Confessions from hospital HR (here’s why we didn’t hire you)


These stories, of course, are rare and much more likely to be found online than in a real employer’s office. But aside from these instances that make the rejection process easy for human resources professionals, what happened when YOU went in, gave what you felt was a great interview and still didn’t get the job? HR insiders confess about what works—and doesn’t work—in the hiring process.

Mistakes Nurses Make
When it comes to interviews, there are some mistakes you can make—things you may not have thought twice about—that can put interviewers of:

1. What did you say? Katie Cwalinski, PRC, CSSR, Manager of Nurse Recruitment at the Cleveland Clinic, states, “Mistakes some nurses will make include speaking negatively about their previous or current position and/or supervisor, or talking only about a shift they need, not why they want to work in a certain clinical area or why they want to work for a certain organization.” It pays to keep your comments professional and positive when talking about prior employers.

2. Paperwork, please. Some nurses have experience, but lack the documentation to prove their credentials. Amanda Oldfield, vice president of HR at Verizon Care Services based in North Palm Beach, Fla., says, “When you start losing those documents, we can’t hire you. You have to show the CEs from when you first graduated from school, and the nurses who have been nurses for 20 or 30 years don’t have that documentation.” Many times if a nurse can’t produce these credentials, she can’t get hired and has to retake continuing education hours.

3. Don’t sweat the small stuff. If you’re looking to have your resume done by a professional, don’t bother. Most nurse recruiters are okay with a plain resume that simply states who you are and what positions you’ve held. Most HR recruiters are more interested in how you interact face-to-face.

4. You are what you wear. You may have been given the advice to “dress up” for a nursing interview. According to our expert sources, this is a bit of a myth. Many recruiters are okay with nurses showing up in scrubs, but Oldfield cautions, “Some girls come in with scrub bottoms and tiny little tanks with everything hanging out, and that’s not appropriate.”

Reasons You Aren’t Hired
1. Out of the past. Most recruiters won’t hire someone with prior criminal convictions. Emily Gutierrez, a nurse recruiter in Southern California, affirms, “We were not allowed to hire candidates who had convictions.” Oldfield goes a step further: “We’re finding that girls with minor misdemeanors on their record are coming up non-eligible. We don’t hire anyone with a record.” If you have a crime in your past, this might be a reason why you’re turned down for a job.

2. We just didn’t…well…like you. Personality is another big reason for an HR person to turn down a potential candidate. Cwalinski states, “The top three reasons I turn down a candidate are poor communication, inappropriate responses and lack of motivation.” Gutierrez agrees. “Personality can be a turnoff. If the person doesn’t have a good bedside manner, I don’t want to hire her. Nurses are rated on personality, bedside manner and customer service.” Look at how you’re approaching your interviewer and ensure you come across in an open, friendly manner. If a recruiter doesn’t think you’ll treat a patient with kindness, you likely won’t get the job.

Other reasons nurse recruiters cited for not hiring a candidate included:

  • Lack of experience
  • Dishonesty
  • History of drug diversion
  • Lack of hygiene
  • Failure to pass a basic competency test

What They’re Looking For
So what are they looking for? Cwalinski is looking for “whether or not the candidate is a cultural fit, if she’s had a stable work history, how motivated she is, what her long-term goals are, and her interest level and desire for career development.” Oldfield is looking for experience and basic skills. “If you come in and you’re presented well with all of your paperwork, can speak clearly and can hold a conversation with me, then you’re a good candidate.”

Advice for New Grads
Some of this may be a little depressing to new grads who don’t have the experience to battle it out in this tough job market. Gutierrez offers this advice: “For new-grad nurses, something I highly recommend is when you do your clinical rotation, do a great job because they’re watching you. Express your interest to the department managers and your preceptors, and possibly introduce yourself to HR, just to be more visible. Take your clinicals seriously because you might be one of the few to be taken on when the hiring starts. It takes $40,000 to train a new grad in a hospital. Make sure you’re a superstar.”

Lynda Lampert
Lynda Lampert is a registered nurse and a certified third shift worker. She has worked with many different patient populations, including post-op open heart, post-op gastric bypass, active chest pain, congestive heart failure, poorly controlled diabetics and telemetry 'wonders'. She now focuses all of her effort on educating the populace -- both the nursing world and the normal folk -- through her web writing. She hopes one day to publish another romance novel, travel to England and become a web rock star. She feels she is on her way . . . mostly. You can learn more about Lynda and her work at

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