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How to Sell Yourself in a Nursing Job Interview

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Nurses work hard to earn the credentials necessary to launch what can be a very lucrative, rewarding career. But the hard work doesn’t end after you’ve passed your boards. To ace a nursing job interview, you’ll need to study common nursing interview questions and answers, refresh your memory on what you learned in school and know your own worth to the facility where you’ll potentially be working.

Selling Yourself in Nursing Interview

If you have an interview for a nursing position coming up, you’re understandably nervous. You worked hard to earn the education and licensing necessary to qualify for the position, but you’ll still be hired based on how you do in a job interview. The fact that your application impressed the facility enough to call you in for an interview is a good sign, but you’ll still have to convince them you’re the right fit.

The best way to give yourself an advantage over the competition is to prepare in advance. That includes fully understanding what you bring to the position, as well as researching the position, facility and your interviewer. Role-playing various nursing interview scenarios and answers during the days leading up to the interview can also help.

Inventorying Your Assets

To sell yourself to someone else, you first have to believe in your own worth. Take a look at all of your accomplishments and feel proud of them. Achieving a nursing degree is no small feat, nor is passing the NCLEX. In 2017, just over 87 percent of NCLEX test takers passed the first time, so be proud to be on the good side of statistics.

You may feel awkward to brag about your own assets, but a job interview is the time to do just that. Make a list of reasons the facility would be lucky to have you and use that list to prepare to sell yourself during the interview. If you work well with teams or you have an eidetic memory that ensures you remember everything you see, make sure you mention those traits in your interview.

Preparing for a Nursing Interview

One of the best ways to give yourself an edge over the competition is to put as much time as possible into preparing for your interview. Research the facility, the job itself and the people who will likely be interviewing you. Not only will this help you answer the question, “What do you know about us?” if they throw it at you, but it will also make you feel more in control of the situation.

Part of your preparation should be going through common nursing interview scenarios and answers. Although you can never fully predict what you’ll be asked, you’ll at least be able to practice answering questions knowledgably and with confidence. If possible, record yourself answering questions and talking about your background; then play back the video and try to see yourself through the eyes of a nursing supervisor who is filling a vacancy.

Make a Good First Impression

In the days leading up to your interview, your potential employer may be researching you. This may include going through your social media profiles, so take a look them. If there’s something that might not be a good representation of who you are, either remove it or set your privacy so that only your friends can see your profile. Someone from HR may also reach out for more information, so make sure you’re on alert for any calls from unknown numbers.

On the day of your interview, it’s important that you show up on time. If necessary, drive to the location on a weekday, at a time of day similar to that of your interview. Make sure you’ll be able to arrive on time, park and get to the entrance. Arrive at the interview a few minutes early, but don’t show up so much in advance that it poses an inconvenience for the interviewer.

Nursing Interview Self-Introduction

As with any career, the content and setup of a nursing interview will vary from one facility to the next. One thing that can work in your favor, no matter where you’re interviewing, though, is a passion for the vocation. If you can demonstrate that you chose the career because you have a drive to help others, you’ll already be ahead of the game.

The first, and perhaps best, opportunity to do this is during the nursing interview self-introduction. Any good interviewer will kick off the interview by asking you to tell a little about yourself. This may also be phrased as a request to explain what made you interested in the field of nursing.

This is a time to put your storytelling abilities to work. Your nursing interview self-introduction should ideally go back to a time when you were first inspired to become a nurse. Perhaps, as a teen, you took a babysitting course that included CPR training, or you volunteered one summer in a setting that motivated you toward a career helping others. As long as your passion shows through, you’ll be kicking off the interview the right way.

Refreshing Your Studies

The truth is that the NCLEX exam may not be the last time you face a test on your way to becoming a professional nurse. Your interviewer could ask you any number of things to determine just how much you retained from your time in nursing school. It can’t hurt to do a quick refresher course on all the things you’re most likely to use in those early days on the job.

Some nurses carry cheat sheets in the form of laminated notecards for the first day on the job. Prepare for your first day before you even get the job by putting together cards with all those treatment algorithms you spent so much time learning in nursing school. The process of preparing the cards will likely give you a quick refresher, which can help you if your interviewer decides to start quizzing you.

