You have the right education for the job. You show up 10 minutes early for your interview. Your résumé is polished to perfection. So, you think, what else is there?
While staffing shortages--especially for lab personnel--may make your job search easier, being properly prepared for the interview process can mean the difference between 'finding work' and launching the career of your dreams.
Just like a road trip, getting your job takes a little bit of advance planning. Whether you're looking for your first position or changing gears after years at the same facility, here's some information on mapping out what to do before-and after-you start interviewing.
Consulting the Experts on You
Before you apply for any job, you need to line up your references. References are photos albums of your previous work and education experiences for potential employers. Three references is the standard. "Not too many and not too few," explained Trudy Rios, RN, CCM, ABRM, vice president of Outcome Assurance for Dallas-based Concentra Health Services.
So, who makes a good reference? Choose people that you've had a positive work experience with, that you've learned a great deal from and you worked well with, counseled Mary Ellen Grohar, RN, PhD, associate professor at St. Louis University School of Nursing. The people our experts recommend include:
- Supervisors. "It's preferable to see supervisors," said Jaymie Lerner, human resources specialist for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. She added that if supervisors can't be provided, asking somebody you've done a clinical rotation with, an instructor in the hospital or somebody you've done volunteer work with are good choices.
- Instructors. "If you're just starting out, having a reference from an instructor--especially if it's in an area that you're interested in--is impressive," added David Woodruff, MSN, RN, CNS, CCRN, president of Unified Nursing Concepts.
- Volunteer Work. "If you've done some volunteer work then you can utilize somebody from that organization," Lerner stated.
- Other Jobs. Even a boss from a part-time job can be a good reference, Woodruff said. Somebody you've actually worked for can attest to your job performance, punctuality and skills.
"Do not use anyone related to you, or people that are friends but have not worked with you in the past," cautioned Lerner. Stick to people who can discuss your work history.
When it comes to asking somebody to be a reference, Lerner said, "The best is if you're able to ask in person. If that's not feasible, an e-mail or phone call is acceptable these days."
Dr. Grohar added you should line up your references in advance, "but not to provide a letter--just [so you can] state that references are available upon request." The employer should be free to decide who to contact and how--either by phone or e-mail. As the job seeker, you have some rights as well. Dr. Grohar reminded, "No past employer is free to give information about employee performance without the permission from the applicant, other than dates of employment." This includes information about performance and termination.
When it comes to the format of references, e-mail is "written and customary practice today," she said, though forms are still used by many employers. The issue, she stresses, "is confidentiality for the employee."
Hunting for the Right Information
You wouldn't drive to a city or town you knew nothing about, so why walk into a facility without being prepared? Once you send out your résumé and start interviewing, there are some steps you can take to stand out before you even step into a facility.
"Do your homework. I can't emphasize that enough," urged Rios. "You need to learn as much about the company you're applying to as possible and be clear as to why you're choosing that particular company."
Another important step is to make sure you understand the position, Lerner advised. Be sure you've seen a job description and prepare questions to ask.
"Most hospitals now have a websire," explained Woodruff. Going online to check out their site can provide information about a facility's research programs, specialties and doctors.
Using a search engine (such as Google or Yahoo!) is a good way to find a facility's website. Also, when you set up the interview, you can ask if they have a website--or just call the facility and ask.
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