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Careers advice: what the experts say

Senior nurses offer some tips on the practicalities of the recruitment process

Senior nurses offer some tips on the practicalities of the recruitment process during this summer's RCNi Nursing Careers and Jobs Fair

Recruiting new staff and seeking fresh career opportunities are part of all nursing managers’ work at some point.


One of the workshops from the RCNi Nursing Careers and Jobs Fair in Glasgow

RCN Scotland director Theresa Fyffe and deputy director of care at Erskine Care Homes Pauline McIntyre joined Nursing Management editor Nick Lipley for a panel discussion on some of the practical aspects of picking the best candidate, but also how to stand out when searching for work.

Questions from the audience were also encouraged during the event at the RCNi Nursing Careers and Jobs Fair in Glasgow in June.

NL: What are you looking for when you are recruiting members of staff?

PM: 'We are looking for caring, dedicated staff who will come in with their experience, enhance what we have and deliver excellence in care.'

'I say turn the tables a bit more and ask them what they can give you'

Theresa Fyffe

TF: 'You could be going to the interview thinking "There are three jobs I’m interested in, in different areas". But, when you go to that place, focus on the people at that one.'


Theresa Fyffe

'Just be clear when you go what is it that makes you want to work there. I hate the question "Why have you come? Why have you applied?" but try to turn it around and say "This is what I am looking for in a job. This is what I want; this is what matters to me. Have you got that?". It will tell people a lot about you. I say turn the tables a bit more and ask them what they can give you.'

NL: What do you think are the general skills that employers are interested in across the board?

TF: 'It doesn’t matter what field or level you are looking at, they are looking for somebody to show that absolute commitment to learn. Don’t forget about the human, personal skills.

'One of the things that people miss is showing how to team work. I need everyone that comes to me to be prepared to say "I will work together", because that is how we do it. All throughout my career I have looked for people who understand that there is no "I" in team.'

PM: 'Be prepared. Be prepared for your interview, what you can bring to the job and what you would expect from us as an employer, and ask questions throughout your interview, as that is the time to get to know what we can offer you.

'Once we showed a registered nurse around and she said "I like how your doors lock. Is that how keep them in?". Absolutely not; we are all about helping residents live their lives. So understand the organisation you are coming to work for, look at their latest report from the care inspector, see how they are performing and see how you can be supported in your performance.'

NL: What makes a good or bad application?

PM: 'Applications are so important. That is your chance to get across who you are and what you can offer. The application is just as important as the interview itself. Start off by thinking "I am selling myself; here is all about me".'

TF: 'Sometimes less is more and quality is better. I have seen people write screeds and it still doesn’t tell me anything. So think carefully, get the messages down that you want people to see but be prepared sometimes that there are just too many applicants. That happens and it is hard.'


Pauline McIntyre

PM: 'You are going to be asked how you keep up to date with your learning; be ready and show it.'

Kirsty [from the audience]: I’m coming back into nursing after a five-year break to have my children. How can I spin that in a positive light in an interview?

TF: 'If you have looked after children there is a whole set of skills that you have learned. I went for a part time post after having children and I said I am the best coordinator you have ever met.

'I manage to get the children out to school, the baby fed, I am good at being able to communicate and handle different things. It is an amazing experience raising children. So think about what you do; don’t trivialise it. There is maturity too, because when you have children you grow up awfully fast.'

PM: 'Don’t be afraid to ask what the organisation can do for you. There are return-to-practice and Flying Start NHS programmes. There is training out there that will help you as you come back into work and the team.'

'There is training out there that will help you as you come back into work and the team'

Pauline McIntyre

NL: People being interviewed are often asked if they have any questions. What should people ask?

PM: 'Some of the questions we are asked are "Do we have to work shifts and Christmas?". As a nurse, of course you are going to be expected to work these things and that is about researching who you are going to work for and what the job is going to be. So keep it meaningful; ask the pertinent questions that are going to help you as you come to work.'

TF: 'I recently saw someone who got out a piece of paper with about ten questions on it and my heart sank as we had other candidates coming in. But what she did was really clever. She looked at her questions and said "You have addressed most of these, but there is one left I would like to ask". It showed she prepared.'

Genevieve [from the audience]: In an interview, is it bad not to have any questions?

PM: 'I always think it is better to ask a question; it shows you are keen and you're interested. It is better to ask something than to say nothing.'

TF: 'But it mustn’t come over like you have thrown it in just for show; it must have meaning. You could just go back to a point you wanted to make and say "Can I just go back to something I said to you? This is why I said that. What do you think?". The point of a question is to tell them more about you, what you are thinking and where you are going.'


Nick Lipley

Nicola [from the audience]: I went to an interview and the feedback was that I had too many questions at the end. They said I should have phoned before the interview and asked most of the questions. I was just trying to show I was keen, but it backfired.

TF: 'You have to watch what is going on for the people interviewing you too. Watch for the body language. Clearly at some point they were shutting down on your ten questions. I would say "I have so much more I want to ask. Can I follow up with you?".'

NL: Is there a role for having informal visits to an employer before hand?

TF: 'It depends. I have moved around a lot and couldn’t have always done that because I was so far away. If you can seek it and it’s available, then it is worth doing.'

PM: 'Like when you go and buy a house, you get a feel for it. Could you work here? Are the staff well presented in uniform? Do the residents look happy and content? Are they enjoying living life as you walk through? You can pick all these things up and it is important if you can to visit. If you can’t visit and you have a question, phone the named contact.'

Nicola [from the audience]: 'I am a single parent. I had to leave shift work so I got an office-hours job. Now I am a band 6 for the NHS, but it is paper based. If I want to look around for jobs I feel limited.'

PM: 'Just because you are a single parent, don’t let it stop you; it never stopped me. If you are interested in an organisation, join their bank first, and see if it will work with you. That lets the employer get to know you.'

RCNi Nursing Careers and Jobs Fairs

RCNi Nursing Careers and Jobs Fairs

RCNi Nursing Careers and Jobs Fairs are the largest CPD-accredited nursing recruitment events in the UK. Visitors can meet leading employers and agencies with immediate vacancies, and receive advice on finding a new job, revalidation, and climbing the career ladder.

If you're looking for a new job, or aiming to develop your nursing career in 2018, come along to our next event. Go to www.careersandjobsfair.com to book your free place today.

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