Common Nursing Interview Questions

In general, job interviewers tend to follow a basic script at the start, no matter what the industry. You can expect questions like, “Why do you want to work here?” and, “What do you feel are the most important characteristics of a person in this job?” You can often get a feel for the correct answers by studying the job description before the interview.

Beyond those basic questions, here are some common nursing interview questions and answers that can help prepare you:

  • How do you work under pressure? Nurses often face high-pressure situations. The best way to answer this question is by telling a story about a time you found yourself having to work under pressure and how you handled it.
  • Where do you see yourself in five years? With this question, interviewers typically want to hear that you have ambition, but also that your ambition can benefit them. If you want to continue your education to become an RN, for instance, focus on how that will help the facility itself, not on how you’ll take that degree and move somewhere else.
  • What are your weaknesses? Old-school advice told people to name something that isn’t actually a weakness, such as working too hard. Today’s interviewers aren’t buying that. The best thing you can do is name an honest weakness but describe how you work to overcome it. For instance, if you’ve always been naturally shy, first discuss how that held you back in your younger years but how you developed confidence, perhaps while in nursing school.
  • How do you handle working with doctors, other nurses and administrative staff? This question is geared toward ensuring you work well with others. It’s important that your answer shows that you not only work well with all these players, but you also enjoy it.
  • If you saw someone violating the rules, what would you do? Whether it’s HIPAA compliance or preventing disease through hand-washing, it’s crucial that nurses understand the importance of playing by the rules. Your answer should show that you take all facility policies seriously. Demonstrate that you would tactfully and professionally confront the person and, if patients or the facility is in danger, report the behavior to administration.

Dressing for the Interview

When you aren’t studying nursing interview scenarios and answers, you may be going through your closet, wondering if you have any interview-appropriate clothing. For nurses, this is an especially tough decision since nurses typically wear scrubs. Although it may seem as though scrubs would be the perfect job interview attire for aspiring nurses, the rules are actually the same as they would be for any type of professional job interview.

The best clothing for a job interview is a suit. In some cases, you may be able get away with a nice shirt and dress pants, but ideally, you’ll throw on a suit jacket with this outfit. Whatever you wear, make sure you’re well-groomed from head to toe and try to avoid flashy accessories or bright colors that might distract the interviewer.

Ask the Interviewer

An interview isn’t supposed to be a one-way interrogation. Yet all too often, candidates are so eager to get a job that they forget that they also need to make sure it’s the right fit for them. Prepare some honest questions you have for the interviewer and have them ready for that point in the interview when you’re asked, “Do you have any questions for us?”

There are questions and answers common to most nursing interviews that you can ask your interviewer. However, it’s important that you show a genuine interest in the work itself. Asking questions about the difficulty of the work, the length of time you’ll be on call, and the money you’ll earn may send the wrong message. Instead, focus on asking about the software the facility uses, the culture of the work environment and any opportunities for advancement connected to the position.

Following Up After Nursing Interviews

Immediately after the interview, you’ll likely breathe a sigh of relief that it’s over. But, just as you prepared by rehearsing nursing interview scenarios and answers leading up to the interview, you’ll need to follow up. The first step should be sending a thank-you note to the interviewer within 24 hours. Simply state your continued interest in the position and show appreciation for the interviewer’s time.

If you hear nothing, let at least one week go by and contact human resources to follow up on the position. Be proactive by asking if they need you to send over any references or further information to help expedite the process. Lastly, make sure you let them know you’re very interested in the position and appreciate their consideration.

There may be some instances in which the interview causes you to realize that the position isn’t the right job for you. Perhaps you were lucky enough to land another position right after your interview, or you just didn’t like the work culture as it was described. In either case, a follow-up email is still in order. Let the interviewer know you appreciate the time commitment, and politely, but briefly, explain why you’re no longer available for the position.


Stephanie Faris is a novelist and business writer whose work has appeared on numerous small business blogs, including Zappos, GoDaddy, 99Designs, and the Intuit Small Business Blog. She worked for the State of Tennessee for 19 years, the latter six of which were spent as a supervisor. She has written about business for entrepreneurs and marketing firms since 2011.

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