How to Nail Your Nursing Interview

nursing interview questions shaking hands

Interviewing can be tough. It can rattle even the most seasoned nurse. It seems that the more you want a job, the more stressful the process becomes. Here are some tips on how to nail your interview for a nursing job so you can land a job with success.

4 Simple Rules to Nail The Interview has four simple rules of thumb for nursing interviews. They are:

1. Bring extra resumes

It’s always a good idea to bring enough resumes for everyone who might be interviewing you. Doesn’t hurt to have 5-10 extra copies in case you’re being interviewed by a large team.

2. Dress to impress

What exactly is considered “dress to impress”? has a very specific list. Regardless of casual attitudes toward dress in most walks of life, an interview calls for a specific mode of dress because it sends an instant, visual message the second you walk in the door. The more professional you look, the more professional you are perceived to be.

It is suggested that women follow these guidelines:

  • A skirt or pant suit with jacket and button-down collared shirt or blouse
  • Skirts or dresses of knee length, no mini-skirts
  • Avoid flashy colors or patterns
  • Wear pantyhose with skirts or dresses
  • Do NOT expose cleavage!
  • Cover tattoos and remove piercings
  • Do not wear perfume
  • Fingernails should be short and without chips in polish

Men should consider following these guidelines:

  • A suit with jacket and button-down collared shirt
  • Tie is optional but when in doubt, wear it
  • Avoid bright colors or patterns, keep it simple
  • Cover tattoos and remove piercings
  • Do not wear cologne
  • Neat and natural fingernails

3. Prepare questions to ask the interviewer

Examples of questions you might want to ask:

  1. What are your patient to nurse ratios?
  2. How long is your training for new nurses?
  3. What are the challenges your unit is currently facing?
  4. What are you looking for in an ideal new nurse hire?
  5. What are the chances for advancement?
  6. What are your scheduling requirements?

Be smart about the questions you ask, not all questions are good, here. These questions will not put you in a good light with the interviewer.

  1. Do you require a drug test?
  2. How soon can I get time off?
  3. Will you hire my friend?
  4. Where can I smoke?

4. Be prepared to answer common questions

Common questions that you could be asked during the interview include the following:

  1. Tell me about a time you faced a challenge and how you solved it.
  2. Tell me about a situation where you made a mistake and how you fixed it.
  3. Why did you choose to become an RN?
  4. Tell me about a time you wanted to quit.
  5. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  6. What are your short and long term goals?
  7. What are the two things your friends would say about you?

Certain nurse managers may ask you far more difficult questions about patient safety and delivery of care. They may want to know about your experience with co-morbidities or your attitude about shift work. As you approach the interview, think carefully about your opinions, attitudes, and experience. You will need to retrieve that information quickly and articulate it carefully during the interview.

A Few Things To Remember

After you have planned your outfit, printed extra resumes, and started to plan for questions you might face, there are a few last minute items you don’t want to overlook. Above all, make sure you are on time, no matter what.

  • If you have never been to the healthcare facility, make a dry run
  • Know the route and plan for the longest amount of time it will take to get there whether you are driving, walking, or taking public transportation
  • Allow extra time for traffic jams and weather delays
  • Know where the building is and where the interview room is inside the building
  • Ask if you need specific identification before the day to get through security

When the day of the interview arrives, plan to arrive ten minutes early. It makes you look good and eager to get the job.

Do your research. Look into the organization. Know a bit about them so you can weave it into your conversation. It’s a good idea to know a bit about their history, the number of employees they have and any awards they have received for quality, patient care and other metrics of excellence. If you are researching the facility and don’t know some of these answers, it’s good to ask your interviewer. It shows them that you’re interested in this facility in particular, not just any job anywhere. As you sprinkle your research through the interview it will become apparent that you are interested in the organization and have made a thoughtful, professional effort to learn about them.

Leading Up to The Interview

Before the interview, be careful of what you eat and drink.

  • Do not eat spicy foods or foods with garlic
  • Do not drink carbonated beverages that may cause you to burp
  • Drink water so you are well hydrated
  • Avoid caffeine that may cause you to have to excuse yourself from the interview to go to the bathroom

Once you are in the interview, remember these tips:

  • Make eye contact with the interviewer to demonstrate confidence, attentiveness, and good social skills
  • Smile genuinely with both your eyes and mouth and avoid fake smiles
  • Sit forward in the chair to indicate interest
  • Keep answers on point and focused to the question; don’t give long-winded answers
  • Never use profanity and slang

It can be nerve-wracking to go through the interview process, but if you prepare it will greatly reduce your anxiety and improve your performance. If you have been asked to interview, you are a skilled nurse with an impressive resume. Now go forth and nail it – you got this!

Deborah Chiaravalloti is an award-winning writer and former hospital executive. Her insider experience helps healthcare clients launch medical procedures, products including artificial intelligence software and knowledge sharing platforms. Deborah writes websites, blogs, opinion pieces, and marketing strategy for elder care, health care consumerism, revenue cycle management (RCM), and the business of healthcare. Her printed pieces have been published and her radio shows syndicated nationally.

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