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Recruiting Nurses

Nurse recruiting has long been a challenge for managers in the health care industry. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed unprecedented pressure on health care systems, and licensed nurses are in demand. Learn how to find qualified candidates by improving your job descriptions, expanding your search criteria and making the most of online hiring tools.

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Demand for licensed nurses rising

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, nursing is the largest health care profession in the United States. Nationwide, there are over 3.8 million registered nurses.

In the most recent job outlook report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, published in 2019, demand for registered nurses was projected to grow by about 7% between 2019 and 2029. Given that this report was prepared prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for RNs is most likely even higher than suggested.

The current employment outlook for nurses is exceptionally bright, and quality candidates can be selective. As a manager, that means you need to make use of all available tools to attract, screen and interview prospective hires.

Optimizing nurse recruiting efforts

As a human resources professional or nurse manager, you can take several steps to attract the right nurse candidates. When hiring one or more nurses, be sure to:

  • Identify the key responsibilities and duties
  • Write a clear, search-optimized job description
  • Expand your nurse recruitment to nearby cities and states
  • Recruit nurses through nursing schools
  • Highlight your company’s strengths
  • Craft nursing-focused interview questions
  • Optimize online recruitment efforts
  • Include the salary in the job ad

Identify key responsibilities and duties

Nursing is a diverse profession covering a wide range of specialized skills that often involve advanced training and hands-on expertise. While all nursing degree programs include the same standardized testing and general education, most nurses now focus on working with a specific patient population or in a particular clinical setting.

A key part of nurse recruitment is knowing exactly which skills are involved with the position you’re seeking to fill. Before posting a job ad, take the time to identify both the technical and soft skills needed. This might require input from nurses within your organization, as well as nurse managers, physicians and specialists.

Write a clear, search-optimized job description

Job seekers rely heavily on job descriptions to help them decide if a position is worth pursuing.

Nurses look for jobs that match their skills, interests and professional goals, so it’s important to craft a clear job description. Not only will this help attract nurses with educational requirements that match your organizational needs, but it also weeds out those who wouldn’t be the best fit for the position you’re trying to fill.

  • Create an accurate title. Nursing job titles can range from simply “nurse” to more descriptive titles that indicate whether the position is a contract, part-time or full-time. You may also want to describe the area of expertise, such as neonatal, surgical, mental health or community-based nursing.
  • Develop a straightforward job summary. Candidates want to know exactly what the job entails before deciding to submit their resumes. Start with a one-sentence description of your organization, followed by a brief overview of the position and work environment.
  • Outline the duties. Write a point-form list that outlines what duties the nurse can expect to perform on a day-to-day basis. Include information such as the patient demographics, job responsibilities and who the candidate reports to.
  • Detail educational requirements. If you’re a nurse recruiting with specific credentials, be sure to detail those in your job description. For example, if you’re only looking for applicants with a graduate degree, be sure to specify that.
  • Describe the required technical and soft skills. Include a brief list of the technical and soft skills for your position, but don’t overdo it. A simple one- or two-sentence summary of the skills needed will suffice.
  • Specify the geo-location. Be sure to specify where the primary worksite is located, as many job seekers perform location-based searches. Include the name of the city, county and state to cover all location search parameters.

Expand your nurse recruitment to nearby cities and states

It’s common for nurses to commute from nearby cities or even relocate from out-of-state to pursue their ideal position. This is especially true for nurses with advanced education, such as a graduate degree, and those whose career goals include working with particular patients, diseases or technologies.

Consider expanding your recruitment efforts to nearby counties and states by cross-posting your job ads on different regional job boards or including the names of other areas in your job ads.

Recruit nurses through nursing schools

There are nearly 1,000 undergraduate nursing programs in the United States, and these nursing schools are a great source of highly skilled candidates. While nurses who are just starting their careers may lack hands-on experience, they have up-to-date knowledge and innovative ideas that can be exceptionally valuable to your organization.

Compile a list of nursing schools within your state and beyond, especially if you’re seeking applicants who are trained in a specialized field such as emergency room nursing or pediatric care. Contact the career services departments at these schools to discuss how to find nurses through nurse recruitment opportunities such as in-person and virtual job fairs, job boards and co-op placements.

Partnering with several nursing schools by creating bursaries and scholarships can also help new grads recognize your organization as an industry leader.

Highlight your company’s strengths

While offering competitive wages can attract quality candidates, money is only part of what matters to nurses.

In this highly competitive labor market, nurses often have several positions to choose from. Factors such as flexible work schedules, attractive benefit packages and a focus on a healthy work-life balance are all important to medical professionals.

When recruiting nurses, focus on how your organization treats your nurses and other employees. Highlight any perks you offer, such as an annual training allowance, parking passes and career advancement opportunities.

Keep in mind that most nurses want to work in an environment where they’re treated as partners within the organization, rather than as hourly staff. Nurses are often drawn to positions that provide opportunities for personal and professional growth, rather than simply an attractive paycheck.

Craft nursing-focused interview questions

A key factor that’s often overlooked when nurse recruiting is the need for nursing-focused interviews. Using a generic set of interview questions may make life easier for human resources, but this approach fails to highlight many of the attributes that distinguish a good nurse hire from a great one.

Consider the following interview questions:

  • Why did you decide to pursue a career in the medical field?
  • What field of nursing are you most interested in?
  • Tell me about a time you experienced conflict with a patient, peer or supervisor and how you handled it. Would you like to pursue advanced education and if so, in what discipline and when?
  • Where do you see yourself in [two, five, ten] years?
  • What is the number one trait you seek in an employer?
  • What made you interested in applying to our organization?

Optimize online nurse recruitment efforts

Posting your job ad on Indeed is a great way to reach a broad audience, but you can expand that reach even further by optimizing your online candidate search.

If your organization isn’t already active on social media, be sure to set up accounts on major platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Use these accounts to:

  • Post press releases
  • Announce major fundraising initiatives
  • Highlight patient and staff success stories
  • Link to your Indeed job ads

Integrate searchable hashtags into your social media posts, such as the name of your organization, the city or county and other descriptive tags.

Include the salary on the job ad

Competition for health care professionals is stiff, and nurses often have multiple positions to choose from.

Listing the salary range on your job ad lets prospective candidates know exactly what compensation comes with the job without having to submit their resumes or contact your organization. Given that there’s a $16.11 per hour difference between the average salary of an emergency room nurse and that of a medical/surgical RN, it’s easy to see why including wages in your job postings can help improve your nurse recruitment efforts.

As of March 2021, the average hourly wage for a registered nurse was $36.80, but hourly rates ranged from $33.26 to $43.47, depending on experience. Rates also vary widely based on location, with nurses in New York City earning an average of $39.19 per hour, while RNs in Miami reported receiving an average of $27.87 per hour.

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