After several email requests, I put together this guide for the graduating SRNA or new grad CRNA who could perhaps use a little guidance navigating the job interview process.
Yay! Its time! You are winding down your training and graduation is on the horizon! You can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
So let’s talk about job interviews, finding the right hospital, and getting your first job as a newly board-certified CRNA. (These tips also work for any new grad healthcare professional!)
It’s overwhelming trying to juggle finishing school, graduation, studying for boards, and interviewing for jobs. Let’s take the stress out of at least one of those!
First Things First:
I hope you’ve been keeping your CV up-to-date during school. If you’re just starting your training, get in the habit of updating it regularly. Do it each time you go to a different clinical site or start a rotation at a different hospital. You’ll be grateful you did this when it’s time to apply for jobs.
But…if you’re like the rest of us, and keeping your CV up-to-date fell to the bottom of you to-do list, don’t stress. Let’s be honest, mine was neglected right up until I wanted to submit my first application.
Be sure to set aside some time to update it before applying to any jobs. Find time this weekend!
The structure can vary, but I find a common template to be: listing of all your clinical sites and specialty rotations in reverse chronological order. Then write a single cohesive paragraph under those sites about training, responsibilities, and proficiencies etc.
Now list your ICU experience and other work experiences you had prior to anesthesia school. This part of your CV should likely remain unchanged or even shortened if possible. Typically, it’s the CV you used when you applied to grad school. So it should already includes the pertinent information.
Remember to include any seminars, talks, presentations, national meetings etc where you contributed and/or presented. Don’t forget to list any volunteer opportunities (with your copious amounts of free time) at the end of your CV.
When To Apply:
Typically, people start applying to jobs 3-4 months prior to when they want to start working. Credentialing takes FOREVER….even when we aren’t in the middle of a pandemic.
Sit down with a calendar and map out a realistic timeline for yourself . Don’t forget to account time for studying and board prep/test prep courses. Although it is rare, you may find some hospitals won’t schedule interviews until you’ve already passed your boards.
Most of my classmates (myself included) started interviewing about 4 months prior to graduation/scheduling our board exam.
So for our May graduation, we started applying to jobs in February and March, and planned to start working in June or July. This would give us time to study and schedule boards fairly closely after graduation.
That’s just one strategy. With the chaos of winding down in your program, it can be reassuring to secure a job, and cross that item off your to-do list before graduation.
Then you can focus solely on studying for and passing boards in the immediate weeks post graduation. Some people aren’t sure where they really want to practice until after graduation so their timelines may look a little different as well.
But doing it early can also be a stressor. Some programs don’t give personal days for interviews. Even if your program does, you may be short on time and rushing to get any lingering numbers you need.
About The Process:
Keep in mind that the job application process is typically painfully slow. Thankfully most positions are posted online so the application and accompanying info can be filled out and your CV uploaded all at the same time.
Still, even in the digital age, it often takes the HR department and other members of the hiring team excessive amounts of time to review an application. Then there’s the obstacle of coordinating scheduling before you receive a phone call asking for additional information and to schedule an interview.
Try to be patient, and remember not to put all your ‘syringes of Propofol in one basket’! Sorry…terrible anesthesia joke I know!
It’s not a bad idea to keep looking and applying to other hospitals while you wait to hear back from your top choice(s).
Personally, I applied to four different hospitals (not counting one that didn’t interview new grads until after they passed boards) before choosing the one where I wanted to work at as a new CRNA.
As a reference: some of my classmates interviewed at only one or two facilities and at the higher end of the interview spectrum was someone who interviewed at six hospitals. There is no right number.
You Do You!
As hard as it might be, try not to compare yourself to your classmates or worry about what they are doing, where they are applying, or who already has a job.
Do everything you can to focus on your unique job application process. Lower your stress surrounding this as much as possible. (This is easier said than done, I know!). Everyone’s situation is unique and trust that the timing will work out. There is a job for everyone.
Also, don’t forget if you are applying for a job that is out of state, you have to ensure you are getting licensed (both RN and CRNA) for that state. Depending on which state, and if it has reciprocity, your license may be quick and easy, or it may involve several forms, fees, and more waiting.
Very Important Reminder:
One of most important things to remember as you’re coming to the end of your training and applying for jobs, is that everyone (meaning every new graduate) is pretty much in the same boat. This advice can be applied to all specialties, but I am speaking particularly about the CRNA perspective, as that is what I know and experienced first-hand.
Any time you are feeling stressed or under pressure about being brand new, remind yourself (and modify this to fit your specialty): Nurse Anesthetist programs are designed to give a comprehensive foundation on all things anesthesia. CRNA’s graduating from an accredited Nurse Anesthetist program (and passing boards) have met rigorous metrics and mastered important concepts. CRNA’s provide a safe anesthetic. We come out of training with a standardized set of skills and competencies at baseline (that’s the beauty of being a CRNA and ‘our brand‘).
