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Take a Chance on the “Imperfect” Nurse Candidate

When recruiting for nursing positions, you’re obviously looking for the perfect candidate: the candidate who checks all the boxes — experience in the position being applied for, the optimal educational background, and a team-oriented personality that works well with everyone. It may seem impossible to find someone who checks all the boxes, but that’s OK.

Sometimes you need to take a risk on the not-so-perfect candidate. You may find that they actually turn out to be the perfect choice.

It’s important to remember that there isn’t necessarily one specific person who fits the nursing position you’re looking for. Each candidate that you interview will have their own characteristics suitable for the role but also some that aren’t. Keeping an open mind when interviewing can help you be aware of all the things that you’re looking for but also for other things they may have to offer.

When hiring for nursing positions, especially in specialty areas, it may seem that the candidates with experience in that specialty are the only ones who should be considered. However, there are things that can be worth considering outside of experience, such as transferable skills, willingness to learn, and a fresh perspective.

Transferable skills

When filling a nursing role, it’s important to remember that many of the skills that nurse candidates possess may have relevance to the position they are applying for, even if it’s not in the same specialty. Many clinical skills that nurses have can be used in multiple areas of nursing. Although there will likely be additional training that needs to take place once on the job, they will come with a good foundation of skills.

In addition to clinical skills, nurses develop skills in other areas. These areas include communication, teamwork, critical thinking, empathy, and flexibility. Skills such as these can be critical to have in many areas of nursing and aren’t necessarily something that can be taught easily. Being aware of how these skills can benefit the role is important.

Willingness to learn

A candidate who has shown the drive and initiative to learn new skills in previous job roles will likely have the drive to take on a new role and learn the skills needed for the new job.

A willingness to learn doesn’t only show up on a resume as the number of college credits a nurse has completed. It can also appear as continuing education credits or obtaining a certification in a specialty. It can also look like taking on new opportunities on the unit to learn new skills.

Look for other positive attributes, such as motivation, curiosity, and confidence. These often go hand in hand with being willing to learn.

A fresh perspective

Another way to look at the “imperfect candidate” is to not focus on their apparent deficits but rather what they have to offer. A new candidate can bring a new set of eyes and thoughts that introduces a fresh perspective to the team.

Similarly, they also won’t come with a lot of “baggage” or negative things that need to be unlearned. Taking a chance and hiring the imperfect candidate can allow the team to be able to train that candidate to be the employee they need for the position and want to work with.

A second opinion

If you’re on the fence about a particular candidate and think they may be a good choice, but you aren’t sure, seek out the advice of others on the team or from other colleagues. Talk with the team to get a feel of how willing they are to work with someone who isn’t the perfect candidate. There may be times where they can’t take on extra training, but they may be willing if you ask.

Bringing in people who are currently working in that role can be a helpful way to assess if the candidate would be a good hire.

Narrowing your focus limits your vision

Go into each resume review and interview with an open mind. Be aware of any biases you have, such as for those who appear to be “job hoppers,” as this isn’t always the sign of a bad candidate. It could actually be the sign of a candidate who is confident in what they want and are unwilling to settle for less.

Remember that there won’t be one perfect candidate for every position. Evaluate each applicant and look for what they have and what they can bring to the role — not just what they don’t have.

With the continued nursing shortage, you should leverage multiple resources to aid in your recruitment and retention efforts. Expanding your search will help bring in more qualified nurses who are ready to start their new career or position.