I’ve seen my share of job candidates that seemed perfect on paper, but failed to distinguish themselves from other candidates. But how do you set yourself apart from all the others? Here are my nursing interview tips, which can help you get the job you want.
Be a “Jen,” not a “Nancy,” During Interview
Before a word was spoken or attire evaluated, the two (fictional) new graduate nurses seemed to be identical job candidates. Both Jen and Nancy graduated with BSNs and 4.0 GPAs. They both had extensive experience as volunteers, nursing assistants and interns. There wasn’t an obvious difference between them as far as education milestones and grades were concerned. But during the nursing job interview, Jen was a career-seeking missile, while Nancy conveyed that she was simply ready to be employed. Hence, one of my favorite nursing interview tips is to be a Jen, not a Nancy.
Jen was ready to convince the recruiter how the organization couldn’t live without her — with a display of confidence, not arrogance, of course. During her interview, Jen presented herself as a bright, compassionate new nurse with goals and vision. The recruiter thoroughly enjoyed her conversation with Jen and discovered that she liked her a lot. The recruiter resolved to find a job for this nurse somewhere in the organization because she was convinced that Jen would be a valuable team member.
On the other hand, Nancy had little to say during her interview — outside of responding to the usual questions — and the recruiter was happy when the session was over.
Nurses looking for the right jobs need to become the same expert communicators at job interviews that they are at the bedside.
They need to rehearse for interviews like they would for the performance of their lives. Those who have practiced for meetings with prospective employers present themselves as polished professionals, rather than another Nancy nurse.
Remember, no one ever gets a second chance to make a first impression. Don’t be afraid to use or take notes during the interview; but on the other hand, maintain eye contact, and speak conversationally.
Besides getting every interviewing basic right, you need to stand out from all of the other equally qualified, credentialed candidate to get the job you’re seeking.
A Few Interviewing Essentials to Keep in Mind
This one key piece of advice I always share is to figure out how to get the interviewer to like you. In “Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing,” Henry Beckworth relates an interview with Meryl Streep in which she said, “I really did believe that life would be like college, but it isn’t. Life is like high school.” And what she meant was the sheer technical competence you learn in college or nursing school will not ensure your success.
People hire people they like. Your success in an interview will have a lot to do with your personality. Professionalism is important, but being personable is as significant a factor in getting hiring.
Given equally smart, experienced, and credentialed professionals, managers will hire the more personable candidate. You know how to strike an immediate rapport with a new patient at the start of a 12-hour shift; apply the same techniques to interviewing.
Other points that will ensure a successful, effective interview include:
♦ Bring written questions to keep your discussion on track, and remember not to talk too much or too little.
♦ Bring letters of appreciation from patients or volunteer activities, awards, or documentation of events that make you stand out from the crowd.
♦ Establish real closure to the interview, so there is no ambiguity about the next steps. For example, ask who will get back to whom and when.
♦ When the interview is over, don’t forget to send a personal thank you note that very night.
♦ Keep a detailed spreadsheet of places you’ve interviewed and people you’ve networked with.
♦ Learn to be likable. Each interviewer is looking for someone he or she likes. If you are talking 50% more than the interviewer, say less. If the interviewer is talking with enthusiasm, reflect the same vitality by interjecting life into your conversation. Each interviewer has personality preferences just like each candidate has personality preferences. The better you relate to the interviewer, the better the experience. If the interviewer is comfortable, the interview may last longer and leave a better impression. Overselling may work with a sales-type personality, but may work against you in an interview in which a recruiter is seeking a demure, professional presentation from an understated candidate.
Nursing Interview Tips From Real Recruiters
For my Career Fitness presentations to the students at the National Student Nurses Association’s annual conference I often called my nurse recruiter friends for an update on their perspective of the job market in their area and nationally and for their own nursing interview tips. Here are some their tips.
♦ Be on time. That means being too early is as bad as being too late. Just show up when you were asked to be there.
♦ Conservative dress is still a must. One of my recruiter friends reminds us a job interview is not an appropriate time for a bare midriff. Show your personal style with accents rather than a head-to-toe statement. A scarf, tie, or pair of shoes provides a way to display personality, while keeping the rest of your look conservative. The rule is simple: You do not want to be remembered from an encounter like this for you what you wore.
♦ No flip-flops or distressed jeans.
♦ Lose the Bluetooth.
♦ Know that there is a very good chance that the interviewer has Googled you and visited your LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, and Twitter sites (which should only have content that you are reasonably comfortable with a prospective employer viewing).
♦ Be aware that the recruiter may not be a nurse. Sometimes the whole hiring process is outsourced to an outside agency.
♦ Be prepared to be tested, and we’re not talking about drug testing, but rather your knowledge.
Some of these nursing interview tips may seem obvious, but they are valuable points to keep in mind. After all, you don’t want to lose out on a job because you made an avoidable mistake.
Take a good look at your excellent self, and walk into the interview with confidence that you have done everything that you could to ensure a positive result — a job offer at best, a second interview at the very least.
An interview in itself is success because not everyone gets one. Keep that in mind. This is your time. Own it.
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Courses Related to ‘Career Advice’
CE140-60: Interviewing for Career Advancement (1 contact hr)
The goal of this continuing education program is to enhance nurses’ ability to prepare for and participate in job interviews. It explains strategies for preparing for an interview, including selecting the best responses to typical interview questions.
CE166-60: Networking for Career Advancement (1 contact hr)
The goal of this program is to enhance nurses’ skills in professional networking to keep their career development strategies robust. It outlines steps for face-to-face networking and identifies four potential resources to contact for networking.
CE691: Social Media (1 contact hr)
The goal of this continuing education program is to inform nurses about how to use social media to enhance their careers. It describes how social media can have a positive impact on your career and also identifies ways to avoid career damage with social media.