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How to Make Your Nursing Job Interview a Success - Before, During and After

Whether you have been in your nursing career for years or are hoping to obtain your first nursing job, the job interview is the most crucial part of the hiring process. If you can master your interview you will get the job. Follow these guidelines and leave an unforgettably favorable impression on your interviewer.

Before the Job Interview

1) Be prepared. Bring extra copies of your resume and references. It is also a good idea to bring a copy of the questions you intend to ask the interviewer. Being prepared will help decrease anxiety and show the interviewer that you are organized.

2) Know the company. You should know a fair amount about the hospital or company you are interviewing for. If available, use the company’s website to familiarize yourself with the company’s mission statement and history. Understanding the hospital or company will give you a greater understanding as to what they are looking for, plus you will not appear to be uninterested during the interview. Your interest in the company needs to at least appear to be genuine. Companies have no desire to hire employees that have no interest in their company.

3) Have a list of questions ready for the interview. At some point during the interview, the interviewer will ask you if you have any questions. You should have at least two decent questions on-hand that haven’t already been answered during the interview. To ensure that you have questions to ask, prepare a list of questions to ask the person who interviews you.

My personal favorite questions generally relate to such things as nursing career advancement opportunities and educational assistance programs offered by the company. Questions such as those send several positive signals to the interviewer, such as:

  1. I have shown interest in your company by reading about benefits
  2. I am interested in long term employment at your hospital
  3. I am thinking in terms of "career" - not just "job"
  4. I have an interest in bettering my education (and hence my nursing skills)
  5. I am willing to further my education (skills) to be a more valuable employee
  6. I am interested in advancing my career and grow into new positions at your hospital

Employers always prefer to hire an applicant who indicates interest in long term employment and willingness to enhance their qualifications in order to move up into other positions within the organization. While you may be saying to yourself "there's a nursing shortage going on so it's easy to get a nursing job", that isn't the case when applying for all nursing jobs! If you were a nursing director interviewing candidates for a house supervisor position and you had two nurses with approximately equal education and experience wouldn't you be more inclined to hire the one who showed long term interest and willingness to advance into other positions you may need filled later on over one who didn't give that signal? Think about things like that when preparing your questions before the interview.

4) Be prepared for the questions you will be asked. Interviews are meant to test you to determine if you will work well in the company’s environment. You do not want to appear caught off guard, clumsy, or unsure throughout the interview. To maintain your confidence, prepare answers to commonly asked questions before you go to the interview. Review the list of questions before entering the interview. Common questions include:

  1. Tell me more about yourself.
  2. Why did you leave your last position?
  3. What do you know about this company?
  4. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  5. Why should we hire you?
  6. What is your most significant achievement?
  7. How would your friends describe you?
  8. Do you work well with others?

If you are a new graduate nurse then frame your responses based upon the assumption that nursing school was your "last position" and describe strengths and weaknesses regarding your clinical experiences. Bear in mind that each "weakness" you describe should be presented as an opportunity to be turned into a strength through the experience and guidance you could receive in the nursing job you are interviewing for!

Dress for success. Select an outfit in advance. You may wear scrubs in your current nursing job but that doesn't mean you should show up for a job interview wearing them. Try to look your best because it conveys professionalism. First impressions tell the interviewer a lot about your character and work attributes.

During the Interview

1) Arrive early. To avoid being late, leave early enough to allow for anything that might happen on the way. Remember to check your appearance one last time before entering the building ten to fifteen minutes early.

2) The handshake. To many, a handshake says a lot about a person. Do not crush your interviewers hand, but rather grip it firmly and give it a short shake. Smile and make eye contact during the handshake. Do not look around at the surroundings or up at the ceiling.

3) Keep your hands steady. Even if your voice exhibits a tone of confidence, fiddling with your hands will make you appear nervous. Do not sit on your hands either, but rather keep them steady in a safe place such as in your lap.

4) Answer the interviewer’s questions directly. If the interviewer asks you a question, it is safe to assume that they want an answer. Do not wander off-topic or skirt around the subject. If you do not understand the question, ask for clarification.

5) Use specific examples in your answers. Specific examples are one hundred times better than a generalization. If your interviewer asks, “What is your most significant achievement?” give him or her an exact answer such as graduating from nursing school. or getting my BSN degree online while working at my last position for example.

6) Radiate Confidence. Appearing confident is of the utmost importance. Try your best to be relaxed and confident. Remember to smile.

7) Do not chew gum. Chewing gum is distracting, unattractive and disrespectful. Additionally, it interferes with your ability to speak properly.

8) Be positive. During your interview, maintain a positive attitude and phrase everything in a positive manner. Do not talk negatively about your present employer, co-workers, life, family, or former employees. Even if you want to change jobs because of negative reasons don't say things such as "I can't stand my department head" etc, but rather put forth a positive reason such as "because I want to expand my nursing career by working at a larger facility" or something along those lines.

9) Ask questions. When it comes time for you to ask questions, do not skip this portion of the interview. You should ask your interviewer at least a couple of questions, but make certain that the questions you ask have not previously been answered during the interview.

After the Interview

1) Follow up with a thank you letter. Start on your thank you letter immediately. Do not forgot to mention a detail or two about the interview, and feel free to reiterate a few reasons why you believe you are suited for the position. You will want to mail this letter at once. It shows the interviewer that you are a responsible, caring person who is serious about the nursing position. Additionally, it allows them to see your name and qualifications one last time.

A successful interview is the key to obtaining the nursing job you desire. Remember to follow these guidelines before, during, and after your interview to ensure that your interview is a success.

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