The 7 Deadly Sins of Job Hunting

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

Losing a job is never in any nurse’s career plan. Take solace in knowing that there is a right way and a wrong way to handle unemployment and landing your next nursing job. Before the panic sets in, be sure to read through these seven deadly sins of job hunting and avoid them like the plague!

1. “Wallowing in the mire!”
If you are a nurse who has just been laid off, this can no doubt be a difficult period. Maybe you spent more than five years with your (ex) employer and assumed you would spend the rest of your life at that job. Your closest friends may still be working at your old job. You may have been really happy at your old job and you’re afraid you may not find that again.

Give yourself half a day. Take the afternoon off. Drink, cry, sleep—do whatever you do to grieve. By the evening, do your best to “get back to work.” Start building the rest of your life that very evening and try to feel optimistic, motivated and enthusiastic, just like you would with a patient—only now the patient is you. The rest of your life will be happy and full of good energy—right? You want nothing less. Taking the afternoon off will help you return to the task of job hunting with less anxiety, stress or bad moods. You are your own boss now and it’s time to tell yourself: “This is the drawing board for my future as a nurse and it starts with finding the right job.”

2. Failing to focus
As a nurse you were always busy. Now your routines are changing. You may fall into the trap of thinking that you have free time to smell the roses, go for a walk, fix the car/garden or finally get to the mall—WRONG! You only have free time if you have created a detailed plan for your job hunt. This includes a list of your daily activities for finding your next job (eight hours minimum). If your to-do list is complete before third shift, then it was too short. That’s right! Focusing and getting organized from the beginning will preserve some of your good work habits and help you cut the time of being unemployed.

3. Disregarding definition
Before contacting your next hospital, you need to know how you’re marketing yourself and to whom. Defining yourself as the best possible candidate for a job requires you to learn how your education, skills and experience apply to the expectations of nursing managers. For each application, know to what extent your background can be presented as the “perfect fit,” or at least a good-enough-to-call-for-an-interview fit. If you don’t know, and you’re just sending out resumes with the hope of getting lucky, then you’re playing a lottery. Instead, spend four hours preparing a customized resume and cover letter for one position that you see as a great fit rather than spending four hours sending 40 standard resumes to random positions from a job board.

4. Skipping an inventory of your skills
Having a full inventory of your marketable skills can make or break a job opportunity. Here’s an example: Mary, a nurse from Tufts Medical Center in Boston, wants to follow her husband to another part of the country. They don’t want to move before she finds a job there. Mary was an OR nurse, but she also helps with collecting and organizing data for a daily business dashboard. When she tells me that she has had a few interviews but hasn’t been able to secure a job yet, I ask her for the inventory of her marketable skills. Mary hadn’t done this list. When she goes through the exercise of listing an inventory of her marketable skills, she lists the work from the daily business dashboard project—collecting and organizing the data in a nice database. The next day, Mary flies out to interview for a nursing position, and her interview goes just like all the others—until the end. The interviewer asks if Mary has anything else to add. Mary remembers the list and mentions the daily business dashboard project. The interviewer almost jumps from his seat. Because of that “minor” expertise, Mary was offered the job in a few short days. Her success came only days after we did her Inventory of Marketable Skills.

5. Neglecting to investigate
The winds of change are blowing through the healthcare industry in a big way. Change is affecting all areas that might be relevant to a nurse. Be sure you’re familiar with the latest industry trends. How is the new healthcare legislation going to affect your specific area of expertise? Do you know how the new trends are affecting the job market in your area or the hospital where you want to apply? You should. Get on Infotrac, Google, Wall Street Journal—find the latest news, read the analysis, educate yourself. Putting your job application in perspective could be a critical strength that will put you in front of the pack.

6. Ruling out opportunities too early
You run across a nursing manager position, but you tell yourself that you’re just a nurse. You skip to the next job posting. Should you? Slow down. Read each job description carefully before making a decision. Quite a few smaller hospitals are willing to give the right nurse a step up if he or she has the right mix of skills and attitude. Be sure you’re fully familiar with and understand the job specifics entirely before making an informed decision about whether to pursue the opportunity.

7. Avoiding job-hunting support and services
The job hunt is a learning process, and getting help from resume writers, career counselors and recruiting specialists will only speed up and improve your chances of getting you to your next nursing job. Working with someone on your career will not only bring you a sense of teamwork, it will enrich your perspective and ultimately improve your end result. Here are some things that a career consultant can help you with: resume cleanup, sharpening interview skills, tips to make you stand out from the crowd. If you manage to land a job just a couple days sooner than you would have without the help, your investment in career help will have paid off.

You don’t want to just get to the next job. You want to find that next job fast and you want the new job to be better than the previous one, no matter how good the previous one was!

What DOs and DON’Ts would you give to a job hunter? Share in the comments section below and check out ModernNurse Jobs to see the latest job openings. 

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


  1. I worked in intermittent skilled Home Health for 35+ years. I stepped in as DON for a company seeking CHAP certification, supervising staff, training a man whose second career was nursing, looking at every piece of documentation to meet criteria. The company passed CHAP certification with only one deficiency. I relocated from Phoenix to Philadelphia at age 57 to assist my sister in caring for my mother with early dementia. I started to seek employment after a month, although not in Home Health (because of the neverending documentation.) I have never been so discouraged in my life. I am convinced it was age discrimination. Head hunters contacted me, impressed by my resume. But when I went to interviews, I never received job offers. I had signed up with a national staffing agency to find an office position with high pay. I finally asked if I could work for their home care division. I have been working for 3 years now as a private duty nurse, 6 days a week, with 2 clients. I provide excellent care. One of my clients made me agree to take care of him for 20 years, at which time I will be 80 years old. Whatever happened to valuing knowledge and experience?

  2. I hear many accounts regarding nurses and our abilities. Usually presented by those who do not have any idea as to our education or skills. Recently , I heard people place us in the category of “workers with certificates.” There was no mention of college degrees or experience. Plumbers were ranked higher due to need and higher pay.
    The description of nurses retiring at 65. Is this mandatory and why? It would seem that experienced nurse would be an asset as an instructor.

  3. One thing I often see when interviewing someone who has been out of the workforce for a bit, they tend to discount the values of what all they did during this time. I tell them don’t short sell yourself. So maybe you were not working outside the home….did you organize a food drive, do some clerical support task at church or in some organization, work in the PTA, run your household budget, etc. These are all valuable skills and you should present them as such!

  4. The phrase “Before contacting your next hospital . . .” assumes that nurses should seek employment in hospitals. There are many other avenues for nursing employment and nurses should get out of the notion that the only true nursing job is in a hospital. There is a whole wide world of opportunity out there and there is tremendous need for nurses in education, long term and home health care, insurance, public health, and so on. These areas also can be fulfilling and rewarding.


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