Preparing for a Nursing Job Interview

Last Updated: 22 September 2023

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Preparing for Your Nurse Job Interview

If you're a nurse who's landed a job interview, there are several important ways to prepare.

Interviews may feel high-stakes for a number of reasons: there may be an employer you're keen to work for, a new environment you want to immerse yourself in, or a position that really lights your nursing fire.

No matter the role, adequate preparation will help relieve your anxiety and put you in a position to shine.

Do Your Homework

If you're asked why you want to work for a particular employer, talking knowledgeably about the facility is a great way to deliver a strong response. Far too many nurses - especially those who are less experienced - may answer this standard question by explaining how they like to help people. This is all well and good, but demonstrating that you've researched the specific employer can make a strong impression.

Prior to your interview, search the organization's website for:

  • Organizational mission;
  • Organizational vision;
  • Recent awards or recognition;
  • Recently published research;
  • Interesting initiatives (e.g. outreach to the homeless, providing meals for poor children); and
  • New construction, technological advances, and other aspects of the facility you can reflect positively upon.

Next, find their social media feeds and read through recent posts by or about them. You may come across praise, noteworthy events, and other details that another candidate would not be savvy enough to know.

You can also use Google to find other tidbits that may impress your interviewer.

Woman working on a laptop while taking notes

Practise, Practise, Practise

You don't need to Practise every common nursing interview question in books or online lists. Focus your energy on the types of questions that make you most anxious. If a friend has interviewed at the same facility, ask them for advice on what types of questions were asked.

For many interviewees, the following types of questions can be the most challenging.

Behavioral questions, for example:

  1. 'What would you do if you had a conflict with a colleague after you approached her about an error you saw her make and she was defensive?'
  2. 'If a family member of a patient became belligerent about his mother's care, how would you defuse the situation?'

Always ask yourself what the interviewer is really after when asking such a question; what do they want to know about you?

The minor details of such stories are generally irrelevant. Generally, interviewers want to see how you handle yourself, what language you use, and how you use skills like critical thinking and emotional intelligence to resolve issues. If they ask you to come up with your own story, feel free to knit together several different scenarios that present your skills and knowledge in the best possible light.

Other questions that can cause trouble are:

  1. 'Tell us about yourself. Why should we hire you over someone else?'

Here you need to highlight what makes you stand out. How do you work within teams? What accomplishments can you describe? What do you bring to the table that makes you unique?

  1. 'Why do you want to work here at ___________?'

This one's easy if you've done your homework, as explained above.

If you're willing, record yourself on video and analyze your eye movements, facial expressions, and articulateness when responding, and you'll learn a great deal. Next, have a family member, friend, or colleague act as the interviewer and assess your responses and demeanor. Ask them to be honest in their feedback. You can also hire a career coach to assist you.

Woman preparing for an interview

Other Preparations

Many interviews are done via video these days, so this precludes needing to worry about your body language beyond facial expressions and head and eye movements.

You just need to wear a nice shirt or blouse and appear professional and well put together. Be sure to look at the camera on your computer, not the interviewer's face on your screen; this establishes 'eye contact' by making it seem like you're looking directly at them.

For in-person interviews, make sure you know exactly where you're going and consider doing a dry run to ascertain where you'll park, as well as how far a walk it will be to the interview site. Have a few crisp, fresh copies of your resume in an attractive folder; a notebook and pen (this can be used as a prop to buy a few seconds while jotting down a note); and dress business casual. For face-to-face interviews, be aware of body language as it speaks volumes about you.

Relax and Prepare

There's no need to panic before an interview. Use diaphragmatic breathing techniques, meditation, mindfulness, and other tools to keep yourself in check.

Diligent Practise and a relaxed and confident attitude are your friends. Be yourself, be confident, be professional and authentic, and you'll present as a nurse who knows who they are, what they want, and what awesome skills, knowledge, and experience they bring to the table.

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