3 Skills You Need to Measure When Hiring Nurses

January 18th, 2018
Michelle Tuckett

In an industry previously gauged by experience above all, what can we do to ensure we are hiring nurses who will thrive and grow to their greatest potential in a clinical setting?

The Changing Road Ahead

With a projected increase of 1.6 million job openings for nurses by the year 2020, healthcare recruiting is facing a challenge like it has never seen before. Between the increasing healthcare needs of the baby boomer generation and aging nurses heading for retirement, a deep rift is growing between supply and demand for nursing staff in the years ahead.

Thankfully, nursing school graduate rates among millennials are increasing to (hopefully) meet the oncoming challenge. As new graduates enter the job market, the applicant pool of experienced nurses will be dwarfed by an influx of fresh talent waiting to be hired. The face of nursing is changing, and hiring practices need to adapt to keep up. 

Choosing Hiring Practices that Work

As the more seasoned nurses become a minority, we must use other tools and more creative metrics to measure both seasoned professionals and the next wave of talent entering the job market and find those who have skills that transcend experience alone.

Finding the Skills that Matter Most

With that in mind, what specific skills should we look for that can guarantee higher retention of new nurses? There is a lot at stake: the turnover rate of newly licensed registered nurses is a whopping 43% within their first three years. The financial implications of these losses are enormous: an average hospital hemorrhages between 4-6 million dollars every year to poor hiring and job turnover rates alone. 

While sorting data from across decades of study into the highest turnover reasons—burnout, job dissatisfaction, and lack of social support—three essential skills came up again and again: Resilience, Emotional Intelligence, and Good Communication. 

1) Resilience

Also known in more recent literature as as aspect of “grit,” resilience is the ability to bounce back from setbacks, failures, stress, and emotional and psychological burdens. A Chinese study examining nurses and stress indicates that resilience is the defining skill that functions as a protective mechanism in all forms of job-related frustrations, strain, and burnout.

Resilience is not a single skill but a set of revolving coping mechanisms such as social support, hobbies, self care, acceptance, and self esteem, all of which increase efficacy and satisfaction across a lifetime. 

What it looks like: 

When asked open ended questions about a failure or stressful period in their lives, resilient people are more likely to discuss and own their role in the situation and express what they learned, even if the outcome was not favorable. They see failure and setback as a natural part of growth and life, and maintain perspective, positivity, and continue to pursue goals and ambitions. 

2. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to monitor and recognize emotions and mood shifts in others and to self-monitor and control emotions within ourselves. High levels of emotional intelligence are predictive of better social relationships at work, better conflict resolution, and a higher degree self control. In multiple studies, emotional intelligence in nurses was positively correlated with much longer careers, better performance, and higher rates of job satisfaction across the course of their career. 

What it looks like:

When asked to discuss past communication or interpersonal difficulties, candidates with high emotional intelligence are more likely to tell both sides of the story and relate the emotions of all parties involved, as well as discussing their participation in the escalation or resolution of the situation. They are also willing to rephrase a story and will check in with others to ensure their message is perceived accurately. 

3. Good Communication 

Communication is one of the most highly prized soft skills across all industries, and when lives literally depend on a person’s ability to accurately communicate information at the correct time, it’s no surprise that this is one of the most valued traits in both nursing cohort and hiring managers alike. Nurses perform the vital task of relaying information between other members of staff, doctors, administrators, and patients. Good communication skills are a predictor of higher job performance and satisfaction as well as better working relationships and patient outcomes across all nursing disciplines. 

What it looks like:

When looking for communication in applicants, it can help to ask them to reiterate a story told or to translate complex information into layman’s terms. A good communicator is someone who can not only convey accurate information clearly, but who is also able to listen and reciprocate with a dialogue that fosters understanding on both sides. 

While these skills are incredibly useful in determining the value of candidates, they can also be subtle and difficult to accurately measure through traditional hiring methods. Utilizing our pre-hire assessment can help determine which applicants match these and many more markers of success in nursing candidates can streamline the process and create a faster and more streamlined candidate experience. 

Learn how one hospital tailored their hiring experience to nurses' frequent scheduling conflicts.

See how they do it

They've maximized the time their hiring managers can spend with patients, while improving their interview-to-hire ratio by 50%.