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5 questions to ask before accepting a nursing job offer

5 questions to ask before accepting a nursing job offer

The interview went well and you’re confident that you’ll get the job – but do you want it?

‘Sometimes, candidates can be so focused on selling themselves during an interview that they forget to assess whether the role is right for them,’ says Heike Guilford, Managing Director of The Coaching Nurse.

‘That’s why it’s so important to ask questions during the interview, and to think carefully before you sign the contract. The more information you glean about the work culture, team dynamics and career prospects, the easier it will be to decide whether to take the position.’

Not sure what to ask? Here are five questions to raise before you accept the job.

1. Will this role advance my career?

When you’re desperate to leave your current job it can be tempting to take the first thing that comes along, but making a sideways move can be a mistake.

‘Always consider the longer-term career implications,’ warns Heike. ‘If taking the job is a stepping stone to something better, you need to be clear about how this role will help you reach your ultimate career goals. What new skills and opportunities will you develop? How will taking this job help you get where you want to be in five years’ time?’

Ask the interviewer: “What do you offer in terms of continuing professional development? Do you have a mentorship programme? Can you describe the career progression of other nurses at a similar level in the organisation?”

‘Even if the organisation doesn’t have a formal mentorship scheme, they should be able to describe how they’ve given informal training and developed their staff. If the interviewer doesn’t give a clear answer, the organisation may not be set up to help you advance your nursing career – in which case think twice about taking the role,’ advises Heike.

2. What is the work culture like?

Work culture and team morale can have a huge influence on whether you will enjoy the job or not. Finding out can be tricky – the interviewer is unlikely to reveal if there’s a serious problem or lack of morale in the team – but there are subtle ways to find out. Ask the interviewer: “What do you enjoy most about working here? Can I meet the team I’ll be working with and my future potential supervisor?”‘Spending just half an hour chatting to the people you’ll be working with can reveal a lot about team dynamics,’ says Heike. ‘Another option is to ask to meet the person who currently occupies the role and find out what they enjoy most and least about the job.’

3. How well does the employer support staff through change?

Changes in policy are to be expected in nursing – but how well an employer prepares, implements and supports staff through change can vary across organisations.

Ask the interviewer: “How do you envisage my role changing with the introduction of work-based Apprenticeship Nurse Practitioner programs?”

Heike says: ‘Asking this kind of question has two benefits. One, you will demonstrate that you’re aware of current developments in nursing practice. Secondly, the answer the interviewer gives will indicate whether they have already put processes in place to help support nursing staff.’

4. What will be expected of me in the first three months?

The type of orientation process that’s in place can reveal a lot about an employer and whether they invest in their staff. Ask how long the orientation period lasts, what it involves, if there are options to extend the time period if necessary.

Ask the interviewer: “What’s your orientation process? What objectives will I be measured against in the first three months?”

Heike says: ‘Asking this question demonstrates that you’re keen to hit the ground running. ‘An employer should be able to talk about what they expect from you in the role. Listen to what’s said between the lines. For example, if they mention improving patient discharge times, this can reveal what challenges you can expect to face on the job.’

5. Is my role likely to change much over the next six months?

No one likes to take a job only to find that they’ve been “miss-sold” the role, or for key aspects to change after just a few months. Asking about the challenges facing the organisation/unit is one way to find out whether your role may be affected by change.

Ask the interviewer: “What significant issues do you expect the unit to face over the coming months? I notice that you have recently trailed a new scheme / that you plan to introduce… How will this impact on the ward/unit/organisation?”

‘Asking these kind of questions demonstrates to the employer that you have taken the time and effort to research the organisation, and that you’re able to see your role in the context of the bigger picture,’ says Heike. ‘Importantly, their answer may offer clues about what’s in store if you should decide to take the job.’

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