Now that you're coming to the end of your nurse training it's probably time to start thinking about making your first career move. Make sure you're job ready with our helpful hints and tips.
Organise your CV and portfolio now
Don’t wait until you’ve got a job application deadline looming over you. Prepare your CV and portfolio in advance now.
A lot of employers give a very narrow window in which to apply, with some vacancies closing early if a lot of applications are received. Such a deadline may fall within the same week as a jam-packed placement or right before an essay due date. The more you can do in advance in the better. We've got advice on writing your first CV including CV samples, and advice writing job applications, including a sample supporting statement for newly qualified nurses.
Try and arrange an informal visit to a workplace before you apply for posts there. Not only can it make you stand out and look keen, but it's a perfect opportunity to get a real feel for the work culture and environment.
Prepare some questions to ask for when you do visit. You could ask people what they like about working there, or ask questions about the preceptorship programme.
Research your employers
Always research your employers. It’s likely that they will be involved in projects, pilots, initiatives, etc. Maybe they’ve just recently opened a new service or department. Asking questions or talking these through during informal visits, applications and interviews could win you brownie points.
Also look to see if they’ve got any company values or visions. These will give you vital clues as to what the organisation is looking for in a candidate, and likely to reflect the framework for their recruitment scoring system.
Make sure it’s the right job for you
Choose a job that is right for you, your skill set, your personality and your values. You might want to have a look at our career values worksheet to help you identify and reflect on what your values are.
It's important to identify the level and depth of support you will be offered if you are successful in securing a job, and check what resources there are to help you with your transition from student to newly qualified nurse. You'll want an employer that can offer you a robust preceptorship programme and nurturing learning environment.
Keep up to date with healthcare initiatives
Employers may ask you about healthcare initiatives during interview and will expect you to know. Could you explain what the Francis Report was? What do you know about the “duty of candour?” Do you know what the 6 C’s are?
Get social media savvy
Social media can be a great way of keeping up with healthcare news and initiatives, networking and even finding jobs. It’s imperative however that your social media profile or presence is professional and appropriate, as you're expected to uphold the reputation of the nursing profession at all times.
Double check all of your privacy settings and make sure that any photos, content and/or views expressed are in line with the NMC code and local policies. It’s recommended that you run your name and/or any usernames past a search engine to check what comes up.
The process for submitting a job application varies greatly depending on the job and the employer.
If you’re applying for jobs in the public sector or with larger private sector organisations, you will probably find a Person Specification and Job Description included within the job application pack. The Person Specification will outline which skills, qualifications, experience and/or attributes the employer is looking for in a candidate. You may be asked to write a Supporting Statement, in which you'll have to demonstrate that you meet the desired criteria, and essentially show the employer why you'd be the best person for the job.
Alternatively, you may be applying for jobs with smaller private sector employers, (e.g. general practice, nursing home, independent company, etc) who require you to submit a CV and covering letter.
Before you start
Make sure you read everything carefully. As well as examining the job advert itself, there may also be documents you'll need to read such as:
- A Person Specification (PS)
- A Job Description (JD)
- Company / Organisational values
- Instructions on how to apply
Leave yourself plenty of time to do your application because it may take a few hours. Furthermore, employers sometimes pull applications before the deadline if the job has had a lot of interest.
If there is no person specification
If you’re applying for jobs with smaller companies in the private sector, or independent employers, (e.g. general practice, nursing homes, etc) then there may not be a person specification or job description. There might not even be a formal job application process at all. Instead, the job advert may contain very limited detail, or small paragraph about the job and ask you to send in a CV.
In this instance you’ll need to study the job advert to identify any skills/experience/qualities the employer does mention, so that you can evidence them in your application or covering letter. If you have particular skills or qualities that haven’t been mentioned in the advert, but you think would be attractive or useful to the employer, then you can of course include them.
If information is scarce, contact the employer to ask for an informal chat, or to arrange an informal visit. This can be the perfect chance to get more information about the job which you can use to your advantage when you later apply. You might want to ask questions such as:
- What sort of skills or experience would the ideal candidate have?
- Can you tell me a little more about what the role would entail?
- Can you tell me a little about the company/home/practice?
Arranging an informal chat or visit can also make you come across as enthusiastic or proactive, not to mention you'll be more memorable later on when the employer is shortlisting.
