actually specifically for new grads), then chances are, your application will sit in the company’s computer. It will likely never be seen if you do apply online.

Let’s say that you applied online. Then my best advice to you is not to see nurse recruitment or Human Resources. It is to see the nurse manager on that unit. Find out where she might be and go say hi!

2) You email your information to the nurse recruitment and the staff there actively look through the resumes and cover letters to place you in a unit. If you are called up, then you will interview with the nurse manager. If she’s happy with you, then several follow up interviews will follow with the head nurse and possibly Human Resources.

Good luck! Stay positive. Find out your old hobbies or discover new ones. I did that to stay sane during my search from July to November. You can do it! 🙂


Updated 9/15/2014

After virtually meeting Courtney online, I learned that she volunteered as a nurse for 5 months before she got her first paying job. Learn more by reading her guest post.

One more month

There’s one more month left of nursing school. It’s exciting and scary at the same time. In the next month, there are so many things that are going to happen.

  1. Homework, mid-terms, quizzes. School work.
  2. Job search.
  3. Study for the NCLEX.
  4. Host three more API-NSA meetings.

That’s it for now.