Five Tips for Nursing Job Interviews

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By ANA Career Center Staff – March 2014

Whether you’re looking for your first nursing job or considering a new nursing adventure, showing up prepared for the interview is an important step toward success.

Here are five tips to help you do well in your nursing job interviews.

Ask the Right Questions

Even though you’re the one being interviewed, it’s always important to ask some questions yourself. That will help you determine if the job you’ve applied for is one you’re really interested in doing.
“It is important to remember not only to ask about the nurse to patient ratio but also about the aide to nurse ratio,” says Sara Charlton, nurse recruiter at The Right Solutions. “We all know how hard it is to work on a floor that is short of aides.”

Charlton suggests asking these questions too:

  • What’s the nurse turnover rate, and, if it’s high, why? “If it is a troubled floor, then it is good to know walking in,” she says.
  • What’s the facility’s parking situation? You’ll need to budget, if you’re expected to pay for parking, she says.
  • Do they offer a scrub allowance? “Most hospitals realize that a scrub allowance can be a nice perk to their employees,” she explains.

Prepare Your Phone Manners

Even if you’re not interviewing remotely, the phone may figure prominently in your interview — especially in the first round of a multi-stage interview process.

“This is a tough component to factor in,” says Frank Whalen, a recruiter at The Right Solutions. “A nurse has to be sure she sounds as professional as she would usually look for a job interview.” This means being in a quiet place during the call and making clear the nurse manager has your full attention. Ensure you have a quality phone and a good connection, so you don’t end up talking over each other.

Tell a Story

Nurses need to talk about their clinical skills as well as “soft skills,” such as compassion and caring. Whalen recommends being ready with a couple of examples that highlight all of your skills.

“A nurse under these circumstances is selling her lifetime experience of saving lives solely through what she says and how she says it,” Whalen explains. He suggests talking about things that highlight both expertise and compassion. Don’t worry about sounding like you’re bragging; you’re just talking about what you do well.

Look Sharp

You don’t want to show up for an interview dressed in a way that will distract from the strong clinical skills you’re there to display. “Interviewing for nurses has evolved over the years and now having the ability to have a successful interview is just as important as having great clinical skills,” says John Fulcher, director of the Healthcare West Division of Bauer Consulting Group.

He says a blue or gray suit, or a conservative dress, is appropriate for a nursing interview. “Keep jewelry and perfume or cologne to a minimum. Women should wear stylish low-heeled shoes, in the event that they are invited to tour the facility.”

Stay Enthusiastic

If you’re interviewing at several different organizations, Fulcher says it’s important to keep your spirits up and not fall into a routine. Schedule your interviews so they’re not back-to-back, and give yourself some time to recharge between them.

“It doesn't matter how many interviews you have been on recently,” he says “You need to approach each interview with the same degree of enthusiasm and interest.”
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