How to ace your interviews with flying colors.
You’re fantastic and have made it this far… you’ve got your experience, license, certifications and more. Now you just need to clear the final hurdle and nail the interviews!
Interviewing is a skill, but don’t worry we’ve done in-depth research and created this guide to help you avoid common pitfalls that even experienced nurses make, and pass your interviews with flying colors. Please read carefully, and prepare before any phone or in-person interview with a recruiter or hiring manager. If you need any help preparing don’t hesitate to reach out to your Incredible Health talent advocate or email us at email@example.com.
Most employers hiring nurses are looking for candidates to have the following traits. Keep these in mind as you’re preparing.
- A collaborative, team player
- Diplomatic and tactful
- Passionate about nursing / specialty / patients
- Strong communicator
- Committed to the team over the longer term (2-3 years)
- Clear about career and learning goals
Interview DO’s and DON’Ts
- DO treat the interview with the hospital recruiter like a real interview.
The same level of professionalism, enthusiasm, and communication that you have with a hiring manager needs to also be conveyed to the hospital recruiter. They’re assessing you too, and are the gatekeepers to the hiring managers.
- DO show your passion for nursing, patient care, and your specialty.
Interviewers want to confirm that your passion for nursing is still the top priority for you, regardless of other life circumstances. It’s best to not divulge personal items such as divorce, giving birth, financial issues, etc. These items can distract from the main message you want to highlight in the interview: your passion & commitment to nursing.
Question: Why are you interested in this job?
Good answer: This is a chance to continue expanding my skills, and support patients and my team. I became a nurse because I realized I was drawn to helping others. I also love being part of a team, and I’m passionate about being an ER nurse. I thrive in a fast-paced environment and I love to see the relief on my patients’ faces as I see them start to get better.
Bad answer: I want this job because I need more money.
- DO treat phone interviews as seriously as in-person interviews: have a quiet place, adequate phone reception, and 10-15 minutes flexibility.
Make sure you’re in a quiet place with good reception to avoid interruptions. Missed calls or communication interruptions due to poor reception and noise can have a negative impact on the flow of the interview, even if your answers are great. Allow for 15 minutes of flexibility before and after your interview start time in case your interviewer calls you late, or a few minutes early.
- DON’T speak negatively about your current/past job situation, team, or manager.
Hospitals are looking for nurses that are diplomatic and tactful, because those are important traits of successful nurses. So if a nurse speaks negatively about their current situation or manager, that’s often interpreted as a lack of diplomacy and professionalism. Either don’t mention the negative situation or manager, or phrase it in a positive light:
Question: Why are you leaving your current job?
Good answer: I want to continue growing my skillset in the ER, and contribute to my team, and support my patients. I’m looking for an environment where I can more easily do that.
Bad answer: I don’t like my manager.
- DON’T mention money as your main motivator.
Hiring managers and recruiters are looking for candidates that want to make a long-term commitment to the team, and contribute to their patients and teams. Unfortunately, when salary is mentioned as the main motivator for changing jobs, it can be interpreted as limited commitment.
Question: Why are you interested in this job?
Good answer: I love nursing, and I love working in the ED. I’m looking to continue expanding my skills. I also need to relocate because my partner is changing jobs.
Bad answer: I need more money.
- DO dress professionally for in-person interviews.
For in-person interviews, make sure you dress with polish — no jeans, no denim, no scrubs — and avoid overpowering scents/perfume. Wear a suit or business separates that fit well. Avoid clothes that are either too tight or oversized.
Bring a notebook and pen and a clean folder with copies of your resume and any certifications you have (ACLS, NCLEX, etc). Candidates have been declined by hiring managers simply for wearing jeans, even if the rest of the interview went well.
- DO stay positive! Confidence and cheerfulness are persuasive.
You may be doing your interview after a long, stressful shift. Or even during a break in the middle of a shift. Try your best to sound enthusiastic and energetic on the phone and in person.
- DO answer behavioral questions, and all questions with enough detail
When answering behavioral questions, remember STAR: A Situation or Task similar to what they’re asking about, Actions you took, and Results you achieved. Even for clinical questions, avoid answers that are vague.
Question: Tell me more about what you did as a telemetry nurse.
Bad answer: I had telemetry patients, with monitors.
Good answer: “I cared for patients who were unstable from a cardiac standpoint and required direct observation of their heart rhythms. Some of the patients I cared for were post MI, heart failure, post cardiac intervention or on cardiac drips.” [What type of patients you cared for, what are the specific needs of this patient population,, and what interventions/tasks you’re trained to do for this patient population, and the results]
- DO be familiar with your resume, including positions and dates.
You can be asked to recall information from your resume, including positions and specific dates. Please review your resume beforehand so your answers are consistent with what is in your resume.
- DO have a clear description for what you want to do with your career.
Interviewers are looking for nurses who have a career plan, and also demonstrate their commitment to the job they are interviewing for. If the career plan is to switch to a different specialty as quickly as possible, that will not be viewed positively by the interviewer because you have signaled a lack of commitment to his/her team.
Question: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Good answer: I am always striving to stay current with the latest education and evidence based practices in nursing, and in telemetry specifically. My goal is to advance my skills by learning on the job, by obtaining certifications in my specialty, and grow within the organization.
Bad answer: I just want to get my foot in the door in telemetry, and as soon as I can, switch to ICU.
- DO have a good explanation for switching jobs frequently.
If you have been at your current or past jobs for under 1 year (the exception being travel nurses of course), then you are likely to be asked why you left.
Question: Why have you stayed in your current job for less than 1 year?
Good answer: I feel that I have outgrown my current position. I am looking for new challenges and opportunities for growth within an organization. I am looking for a position that better aligns with my career goals.
Bad answer: I don’t like the team or the hospital, so I changed jobs.
We wish you the best of luck! If you need any additional interview preparation, we offer free sessions at anytime. Contact your talent advocate or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.