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A qualitative study was undertaken to explore the experiences of student nurses recruited to three British colleges of nursing A series of focus groups was initiated to discuss the career decisions surrounding their entry into nursing and their expenences of the selection interview Similar groups were conducted with those who are involved in the selection of candidates for nursing to determine what influenced their decisions to accept or reject people Analysis of the data suggests that nursing is attracting people from careers that are unstable or unsatisfactory Selection procedures are outdated and inconsistent and interviewees quickly learn to provide appropriate responses There is confusion surrounding the skills and qualities required of potential nurses, and more effective recruitment strategies might attract potential undergraduates without losing those with vocational aspirations A more systematic approach to selection, using a range of objective, measurable criteria, may remove the intuitive selection of nurses, increasing the efficiency of the selection process