How to Ace Your Nursing Interview

August 16, 2017

nurse shaking hand after interview

Big interview on the horizon? Don’t stress! We have you covered with everything you need to know to land the nursing job of your dreams.

5 Ways to Prepare for the Interview

resume close up

1. Plan Ahead

Before you start prepping your interview responses and looking for your most capable-looking outfit, it’s important to go over the basics. Plan the day out, starting with where the interview will take place, how long it will take to get there, how much the parking meters cost, etc. Even better? Try a practice run a few days in advance to check for any unexpected factors.

If it’s a phone interview, make sure you’ll have access to a quiet space that’s free of distractions.

It sounds a little obsessive, but planning things out to the very last detail will let you arrive calm, cool and collected.

2. Research the Company

Just like with nursing school, the key to success lies in doing your homework. Learn about the company or facility you’re interviewing with, from its mission statement to any awards or recognition it’s recently received.

Having basic information about your potential new employer demonstrates that you care enough to look into their values, and it’s guaranteed to set you apart from the majority of other applicants.

3. Prep Your Responses

Obviously, you’ll want to anticipate some of the most common nursing interview questions and plan out possible responses accordingly. Consider what qualities you’d like to showcase — and be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses.

Reflect on your previous work experience (or schooling, if this is your first nursing job) to have scenarios in mind for specific questions about challenging situations you’ve encountered — and how you’ve handled them.

4. Make a List of Questions

Just because you’re the one being interviewed doesn’t mean you can’t ask a few questions of your own. In fact, this demonstrates that you’re seriously interested in the job. Interviewers appreciate that you want to know more about the facility’s work atmosphere and job expectations, so have a short list of things you’d like to know.

4. Give It a Rest

Always, always, always get a good night’s sleep before your big interview. It’s easy to toss and turn imagining what the day ahead might hold, but this will only make you groggier the next morning. Plan for at least eight hours of shut-eye, avoid caffeine in the evening prior and go to bed as early as possible to ease yourself into a restful night.

Helpful Reminders for the Big Day

Your nervous enough, so stick to this checklist:

  • Wear something professional, modest and comfortable. (FYI: Blue is perceived as the most trustworthy color, and it’s the hue that gets people hired most.)
  • Eat a balanced breakfast and make sure you’re hydrated.
  • Bring along your resume, a notebook and a couple of ink pens.
  • Put your phone on silent.
  • Take a deep breath and remember that your interviewer is a human being just like you are.
  • Think of the experience as a conversation.
  • Smile! It’s an instant game-changer.
  • Tell them why they should hire you by letting them know what you have to offer.

How to Answer Tough Questions

women answering tough questions during an interview

When it comes to interviewing, practice really does make perfect (or better, at least). Interviewing is a skill, and it’s never a good idea to just “wing” it. Instead, read over commonly asked questions and think about some possible answers for each. Get comfortable stating your responses in your head and out loud so that you can edit them accordingly.

If possible, ask a family member or friend to do a mock interview with you so that you can practice your eye contact and body language, as well. Sometimes, this can lead to important discoveries about your interviewing skills. You may find that you look down out of shyness, or that your eagerness causes you to interrupt others without even realizing it. Knowledge is power, so ask for an honest assessment from someone you trust.

The best approach to handling challenging interview questions is to anticipate them, prepare for them and remain positive no matter what. You’re bound to be nervous, and this kind of stress can cause you to lose your train of thought, rush your words or stutter through a response.

Just remember that it happens to the best of us! Any interviewer with common sense will understand that you’re anxious, so gloss over any hiccups with a positive, light-hearted attitude. After all, nurses face high-stress environments on the regular, so moving forward with the interview with a smile on your face shows that you can handle everyday challenges like a pro.

If you start to hear yourself talking too fast or feeling breathless, slow down and take a deep breath. Feel free to pause under the guise of pulling out your resume or a notepad and ink pen. This simple trick can help you regroup under the radar.

Some of the most common questions include the following:

Questions About Former Employers

interviewer asking questions about former employer

Maybe your last boss was a yes-man, a micromanager or even a walking nightmare. Whatever the situation, remain professional and stay positive. Talk about what you learned from your former workplace or academic program and how the experience helped you grow as a nurse.

If the interviewer inquires about why you left, it’s always wise to say that you wanted to either try something new or broaden your skill set. (In other words, don’t say that you left because your boss was a walking nightmare.)

Questions About Your Strengths and Weaknesses

woman answering questions about strengths and weaknesses

Planning to say that your biggest weakness is that you “care too much” or “work too hard?” You may want to rethink your strategy. Interviewers can see through these games, and it can feel like a disingenuous approach to the interview process. If you have one weakness that doubles as a positive, fine… but don’t offer up an entire list of them.

Instead, demonstrate that you can take your ego out of the equation and offer an honest analysis of what you’re great at… and what’s a struggle.

Questions About Salary

wages folder

Sometimes, you know the salary from the start. Other times, it’s a mysterious variable that remains hidden until the end of the interview. You’ll probably be asked what number you’re comfortable with, but keep in mind that you don’t want to knock yourself out of contention just because you have ambitious goals.

Show that you’re flexible by stating that you’re open to salary negotiations, and let the interviewer know that you’ve done your homework by being aware of the average salary range for the job at hand.

Interviewers are just like you — they want to make as much money as possible. They’ll appreciate that you’ve researched the figures, and it will help them feel more comfortable discussing the specifics.

Questions About Yourself

group interview

You may immediately assume that the classic “Tell me about yourself” line is the easiest talking point you’ll face, but it’s pretty hard to describe yourself in a short and succinct way.

Make sure you address your professional goals, describe how the prospective job aligns with your career interests and share at least something about your personality or life outside of work. This will help set you apart from other applicants, and it gives the person interviewing you a conversational tool, as well.

Do you have an interview lined up, or do you have any words of wisdom to offer those who do? Start a discussion in the comments section below!

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