Tips for Nursing Students: The Successful Interview
The National League for Nursing and the National Students Nurses’ Association (NSNA)(2012) stated that “although there is a shortage of registered nurses, the economic recession has flooded the RN market with experienced nurses who were retired, planning to retire, or went from part-time to full-time employment. The need for RNs has declined due to low hospital census”. Nursing students graduating today face a competitive employment market. Much of your success at getting the position you want will depend on how well you interview for the job. Follow these steps to be better prepared and increase your chances for a successful interview.
Submit your resume and application in advance, but do not assume that the person interviewing you has read them carefully. Before the interview, think about how you can highlight important aspects of your experience or education. Do some background research on the organization or place to which you are applying.
Familiarize yourself with the key people in authority, especially focusing on the person who will interview you. During the interview you can use this information to establish some common ground. Consider some key areas such as: How large is the organization and/or the unit where you are applying? What population and geographic area do they serve? What expertise do you have to offer that might be valuable to them? For example, if you are applying for a job on an inpatient rehabilitation unit, did you have a course in rehabilitation or do clinical rotations in rehab? If so, be sure to mention this during the interview.
Paul Walden, writing on the NSNA website, stated, “appearance and attitude are everything. Dress in professional attire and smile. Make sure you arrive promptly”. Although professional attire may be more casual than it has been in years past, employers still expect an interviewee to look his/her best. This means no blue jeans, shorts, cut-offs, flip-flops, low-cut blouses, miniskirts, overbearing jewelry, or other extremes in attire. Business casual is usually acceptable, but when in doubt, err on the side of dressing more formally in business attire than casual.
Start with a good beginning
Introduce yourself and offer to shake hands with the interviewer while making direct eye contact. Do not sit down until directed to do so. The interviewer controls the interview. Express enthusiasm for the interviewer taking time to speak with you and make a positive comment about the surroundings or reputation of the facility. Smile and convey friendliness, approachability, and confidence. Most nurse managers are looking for a “good fit” in a new employee with their existing staff and unit milieu. Your personality may be as important to the manager as your skill set. Listen for comments made by the interviewer that suggest he/she is seeking someone who will be a team player and then be sure to share ways in which you have successfully blended with similar groups in the past.
Ask thoughtful questions
Have a few thoughtful questions ready to ask. For example: How does the open position fit within the organizational chart? Is there opportunity for gaining additional education? What type of orientation or mentoring do they provide for new nurses? Are there opportunities for advancement? These types of questions show that you are interested in a long-term relationship with the organization and are willing to learn and increase your professional skills. Asking deliberate questions can also help you assess whether or not this job is the right one for you.
You want the person conducting the interview to remember you in a positive light. What sets you apart from others who might be applying for this job? Answering that question in advance will point you in the direction where you need to shine. This might be your engaging personality, strong evaluations from clinical professors, your flexibility or willingness to learn, your experience in another country with service-learning projects, or your good academic performance.
End the interview well
If you were fortunate enough to be given a tour of the unit or facility, be sure to take advantage of any opportunities to greet or interact with staff or patients. The interviewer may be watching to see if you display positive interpersonal skills. Before you leave the interview, be sure that you know how you will be notified if they wish to hire you. Thank the interviewer and shake hands again (if appropriate), expressing your enthusiasm for this wonderful opportunity. If possible, send a follow-up email or thank you note to the interviewer for his/her time and attention. Be sure to continue to display warmth and cordiality as you leave the facility. You never know who may be watching.