NURSING INTERVIEWING TIPS
Prepare your credentials and other paperwork
- Create a professional résumé that profiles important coursework, clinical experience and any early nursing career highlights. List your job positions or clinical rotations, key responsibilities, accomplishments, rewards, recognition, credentials, licensing and education. Ask your nursing advisor or other mentor to review your résumé for content, grammar, format and overall effectiveness. (For tips on preparing your nursing résumé, read more.) Print out multiple copies of your résumé and keep them in a folder with your other documents.
- Make a list and check off all of your credentials, immunization and identification documents. Make sure to include your nursing license, notice of passing board scores (if you have it), BCLS/ACLS card, additional certificates from any advanced training programs, driver's license, immunization record and social security number. Bring the original documents and two or three copies of each to give to the human resources department and the hiring/interviewing manager.
- Bring a current copy of your nursing skills checklist(s) for any departments where you have worked. Be thorough but don't exaggerate your abilities; these lists demonstrate your clinical competencies and can help employers match you to the right job and training situation to begin your nursing career. If you are working with a staffing company, they can normally provide you with skills checklists that can be completed for your nursing interview.
- Have at least two copies of your references available—one to leave with the human resources representative and the other for the hiring manager. Verify and update the names, titles, facility designations, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses of clinic managers, nursing faculty and personal references. (If you have reference letters, bring them along. Most employers use them as supplemental material, not as a substitute for references.)
- Anticipate being asked for permission to conduct a criminal background investigation. The permission form may require you to list all of your prior addresses for the past five to seven years, so keep this information with you.
Anticipate the questions you will be asked.
- Find out as much as you can about the facility where you'll be interviewing by visiting their Web site or picking up literature from your nursing school's career center. If you have any contacts who work at this facility, take the time to ask them about the staff, the corporate culture and general procedures.
- Prepare answers for standard on-the-job type interview questions:
- How would others describe your skills as a team player?
- What is your approach for getting along with difficult staff members?
- How do you handle problem patients and/or families?
- What is your method for dealing with the workload when your unit is short-staffed?
- How do you give a treatment that you have never administered before?
- How do you handle three emergency admissions at shift change?
- Develop an answer for one of the most common open-ended questions: "Tell me a little about yourself." This question is designed to evaluate your judgment. This is not the time or the place for a chronological biography or any self-critical remarks. It's your opportunity to reveal key details about yourself that validate why you are the right one for the job. Use this opportunity to point out the unique skills, talents and attitudes you bring to the nursing unit, backed up with specific examples. For instance, if you talk about your teamwork or leadership skills, give an example of when you demonstrated these qualities.
- Practice answering questions in a way that shows you are a problem-solver. Staff shortages and new employee training can be a source of stress for the manager and the other workers on the unit, so show that you can be part of the solution. Provide examples from your nursing career—no matter how short—that demonstrate how you've picked up the slack, organized workflow and contributed in various ways to make things more efficient.
- Craft answers to negative situations, but frame them in a positive light. Review your experience and write down pertinent examples that show how you overcame adversity and gained new insights. Even if you faced some difficult situations at your last job, refrain from speaking negatively about a previous employer, department or manager. You don't want to come across as someone who blames his or her situation on others or offend the hiring manager by mistake. Emphasize the positive and highlight how these challenging experiences strengthened and shaped your skills and your nursing career.
Practice, practice, practice!
- Practice answering all of these questions until you feel comfortable and at ease. Don't just say what you think the interviewer wants to hear; be true to yourself. Otherwise you could be hired under the wrong expectations for a position that's not a good match. Your goal is to prepare answers that best reflect your skills and personality. Remember to be sincere, professional and show how you've excelled in your nursing career.
- Give these nurse interview tips a test run and stage a mock interview. Ask a colleague, friend or relative who is a manager or familiar with the interviewing process to do a "mock" interview with you. Have them ask the same thought-provoking questions they would ask their candidates. Even if they don't work in nursing or health care, their interviewing experience is still relevant. Don't let them go easy on you; the tougher their questions the less stumped and more prepared you'll be when it comes time for the real interview.
- You should also practice greeting your interviewers with a smile and a firm handshake, either with friends or in front of a mirror. Keep at it until you exude the warmth, confidence and professionalism that you want. It may feel strange at first, but it can help you alleviate jitters and appear more polished on the day of the interview.
- Don't forget to get plenty of sleep the night before your nursing interview to help you look rested and feel more alert.
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