If you’ve either recently graduated nursing school, or getting close to it, it’s time to start interviewing for jobs! This can be both exciting and terrifying at the same time. You’ve proven that you can survive nursing school, but now you have to impress those nurse leaders with your charm and smarts. I have interviewed many new nurses, and I am going to share some valuable tips that will help you be prepared and calm those nerves.
What to expect
There are many possible scenarios of how your interview may be designed. It could be with only one nurse manager, or multiple managers and charge nurses, or you could be attending a job fair in which you stand in line, waiting to interview for your preferred area of nursing. Be prepared mentally to speak to multiple people. If you’re like most people in this world (myself included), being the center of attention will make you nervous. But if you have prepared for this moment (just as you would for an exam), you will do great!
"Tell us about yourself"
This will most likely be the first question. You should develop a quick “elevator speech” that only takes two to three minutes. Examples of things you may include would be:
· I recently graduated from ____ SON in May, or; I expect to graduate in (month).
· I passed my NCLEX/plan to take my NCLEX in (month)
· Mention any accolades you may have received in school (Dean’s list, etc).
· Any volunteer or healthcare related work that you have done in the past. Don’t go into explanations unless asked – you want to make this quick.
· What personality traits that you have which will benefit this type of work. For example, “I love working in a fast-paced environment” or “I work well under pressure.” Think back to clinicals, and what traits make you a good fit for nursing.
· Finish up with one sentence of why you are choosing this institution. “I chose ___ because ___.”
There are some good examples of elevator speeches for interviews on YouTube.
Why did you choose nursing as a career?
Ugh. I personally don’t like to ask this, but I know many nurse managers that will. Be prepared to answer this from your heart to make it more meaningful. If you went into nursing because you had to take care of Grandma (or any sick family member), explain what exactly about you caring for them caused you to like it. Was it because of their appreciation? Was it because you were able to do what no one else in your family was willing to do? Dig deep, but remember to keep it brief.
"Why did you choose our healthcare organization?"
You may not be asked this question if you already addressed it in your elevator speech. If you are asked, then have at least one reason in addition to what you already may have said. It’s always a great idea to do a little bit of research on the organization you are applying for. Go online and look for their mission, vision, and values. What speaks to you? Also, you may want to work there because they just received an award, or remodeled the unit you want to work on.
"What would you do if…"
This is an interviewing technique that helps the interviewer see how you have handled certain difficult situations. Here are some examples:
· Tell me about a time when you disagreed with another healthcare provider (nurse, doctor, etc) or another nursing student and how you handled the situation.
· Were you ever in a situation in which you had to deal with an upset patient or family member? How did you solve the problem?
Telling the story about how you overcame a difficult situation will show that you can remain calm under pressure, behave professionally, and always do what’s right for the patient. Be ready to discuss two or three difficult situations that you experienced. Even if it doesn’t exactly fit the question, you can say something like “I didn’t have that exact situation happen, but I did experience…”
When you are telling the story, keep it organized and brief. Try to keep it to the following:
1. What was the situation (one to two sentences)
2. What actions you used
3. The resolution, or results of your actions.
Strengths and Weaknesses
It’s so easy to talk about our strengths, but very uncomfortable to talk about our weaknesses. A good manager will know that everyone has what I like to call “opportunities for improvement.” We don’t expect you to be perfect. At the same time, you don’t want to sell yourself short. When choosing a weakness, be sure that it is something that is not vital to your job. You wouldn’t want to say that your weakness is “I’m bad at math,” or “I get impatient easily.” You also don’t want to sound too cheesy by saying something like “I care too much.”
Try to think of something that won’t affect your job performance. Preferably something that you have already noticed while you were in nursing school, what you did to improve, and how you are continuing to improve. That way, you show the manager that you can recognize a weakness and take it upon yourself to improve upon it.
And lastly, nursing scenarios
You may be asked what nursing interventions you would perform with a certain type of patient. For example, a patient with heart failure, pneumonia, stroke, or post abdominal surgery. Don’t let this question give you heart failure! We are not expecting a dissertation on nursing interventions. We just want to know that you have a general understanding of what to look for in your assessment, any common nursing interventions, and any tests that you may expect (labs, radiology). Again, only give the main things that are pertinent to that specific diagnosis. In my experience of interviewing, I would ask that the nurse grad pick one that they are most comfortable with. The examples above are for adult med/surg, so if you are applying for the ED or labor and delivery, expect something that pertains to that category.
"Do you have any questions for us?"
You will almost always be asked this at the end of your interview. It looks better if you do have a couple of questions to show your interest.
Things not to ask:
· "Do you know what my salary will be?" – The managers are not involved in the salary decision. That is the decision of the recruiter and Human Resources. Also, it is kind of tacky to ask during the interview.
· "Did I get the job?" - This creates a completely awkward situation. Even though you are anxious and ready to start, try to be patient. I encourage you to instead follow up with the recruiter and the manager with a polite email, thanking them for the opportunity and stating that you look forward to their decision.
Things that are good to ask:
· "Tell me about someone you recently hired who worked out well, and why do you think they are successful at their job?" – This will give you great insight on what your prospective manager holds in high regard.
· "What are the next steps?" – This will let you know what the process is after the interview, and who you can get in touch with.
To sum it up:
Be prepared! If you take the time to research common interview questions and how to best answer them, you will not feel so stressed. The less “um…” that you use in your responses, the better.
Write down your prepared answers and practice saying them until you feel comfortable. It’s a good idea to ask a friend to help you do a mock interview so you can work out the kinks and see what you have trouble with.
Remember that whatever you talk about in your interview, you may be asked to explain further. Keep your answers simple and only answer what was asked of you. Don’t add any fluff.
The examples that I supplied in this blog will give you a really good idea of what to expect, but keep in mind that there will always be questions that you weren’t expecting. Don’t sweat it! Just be yourself and answer honestly.
Take deep breaths and think positive thoughts. Remember, you are interviewing them, too! If the first interview doesn’t go as planned, that’s OK! It will be great experience for your next interview. Be sure to take notes to help you with the next one.