If you have to submit a CV, you should attach a covering letter as well, explaining why you think you're a good candidate for the job. See the CV writing page for advice on both CV writing and covering letters.
If the job advert includes a person specification
If you’re applying for jobs in the NHS or larger private sector organisations, you should find a person specification and job description included within the advert.
You'll be expected to submit a, "supporting statement," as part of the application, in which you'll need to demonstrate how you meet the requirements for that job and essentially convince the employer why you'd be a good candidate for the job.
Your suitability for the post will be judged on how well your application and supporting statement tally up to the person specification, and to some extent, the job description.
Writing your supporting statement
Essentially, think of the person specification as a checklist for your supporting statement. Candidates who can demonstrate they are the best or closest match will be the ones shortlisted for the next stage of recruitment, so make sure you've covered all the criteria listed.
You could draw examples from:
- Current or previous roles within the healthcare industry
- Current or previous roles from outside the healthcare industry
- Volunteering roles
- Previous learning / shadowing
- University modules / essays / placements
- Research / project work
- Engagement with professional networks / forums / events / RCN congress
- Advocacy / activist experience
- Life experience (e.g. caring for a relative, personal experience as a patient yourself, doing a personal project, fundraising, etc)
Don’t be tempted to just leave something out because you’re struggling to think of an example, or don’t think you have the skills or experience required; it’s really important that you think about your transferable skills.
As an absolute last resort, if you really can’t evidence something listed in the person specification, it's better to address it somehow than not at all. Write a small paragraph to convey your understanding of this particular point, identify how you would develop in this area, convey any desire, interest or passion you might have for learning this skill / acquiring this qualification / gaining this experience, list any steps taken to address any gaps, or talk about any research / preparation you’ve done.
Introducing your supporting statement
Aim to write a strong, punchy and meaningful introduction to start your supporting statement. Ideally it will excite and engage the reader, encouraging them to want to read more.
An employer wants to know that you are enthusiastic about the role, and not just applying for any job. Try and make sure your supporting statement conveys why this particular position and employer appeals to you, along with any personal reasons you have for applying. If you have been on placement there or arranged an informal visit, mention this and say what you gained from the experience.
If you're not sure what to write about, you may want to ask yourself:
- Why you're applying for the role
- What inspired you to become a healthcare professional
- What your nursing philosophy is
- Why you've chosen this particular employer or organisation
- Why you'd be the best person for the job
- What experience/skills/knowledge you have
- What your strengths are
- What you're like as a colleague
- What you could bring to the role or job
Structuring your Supporting Statement
It’s recommended that you write your supporting statement so that it follows the same order as the person specification as much as possible.
Make it clear which attribute within the person specification you’re addressing and demonstrating and consider using headings. Not only will this make life easier for the person shortlisting, but it will avoid the risk of them accidentally missing something.
As well as the content of your statement, employers may also be looking at things like:
- Written communication skills (grammar, spelling, punctuation, language, etc)
- How your application is organised
- If you’ve followed the instructions properly
- Your ability to present your examples or evidence in a meaningful but concise way
Evidencing you meet the criteria
The majority of the job applications within the healthcare industry will be "competency based." This means employers want to see practical examples or evidence that show you meet the criteria and competencies outlined in the job advert and person specification.
When you address the criteria within the person specification make sure you have given specific examples to demonstrate how you have the skill / competency / knowledge in question.
Don't make unsubstantiated statements like, "I have excellent communication skills." Instead, explain why and how, using examples and evidence to back up your claims.
It’s also important that wherever possible you make your examples directly relevant to the duties, responsibilities or tasks listed in the job description.
Using the example Person Specification and Job Description below, let's look at the different ways in which an applicant could evidence the criteria, "Experience of delivering presentations," within their Supporting Statement.
Duties to include:
|Experience of carrying out assessments
|Experience of acting as an advocate
|Experience of delivering presentations
Example 1: No examples or evidence
"I have excellent presentation skills and am proficient in using presentation software such as Microsoft PowerPoint."
- This is a bad example because it's vague, non-specific and wouldn’t give the employer much insight into the skills and experience of the candidate. Effectively, anybody could write this, and there’s no evidence or examples to back up the claim.
Example 2: Evidence of competency"I’ve delivered numerous presentations during my time at university, both as an individual and within groups. During my final year, I delivered a presentation on person-centred care as part of an assessment, which included a practical exercise to engage with the audience and spark discussion.. I was awarded a first, and my tutor fed back that my presentation was, “concise, focused and engaging.”
