Job Interview Tips for New Nurses

When you were little and you dreamed of becoming a nurse, it might not have been the career’s flexibility that drew you. Now that you’re an adult becoming a nurse, however, you’ll find that flexibility is one major perk of the nursing profession.
The world of nursing offers a variety of career paths that can be suited to almost any lifestyle—if, for example, you’re a free spirit who dreams of seeing the world, consider a career as a travel nurse. If your goal is to stay home with your children during the day, consider working the night shift on a med/surg floor. Alternatively, a career as a school nurse would get you home early and free you up on the weekends. Thrive off of pressure and intensity? Perhaps a job in an emergency room is right for you.
Whatever nursing career path you decide on, you first need to know how to get there. And that means mastering a few job interview tips.
Of course, different jobs will have different requirements and expectations. But here are five helpful job interview tips and strategies that carry over in all nursing professions:

  • Look Like a Nurse

    Let’s face it—first impressions mean a lot. Appearances can be especially important for conveying professionalism as a registered nurse, since patients will be placing their confidence in you.
    During your interview, you want to look the part. Plan ahead so that you’re well groomed for interview day, with your hair neatly cut and kept away from your face. Your nails should be short and either unpainted or painted with clear nail polish.

  • Be Courteous and Attentive

    One of the most oft-ignored job interview tips is to turn off your cell phone to avoid any interruptions, and never use your phone during the course of the interview. Texting on your phone or letting it ring makes you appear inattentive.
    You want the interviewer to see that this job—and, by extension, this interview—is your top priority.

  • Walk in over-prepared

    Bring copies of all your paperwork, including your resume, nursing license, BCLS,  ACLS, diploma, and any additional certification to the interview. You may not need any of these documents, but having them goes a long way towards showing that you’re prepared and organized.

  • Show your passion; ask questions

    Remember, interviews are two-way conversations, so you’ll probably want to learn as much about the nursing unit as those in it want to learn about you. That’s not to say you should be directing the interview, but you should be able to show your prospective employer that you feel comfortable asking questions, being engaged with the process, and that you’re interested in the details of the job.
    Often, nursing interviews are conducted in a group setting, involving not only the nurse manager, but the nursing program staff as well. Since teamwork is often a crucial aspect of a nursing career, you want to demonstrate the strength of your communication and listening skills.
    When the interview is coming to a close, it’s customary to ask your interviewer any questions you might have. Try to prepare some questions ahead of time. For example, it may be useful to ask how long the orientation/training period would last and what would be involved. Without sounding pushy, you might also ask what you should expect as far as next steps in the interview process.

  • Know Your Stuff

    Nursing school is behind you, but you should nonetheless brush up on those key study areas in case you’re put on the spot. During the course of the interview, you may be asked to recall anything from cranial nerves, bicarb values, and white blood cell and platelet counts to how to auscultate the aortic heart sound and which quadrant of the breast is most likely to develop cancerous cells. If you don’t know the answer to a question during the interview, it’s best to be truthful and admit that you can’t recall it but that you are eager and anxious to learn.

Knowing how to prepare for an interview is just a natural step in the process of getting your nursing career underway. While a little bit of nervousness might actually help you perform at your best, there’s no need to feel intimidated. With a little bit of preparation, you’ll be well on your way to the nursing job of your dreams.

Sam is a graduate of Pace University in Pleasantville, New York, and a new graduate Oncology Nurse at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. She is currently working in Memorial’s Urgent Care Center and 24 Clinical Observation Unit. Samantha is passionate about education and helping others enter the nursing profession. She hopes to eventually pursue teaching by returning to school and earning her MSN. In her free time, Samantha enjoys cooking, shopping, dancing, and spending time with friends, family, and her three-year-old bulldog.