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What are some important things to look for when I'm considering who to hire for a nurse leader position?


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What does it take to be successful on your unit? You probably already know this, but if not, be sure that you have a clear picture of whom you seek. It is likely that your HR department has carefully determined the competencies and qualifications of the successful person for the role under consideration, but they may not know the intricacies of each unit. Talk with your HR department to ensure they have a good understanding of the open position.

Performance is based on ability, motivation, opportunity, and culture.

Ability. Consider the knowledge, competencies, and experience required for successful performance on your unit. You will gather data on knowledge and experience from the resume. Competencies are “characteristics of employees with behavioral implications that are thought to be associated with successful performance of their job” (Garman & Johnson, 2006). You can gather this information in the interview.

Motivation. You’ll need to discover what motivates candidate and then determine whether your unit and organization provide those types of motivators. Nurses need to be intrinsically motivated toward their jobs, meaning that they enjoy working toward meaningful goals, and they are motivated by learning and using their skills so that they can stay challenged. You will be able to determine motivation during the interview by asking questions about what candidates liked best and least in their previous jobs. You will be able to tell from their responses if the current position is a good fit for them.

Opportunity. They will have plenty of opportunity to use most of their nursing skills, but will they have the opportunity to use all of their skills on your unit? You might be interviewing someone who loves to make presentations. Will he or she have the opportunity to do that while working on your unit? Although this isn’t typically inherent in staff nurse roles, you might be able to find opportunities for him or her to use this skill.

Culture. Will this person thrive in your organization’s culture? You need to assess whether this would be a good fit for him or her. Therefore, it is important that you know what your culture characteristics are. Find out what the candidate liked more and lease about his or her previous organizations and determine how well these characteristics match your organization’s. Some factors you will listen for include pace of change, recognition programs, opportunities for growth, opportunities for advancement, degree of autonomy, shared governance, etc.

Hiring the person who has the skills, motivation, and opportunity to use their skills, and who fits into your culture, means that person will be productive more quickly, enjoy more job satisfaction, and will tend to stay with you during good times and bad. This person will fit into your team better and enjoy collegial relationships if she or she is a good match.

Garman, A. N., & Johnson, M. P. (2006). “Leadership competencies: An introduction.” Journal of Healthcare management, 51(1), 13-17.

Patty Kubus, RN, MBA, PhD

(March 2011)