- This is a good example because it's backed up with examples / evidence that show the applicant possesses the skills required.
Example 3: Evidence of competency that relates to the job description"I have to deliver presentations regularly as part of my current role, so have a lot of experience in this area and it's something I really enjoy. To give a recent example, my employer recently launched a pilot initiative to try and reduce the number of infection control related incidents. As the link nurse for infection control, I was responsible for designing and delivering presentations to colleagues and the wider MDT, to educate them on the pilot and its implementation. Senior managers fed back that my presentation had been, “effective, interesting and engaging.”
- This is a good example because it's backed up with examples / evidence. In addition, it's also relevant to the job description. The job description specifies that that whoever gets the post will be expected to deliver presentations to colleagues and the multi disciplinary team. By using examples that are relevant to the job, you are showing the employer that you are the best match.
Job Description - A list of the tasks, duties and responsibilities of the role. This could also include the scope, working conditions, reporting relationships, and purpose of the role, etc.
Person Specification - A list of criteria (skills, qualifications, experience, personal qualities, knowledge, etc.) needed to do the job. Commonly presented in the form of a table, or sometimes as a list of bullet points. (Could also be called 'selection criteria,' or, 'role specification.')
Job application - The application or process where you're required to complete and submit information in order to apply for a job. E.g. personal details, qualifications, educational institutes attended, details about past jobs and employers, your immigration status, criminal record, declarations, etc. You may also be asked to write a supporting statement.
Supporting Statement - A written statement where you as the candidate demonstrate to the employer how and why you meet the requirements for the job. (Could also be called 'personal statement' or 'supporting information.')
Supporting Statement checklist
- Have you addressed all criteria listed in the person specification?
- Have you provided examples or evidence for each criteria listed?
- Where possible, are your examples relevant to the job description?
- Where possible, do your examples tie in with the organisation's values?
- Have you made your statement as concise as possible?
- Have you proof read and spell checked your statement?
The supporting statement is the most important part of your job application. This is effectively where you convince the employer that you're the right person for the job and explain why they should hire you.
This page offers sample supporting statements and a tutorial to help you. We can also offer feedback on your supporting statement via email.
Different employers will have different instructions or expectations with regards to supporting statements, but generally they'll be looking to see if you're applying for the right reasons and that you meet the essential criteria.
If you haven't already done so, read the general advice on writing job applications first.
To help give you an idea, have a look at our sample supporting statements which have been written to correlate to a sample Person Specification.
In particular, pay attention to the way the sample supporting statements:
- Cover all the essential criteria listed in the Person Specification
- Use examples or evidence to demonstrate how the criteria is met
- Follow the order of the Person Specification as much as possible.
The samples should be used as a guide only. Your own supporting statement should be structured around the job and person specification you're applying for.
You may also want to watch the Supporting Statements tutorial below.
- Apply for jobs that are right for you
- Never write a 'one size fits all' supporting statement
- Try to let your passion, interest and personality shine through where possible
- When writing your statement, always imagine you're being asked the question, "Why should we hire you?"
- Always run a spelling and grammar check and get someone to proof read it for you
Sample supporting statementClick here to download the Sample Statement
We've got advice on writing your first CV, a step by step guide on how to construct a CV, example CVs and CV templates you can use. Members can also have their CV checked by the RCN Careers team.Start writing your CV now
You may undertake a health care support role but you should not undertake any role which is beyond your competence/skill base. Please see our information for healthcare assistants (HCAs) and assistant practitioners (APs).
Before agreeing to work as a health care assistant you should:
- discuss any arrangements with your clinical supervisor
- be paid a rate for the job
- ensure that any nursing bank or agency specifies the basis of your attendance
- have access to all locally agreed provisions / terms and conditions of service as other employees.
It should be clearly understood by all staff that you are working as a health care assistant and not in a nursing student capacity.
Even though you will not be working by virtue of your status as a student nurse, you should still follow the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) guidance for student nurses available from the NMC website.
As a nursing student, you should not be rostered to work on the ward or within the sphere of nursing as a nurse.
Students are placed on the ward or within a sphere of nursing to undertake a clinical placement and meet certain learning needs. You should not be placed in a situation where adequate levels of support cannot be guaranteed. You are not placed 'to make up the numbers'.
If you are concerned that you are being required to carry out nursing duties, please contact us.
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