It may not have occurred to you that you could arrange an informal visit with a prospective employer, but this practice is actually very common within the healthcare industry with the majority of employers keen to accommodate.
It's a fantastic way to gain insight into a new workplace environment and assess whether you think that environment would be right for you. It's also another opportunity to make new contacts, ask questions, demonstrate enthusiasm and make a good impression.
How to arrange an informal visit
If you've seen a specific vacancy you're interested in, or details about an open day, there will usually be contact details for the relevant manager(s) and instructions on how to get in touch.
If you are enquiring speculatively, ring the main contact number for the employer or workplace and ask to speak to the recruitment department.
If you feel stuck on what to say, have a look at the phrases below for ideas:
- "I wanted to enquire about whether I could arrange an informal visit. I've been really keen on applying to work for [your organisation / company] for some time, so it would be great to get to come in to know more about what you do and get a real feel for how you do it.
- "I was wondering if it would be possible for me to organise an informal visit? It would be great to come in and [spend some time on the ward / have a look around the department] as I'm really passionate about moving/progressing into this area] ..."
- "I've seen a vacancy for [staff nurse on the Maple ward] and I'm really keen on applying. I was wondering whether I'd be able to come in to have a look around and perhaps speak to some of the team before I actually submit an application?"
- I'm due to finish my [nursing degree] soon and have my heart set on applying to work in your organisation. I'm trying to decide what area I'd want to work in, so thought organising an informal visit beforehand could be a good idea. I'm particularly interested in [oncology, haematology and neurology.]
Be specific about which particular area or setting you'd want to visit and/or any people or particular teams you'd want to spend time with on the day. This will help the employer structure your visit and make sure you're making the most your time there.
Do your research
Before your visit, make sure you do your research. You'll want to be able to demonstrate that you are well prepared and have already taken the time to find out about the employer. You may also want to read up on any awards, research, pilots or initiatives that may be going on within that organisation.
If you're planning an informal visit in response to a particular job advert you're interested in, familiarise yourself with the Job Description and Person Specification.
What should you be looking for?
Essentially you should be trying to assess whether you think the job and working environment would be right for you, and checking that your expectations about the role are realistic.
You may want to try and evaluate factors such as:
- the work culture
- the atmosphere
- How staff interact with each other and/or patients
- The physical work environment
You may want to ask about:
- Opportunities for progression
- Opportunities for learning and development
- What sort of support the employer offers
- Induction, orientation or preceptorship programmes
Making a disclosure
There may be instances where you will need to make a disclosure to your future employer during the recruitment process. For example, you may have been investigated, sanctioned, referred to the NMC, have NMC conditions of practice, or predict there will be problems with your references.
Arranging an informal visit might be a good way for you to put the feelers out with regards to this. Speak to the relevant manager discreetly to explain what happened, and ask whether they would consider accepting an application from you.
Having a chat with the manager in an informal capacity can often be really effective, especially if you have made a really good impression. If you do end up making an application, you may feel a lot less anxious knowing that you've already made the disclosure. For advice and tips about how to make a disclosure, please see here.
Don't be too informal
Remember that even though it's an "informal" visit, the employer will be watching to see see how you conduct yourself and interact with others. Simple things like thanking someone for showing you around, holding the door open for others, or smiling at patients can make a big difference.
If it's right for you
If you have judged by the end of the visit that the job is right for you, don't be afraid to tell the employer that you feel this way; it's a really nice and positive note to end the visit on. Remember, employers want to hire people who are genuinely interested in working for them.
If and when you apply for a job there, make sure you mention this in your covering letter or supporting statement.
Informal visits during the COVID-19 pandemic
If informal visits aren't possible due to the pandemic, you can still ask to arrange an informal chat over telephone or video call.