Whether you’re a new grad, a soon-to-be grad, or you just ordered your first pair of school scrubs, it’s never too early to start preparing yourself for professional interviews in a healthcare setting. And if you’re human, the thought of sitting down and explaining to someone that you’re the best person for the job probably makes you sick to your stomach. Or at least a little sweaty.
So where do you start?
First, if you’re lucky enough to land an interview, give yourself a pat on the back! Despite the recent nursing shortage, hospitals aren’t exactly fighting over new grads anymore. You may have read about new grad difficulties in CNN’s article by Annalyn Kurtz. But don’t let this discourage you; everyone starts somewhere!
Second, do some research on the facility that’s offered you an interview. Read a few of the recent articles published on their home page, and know what the hospital is currently doing. Are they expanding their oncology unit? Are they working towards their stroke center designation? At some point in the interview, you’ll have to explain why you want to work for them. Give an answer that shows that you are already invested in their mission.
Next, take some time beforehand to reflect on what qualities make a successful nurse, and how you have demonstrated those characteristics. Hiring managers are looking for nurses (or techs) who are competent, confident, team players, and patient advocates. A 2003 article posted by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins provides a list of 65 typical questions that may be asked on a nursing interview. UC San Diego Health System offers a similar, extensive list with questions categorized by topic.
So how do you go about answering these without sounding like a nervous, inexperienced new grad? Here are a few examples, based on three common questions:
1. Share a clinical experience in which you demonstrated leadership
When sharing your experiences with leadership, think beyond the day in clinical when you were the designated “charge nurse.” Think about a time in which you were a true leader of your patient’s care. Maybe you noticed a subtle change in their behavior or vital signs, and contributed to the early diagnosis of a complication. Maybe you took an extra fifteen minutes to explain something to a patient with unanswered questions. Interviewers aren’t looking for a story that involved dramatic or life-saving actions; they want to see that you understood the needs of your patient and are able to take action to meet those needs.
2. Share a clinical experience in which you relied on your team to accomplish a goal
No matter where you are interviewing, working as a team is an absolute necessity. Your interviewers know that no one nurse can “do it all,” and you as a new grad certainly can’t. Don’t be afraid to admit that you did not know how to do something, or why something was ordered. Nurses are some of the most resourceful individuals in the healthcare field, so think about a time when you openly asked for help or advice from another nurse, a physician, a therapist, or even a dietician in order to care for your patient.
3. What are some of your weaknesses?
Whatever you do, don’t say “I really can’t think of any,” or “I work too hard.” Everyone is human and we all have faults. Take this as an opportunity to explain a weakness you have (mine is shyness) and how you have worked to overcome it. While assessing your patient in clinical, if you come across a finding that’s inconsistent with what you heard in report (maybe you hear some crackles when you were told lungs were clear), overcome that shyness and speak up! Managers want to know you recognize your faults and have worked to change your ways.
Most importantly, remember that it may take multiple interviews and several rejections in order to find the job that was meant for you. You are a graduate of nursing school, and you are a dynamic individual who has grown immensely in the past few years. Stay away from superficial explanations as to why you deserve the job, and delve into the experiences that have challenged you mentally and emotionally.
If you need more individualized help, feel free to head over to our premium career services page!