How to Prepare for Your Interview

It's crucial to prepare for your interview. You have one shot to stand out from all the others with the same degree. The candidate who interviews well gets the job. Preparing for an interview is on par with preparing for the NCLEX. Passing the NCLEX is too important to leave to chance, right? So is getting a job. Prepare and practice until you feel confident that you can successfully and positively answer anything they may ask. Nurses Job Hunt Article


How to Prepare for Your Interview

Your Interview Goals

Be focused and know what you need to accomplish during your interview. Your goals are to:

  • Be memorable and to stand out
  • Convince them that you are the best fit for the job

Three winning Points

Have three or four stories about yourself at the ready. The stories are designed to highlight your best qualities and can be tweaked when used as answers to typical interview questions.

Identify your best points ahead of time and pick three or four.

These are characteristics you know to be true about yourself, so it's easy to be genuine when you speak to them. Your winning points may be: "I'm a people person/supportive/loyal"

Next flesh each one out with an example.

I love to help people. In my class one of my classmates was pregnant and delivered early. The baby had problems and had to stay in the NICU. I organized a meal delivery service from us for her husband and other child for two weeks.We texted her a prayer every morning and later she told me that it was the kindest thing anyone had done for her in her life.

Stories are remembered.

Your goal is to communicate your three winning points during the interview. For example, you can do this when they ask "Tell us about yourself", or "Is there anything else you'd like us to know?" Look for an opportunity.

Now you are memorable.

Behavioral Questions

In addition, expect to be asked some version of "Tell us about a time you disagreed with your supervisor....resolved a conflict with a coworker...were given an assignment you felt was unfair.."

Pull from your experiences at a previous job, or from school.

Have at least one example ready that could speak to conflict resolution and one to illustrate customer satisfaction (an important concern for healthcare employers now).

If you've never worked, use examples from your life archives.

Know the Organization

The prepared candidate knows the organization. Know the mission statement, major service lines, community involvement. Don't recite the mission statement back to them, it will be seen as contrived.

The purpose is to understand what differentiates them from other organizations, and to show that you're a good fit.

If possible, talk to some employees. "What does the hospital pride itself on?" "How does the hospital characterize itself?" "What do you like about working here?"

New Grad

It's not necessary to spend time studying up on your clinical specialty. They are not going to quiz you on your understanding of the Kreb Cycle. They know you are new and lack experience. They will teach you what you need to know. Any clinical questions they ask will be designed to see if you are safe and if you ask for help.

They are looking for loyal, safe, teachable nurses who are a good fit for their organization.


Many new grads amass multiple certifications in the hopes of enhancing their resume. If a certification is required for your job, your employer will provide it for you, along with any other training.

The value of having pertinent certifications is not that it shows expertise; certifications without clinical experience are not in themselves impressive.

Acquiring certifications shows initiative, and that's where you may score a point. All things being equal, the candidate with certifications may look better on paper than the one without.

I say "may" because not all managers put stock in having pre-emptive certifications that they plan to provide anyway.

First Impression

You have 30 minutes tops to make an impression. You need to make every minute count, verbally and non-verbally. First impressions carry an enormous amount of weight.

What kind of first impression do you project? Ask a few trusted people who know you well. Do you come across as open, warm, friendly? Genuine? Your body language is talking. Your facial expression, handshake, eye contact, posture must all be congruent.

If you suffer from interview anxiety, start finding ways to control your interview jitters now. Freezing up and going blank or rambling during an interview will not help your cause.

Being prepared will boost your confidence.

Finally, relax and be your authentic self. You want to come across as spontaneous, not reheorificed. Remind yourself that they picked you to interview from many others! They already like you and want to get to know you.

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Career Columnist / Author

Hi! Nice to meet you! I especially love helping new nurses. I am currently a nurse writer with a background in Staff Development, Telemetry and ICU.

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Specializes in NICU, Infection Control.

When I think back on my first nursing job interview, it may be a miracle I got hired. I was well-dressed and very enthusiastic. She asked me about nsg sch, what model we had used, how much clinical experience I had, jobs I'd had before and during school. I had gone to a hospital diploma school, so I'd had plenty of patient care experience!

The areas I in which I wanted to work were not available, so I asked the interviewer: "Well, I like nearly everything. what positions do you have open?" She listed several options, one was a job on a Surgical floor that took care of Cardio-thoracic pts and renal transplants (this was 1968, they had done ONE thus far!!)

My response: "I don't know anything about THAT, can I work there?" She hired me!! :nurse:

This is a great article, I have an interview coming up in two days on a surgical unit, super nervous. I still have doubts about how to answer the "Tell me about yourself" question without rambling (i'm a pro at rambling when nervous), I may have to type up something to remember. Thanks Nurse Beth!:)

Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development.
Fancypants09 said:
This is a great article, I have an interview coming up in two days on a surgical unit, super nervous. I still have doubts about how to answer the "Tell me about yourself" question without rambling (I'm a pro at rambling when nervous), I may have to type up something to remember. Thanks Nurse Beth!:)

I know, I'm a rambler when I'm nervous. Or a gusher, even worse!

But try this - have 3 things about yourself you want to tell them. For example, reliable, people person, loyal. Then tell them: 1, 2, 3. You're done. Practice ahead of time to appear spontaneous and unreheorificed, but get your 3 points across.

Add a short example to illustrate, as in "I worked an entire year with no sick days"

Also -it's OK to bring notes and glance at them.

Best wishes