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nurse interview

Whether you are applying for a nursing job for the first time, or are moving to a different position, the job interview will always be nerve-wracking and exciting.

However, there are some practical steps you can take to prepare yourself for that interview. And again, the same applies whether you’re a seasoned veteran, or fresh out of nursing school.

Let’s take a look.

On the days up to the interview

interview nursing sleep

Being prepared, means you need to ensure you give yourself plenty of time to get things in order.

This means you should be taking care of the aspects of your interview you have control of, while you can.

So what would these be?

The way you look and feel

Well, in my opinion, a big step to feeling confident is to be happy with the way you look. For an interview, that first impression goes a long way. Here’s what you can do:

  • Take a visit to the salon or barbers a few days before.
  • Check the outfit you will be wearing. It might have been some time since you last wore your most appropriate formal clothes. Make sure they are clean and still fit.
  • If you need a new outfit for interviews, go out and buy it
  • For guys, trim and tidy the beard if you have one and take care of the grooming.

You want to look sharp, confident, and clean. This is something you have complete control of as you walk into the interview room, so make sure you have it in order.

This also means no reckless nights out on the run-up to your interview. You want to be well-rested, and certainly do not want to be hungover.

Your brain will need to be firing on all cylinders to answer the interview questions to the best of your ability. Do not jeopardize this by being physically and mentally exhausted before you go in.

Practice your interview technique

interview nursing

There are a number of websites online that provide lists of questions you might potentially be asked in a nursing interview.

Even if you don’t use these, there are more general interview questions that are likely to arrive, (such as being asked to talk about your previous nursing experience, or what are your strengths and weaknesses, and what could you bring to the role, etc).

Practice your answers to questions such as this. Ensure that you can reel off aspects of your experience, and achievements.

You should also practice answering questions related to a work context, (how would you handle a patient that is drunk and being verbally abusive for instance).

Being able to shape your answers so that you are able to demonstrate your knowledge and skills within the context the interviewee is asking, will definitely put you in good stead.

To really take this practice to the next level, write out a series of questions and then ask a family member or friend to ask you them randomly in a sit-down, face-to-face situation, (i.e attempt to replicate the interview environment).

Record yourself (if you feel it won’t do more damage than good in terms of your confidence), and go through the footage to see where you might make adjustments to your verbal manner and body language as well as the nature of your responses.

On the day

nurse interview traffic

It is the morning of the day of your interview, make sure you are up and ready with a good time.

Eat a good breakfast if you can stomach it, and then ensure you do the following:

Have a copy of your resume in your folder

This may seem a little old school in times of emails, pdfs, and smartphones, however, I think it is good practice (I am over 50) to have some hard copies of your resume in your folder.

Although the interviewer may have an electronic copy, if you can offer a hard copy as the interview begins, this will look professional and will show you are prepared.

Not only that, but it also means they’ll be a physical copy of your resume on their desk to keep you fresh in their mind.

Bring your nursing portfolio

A nursing portfolio is a more thorough document than a resume that details your experiences and qualifications. It will contain information and proof regarding your status as a qualified nurse, with details of any other relevant achievements.

Ensure that your nurses’ portfolio is up to date and also with you when you arrive at the interview.

Leave home with plenty of time to spare

If you live in a big city and gave to rely on public transport or drive in heavy traffic, make sure you leave with more than enough time for all eventualities.

It is much better to arrive early and go to a local cafe to go through your resume one last time than it is to arrive late and come panting into the interview on the back foot from the start.

In the interview

nurse interview

Interview etiquette is generally common sense, to be honest.

You need to be polite and show courtesy. When you shake the hands of those in the interview room, do so with a smile, firm hand, and with confidence.

Let them lead the interview in terms of “take a seat” etc. Before the interview begins you can ask them if they would like a copy of the resume and portfolio that you brought along with you.

Once the questions begin, your practice from before will hopefully come into its own.

Take your time, don’t rush answers, and also don’t be afraid to take a short pause to process the question before you jump into your reply.

It doesn’t help to ramble just to fill “dead air”.

The interview will likely cover both general questions where you will be able to cover the subject more conversationally.

There will also be areas where straight answers will be required. It is important here not to lie, or cover-up. If you do not know something, or your memory fails you on a particular fact, be honest about it.

Articulate yourself as best as you can. Sit up straight in the interview chair, and if there is more than one person, address all of them during your answers.

Being warm throughout is another good way of going about this too. You are aiming to get a job as a nurse. The healthcare environment needs warm people, that’s why you applied for this in the first place.

At the end of the interview and you will be given a chance to ask any questions. Only do so, if you have something relevant to ask. Don’t ask a nonsense question, just because you feel you should ask something, anything!

When it is time to leave, shake hands again, and thank those present for their time.

Follow up the interview

It is a good idea to follow up the interview by contacting the HR department or directly with the interviewer, a few days after the event. Do this with a polite email, thanking them again for the opportunity of the interview, how you remain very interested in the position and if they have any follow-up questions or any other information they might need from you.

This, once again, shows your professionalism, your interest in the role, and another reminder that you are available.

About Hannah Drake

Hannah Drake, RN, CSP is a registered nurse and owner and founder of Nurse Focus. Her nursing career spans almost two decades, and in that time she has developed her skill base across a variety of settings, including med surg nursing, clinical informatics system administration and implementation, and healthcare community management. Contact Hannah.

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