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Getting a Nursing Job: How to Ace a Nursing Interview

Interviews are one of the most important, and sometimes most terrifying, steps in finding a job. Whether individuals are applying to hospitals, clinics, home health care agencies, or any other employer, they will be expected to interview for the desired position. Interviews are a critical step in finding the right candidate for a position, because they allow an employer to move beyond the information on a resume and get a better feel for who they might be hiring. Since interviews are often the first and only chance an individual gets to meet with a potential employer, it is important to be prepared and to make a great and lasting first impression. Though a great interview does not guarantee one the position, it certainly increases his or her chances of success. There are many steps one can take to ensure that he or she will make a good impression in an interview.

Researching the Organization

One interview faux pas that individuals often commit is failing to research the organization and position to which they are applying. This often results in the interviewee looking unprepared and disinterested. Some interviewers even quiz applicants in order to see if they have done any prior research. One of the reasons why researching a position is important is because each organization is unique, and learning about a potential employer allows one to know whether or not the job is the right fit. Though nurses share many of the same responsibilities, nursing positions are not identical. Just as it is important that organizations choose the right nurses for positions, it is important for individuals to choose the right employers. In addition, conducting the proper research will help applicants to be prepared for interview questions and allow them to relate their experience and skills to the needs of their potential employer.

Another helpful step may be to research the interviewer. This can often be done with the help of social media. Knowing about the individual one is meeting with can help him or her find common ground and also to tailor interview answers to the individual asking the questions. The more an individual knows going into an interview, the more confident he or she will be.

Practicing for the Interview

When it comes to interviewing, practice is key. While one cannot be completely sure what questions an interviewer might ask, potential nurses can talk to others about their interview experience and research common nursing interview questions online. The individual should never memorize and recite answers to potential questions, as this will seem fake and rehearsed. That being said, it does help to be prepared with scenarios to discuss when asked certain questions. Failing to practice with common interview questions could result in candidates taking too long to answer questions or being unable to answer altogether.

It might be helpful to conduct mock interviews with another person in order to prepare. While this is less intimidating than a real interview, practicing with another person helps candidates to become more comfortable answering interview questions aloud. Mock interviews are also a great opportunity to gain feedback from another person on areas for improvement. It may be helpful to practice with someone who has knowledge and experience of interviewing, as these individuals may be better able to give feedback.

One of the most common types of interview is the behavioral interview, which focuses on how a candidate has acted in a given situation. This type of interview is popular because past behavior is often an accurate indicator of how one is likely to behave in the future. To prepare for behavioral interviews, it is useful to think of answers using the STAR Method. STAR stands for: Situation, Task, Action, and Result. This method provides a framework for structuring the answers to interview questions. Candidates should explain the situation they were in, state the problem they had to solve, describe their actions in response to the problem, and then explain the results of their actions. In this way, interviewers will have a clear picture of the steps taken by the candidate and how these actions impacted the situation for better or worse.

The following are examples of common non-behavioral interview questions:

  • Why did you choose a career in nursing?
  • What will you bring to this organization?
  • What are your short and long-term goals, and how does this position fit into those goals?
  • How has your experience prepared you for this position?
  • What has been your greatest challenge?
  • Describe your ideal supervisor, employer, work environment, etc.

The following are examples of common behavioral interview questions:

  • Describe a situation with a difficult patient or family member and how you handled it.
  • Describe a time when you had to motivate a work group.
  • Describe your most challenging patient experience and the outcome.
  • Give an example of a time when you have had to respond quickly to change.

Preparing Questions for the Interviewer(s)

In preparing for a nursing job interview, applicants should prepare a list of questions to ask the interviewer about the position. The questions should be well thought out and focused on details of the job position and the work environment. Researching the organization and position should be helpful in preparing questions. By creating a list of questions, a candidate is able to learn more about the specifics of the job. In addition, asking questions is a way to convey interest. One should not bring up the topics of salary or time off in the interview.

Dressing for Success

Appearance plays a large role in making a good first impression. It is important to look neat, professional, and well groomed. For women, this means wearing a skirt or pants suit paired with a blazer. Shoes, jewelry, hair, and makeup should be conservative. Men are advised to wear suits to interview paired with conservative ties, and to be clean-shaven. Many organizations also prefer that tattoos are covered up for both men and women.

In nursing, personal hygiene is especially important because healthcare facilities must maintain a clean environment when caring for patients. If an interviewee appears to be dirty or unkempt, an employer is unlikely to trust them to take proper care of others. Individuals should be clean and free of offensive odors. It is also best to keep perfume, cologne, and other strong smelling products to a minimum, as some individuals are sensitive or allergic to these products.

Dealing with Pre-Interview Anxiety

Preparation is the key to dealing with pre-interview stress. Much of the anxiety going into an interview comes from worrying about making mistakes or being unprepared. For this reason, all of the interview tips in this article are also tips for preventing anxiety.

Candidates should enter interviews knowing their professional goals, strengths, and weaknesses. Employers try to determine what each person might contribute to their organization, so knowing one's worth and being able to express this to the interviewer is important. In addition, candidates should review their resumes prior to the interview and be ready to discuss what the interviewer does not already know from reading the resume.

In addition to researching the employer and taking steps to prepare for the actual interview, potential nurses should know where they are going (and have directions, if necessary) and arrive early (aim for 30 minutes early, but enter the building 10 minutes early). If possible, schedule interviews in the morning, and leave plenty of time between interviews and appointments.

Taking steps for self-care is another way to keep pre-interview stress in check. One way in which to do this is to get enough sleep prior to the interview. Sleeping well two nights before for the interview may be most important, as many have trouble sleeping the night before. Eating at least a small, nutritious meal before the interview is also important for keeping blood sugar stable and avoiding embarrassing stomach growling. Interviewees should also limit fluids directly before the interview and make time to use the restroom if necessary.

Demonstrating Confidence

While skills and experience is important, so is a candidate's attitude. Individuals should be confident going into interviews and demonstrate a positive attitude. A firm handshake, good eye contact, and a friendly smile are great ways to demonstrate confidence.

Conveying Interest

A candidate for a nursing job can convey interest in a variety of ways. One of the most important ways in which to do this is to listen attentively during the interview and maintain friendly eye contact. Candidates should come prepared with a pen and paper to take notes during the interview. As previously mentioned, researching the organization and preparing questions for the interviewer also convey interest.

Another step candidates should take when interviewing is to turn off cell phones or leave them in the car. Cell phones are easily heard even when set to vibrate. A phone that rings or vibrates during an interview is rude and distracting, and may cost the candidate the job.

When the interview is over, one should shake the interviewer's hand and thank him or her for the opportunity to meet. During this time, candidates may also want to formally express interest or ask for the position. Individuals may also want to ask the interviewer when they are likely to hear back regarding the position.

Post-Interview Etiquette

Soon after the interview, candidates should send the interviewer a hand-written thank you card or email. This is a great way to show appreciation, and serves as a reminder for the potential employer. As there are likely to be multiple candidates interviewing for each position, it may help to include a reference to the interview conversation in order to help the interviewer remember specifics of the meeting more clearly. For those who interview and do not get the position, thank you notes are a great way to build rapport with the employer for future job openings.

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