by Deborah Swanson
Interviewing for a job can be nerve-wracking, especially if it’s your first job out of nursing school. However, there are several steps you can take to make sure you are well-prepared and set up for success on the big day. Here are 10 tips that can help make any nursing interview go smoothly:
1. Plan Ahead for the Interview
Research parking options and plan out your route beforehand. Google Maps desktop version has a feature that lets you forecast how long it will take to get your destination at particular times of day, such as rush hour. Check the weather and try on clothing the night before to decide on an outfit. You should wear professional clothing — suits for men and a dress or a blouse and skirt or pants for women — rather than scrubs to the interview.
If the clothing needs to be washed, ironed, steamed or starched, starting the night before will give a chance to take care of that. If you wear jewelry or makeup, choose what you’re going to wear so you’re not scrambling to figure it out the morning of.
2. Get Plenty of Sleep
Interview jitters can keep you up at night, but try to sleep as much as possible the nights leading up to the interview so you can look fresh and think more clearly. If you have trouble falling asleep, a hot bath, caffeine-free tea, eye mask and melatonin can help you relax and fall or stay asleep. Try to avoid drinking alcohol, watching TV right before bedtime and other activities that can decrease or disturb your sleep.
3. Eat and Drink the Smart Way
You don’t want your stomach to growl loudly during the entire interview, so even if you’re nervous, try to eat a few hours before the appointment. Stick to nourishing foods that you know won’t upset your stomach or otherwise cause discomfort. Try not to overly caffeinate yourself, as this will only make you jittery, and drinking too much soda can cause belching and other stomach upset. Bring a bottle of water with you in case your mouth gets dry during the interview, and get there early enough that you have time to use the bathroom if necessary.
4. Research the Company and/or Position
Knowing as much as you can about the facility and the nursing position will give you concrete information to ask questions about during the interview. It will also demonstrate to the interviewer that you are truly interested in the job and did your research beforehand — they won’t hire someone who didn’t care enough to learn about the company before the interview.
5. Ask Your Network for Advice
If you have nursing contacts who have worked at this particular company or facility, reach out to them to ask about their experience and what you should know about the company going into the interview. Even if you don’t know anyone who works at the place you’re interviewing, you should still reach out to your more experienced nursing friends for advice, especially if you’re interviewing for your first nursing job after school. They’ll be able to advise you on what questions to prepare for.
6. Practice Your Interview Answers
No matter what kind of job you’re interviewing for, you can expect some questions to pop up over and over again: Why do you want this job? What makes you qualified for this position? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Why did you choose to become an RN? Where do you see yourself in five years? Make a list of expected questions and outline some bullet points that you can use to answer them. Then practice your answers, either by yourself or with a willing helper. The point is not to memorize the answers, but rather to feel comfortable discussing the content so you won’t suddenly go blank during the interview.
7. But Remember There Will Be Some Curveball Questions
There’s no way to anticipate every single question an interviewer might ask you, so no matter how much prep work you do in advance, there will probably be one or two surprises. When this happens, take a sip of water or write down a note to give yourself a moment to think. If that’s not a possibility, you can even tell the interviewer, “That’s a really good question; give me a minute to think about it,” to buy yourself a few seconds to gather your thoughts.
8. Be Prepared to Ask Questions of Your Own
In most job interviews, the hiring manager will leave time at the end to answer any questions you may have. If you don’t have any questions ready to ask, it can seem like you haven’t done your homework on the company or that you weren’t paying attention during the interview — neither of which makes a good impression. Using your research, make up a list of questions you can ask beforehand about relevant topics, such as training programs for new nurses or scheduling requirements and patient ratios.
9. Don’t Forget That You’re Interviewing Them, Too
During interviews, it can feel like you’re on trial for a new job. But don’t forget that you’re also interviewing the company or facility to figure out if the job would be a good fit for your professional goals and interests. Asking questions will not only show that you’re active and engaged in the interview; it will also help you determine if the culture and job duties are in line with what you’re looking for.
10. Send a Thank You Note
If you have a phone interview, a quick email thank-you within 24 hours will show that you’re still interested in the position and grateful for the interviewer’s time. If you were called in for an in-person interview — especially if it’s the final round — you should send an email thank you within 24 hours as well, followed by a written thank-you within the week if you haven’t heard back.
Some people advocate for only handwritten thank-yous, but if the hiring manager is trying to make a decision within a few days, snail mail might not reach him or her in time. In all thank-you notes, be sure to reference something specific that you talked about to jog the interviewer’s memory.
Planning ahead can make the day of a big interview much less stressful. Follow these 10 steps to make sure you’re prepared to ace your nursing job interview.
Deborah Swanson is a Coordinator for the Real Caregivers Program at allheart.com. A site dedicated to celebrating medical professionals and their journeys. She keeps busy interviewing caregivers and writing about them and loves gardening.
Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.