Preparing For An RN Job Interview

This article outlines tips on how to best prepare for an RN interview, in addition to giving some advice on things to avoid during an interview. Nurses Job Hunt Article

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Preparing For An RN Job Interview

You've just heard back from a job you applied for and scheduled an interview.  You have no idea how many candidates there are for the position or how many they are interviewing, but you want to make sure you stand out as the best candidate. There are many things you can do, and things you shouldn't do that will make you stand out.

How Do You Prepare For Possible Responses To Questions?

When you are preparing for an interview, try to think of questions that they may ask you. Things like, what are your strengths, what are your weaknesses, give an example of how you displayed teamwork, etc. In a professional binder, write down some notes of things you may want to use during the interview. Make a list of your strengths to highlight and then a list of your weaknesses along with what you are doing to improve them. Think back to your experiences that are applicable to the position you are applying for, and write some notes down about the examples you can use that may be applicable during the interview. It's okay during the interview to leave this open in front of you to either take notes during the interview or glance down at your notes in case your nerves get the best of you and you suddenly can't remember your examples.

How Do You Practice Potential Responses?

Practice your potential responses ahead of time. You can do this by standing in front of the mirror and rehearsing the examples you've thought of ahead of time. You may also choose to ask someone to do a mock interview with you. This will help calm your nerves on the day of the interview and allow your answers to be more polished.

How Do You Dress to Impress?

Dress in business professional attire. This means that all cleavage and cracks should be appropriately covered. You should be well groomed with no heavy perfumes or cologne. If you choose to wear make-up, it should be light and not excessive. Some jewelry is okay, but nothing that is too big and distracting. You don't want to stand out because of how you look; you should stand out because of the well-prepared responses you give during the interview that show your experiences and hard work ethic make you the best person for the position.

How Do You Get To The Job Interview On Time?

It's always a good idea to drive to the location of the interview prior to the day of, especially if you aren't familiar with the area. Try to drive to the interview location during the same time of day you would be driving the day of your interview. This will help you determine if there is any heavy traffic that you need to consider leaving earlier for or if there is any construction that you need to be aware of. It is always better to be early than to be late. If you arrive late to an interview, the employer may not even interview you. Being late to the interview gives the impression that you will also be late for your shifts and are unreliable.

How Do You Prepare For Questions to Ask?

After they've asked you all of their questions, they will likely give you an opportunity to ask them questions. Make sure you prepare questions to ask them ahead of time instead of not asking them anything at all. This shows you are really interested in the position.

Some questions that you may consider asking:

  • What are some quality improvement initiatives that your team has been working on? OR What are the current goals of the unit/department?
  • What has the turnover been on this unit/department? (High turnover is a red flag, and if it is high, ask why people are leaving)
  • How do you onboard new employees?
  • What challenges has your unit/department been facing recently?
  • What's different from working here than anywhere else you've worked?
  •  What do you enjoy most about working here? (Ask each person to go around the room to answer this question)
  • What learning and development opportunities will I have in this role?
  • What have successful employees moved onto?
  • What are the next steps in the hiring process?

There are also questions that you should avoid asking in an interview. While it may be important for you to know what the starting salary is or how much vacation time you have, especially if you already have a trip planned, these are questions that you should wait to ask HR after you've received an offer. If you do have a trip or medical leave already planned, you can let your employer know after you've accepted the position so they can work out the logistics of that with you.

Here are some questions to avoid asking during the interview:

  • What is the starting salary?
  • How much vacation and sick time do I get and how soon can I use it?
  • What are your paid leave policies?
  • What is your late policy?

How Do You Follow Up with a Thank You?

After the interview, send a follow-up thank you email to the interview committee. In this thank you, thank them for the time they spent with you, reiterate why you are excited about this position and why you think you would be a great fit, and let them know you are looking forward to hearing back from them. If you don't have the contact information for everyone on the interview committee, you can email your HR contact and ask them to please forward it to the interview committee.


38 Smart Questions to Ask in a Job Interview

I've been a nurse since 2008 and have a variety of experiences in my nursing career. Currently, I've been a nurse educator at a technical college where I teach. One of the courses I teach is Management and Professional Concepts. In this course, the students learn about how to prepare for their first interviews and create a cover letter and portfolio. Much of what I wrote in this article comes directly from my personal experiences in conducting interviews and teaching students.

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