Nursing Interview Tips for Millennials, Gen Xers, and Everyone Else

By | 2022-09-22T13:31:52-04:00 December 3rd, 2021|Tags: |10 Comments

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.

Learn how to expand your education with the Schools Directory.

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.


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Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN
Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN, is founder and CEO of the Forum for Shared Governance and a former editor for As a presenter at professional conferences, Hess often addresses participants on how to find the right job and steps for building a successful career.


  1. Avatar
    Rebecca Raynes May 28, 2017 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    This is a great article. It would be wonderful to see a similar article for more “seasoned” nurses looking to find new and creative ways to expand their horizons.

    As an RN with over 32 years experience and a Family Nurse Practitioner with over 21 years of experience I am looking for different ways in which to “practice” such as consulting, marketing, or entrepreneurship and am looking for guidance in this.

    Thank you.


    • Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN
      Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN May 29, 2017 at 1:29 pm - Reply

      Rebecca — You gave me a great idea, and that is to write a blog about how seasoned nurses can capitalize on their backgrounds when going into an interview. Meanwhile, I will write another blog in the future that addresses the options that are open to seasoned nurses.

      Thanks for the ideas.

      Dr Bob, RN

  2. Avatar
    Erin Ollila June 2, 2017 at 11:20 am - Reply

    This is a great collection of nurse interview blogs tips. I have never read any posts from any of these sites and that’s going to change now.

    • Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN
      Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN June 5, 2017 at 8:22 pm - Reply

      Erin — Thanks for such positive feedback on this interview blog. I have a second part that I am writing that will address the areas that needs to be covered about the interviewing organization and the job. And I welcome your comments, positive or otherwise.

      Thanks again. My head is swelling now (my wife calls me the inflatable sometimes, when I can’t get my head through the door).

      Dr Bob, RN

  3. Avatar
    maryjane June 20, 2017 at 7:18 am - Reply

    thank you for sharing.

    • Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN
      Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN June 20, 2017 at 1:43 pm - Reply

      My pleasure, Maryjane.

      Dr Bob, RN

  4. Interview to knock their socks off! | | Blog July 7, 2017 at 4:20 pm - Reply

    […] In today’s highly competitive job market, you’’ve got to be one of the best, if not ““The Best,”” candidate for any job you go after. There’’s no room for mediocrity. So, how can you position yourself ahead of the competition on your next interview? Follow these tried-and-true techniques, and move forward for career success. […]

    • Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN
      Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN July 11, 2017 at 1:39 pm - Reply

      This is certainly one of our best vintage blogs on interviewing.

      Dr Bob, RN

  5. Avatar
    Karen Honstein July 9, 2017 at 5:16 pm - Reply

    Dr Bob, thank you for the great selection of articles. Question: have you completed the second part or advise on when you anticipate you will? Secondly, will it be sent to us similarly as the first? I would hate to miss it! Again thank you for sharing, Karen Honstein

    • Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN
      Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN July 11, 2017 at 1:32 pm - Reply

      Karen — That’s for the great feedback. The second part of my blog on interviewing is posted. Thanks for reading and responding.

      Dr Bob, RN

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