So as you are interviewing with a potential employer, don’t worry about being a new grad. The hospital has likely hired new CRNA’s before and they know what comes along with hiring and training someone new.
You are coming out of school with a known knowledge base; a known starting point and employers like consistency. You are also a fresh mind, willing to be molded and further refined, to learn the nuances and culture of that particular facility. Who doesn’t love an open minded and flexible employee?
So, hopefully keeping those things in mind, will help you feel more comfortable as you interview.
Questions They May Ask:
Now, consider the other side of things: just because a hospital more or less knows what they are getting when they decide to hire a newly-minted CRNA, that doesn’t mean you get a pass on answering real interview questions.
The questions can vary widely, but some of the more common ones include talking about group dynamics and working as a team (especially if you are applying for a hospital that operates in a Care Team model).
You will likely be asked about your background, why you want to work at that particular facility, and your favorite types of cases etc. Sometimes you get questions that start with ‘what’s the hardest part about…’ or ‘tell me a time when…’ typical scenario questions.
You’ll also likely get questions about where you see yourself professionally over the next few years. You may also get patient scenario and surgery specific types of questions. I have to admit, I wasn’t really expecting those types of questions but it makes sense, so be prepared just in case.
Another Important Point:
Taking a little time to think about your answers and what you want to convey during the interview is important. Try to organize your thoughts and focus on finding a way to convey something you would be sad if the interviewer (or interviewing team) didn’t know about you before you left the room. Find a way to integrate that into your conversation and responses.
After what I call the sweaty palms part, it’s your turn to ask the questions. As you are getting to know more about the hospital, how the anesthesia department works etc, don’t forget to make sure it’s going to be a good fit for you as well!
Confession: I remember being so eager for a job and honestly, I just really wanted a paycheck (after 3 years of living off student loans and eating mac ‘n cheese). Because of this, I *almost* took the first job offered to me! It wouldn’t have been a good fit, and after interviewing at other places, it glaringly obvious. Definitely don’t get caught in that trap!
Important Things To Consider:
Ask about the types of cases you will be doing, the acuity of the patients, is the OR/ED 24 hours? This should give you a good idea of the types of cases and trauma’s (if any) that a particular facility gets.
If you interested in cardiac, ask if there is an opportunity for you to do those types of cases. What about OB or Peds? Ask how the Anesthesia department is structured. Do they operate in a care team model? If not, what practice model do they use? What are the typical ratios? How often will you do off-site cases?
It’s hard to find a job that has everything you want from a clinically challenging stand point, but finding some of the things you like and are excited about will make a huge difference in just working at a job or being truly happy at your job.
For me, I wanted a hospital that was challenging, and would allow me to expand on the skills I gained during school, but that also provided a learning environment where I felt supported and encouraged to keep growing professionally.
You already know that no job is perfect. (Just think of all the different nursing jobs you worked before going back to school). Figuring out what is most important to you, before interviewing will help you ask the right questions and make a good decision.
Is caseload and experience more important or is it feeling supported and working in small ratios? Maybe it’s work hours or overtime/on-call opportunities. Is it salary (this really shouldn’t be your number one factor in making a decision) or maybe commute and proximity to your home or the city? Don’t forget time off and benefits can also be a factor in decision making. There are obviously a varying number of things to consider, but those are a few that I feel are most important.
Are you a list person? It may be helpful to take some time to make a list of the things that are your top priorities. Then reference it before an interview so you remember to ask the right questions to help guide your decision.
Bonus points: Make a few extra copies of your CV to bring along during the interview. I know everything is online nowadays, but it never hurts to have a paper backup that your interviewer can reference without having to get on the computer.
Chat With Your Future Colleagues:
This is a HUGE must. Make sure you get the opportunity to talk to other CRNA’s. You should be provided the opportunity, but if not, definitely ASK. Talk to the people that are actually working there. Find out how long they have been at the hospital (maybe they started there as a new grad too).
See what their experience has been like and what their thoughts are on the environment, culture etc. Ask them what they like about that particular facility, or what they would improve if they could change one thing, etc. I know it’s uncomfortable asking someone you just met these types of questions, but make sure you do! You want to know what it’s really like to work there!
Just be sure you don’t want to walk away with a “Disney experience” where everything is always wonderful, everyone is smiling, and no one has anything negative to say. That, for me, would be a giant red flag.
You definitely don’t want to work somewhere everyone is unhappy but there is a little bit of good and bad in every job so you should hear good points and a few inconveniences/areas for improvement during the interview process.
If you made it all the way to the end, thank you for reading! I know this post was long, but I wanted to share this so you can feel prepared for your interviews and focus on the information that will help you make the best choice!
I hope this information is helpful to you as you interview and prepare for your first job in the CRNA role! Best of luck with the interview process, and please share any questions or comments you may have. I have no doubt you’ll do well and be working at a great facility soon!
I'd love to hear your thoughts!