When applying for nursing positions, you can’t rely on your resume alone to land the job.
Education and experience are a big part of your qualification for a nursing career, but they’re only a part of the process — recruiters and hiring managers also take into account how you behave and respond to key questions during interviews.
Job interviews are also opportunities for you and to see if the potential employer and workplace are a good fit for your skills and personality, or if you might want to consider working elsewhere.
Interviews can be difficult, but preparing ahead of time can help you in your pursuit of your nursing career. Here are some nursing interview tips that can help current and aspiring nurses like you find your dream job in this rewarding field.
Explore both soft skills and hard skills.
According to the American Nurses Association (ANA), nurses should consider practicing their storytelling abilities and be ready to discuss their soft skills and hard skills. Soft skills can include the following:
- Written and spoken communication
- Active and attentive listening
- Friendliness and good manners
- Diplomacy and respectfulness
The ANA recommends preparing one or two anecdotes that demonstrate your soft skills. As a nursing applicant, you might prepare a specific story about how you comforted a patient during a time of crisis, helped a physician manage a challenging situation, or assisted a colleague during a difficult procedure. You may not have an opportunity to demonstrate your soft skills in an interview unless you take the initiative.
Interviewers may be more likely to ask about your hard skills. Hard skills pertain to technical abilities, such as computer skills, specific procedures you’re trained to perform, experience managing electronic health records, and prior experience helping patients during dressing changes.
Preparing strong, thorough responses that effectively illustrate your hard and soft skills is a fundamental nursing interview tip that can give you a real advantage.
Dress comfortably but professionally.
In addition to illustrating hard and soft skills, you’ll want to make sure you dress professionally for nursing job interviews. Nurse.com offers several tips for interview attire:
- Keep jewelry to a minimum and avoid facial jewelry entirely.
- Wear comfortable closed-toe shoes, and never attend an interview in flip-flops or sandals.
- Demonstrate personal style with accessories, such as scarves, earrings, or ties.
- Avoid wearing scrubs and other nursing clothing during job interviews. Instead, focus on dressing in business professional attire.
Nurse.com also recommends silencing devices, such as smartphones and tablets. As an applicant for a nursing position, you should always give interviewers and other potential colleagues your full attention during all interviews.
Prepare for phone and video interviews.
TravelNursing.org reminds nurses that not all interviews take place in person; many recruiters and hiring managers today prefer to speak over the phone or through video conferencing platforms such as Skype — at least for the first interview.
One of TravelNursing.org’s nursing interview tips is for nurses to prepare for phone and Skype interviews as they would for in-person interviews. You should find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed or interrupted and dress as though you were appearing in person, even if the interview takes place over the phone.
However, you should always be prepared for the unexpected. You can’t always control your environment and may face unexpected challenges during a phone or video interview.
As TravelNursing.org points out, facing an unexpected disruption during a nursing interview can actually work in your favor if you handle the interruption well. In these situations, you should remain calm, politely ask the interviewer if they can take a moment to address the problem, and then return to the interview.
Prepare a list of questions to ask interviewers.
Most nurse job interviews allow the interviewee to ask his or her potential employer and future colleagues questions as well. Nursing Times reminds nursing job seekers to prepare a list of questions to ask the interviewer. In most cases, there will be an opportunity to ask questions at the end of the meeting.
According to Nursing Times, NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer recommends that nursing job seekers ask interviewers if they have any concerns about the job. If the interviewer notes that you might face a long commute, or might have a lack of experience in a fundamental area, you’ll be able to address those concerns before leaving the room.
Practice answering common nursing interview questions.
As you attend multiple nursing job interviews, you may notice that you’re receiving similar, if not identical, questions from their interviewers.
While you cannot always guess what questions an interviewer will ask, you can prepare for a few of the most common questions, such as the following offered by GeriatricNursing.org:
- What do you know about your specialty? You can use this question to tell an anecdote that positions you in a positive light or allows you to illustrate your passion for the specialty.
- What would past supervisors say about you? You should consider using this question to offer a direct quote. For example, if a previous supervisor gave a specific compliment, repeating those words exactly can give the response more gravity and heft.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses? Nursing job applicants should try to give honest answers to both parts of this question. If you claim to have no weaknesses, interviewers may doubt your integrity. You should be honest about your weaknesses and provide examples of how you’re growing or overcoming them.
- Why should we hire you? Interviewees for nursing jobs should have a distinct answer prepared for this question that demonstrates what qualities set you apart from other nurses — such as compassion, extensive education, or advanced experience.
Just like with the other nursing interview tips discussed, preparing and practicing these types of questions can put you in a strong position to succeed during interviews. If you stumble over a question during a nursing interview, even one you already prepared a response for, you might want to consider practicing alternate answers for that question in future interviews.
Know what qualities you possess as a nurse.
The Guardian interviewed several recruiters and hiring managers in the healthcare sector and asked about what elements they look for during nursing interviews.
Ann Duncan, matron of the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, stated that she looks for six specific characteristics: care, compassion, competence, communication, courage, and commitment.
Duncan incorporates those characteristics into interview questions: “We want enthusiasm to shine through — you can see when someone’s energized by the work they do.” If you know what makes you a strong nursing candidate, you’re more likely impress interviewers with your confidence and dedication.
Research healthcare facilities carefully.
In addition to knowing what makes you an excellent nurse, knowing some key information about the healthcare facility at which you’re applying can also help a great deal.
According to the Houston Chronicle, nurses should tailor their listed experience to the jobs for which they’re applying. “If you’re interested in a job as a school nurse, explain your ability to work well with children and to handle a variety of different common childhood medical needs; if you want to work in an emergency room, discuss your ability to think on your feet, to quickly prioritize, and to multi-task under pressure.”
Bolster your credentials with an online nursing degree.
These nursing interview tips can help you land a great nursing job and feel more stable and secure in your career.
Of course, being able to interview well is only one part of the process. You must first and foremost have the skills and experience needed to be successful in the job.
At Maryville University, we offer online nursing programs that can help you prepare for and excel at every point of your nursing career. Our programs span a number of different nursing concentrations across a variety of fields. Combine your online nursing degree with strong interview skills, and you can stand out for almost any position.