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How to Ace the Interview for your First Nursing Job

How New Nurses Should Prepare for Job Interviews
Rob Marmion/

You are a graduate nurse or a brand-new registered nurse! Congratulations! It’s time for all your hard work and sacrifice to pay off. There are a lot of nursing opportunities out there. However, competition can be fierce, especially for a new nurse. Stay positive. Some organizations prefer to hire new nurses. You can ace the interview by being well prepared.

How to secure an interview

Decide what’s essential for you. Do you want to work full-time for part-time? You’re more likely to get hired to work evenings, weekends, and nights, so be prepared to do so. In addition to boosting your chances of getting hired, you’ll also make more pay by working less desirable shifts.

Fill out applications completely. Prepare a top-notch resume. Customize it for each position for which you apply. Include a well thought out cover letter when you submit applications. Stress your flexibility in your cover letter so that you will be considered for other positions if you are not hired for the one that you are applying.

Decide whether or not you want to stay in your own area. If you’re willing to travel, there is a vast array of opportunities for new nurses. Go where the jobs are, particularly if you are interested in working in a specialty field eventually.

Seek out organizations that advertise for new graduates. They often have excellent programs that help you transition from student to registered nurse. You will work closely with a preceptor for an extended orientation.

Flexibility is essential, especially when you’re first starting out. Be willing to work in areas that you don’t think that you will be interested in long-term. You will benefit regardless of what field you work in. The import thing is to secure a job. Obtaining your dream position upon graduation is unlikely. You need the experience and work. As your skills and confidence increase, you will be increasingly marketable.

Learn everything you can about the organization before your interview

It’s essential to do your homework before your meeting. Learn what services are provided. For example, you may be applying for a job in a hospital, but it’s important to know if the company also runs outpatient services, mental health clinics, or other services. Study the organization’s mission statement. Identify areas in which the organization excels. Familiarize yourself with the institution’s future goals.

Prepare for a remote interview

Many initial interviews are conducted via telephone, Internet, or online surveys.  It is likely that your first interview will not be in person if you are seeking employment in a distant location. Be prepared with a pen and notebook so that you can prepare questions for your interview and take notes. Ensure that the environment is silent and free of disturbances during the meeting. Sit in a tidy environment and dress professionally if there is a video component of the interview.

Shine during an in-person interview

  • Think of questions that you have about the position and organization beforehand. Write them down in a notebook and bring it with you.
  • Arrive at the interview a few minutes early.
  • Turn off your cell phone during the interview.
  • Dress carefully in casual business attire. Keep jewelry simple. Wearing simple earrings but not other jewelry is okay. Cover tattoos and avoid extreme hair colors.
  • Smile and be polite to everyone you encounter.
  • It is essential that you are sincere during the interview. Do not tell employers that you are competent in areas that you are not.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask questions.
  • You are a new nurse and not expected to have the same qualifications as an experienced nurse.
  • Emphasize your willingness to learn and experiences that you had as a student.
  • Make sure that the potential employer knows if you were employed as a nursing assistant or another healthcare worker while you were obtaining your degree.
  • Emphasize skills that you have from volunteer positions.

What to expect during the interview

  • You’ll be asked about experiences and goals during your interview.
  • The interviewer may ask you why you are the best candidate for the position.
  • You will be asked how the position that you are interviewing for fits into your long-term career goals.
  • Be prepared to talk about your strength and weaknesses.
  • Keep in mind that clinical skills can be learned; however, having superb people skills is essential. Emphasize your ability to communicate, collaborate, and manage time well.
  • As a new nurse, you may be tech savvy. This is a valuable asset to emphasize.
  • Be prepared to give examples of times that you struggled during your clinical experiences. You may be asked to provide examples of situations where you performed well.
  • The interviewer may ask how you will respond

Think about all of these areas before your interview so that you will be prepared for any questions that are asked.

Follow-up after the interview

Send an email thanking the interviewer for taking the time to speak with you. Be patient as you wait to hear the outcome of the meeting, as some organizations take a long time before deciding whom to hire. The interviewer will likely give you an idea of the time-frame before a decision is being made. Many employers do not notify people who they decide not to hire.

If you are a leading candidate, you will likely be invited to a second interview. That interview will be specific to the position for which you are being considered. Prepare in the same way that you did for the initial meeting, concentrating on the unit or job.

Continue your job search until a position is secured. Flexibility and patience are essential. You will become more confident and likely to obtain a position as you become familiar with interviewing. Approaching interviews with a positive attitude and “can do it” approach is key to securing employment.

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About Patricia Bratianu RN PhD RH-AHG

Patricia is a Registered Nurse with forty years of experience in a wide array of inpatient and outpatient settings. She is a professional member of the American Herbalists Guild. Patricia earned a PhD in Natural Health. Her goal is to empower patients and healthcare workers.

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