Nursing is a demanding career, and you deserve a job that values all you have to offer. Here are some steps you can take to make a great impression during interviews so you can find a job that fits.
- For all interviews, be sure to stay positive, think through questions and answer them thoroughly. Prepare for questions that test your critical thinking, prioritization, and skills.
- For phone interviews, select a quiet place, keep some water handy to combat dry mouth, and smile as you speak so they can hear your positivity on the other end of the line.
- For in-person interviews, make sure you dress with polish — no jeans or scrubs — and avoid overpowering scents/perfume. A watch will emphasize that you keep track of time. Bring a notebook and pen and a clean folder with copies of your resume and any certifications you have (ACLS, NCLEX, etc).
- Don’t just leap into asking about salary. Ask about a typical day in the position, patient and staff numbers, and how the organization gathers patient input/feedback.
- When answering behavioral questions, remember STAR: A Situation or Task similar to what they’re asking about, Actions you took, and Results you achieved.
- Finally, the big question: salary. One example answer: “I would like to make $__ – $__ annually. I believe that my __ years of experience in the field plus the additional health care certifications I earned last year add to my value as an employee.” However, note that many California hospitals have union nurse positions, so salaries are non-negotiable, and already determined based on number of years of experience.
For complete information and insights, read on — and get ready to get hired!
I. WHAT YOUR EMPLOYER/INTERVIEWER IS LOOKING FOR
If you are an RN with experience, your interviewer already knows that you can care for patients. They will put more focus on assessing your personality and attitude to make sure you’re a good fit for their organization. How do you make sure they see you at your best?
- Stay positive! Confidence and cheerfulness are persuasive.
- Give clear, structured answers to questions.
- Take every possible opportunity to highlight how you can contribute to the team.
- Check your social media sites to remove anything controversial or offensive. You’ll want to be sure you’re presenting the best version of yourself. You should generally use the most private setting possible.
- Highlight anything in your experience or response that shows you have strong customer service skills and can help them improve their customer service scores. (This includes any committees you may have served on, or past work in retail or restaurants.)
- Prepare for questions that test your critical thinking and prioritization skills.
- Prepare for questions about the floor/specialty you are applying to.
- Speak ill of your past employers or coworkers.
- Appear self-centered or overly focused on your own needs and wants.
- Some nurses choose to have “side hustles” in addition to their permanent job, i.e. per diem, consulting, etc. Others have very creative live/work arrangements. Hey, a nurse has to do what a nurse has to do! But don’t overshare: ask yourself whether what you’re about to say makes you a stronger candidate in your interviewer’s eyes or a weaker one. Land the job first — then you’ll have all the options in the world!
II. HOW TO PREPARE FOR A PHONE INTERVIEW
- Be ready 10 minutes early, so you don’t sound rushed.
- Eliminate background noise and distractions, for example, from children and pets. (A parked car in a quiet location can be a great place to take a call.)
- If you’ll be using your mobile phone, make sure it’s fully charged and use headphones/earphones for optimal sound.
- If you’ll be using your landline, turn your mobile phone off.
- Have some water handy. If your mouth is dry, you’ll sound nervous.
- Avoid the noisy clicking of computer keys by using paper and pen for note taking.
- If you haven’t spoken in several hours, do some voice exercises before the call.
- Posture has an impact on your voice, so stand or make sure you sit up very straight during the call.
- Smile as you speak — it really makes a difference! A good time to smile is when you talk about the work you’ve done, ask questions, or express your enthusiasm about the company.
III. HOW TO PREPARE FOR AN IN-PERSON INTERVIEW
WHAT TO WEAR
Looking professional is important. Your interviewer will be looking at how you dress, how you present yourself, eye contact, positive attitude, and a firm handshake — and psychologists say you only have seven seconds for that first impression!
- Don’t wear jeans or denim.
- Wear a suit or business separates that fit well. You should feel like the superhero you are! Avoid clothes that are either too tight or oversized.
- Avoid strong scents, which may include perfume, cologne, after shave, lotions, and hair products.
- If possible, wear a watch to show that you understand the importance of timing and detail.
WHAT TO BRING
- A pen or pencil
- Small notepad or small notebook in good shape
- A clean, unwrinkled folder with:
- Several copies of your resume
- Any letters of reference you might have
- Nursing License/ Proof you have passed NCLEX (mainly for new graduates)
- CPR Card
- Pertinent Certifications
IV. QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK YOUR INTERVIEWER
Asking questions during the interview shows that you are interested in working with the hospital and that you want the position being offered. Here are some examples:
- How would you describe a typical week/day in this position?
- How long is orientation?
- What are the prospects for growth and advancement?
- Is it possible to have a look around the unit?
- What are the responsibilities of this post?
- How many staff/patients are there?
- Is overtime expected? How often?
- How does the service audit patient satisfaction?
- How does the service gather patient feedback?
- How will your post fit within the multidisciplinary team?
V. QUESTIONS TO EXPECT FROM YOUR INTERVIEWER
A few days before your interview, take some time to practice how to answer questions. If you are interviewing in person, keep in mind that staff from other floors/ departments may be in the room with you and your interviewer asking you questions to see how you communicate through different floors and departments.
Always be prepared to be questioned on anything on your cover letter, resume, and reference letters. And of course, know your strengths and weaknesses. They know that you are not perfect.
Here are some questions/scenarios to expect:
Behavioral interview questions ask you to demonstrate your skills and attitude by giving specific examples from your past experience that relate to the job opportunity. To prepare for behavioral questions, try to recall recent situations that show you in the best light. Be specific and honest.
A good approach for answering behavioral questions is to use the STAR framework:
Situation/Task: Describe the specific event or situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish. This situation can be from a work experience, a volunteer position, or any other relevant event. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand.
Action: Describe the actions you took to address the situation. Be detailed. What specific steps did you take and what was your particular contribution? (This is an acceptable moment to use the word “I” in describing what you specifically did.)
Result: Describe the outcome of your actions and make sure you highlight either a positive result or an important lesson learned.
Example behavioral questions:
- Tell me about:
- A conflict you encountered and how you handled it
- A time when you were late
- A time when you used good communication
- How you handle stress
- A time when you were in a leadership position
- A time when you disagreed with a rule or policy
- A time you faced a setback
- A time you went above and beyond for a patient/customer
- An incident of workplace conflict and how you addressed it
- An error and how you addressed it
- An example of collaboration in the workplace
- A time there was miscommunication between you and another person, how did you handle it?
- How you handled a family or patient who was displeased with your patient’s care?
Other questions you may be asked:
- Why do you want to work here (at this hospital / health system)? What interests you the most?
- How has your past training prepared you for this role?
- Why did you choose nursing as a career?
- What do you find rewarding about nursing?
- Why are you leaving your current role?
- Where do you see your career in 5 years? In 10 years?
- What do you feel you can contribute to your team? and to your patients?
- Why should we hire you?
- How do you handle stress on the unit?
- What does patient-centered care mean to you?
- What are some evidenced based practices that have affected your work?
- What is your ideal working environment?
- Tell me what your idea of a “leader” is?
- What professional journals are you currently subscribed too and how has it affected your practice?
- What is your desired salary?
- Example answer: “I would like to make $__ – $__ annually. I believe that my __ years of experience in the field plus the additional health care certifications I earned last year add to my value as an employee. However, I got into health care to make a difference, and salary is secondary to working at a job I love.”
- However, note that many California hospitals have union nurse positions, so salaries are non-negotiable, and already determined based on number of years of experience.
A wise man once said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” We wish you the best preparation and the best of luck during your interviews!