Hire the Best Nurses by Assessing Nursing Behavioral Characteristics

Building an effective and successful nursing staff can be challenging during the nursing shortage crisis, but it’s crucial that each nurse hired can fulfill the mental and emotional, as well as physical, demands of the career. Assessing nursing behavioral characteristics can help improve your nurse recruitment strategy. 

The nursing profession requires more than just applying clinical skills and terminology. It requires compassion, understanding, and emotional intelligence. While resumes can demonstrate achievements and accreditations on paper, they’re not always the best tools to measure emotional intelligence and bedside care. A leading question for recruiters and leaders is how to effectively assess behavioral and cultural fit within an organization, a unit, and within the role itself?

It’s important to implement strategic techniques to assess behavioral characteristics of nursing applicants (both frontline and nurse leaders), to provide a robust and holistic hiring environment, as well as contribute to nursing job satisfaction and future job performance. This will reduce and eliminate difficulty retaining talent, find the best fitting roles, and improve nurse engagement.

Nursing Behavioral Characteristics

As new nurses enter the workforce, identifying and encouraging specific nursing qualities will help recruiters and leaders recognize strong nursing candidates and understand which nurses already on staff would make great leaders.

Many nurses choose the career because they prioritize job security, are interested in using it as a starting point for another career or lack an alternative option or plan. While these nurses may not have entered the industry driven by compassion or a specific calling to care for others, they may possess strong communication skills or a willingness to learn — both ideal characteristics for a good nurse.

Other beneficial behavioral characteristics include having a strong attention to detail and excellent problem-solving skills. Both are essential to nursing, as nurses generally have the most one-on-one time with patients and are often responsible for much of the decision-making related to their care.

Similarly, a nurse with highly functioning critical thinking skills is one of the most important nursing behavioral characteristics. While these skills can be improved over time, they often come more naturally to some nurses than others.

An Organizational Assessment

A first step for leaders is to evaluate the current landscape of the organization to understand foundationally what will help behavioral assessments be most effective. Evaluate why you need a behavioral assessment tool by asking the following questions:

  • Is our organization having difficulty retaining talent?
  • Difficulty with hiring the “right fit”?
  • Is there a need to improve nurse engagement or interdisciplinary collaboration?

The next step is to evaluate the current hiring process of your organization. By asking these questions, it can help determine how behavioral assessments can be included in the hiring process. Evaluation can begin by asking the following essential questions:

  • Who is on the hiring committee?
  • Is there a standardized process for every hire?
  • Who is responsible for the final hiring decision?

Behavioral Assessment Model Selection

Finally, you should determine which behavior assessment models would best meet the needs of your organization. The adoption of a behavioral assessment should meet the needs of the organization and provide an unbiased perspective of the candidates. The key decision is whether that tool takes the candidate’s behavioral information and relates it back to the job in question.

Once the behavioral assessment tools are implemented into the organization, it is highly beneficial to apply the gathered data to improve the organization’s work culture. The data from the tool can be used to:

  • Help revise or refine expected work behaviors.
  • Facilitate difficult conversations concerning lateral violence.
  • Identify critical trends and areas of improvement within the organization.

Behavioral Characteristics Interviews

A key factor to successfully integrating behavioral assessment tools into the hiring process is having structured interviews. A structured interview is an assessment method designed to measure job-related competencies of candidates by systematically inquiring about their behavior in past experiences and/or their proposed behavior in hypothetical situations.

This type of interview ensures that candidates have equal opportunities to provide information and are assessed both accurately and consistently. Key benefits from providing structured interviews include validity, reliability, fairness, and practicality.

Additionally, structured interviews are popular because they are more personal than other assessment methods. They can evaluate competencies that are difficult to measure using other techniques. All candidates are asked the same predetermined questions in the same order. All responses are evaluated using the same rating scale and standards for acceptable answers.

While common interview questions for nurses can include more typical or general topics, nursing behavioral interview questions require nurses to use previous experiences/events as examples. In the big picture, interviewers have very little one-on-one time with a nurse candidate. Making the best use of this time and learning as much as possible about nursing candidates is key.

Recruiting and Retention Efforts

Leaders in the healthcare industry are being pressed to keep the employees they have and reduce turnover down the road, as recruiters work to find the right-fit employees to fill openings. While understanding how to assess behavioral characteristics is key, so is addressing what nurses find most valuable.

Insights into how to attract and retain optimal talent are increasingly critical, as the nursing shortage is projected to continue through 2030. The insights presented in the Nurse.com 2022 Nurse Salary Research Report can be used to inform your efforts to recruit and retain nurses.


Download the report here.