7 job interview tips for nursing

March 27, 2024

Whether you’re a recent nursing graduate looking to start off on the right foot, or a seasoned professional pursuing a new opportunity, it’s important to make a great impression during a job interview.

Mindy Stayner, PhD, FNP-C, MSN, RN, CNE, is an associate professor and Samara Pottier, DNP, MSN, CNM-BC, RN, is an assistant professor at the Capella University School of Nursing and Health Sciences. They reveal their top nursing interview questions, share what helps a candidate stand out and offer tips on how to prepare for an interview.

Top interview questions

  1. Why would you like to work here?
  2. Describe a challenging situation and how you handled it to find a resolution.
  3. Describe how you handled an experience where a patient had a different viewpoint than your own.
  4. What are your strengths in a team atmosphere?
  5. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Seven nursing job interview tips to help you stand out:

1. Research the place of employment. Before the interview, visit the employer’s website and learn about their mission and vision. Are they in line with your values, and are you prepared to speak directly to that employer’s mission? If the organization serves a specific patient population, you can speak to why that matters to you. Place a strong emphasis on your adaptability and how you work with others on a team.

2. Be enthusiastic. One way to demonstrate your enthusiasm is to engage with the person who interviews you. Have your own questions ready, such as asking what the interviewer likes most about their job. This could help make the interview more of a dynamic conversation.

3. Look your best. With many preliminary interviews now taking place virtually, there are more factors to help make a positive impression. Take time to test your technology – video and audio – before your interview.

Make sure your lighting is good and you have a neutral background, neat surroundings or use settings to either blur your background or create a virtual backdrop. Position your camera at a height where the angle feels comfortable, and make sure you face forward and look at the camera lens. Try to reduce background noises or use a headset to minimize distractions.

And whether your interview is online or in-person, make sure you’re dressed professionally, too.

4. Present a polished resume. Create a one- to two-page resume that highlights your education, skills, work history and leadership experience.

These four elements can help you stand out:

  • Caseload: How many patients have you managed at a time? Briefly describe the skills you used to keep everything running smoothly.
  • Grant writing: Fundraising is often an important part of a healthcare organization’s revenue. Feature any experience you have with grant writing or fundraising.
  • Transdisciplinary/interdisciplinary work: Nurses generally operate as part of a team of medical professionals. Share past experiences of successfully collaborating with different medical specialists.
  • Continuous quality initiatives (CQIs): Quality improvement initiatives that deal with systems and process analysis, problem identification and qualitative oversight are a part of most nursing jobs. If you have experience overseeing CQIs, mention this in your resume.

Make sure your education level is appropriate for the position you’re pursuing. Depending on your professional goals, you may want to prioritize advanced education to help develop your expertise. If you have a BSN and want to earn a master’s degree, take time to explore different options to move your education forward.

5. Don’t mention money right away. Don’t have your first question to the interviewer be, “How much do you pay?” Topics like salary and signing bonuses will most likely come up later in the interview, and you may already have an idea of the salary range from the job posting.

Instead, ask questions that show an interest in the position and their expectations for quality care. Research your potential place of employment online ahead of time to come up with specific questions.

6. Talk about your technical skills. The use of technology in healthcare – known generally as informatics – has become more important to the industry. Many healthcare systems rely on electronic medical records to record patient data and improve the quality of care. It’s important for candidates to be able to say they have technical skills and can adapt to changing technologies.

If you don’t have any credentials in nursing informatics, consider earning an MSN in Nursing Informatics or a Nursing Informatics graduate certificate to learn more about the impact of informatics on patient care and how to use technology in a nursing practice.

During your interview, highlight examples of how you’ve applied technical skills. And make sure any IT training and experience is called out on your resume. You can use mock interviews to practice talking about your skills.

7. Send a thank-you note. After the interview, follow up with a brief thank-you email, saying that you appreciate the interviewer’s time. This is your chance to reiterate your enthusiasm for the job and mention any specifics that came up during the interview.

By taking the time to write a note, you’re showing that you’re thoughtful and professional, and you can help leave a lasting impression on the hiring staff.

The Capella Career Development Center can help you find a program that fits your professional goals.

Learn more about online nursing degrees and online graduate and post-master’s certificate programs in nursing.

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