What to Know When Interviewing for a Nurse Job

IMAGE SOURCE: José Eugenio Gómez Rodríguez, Flickr, Creative Commons license.

For many students, part of the appeal of a career in nursing is the positive job outlook. Licensed practical nurses can expect to see 12 percent job growth over a decade, while registered nurses will see a 15 percent increase in jobs and advanced practice registered nurses can expect a shocking 31 percent rise in opportunities, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. Despite all of the opportunities, interviewing for a nursing job – especially your first nursing job, or your first job with a new credential – can be intimidating. Here are a few things you should know about how to interview for a nursing job.

Show the Qualities That Make You a Great Nurse

Unlike other career fields in which job candidates may have more varied backgrounds, nursing requires all applicants to have at least some similarities. Other candidates vying for the nursing job you want will also have a nursing degree and an appropriate license. Of course, there may be some differences in terms of which school you attended, which degree was earned (a BSN vs. an ADN for a registered nurse role, for example) and how many years of experience you have. However, with so many requirements the same, there may not be much in your educational background to set you apart from the competition.

One way you can help yourself stand out is to use the interview to showcase the characteristics that will make you successful in the position. While knowledge and technical skills are important for a nurse, so are personal qualities, according to the BLS. Regardless of whether you’re trying to get an entry-level job as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or an advanced role as a nurse practitioner in an in-demand specialty, many of the qualities of a good nurse are the same.

  • Compassion and patience for the patients under your care
  • Communication, listening and interpersonal skills to express information effectively to patients, their families and your colleagues
  • Resourcefulness and critical-thinking skills to make important, potentially life-saving decisions about patients in the event of health changes
  • Attention to detail, especially when it comes to medications, treatments and changes in patients’ vital signs or symptoms

If you have these or other qualities that can help you succeed as a nurse, you want to express those qualities to your interviewer. Don’t just tell prospective employers what would make you a good nurse – show them through examples of the things you have done that embody these qualities. If you don’t yet have experience working as a nurse, then think about examples from your clinical rotations, your coursework in the classroom, any experience you have shadowing a nurse or even any volunteer experience or hobbies.

Soft skills are some of the most essential skills for nurses to have.

What Employers Look for in Nurses

Highlight Your Specializations

If you have developed some level of expertise in a specialty, whether through decades of experience or hours of clinical practice, this, too, can set you apart from other jobseekers. Having specialized knowledge is particularly important if the job you are applying for is relevant to that specialization.

You may have a formal credential like a certification from a professional organization. If not, you may still have informal specialized knowledge simply from taking some additional courses of relevant study and from your clinical work. In any case, positioning yourself (honestly, of course) as having specialized knowledge can help you prove that you are the right nurse for the job.

Among the highest paid nursing specialties are pediatrics and critical care nursing.

Prove Your Leadership Skills (Just Not Too Much)

If you’re applying for a management position, then of course you will need to convince your interviewer that you would make an excellent leader. Even if the role you’re currently seeking isn’t a supervisory position, showing that you have the ambition to work your way up and grow your career within the employer’s ranks can help you get the job.

However, the key is to show that you are appropriately assertive, not overly aggressive. A nursing interview is a great time for an employer to figure out which jobseekers are likely to cause trouble or be high-maintenance, and weed those applicants out of the pool of jobseekers. Many hiring managers are looking for nurses who can be both natural leaders and easygoing, self-sufficient workers, depending on what is needed at the time.

Leadership roles such as nursing director, registered nurse supervisor and charge nurse are among the highest paying positions for RNs.

The important thing about an interview for a nursing job is finding a role and employer that will be the right fit for you. While it’s important to prepare mentally and physically for an interview, it’s also important to answer questions honestly, ask the questions that you really care about and be yourself.