Tips & Advice

How to Prepare for a Nursing Job Interview

Tips & AdviceDecember 22, 2016

Ah, the job interview. Is there any human activity more fraught with angst, or more likely to make an eloquent, qualified, intelligent, well-educated person transform into a tongue-tied, apparent fool? There’s no getting around it. Some people are better at interviewing than others. But that doesn’t have to mean you’ll never land your dream job. Whether you consider yourself good at interviewing, just so-so, or abysmal, you should know that anyone can improve with a little preparation.

The nursing job interview doesn’t have to be a miserable ordeal. You need not come away from it feeling crushed and inadequate. In fact, if you’re well prepared, you just might emerge shining like a diamond—a gem among rough stones, looming large in the memories of the interviewer(s). It almost goes without saying: Preparation is key.

There are various strategies for preparing. Among them are lists of potential questions, and suggestions regarding how best to negotiate job interview verbal land mines. Keep in mind that most job interviews are designed to get a sense, in a rapid manner, of your character, personality, motivations, experience and temperament. Nurses must operate under considerable stress on a routine basis. Accordingly, employers are interested in determining who has the right stuff, and who’s likely to fall apart at the first sign of trouble.

  1. Study likely questions and ponder potential answers. Following, you’ll find some sample questions that typically crop up during interviews. Some represent potential pitfalls, making them especially important to consider before going in for your interview.
  2. Dress appropriately. Although you won’t be working in a business suit, men and women should consider wearing a conservative business outfit with minimal jewelry and even less “personal scent” (perfume or cologne), if any at all. The goal is to avoid drawing attention to your appearance. Let your answers get you noticed, not your unusual grooming or attention-grabbing clothing.
  3. Greet the interviewer(s) warmly, with a firm handshake, a smile, and a meet-the-eyes gaze. Like virtually any profession, nursing takes men and women who are willing and able to interact with the public and represent the organization in a good light. Basic manners, artfully deployed, are small, but crucial aspects of a candidate’s likely suitability for employment.
  4. Keep your emotions under control. It’s all about keeping your cool under stress. Don’t get upset or defensive at the first sign of trouble. That’s probably what your interviewer is looking for, should he or she appear to be provoking you with pointed questions.

Sample questions you may encounter:

  1. Where do you see yourself in 3, 5, or 10 years? Do you see yourself as a RN or in management? Don’t shrug this one off. It’s often used to gauge a prospect’s ambition and motivation. Give a thoughtful—hopefully honest—answer.
  2. Can you provide an example of a time you went above and beyond the call of duty? Don’t bluster or squirm. Try to think of at least one time from your past—it doesn’t necessarily have to be in a healthcare setting—when you made the effort to do this.
  3. How do you handle stress? Can you give an example? This question may not be phrased so directly, but your answer will definitely be of interest to your interviewer.
  4. What do you find most challenging about dealing with patients? Be forthright, but remember that your interviewers are judging your answers based on your perceived professionalism and dedication—or lack thereof. Try to be diplomatic. Expressing disdain for problematic patients may not be your best tack here.
  5. What’s your preferred management style? Would you strive to be this type of manager? Different people have different styles. Some management styles may work better for certain employees than others. Respect for others, consistency, fairness; all of these traits are desirable and can be expressed through different management styles.
  6. Have you ever been forced out of a job? If the answer is ‘yes,’ it’s best to be prepared for this one. Try to put the incident in the best light. Candidates who take pleasure in bad-mouthing former employers, no matter how justified, are unlikely to be viewed as good prospects.  
  7. Are you good at communicating with patients and their family members? Can you give an example? Communication is a key aspect of good nursing. Nurses are often a patient’s primary source of information, despite the need to defer to the patient’s doctor in most matters. A skilled nurse can do much, however, to ally patients’ fears and concerns, and to explain simple nurse-administered procedures.

These are just some brief examples of common interview questions. To be especially well prepared, research other examples and consider your answers before your interview. And then remember, you’ve got this!