New Graduate Nurses:  How to Sell Yourself With No Experience

Updated on August 28, 2023

By Kim Bassett

The hardest part of getting that first nursing job is convincing someone you have what it takes without having the experience to back it up.  Hiring and orienting new graduate nurses is very expensive.  How do you convince a healthcare organization to take a risk on hiring you?

Use the job description terminology. Spend time really reviewing the opportunity.  Hone in on the keywords within a job description. A human resources department is specifically looking for those keywords in your cover letter and on your resume.  I have several versions of my resume and cover letters that I use based on the position in which I am applying. 

Think about your educational experience. I don’t mean lie. Never lie. What areas of your healthcare education did you excel in?  What do you see yourself doing?  Include a few bullets on your resume about these areas.  Make sure you are ready to discuss these during the interview process.  Look to projects you did in school that qualifies you for some of the areas in the job you are seeking.  Talking to these projects will show the interviewer that you are conversant in the healthcare role in which you are seeking. 

Research the Company.  Learn as much about the position and the company as you can.  Go online.  Stop by the company and take a look around.  Know something about the leadership.  Think about what you have in common with the company and why you would be a good fit for them.  Work these details into the conversation during your interview. 

Research Yourself-Dive Deep on Google. Google yourself and be sure your digital image is clean. The last thing you need is for a prospective employer to find that picture from last Halloween of you doing a keg stand.

Be Available and Flexible.  Making demands on a prospective employer when you have no experience will not get you far.  Be available-work nights, weekends, whatever it takes to get that job.  First you get hired and get experience.  Eventually, you have the talent and experience to transfer to another shift or department that is the perfect fit for your life.

Think about References.  Spend time thinking about whom you list as references.  Do you know someone in the prospective healthcare organization that could be a good reference?  Find references that can speak to your ability to do the job.  Prep your references.  Make sure they know about the job you are seeking and can speak about you in the job you seek. 

Practice before the Interview.  Take time before your interview to practice.  What are your weaknesses?  Strengths?  You may be asked these questions.  If asked a question you cannot answer what will you say? 

Start networking. Networking is essential to creating opportunities. Do you know people that work in the organization in which you are applying?  Get to know people in the industry that can recommend you on the inside for a position. These individuals will also be able to point out areas within your skillset that you need to work on or areas that you need to highlight in order to be successful in the industry.  I once played softball on a hospital ER team so I could get the next position that opened up in the ER. 

Listen. Be open-minded. Because you are just getting started and don’t have as much experience, listening is imperative. Through listening you will be able to discern what it is the prospective employer needs and see how/if your existing skillset is a fit for the organization. 

Be positive, confident and energetic. Enthusiasm counts for a lot. Having a positive attitude and confidence in your abilities shows your prospective employer you are eager to learn and do things right.

Don’t Burn Bridges.  Never speak negatively about previous employers or people in the industry.  It is amazing how small the world is and how connected people are.  As you move through your career, previous employers or people will come and go from your life.  You want them to remember the great work you do. 

Everyone has to start somewhere.  Staying positive, polished and packaging the skills you do have will help you create the best version of you.

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