7 job interview tips for nursing

December 30, 2018

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

For a decade, Dr. Jill Schramm was the director of the Endocrine Clinic on the U.S. Army base at Fort Carson, CO, and responsible for interviewing and hiring nurses. Here, she reveals her top five interview questions, shares what makes a candidate stand out, and offers tips on how to ace the interview.

Top Five Interview Questions

  1. Why would you like to work here?
  2. What was your most recent position?
  3. Describe a challenging situation and how you handled it to find a resolution.
  4. What are 3 words others would use to describe you?
  5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Seven Tips to Ace Your Interview

1. Study up on the hospital or clinic. Before the interview, visit your potential employer’s website and learn about their mission and vision. Be ready to speak about how you could support the mission. Place a strong emphasis on being adaptable, flexible, and a team player. For Dr. Schramm, when someone indicates that they’re unwilling to learn new things or collaborate, they’re not going to land the job.

2. Be enthusiastic! A go-getter attitude goes a long way. According to Dr. Schramm, “Often times employers do not care as much about your experience as your attitude and positive outlook.”

3. Dress for success. If you land the job, your uniform may be a comfy set of scrubs. But for your first meeting with a potential employer, dress sharp. For women, that means a blazer with pants or a skirt. Men, dress in your best suit. By wearing business attire, you send the message that you’re professional.

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

To stand out, include these four elements:

  • 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 health care organization’s revenue. Talk up 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.

5. Don’t mention money right away. Don’t make your first question to your future employer, “How much do you pay?” Salary and signing bonuses are certainly important, and you have every right to ask about them before the end of the interview. But first, ask questions that show an interest in the hospital and their expectations for quality care. Research the hospital or clinic online ahead of time to come up with specific questions.

6. Talk up your technical skills. In recent years, the use of technology in health care—known generally as informatics—has become a vital part of almost every nursing job. To stand out from other nursing candidates, it’s important to stay on top of the growing use of tech.

If you don’t already have a Nursing Informatics certificate, consider earning one to set yourself apart from the competition. Mention your technical skills in the interview. And on your resume, create a separate “Technical Summary” section to call out your IT training and experience.

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’re ensuring that you stay top-of-mind with the hiring staff. Want bonus points? Skip the email, and mail a thank you card instead.


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

Jill Schramm, DNP, FNP-C, BC-ADM, CDE is Capella University nursing faculty, as well as an assistant professor at Uniform Services University of Health Sciences in the Nursing Graduate program. For 10 years, she served as director of the Endocrine Clinic at Ft. Carson, Colorado.

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