Whether you’re a seasoned nurse or a new grad, interviewing for a job can be nerve-wracking. An interview is your first impression with a potential employer, and can make or break your hiring experience. While there’s no magic formula, here are a few steps you can take to increase the likelihood that you’ll get an offer for the job you want.
Nurses are in demand, but you still have to interview.
The good news: jobs for nurses are projected to increase 12% over the next decade. However, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, “the supply of new nurses entering the labor market has increased in recent years. This increase has resulted in competition for jobs in some areas of the country.”
What this means for you: a job interview is your best opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition and it’s also your chance to see if this employer is a good fit for you.
Here’s what you need to do to prepare for your nurse interview.
1. Practice your answers.
It may feel silly, but say them out loud. You can even record yourself speaking and listen to your responses. Common nursing interview questions include:
Tell me about yourself.
- Pro tip: Interviewers usually aren’t asking about your personal life. Talk about where you went to school, your passion for nursing, and any professional accomplishments you have. If you’re just starting out, talk about your goals and aspirations.
Why do you want to work here?
- Pro tip: Do some research on the hospital. Familiarize yourself with their mission statement and talk about how your values line up with theirs.
Why did you become a nurse?
- Pro tip: Speak from the heart. There’s a reason you sat through hours of clinicals, pharmacology exams, and the painful, painful NCLEX. Talk about your inspiration, your passion for patient care, and your desire to make a difference in a patient’s life.
Tell me about a difficult patient and how you handled it.
- Pro tip: If you’re a nurse, you’ve had a difficult patient. If you’re a new grad, you’ve had a difficult patient. Keep the story short: give a brief synopsis of the problem and talk about the steps you took to resolve it. Don’t speak negatively about anyone in the story, just stick to the facts. The STAR framework works well here (Situation, Task, Actions, Results).
2. Brush up on clinical concepts.
You may be asked how you would handle a clinical scenario with a patient. Take a breath and think through how you would handle it. You’re a nurse, you know the answer. Keep it short and simple. The STAR framework can also be used for clinical concepts. Practice a few scenarios before your interview.
3. Ask questions.
“Do you have any questions for us?” It’s not uncommon to draw a blank at this point in the interview, so prepare a few options ahead of time. Asking questions shows that you have initiative and are interested in the role. Remember: you’re also interviewing them. Think about what is important to you in your next role and hospital. Potential questions you might ask include:
- How would you describe a typical week or day in this position?
- Is overtime expected? How often?
- How will your post fit within the multidisciplinary team?
- What opportunities are there for continuing education?
4. Dress the part.
We have occasionally had nurses ask whether or not they can wear scrubs to an interview. While we’ve been known to make a “dress for the job you want” joke, the simple answer is: no. Your image is your first impression, even before you shake the interviewer’s hand. Dress professionally – this means a suit or business separates, no scrubs or denim.
5. Write a thank you note.
Write a follow-up email as soon as possible and thank the interviewer for their time. Reiterate your interest in working for their organization and be specific about why. An authentic thank you note makes a difference, especially if they’re considering other nurses for the role.
Remember, a job interview is not only your first chance to make a good impression on the employer, but it’s also their first chance to make a good impression on you. Reflect on your goals and priorities before the interview, and you’ll walk in feeling strong and capable.
And if you’re in the market for a new position, create a career profile. Nurses on the Incredible Health platform get free coaching and support from our dedicated Talent Advocates. Having someone on your side can make all the difference.