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Why You Need a Structured Hiring Process to Hire the Best Nurses

August 3, 2016

nurses-talking.jpgMost people don’t fully understand all that nurses do. In addition to their basic patient care responsibilities, nurses drive hospital culture. The quality of your nursing staff will, to a large degree, determine whether your organization succeeds or fails when it comes to facing the changes going on in healthcare.

Traditionally, nursing candidates were evaluated based on their resume and their basic patient care skills. Today, trends in nursing hiring tell us that the resume is a poor predictor of nurse performance, and that basic patient care skills are just the minimum (although still important) requirements for nursing, and organizational success.

Bedside nurses are the providers in charge of the functions that "very often determine health outcomes and the procurement of ethical care," according to a Huffington Post blogger, Billy Rosa, a Nurse Practitioner.


  • Advocate for patient safety, appropriate treatment protocols, timely symptom management, and specialty consultations

  • Coordinate care for all departments, from surgery and pharmacy to nutrition, social work and physical and occupational therapy, improving mortality, and reducing readmissions

  • Coach patients to reach health goals and needs

  • Lead patient-centered care initiatives and create needed change

  • Improve patient safety, by supporting a culture of safety; communicating and collaborating well, engaging patients, following checklists, and learning from near-misses.

  • Take the lead in care innovation

(Read the full Huffington Post blog post here)

What does all of this mean for your hiring process? You need to build a selection system that values, and efficiently and effectively evaluates, a nursing candidate’s ability to advocate, coordinate, innovate, coach, and lead. I recently had a seasoned nurse manager tell me that she doesn’t need a nursing behavioral assessment or a structured behavioral interview guide or process because in 5 minutes she can tell if a nurse is good. We see this more often than you would think.

These “psychic-interviewers” have no reason to believe they are good at picking great nurses, or have lower turnover than their colleagues. If they’ve done a good job, it’s pure luck based on small data set. They point to the good nurses they’ve hired but seem to forget all of those they thought would be stars but weren’t. They value evidence-based care and would never let a fellow nurse make clinical decisions based on their gut (even in an area of expertise), but when it comes to selecting candidates (an area where they have no training or expertise) – they make a decision on a 5 minute impression – in spite of all of the data and research demonstrating that method’s futility?

This comes from a good place – professional pride. The nursing profession is, rightfully, a proud one and sometimes nurses think that only they can identify a good nurse and “If I’m a good nurse, I should be able to spot one pretty quickly because he/she will be just like me!” (a classic interviewing error, by the way).

But think about the silliness of this approach. NO ONE – not the best interviewer in the world can evaluate a candidate’s ability to advocate, coordinate, innovate, coach, and lead – or even how empathic they really are in a 5-minute, 10-minute or even 20-minute casual interview – it can’t be done.

True story – I had a nursing manager tell me once that she could tell a candidate had a high level of compassion because she loved dogs. That might, actually, be an interesting research project. For now, though, I’d prefer to use a tool that has been proven to evaluate a person’s innate level of empathy, compassion, and emotional intelligence. From there, I’d use structured behavioral interview questions that force candidates to tell me about situations where they’ve demonstrated these traits and behaviors – i.e. “evidence-based hiring.”

To learn more about how to build a selection system that can target the behavioral competencies that matter, download our whitepaper: 

nursing shortage

Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.