nurse interview questions - Nursing Interviews Decoded - What About Job Details?

Nursing Interviews Decoded – Part 6: What About Job Details?

The questions that typically come at the end of the interview can either be the easiest or the most difficult to know how to answer. Once the interviewer gets to know you and how you work, they’ll have a pretty good idea if they’re going to consider hiring you.

Now the interviewer wants to know if what you want out of a job is something they can give you. If it is, you’re more likely to stay long-term. If it isn’t, well, you’re likely to leave quickly. 

Interviewers almost always walk into the hiring process with a set idea of what they want out of a new employee. Just like buying a car, they’ve looked at their needs, checked what fits in the budget, and have a rough visual of what they want. Sometimes, the job description or the interview will tell you what they want. Other times, you just have to figure out the best way for you to answer the most common questions in this category.

Availability

If your expectations don’t line up with the company’s or vice versa, they could prove to be a dealbreaker. One of those deal-breaking expectations could be your availability.

When answering availability questions, be honest. Be upfront. Unless asked, don’t provide details the interviewer doesn’t need. If you aren’t sure about something, such as how much advance notice you’ll need to give your current employer, tell the interviewer you’ll find out and get back to them.

What shifts are you available to work?

Most of the time, the job posting will list which shifts the company is hiring for. But sometimes, interviewers will ask this question anyway. Why? Well, they might have multiple job postings for the same position but different shifts that they’re hiring and interviewing for simultaneously. 

Or, more commonly, they might want to make note of your preferences in case the current shift opening isn’t what you want. When a position that better fits what you want opens up, they can call you and offer it. This is especially common in larger organizations, like staffing agencies or hospitals. Why go through the trouble of opening job postings again when you can look at people you’ve already interviewed?

When answering this question, be honest, just like with any other question. If you find out they’re mostly hiring for a part-time graveyard shift, but you need a full-time day shift, now’s the time to say so. But, do so politely and professionally, even if there was a misunderstanding over what shift or position you were interviewing for. If this company is on your short-list of “best companies to work for,” then you don’t want to burn this bridge.

Can you work on weekends?

Depending on the facility, you might be expected to work alternating weekend shifts. It’s a fairly common expectation in the medical field where patients get sick and need treatment no matter what time of the day or week it is. If it’s a facility open every day of the year, alternating weekends keeps it fair for all employees. 

This is another question where you should be professional and honest. You don’t want to say something you don’t mean and have an employer think you’d lied to get the job.

When can you start?

The answer to this question should be one you decided long before walking into the interview. You may have it figured out even before you’ve started applying for jobs. 

In general, if you have a current job, you’ll want to give your employer time to be able to figure out how to fill the shifts and responsibilities that you’re leaving behind. A common amount of time is about two weeks from when you accept a new job offer. If your job requires more time, know what that time period is before you go to an interview. You don’t want to have to walk back what you’ve already told an interviewer and make yourself look bad.

In almost every circumstance, you don’t want to leave your former employer high and dry. Who knows if you’ll need them as a reference or apply for a job with them again in the future. And, showing you’re still considerate of your former employer’s staffing needs is a good sign to the interviewer that you take your job commitments seriously.

If you don’t have a current job, then how soon you want to start a new job is up to you and the employer. You can ask the interviewer when they want or need you to start, or you can tell them you’re available immediately. 

Compensation

Ah, yes. Everyone’s favorite type of question — how much do you want the job to pay you?

You might have had this question in the job application process, so you may already have an answer. During interviews, this question almost always appears at the end, especially if there wasn’t a salary range offered in the job description. Be prepared, as it can be one of the more difficult questions for some nurses to know how to answer. 

There are a lot of reasons why you might struggle to answer this question. Many of us have been conditioned not to talk about our salary with others, or we might not have much or any experience with negotiation. On the one hand, you don’t want to ruin your chances by asking too much, but you also don’t want to miss out on making what you’re worth by asking too little. Salary negotiation can be tough. In any negotiation, you usually don’t want to be the first one to say a number, but the interviewer often doesn’t want to say the number first, either.

What are you looking for in terms of salary?

There are a few factors that go into figuring out how to answer this question.

Look up what nurses normally make in your city. Take into consideration your experience, the position and specialty you’re applying for, and the cost of living for the area. For example, maybe nurses in your area make higher than the national average because the cost of living is higher. Living in a large city with a lot of competition could also make salary averages higher.

Also, try to learn about the company. Maybe they’re well-known for offering extremely generous benefits but pay on the low end of average as a result. You can find this information using several sources, like the company’s website or a job board. You can also check out general job sites. Look at what other companies are offering for similar jobs in your area and figure out the average range. You’ll want to ask for the higher end of that range, even if you think at first that it’s too much to ask for. 

There’s really no harm to aiming high so long as you make it clear you’re willing to be flexible and are interested in the job. If you state that your price is negotiable and you come across as flexible, then if you fit all the job’s requirements and they want to hire you, they’ll work with you to negotiate down to a salary that works for you both.