How nurses can evaluate a job offer

Employers are offering all sorts of enticements to hire nurses. Here's how to size up the best offer for you.

How nurses can evaluate a job offer

Be sure to thoroughly understand the employer’s job offer.

If you're a graduating or practicing nurse, you know that nurses are in high demand. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a whopping 12% growth in jobs for registered nurses between 2018 and 2028. With all these available nursing jobs, finding the right fit for you takes some skill. How do you know a good job offer when you see one?

To get started, you’ll want to do some soul searching. Roberto Angulo, CEO of AfterCollege and author of Getting Your First Job, suggests you determine what’s most important to you. Ask yourself, “Is it pay, location, commute, flexibility, or the reputation and mission of the organization?”

If you’re lucky enough to be considering multiple offers, Angulo suggests comparing them in a spreadsheet. Assign each of your needs a column. Then, score them on the factors that matter most to you. If the organization meets your goal, put a 1 in the column. If it exceeds it, give it a higher value.

Top factors to consider include compensation, benefits, culture, and intangible benefits.

Compensation

If salary is your highest priority in a job offer, make sure it's competitive geographically, especially if an employer wants you to relocate. What seems like a great salary in Birmingham, Alabama, probably won't be enough to cover your living expenses in New York City. Monster’s salary guide is loaded with helpful information.

Do you bring certain highly desirable talents—such as fluency in a second language—to the table? If so, make sure the salary offer reflects those skills.

Also, look for ways to boost your compensation beyond your paycheck. Is there a sign-on bonus? Are there incentives for additional training or certifications? Is your schedule flexible enough to allow for a side hustle? How are raises structured? Do employees enjoy any discounts?

Benefits

Most employers offer health, life, and disability insurance. Ask about other perks, such as a 401K, a pension plan, childcare, and employee assistance programs. Also, be sure to understand the employer’s vacation and paid-leave structure.

Professional development benefits are particularly important in the health care field. “Many jobs want you to earn certifications in your subspecialty and will compensate for these,” explains Lillian Robarge, BSN, RN. “Certifications can be costly to obtain on your own.”  

Robin Hertel, EdS, MSN, RN, CMSRN, President of the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses, adds, “Ask the employer if there are expectations and requirements for attainment of certain educational preparation, certification, or advanced life support training. If so, what accommodations are made for these? Does the nurse receive paid time off to complete them, or are they expected to attain the training, education, or certification on their own?”

Transferability of benefits is another consideration. It's typically not possible to take your retirement plan, for example, from one private hospital to another. If that's a concern for you, think about signing on at an organization with multiple facilities in their network to allow for job mobility.

Culture and intangible benefits

For many nurses, the intangibles are just as important as the compensation. “What kind of patient care structure do they have, and what is their average nurse to patient ratio?” says Sarah K. Wells, MSN, RN, CEN, CNL, and member of the Emergency Nurses Association. “Also, what kind of nurse councils or committees can employees be involved in?”

Ask nurses at the organization about the realities of their work atmosphere. The employer may assure you there's a sufficient nurse-to-patient ratio, but do the nurses agree? Do they feel respected and supported?

“Another important consideration is the overall environment,” says Hertel. “Ask about employee engagement and patient satisfaction scores, as well as the presence of nurses on committees that make decisions regarding staffing and other important aspects of care delivery. Ask about nurse staffing for the different shifts and areas of the facility as well. These are important questions to determine whether a facility values nursing or not.”

Find out if the employer has a mentor program in which an experienced nurse guides a newcomer through the technical details of the new-hire process. Get a sense if that mentor will be available beyond the first day to help navigate the organization's political and bureaucratic minefields, as well as for career-development advice.

Evaluate the realities of the day-to-day. If you're a parent who needs to get home to your kids at a certain time every day, then an urban emergency room may not be right for you. Instead, you may want pursue nursing jobs out of a hospital, such as a school nurse or clinic nurse, where you can rely on clocking out at a regular time.

If you wish to develop expertise in a specialty, research the organization's reputation in that area. Ask about opportunities for training or shadowing in that department. Also, check with nursing associations geared to that specialty. They're a great place to find mentors and learn what you'll need for working in that field.­

Once you’ve assessed your priorities and tallied up the scores on your spreadsheet, ask yourself: Are you pleased with the winning option?

Get more offers

Securing a job offer is an awesome feeling—they like you! They really like you! But remember, as Wells advises, “Never take a job just because it is offered to you. Find job opportunities that will allow you to grow and support you in achieving your nursing career goals.” The more job offers you have, the more choosy you can be. Could you use some help getting as many offers as possible? Join Monster for free todayAs a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of nursing jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can get job alerts sent directly to your inbox to cut down on time spent looking through ads. Those are two quick and easy ways you can make the most out of your job search with Monster in your corner.