nurse interview questions - Nursing Interviews Decoded - Before You Show Up

Nursing Interviews Decoded – Part 1: Before You Show Up

You’ve likely heard of the nursing shortage affecting the United States. With baby boomers aging and many older nurses retiring, that need will only keep growing. But, depending on what specialty you want to work in and where you live, getting a job in the nursing field won’t be easy for everyone.

A critical part of getting any job is the interview process. Much like dating, this is when you and your potential employer try to figure out if you’d be a good fit together. And, just like with dating, you want to leave a good impression. 

In this series, we’ll go over the average interview process for a nursing job from start to finish and just how to leave that good impression. Although different employers will have different expectations and questions, going through this process will help train you to think quickly and help provide you with resources to pull from in your answers. Whether you’re entering the field for the first time or looking to change things up, here’s how you can prepare for your next interview. 

Prepare For Your Interview

Once you have a date and time set, you may feel anxious. Every interview is an opportunity to change your life, so it’s understandable to be nervous, as well as excited. Although there’s no way to know for sure how the interview will go, there are still many steps you can take beforehand to help you feel confident walking in.

Track Your Job Applications

You more than likely have filled out many applications in your search for a new job. As you fill out applications, keep track of the job descriptions and where to find them. You may even want to take a screenshot or copy and paste the information into a document for future reference. 

When you hear back, make sure you know exactly which company it is that wants to interview you. Be sure to ask which position you’re interviewing for if you applied for multiple positions at that company. Once the interview details are set and you’re off the initial call, pull up the job description to review it. While you do so, look for these key points:

  • Preferred qualifications (degrees or experience)
  • Skills and responsibilities that are specific to the job
  • Information about the company
  • Employment details (which shifts, benefits, and offered pay)

Knowing this information in advance will help you prepare answers for possible questions. For example, if there’s a skill listed that you aren’t familiar with or haven’t used in a long time, it’s not necessarily a make-or-break situation. If you can give concrete examples demonstrating that you’re a fast learner, or have had a similar experience, then you can use these examples to substitute that skill.

Research the Company

Many job postings will include a brief description of the company. Companies want the best employees, so these postings show job applicants why they should apply. Some interviewers will test your knowledge of the company and why you want a job there. Whether the information is in the posting, still take a look at the company’s website and familiarize yourself with the company’s mission statement and values. 

While you’re at it, do a quick Google search of the company name if you haven’t already. It’s fairly common for interviewers to do an internet search for potential hires, and you can do the same. Look for any news articles or announcements that talk about them. For many companies, you won’t find much, but larger organizations will often be in the local or even national news. At the very least, a basic internet search will show you if there are any known issues with the company. 

What to Bring to a Health Care Job Interview

Most of the time you won’t be asked to bring or prepare anything for your interview, but it’s still best practice to come over-prepared. You should have a hardcopy of your resume, references, and any other relevant documents — if the application asked for it, be sure to bring it. 

Your documents don’t have to be printed on anything fancier than normal printer paper, but just having a hardcopy can be a great resource during an interview. Sometimes hiring managers run out of time to print off your resume, or there may be several staff members interviewing you and might want to look over your resume, as well. It’s also good to have a copy for yourself to reference should you receive a direct question. The interviewers have likely looked at many resumes before your interview and will likely look at many after, so make it easy on yourself and them. This leaves the impression that you are prepared for anything.

References are especially important. In such a people-focused field, references from trusted acquaintances can be the difference between getting hired and being passed over. Even if the people who interviewed you loved you during the interview, they’ll often want to double-check your references before they extend a job offer.

Plan to Dress Appropriately

Interviewers are already deciding if you’re a good candidate the moment they see you waiting in the lobby long before they start asking any interview questions. Wear clean and professional clothing — even though you may be wearing scrubs on the job — as now is the time to break out the rest of your wardrobe. 

It doesn’t have to be a suit or a dress unless you feel that’s what the company would expect. These options might be appropriate if you’re applying for a high-level position like an administrator, or you simply feel comfortable wearing one. Normally, a nice button-up dress shirt, slacks, and dress shoes are more than enough so long as your outfit fits right, looks clean, and looks neat. Keep accessories to a minimum so you won’t be tempted to fiddle with them out of nervousness.  

Whatever you wear, or decide to accessorize or do hair and makeup, make sure you’re comfortable sitting and talking for several hours. Your clothing, hair, and makeup should serve the purpose of making you feel confident while sending the message that you are professional and serious about getting the job.

Understand the Types of Interviews

When most people think of interviews, they probably think of the standard one-on-one interview with a future manager. Nowadays, and especially in people-oriented positions like the health care field, that isn’t always the case. Depending on the facility and the job, you may be walking into any of these types of interviews:

  • Group interviews. A group interview is where the company invites multiple applicants to interview in a group at the same time. These are normally for entry-level positions, and many interviewers are interested in seeing who are the most active participants out of the group. You don’t want to be too outspoken that you drown out other people, but you still want to speak up enough that you leave a good impression.
  • The first of a series. With series interviews, you and other applicants will have private interviews first. Then the company narrows down the applicant field and advances only the people they’re interested in for future, more detailed interviews. These future interviews are sometimes with the same staff, but can also include higher-level administrators. Series interviews are normally for higher-level positions where several rounds of interviews are necessary. 
  • One-on-one interviews. These are usually with your potential supervisor. One-on-one interviews are most common in entry-level positions, but it’s also not unusual to have a panel-type of interview, instead.
  • Panel interview. This is an interview where you are talking to several people simultaneously. These interviews frequently include administrative staff or even other coworkers. The goal is to make sure you’re a good fit as you would interact with not just your supervisor or hiring manager, but also other staff.

For some entry-level jobs, like certified nursing assistants applying into a hospital system for the first time, you may even be asked to complete a quick test. This is most common in a group interview. Many of these positions have a lot of people applying for them, and interviewers sometimes look for quick ways — like a test — to sort through applicants. In these cases, the test will consist of several questions regarding scenarios you’ll likely see on the job.

Most of the time, the person who calls you to set up the interview will tell you what type of interview to expect. If they don’t, don’t be afraid to ask.

Your preparation before the interview date and time doesn’t stop there, though. Now it’s time to talk about how you can prepare to answer the interview questions themselves and the different techniques you can use to your best self forward and build confidence in tackling any question the interview throws at you.