There’s a strategy for answering questions during an interview. Just like nurses prepare and strategize on how to complete their responsibilities during school or on the job, you can do the same type of preparations before you go to an interview.
As part of the before-interview preparation covered in the previous chapter, learning the best strategies and tips on how to answer questions, in general, can help prepare you with the confidence to answer any question the interviewer throws at you.
What to Say in a Nursing Interview
There isn’t any way to tell exactly what sort of questions an interviewer will ask you. Sometimes, they’ll skill questions you’ve already mostly answered with other answers. Other times, the interviewer will adjust the questions based on what you tell them throughout the interview.
However, the way you answer questions can be something you practice ahead of time. There are several strategies to keep in mind when you’re preparing for an interview and practicing how to answer questions.
You may have heard the phrases, “actions speak louder than words” or “show don’t tell.” People tend to remember stories better than straight facts. Stories also have the added benefit of showing an interviewer more than one of your positive traits at a time.
“I’m a good team player” may answer the question, but anyone could say that. If you have a story to back up that statement, it makes your answer stronger and more memorable when the interviewer thinks about you after you’ve left.
Example: In one of my previous jobs, I worked with several people who had been in that specialty for almost a decade — much longer than I had. They were often difficult to get along with, but they also knew a lot more than me and were very skilled. I never hesitated to ask when I needed to for the sake and safety of our patients. In return, they were always willing to answer any of my questions or help me when I asked.
An experience-based answer like that not only sticks out in the interviewer’s mind, but it also tells the interviewer several of your other attributes. You’re showing that you’re interested in whatever is best for your patients. You won’t let pride or personal issues get in the way of learning more or providing the best care.
On that note, if you’re fresh out of school and haven’t had much working experience in the field you’re applying for, you still likely have many experiences you can use from school or previous jobs. Use what you have, don’t make up stories!
When you do discuss experiences from your past, speak positively about them. Don’t talk negatively about your previous or current management or shifts. That’s part of being professional with your answers.
If you’re talking bad about your previous manager, how do these interviewers know you won’t just do the same about your new manager? This doesn’t mean you should lie about previous jobs you hated, but if the topic does come up, avoid the temptation to start talking about everything you hate.
Answer the “Why”
Interviewers want to know why you want to work for them specifically, not just any other unit in that specialty. When you craft your answers, remember that you need to try to show that you’ve done your research on that company. Even if you “mass applying” to any interesting-sounding job is closer to the truth, you’ll want to be prepared to talk about why you applied for this specific position.
Know your audience, and then use your time wisely to show your interviewers why you’re there. Is the company well known in the field? Did a former employee recommend the company to you? Does the company obviously care about their employees?
Be Aware of Your Body Language
Body language is just as important as the words you use when you answer questions. It’s normal to be nervous in new situations like an interview, but if your body language shows just how nervous you are, the interviewer will notice. Your jitters could affect how they view and remember you, whether they consciously realize it or not. Sit up straight, stay aware of how you move, and watch where you focus your gaze.
Nervous people often fidget, and if you fidget a lot, that can be distracting to you and the interviewer. Make a conscious effort to be aware of what your hands or feet are doing during the interview. If you tap your fingers or your feet when you’re nervous, practice holding your hands together or crossing your ankles. Do whatever it takes to keep them occupied.
If you find yourself with too much nervous energy, take some deep breaths and channel that energy into something else, like actively listening to the interviewer when they ask questions. You can do this before you even go into the interview. Try some relaxing breathing exercises or try to blow off extra energy beforehand.
Some people find it uncomfortable to look a stranger in the face while talking to them. But, looking away too much while holding a conversation sends the impression that you’re either not confident, or you’re just not paying attention. You don’t need to stare directly into someone’s eyes during a conversation, but keep your gaze on their face. Move your eyes from point-to-point on their face if you need to and look away when you naturally would, like when gesturing during talking or laughing.
Practice Your Nursing Interview
Interviewing is a skill, and like any other skill, it can get better with practice. If you feel like interviewing is your weakness, or you just want to feel more confident walking into one, then there are different practice techniques you can try.
If you are still in school, your university or college may offer mock interviews at their career center. Even if you aren’t still in school, many community colleges or technical schools may offer mock interviews to the community. If you’re having trouble getting a job and think the interview is what’s holding you back, you may want to look into mock interviews.
In these interviews, a staff member will act like an interviewer and ask you questions. They record the entire interview, and then usually you and a staff member will go through the recording to give you advice. This could be as simple as pointing out how much you might fidget with jewelry or a more in-depth critique of how to better answer questions.
If you can’t find a professional mock interview resource near you, you can always do it yourself. Ask a family member or friend to go through several common questions practice how and what you answer. You can even set up a camera or cell phone to record it. After you’re done, watch the recording and see what you think needs to change or ask the person who interviewed you if they have any suggestions.
Practice on Your Own
Perhaps you don’t have the time or opportunity to practice an interview with someone. In these cases, there’s always you. You can either record a video of yourself asking questions out loud, or just use a mirror to rehearse. While practicing, watch for how well you keep eye contact or keep from fidgeting.
It might seem awkward or strange at first, but practicing will help you solidify best practices — just like how repetition on the job helps you memorize skills!
In the next part of this series, we’ll start delving into specific questions you might be asked during the interview, starting with the personal questions interviewers use to get to know you better.