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How to Prepare for a Nursing Job Interview

I'm a registered nurse and nutrition enthusiast. I love spreading information to encourage people to improve their health and their lives.

Ace that interview!

Ace that interview!

Prepare for Success

Nursing job interviews, like all job interviews, can be very stressful events, especially if you just got the first interview of your nursing career. What does a nurse manager expect? What is the appropriate attire for this position? What questions are you likely to hear? This article will provide some helpful information to help you prepare for your interview in the healthcare field.

Dress Appropriately

Clothing: When deciding what to wear for your interview, think about what you will be wearing when you work there. For RNs, LPNs, and nurse assistants, the attire will likely be scrubs. For the interview, you will need to dress more nicely than you would typically dress for the job. Dress pants and a nice collared shirt are always a good choice. Matching suit sets are also appropriate, but dressing like an executive may be overdoing it. If you choose to wear a skirt, make sure it is no shorter than an inch above your kneecap. In order for your interviewer to take you seriously, you will need to dress modestly. Keep your clothing nice but simple, avoiding flashy tops, sleeveless shirts, and short skirts.

Shoes: The dress code for shoes in a hospital or healthcare setting often requires closed-toe shoes, so you should follow this same rule for your interview. Closed-toe shoes come across as more sanitary and make you look more professional.

Accessories: Accessories for a nursing job interview should be kept to a minimum. Once again, think about what your dress code will be if you get the job. For many nursing jobs, dangling jewelry is not allowed. Wear simple jewelry like stud earrings and possible wedding rings. It also looks professional to wear a watch with a second hand. Healthcare jobs often require you to have a watch to check things like pulse and respirations in the patients, so wearing a watch will show that you are prepared for these things. Wearing a watch will also prevent you from using a cell phone to check the time. Keep your phone on silent mode and put it out of sight!

Be Neat and Clean

Clothes: Your clothes should be clean and neatly pressed for your interview. The way you show up for the interview is the way they will expect you to show up for work. For a healthcare setting, this should always mean being neat and clean. Pick out your clothes the night before your interview and make sure they are cleaned and ironed, if necessary.

Hair: Many nursing jobs will require your hair to be pulled back if it is long, so you should follow these same rules for your interview. For healthcare jobs, it is more sanitary to keep hair pulled back to keep it from getting in your way while working with patients. Wearing your hair up will also make you seem more credible. Studies have shown that women who wear their hair up or have their hair short are assumed to be more successful in their careers.

Nails: For healthcare jobs and healthcare job interviews, keep your nails short, clean, and free of nail polish. Your facility dress code may not allow you to have long nails or wear nail polish and acrylic nails. Long nails can harbor a lot of bacteria, so they need to be short since you will likely be working with patients who have a compromised immune system. Having your nails short and clean for your interview shows that you take your job seriously, and it allows the interviewer to see that you will keep them that way.

Pay Attention to Your Body Language

Body language has been shown to have an even bigger impact on impressions than what you say. For your interview, be sure to look at the interviewer while you talk, but do not stare. Avoid waving your hands around too much as you talk; the more you sit still and speak confidently, the more credible you will seem. Sit with your ankles crossed and your hands in your lap, and face your body directly toward the interviewer. The most important part of body language is smiling! Make sure the interviewer knows you are glad to be there and that you would love to have this position.

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Be Prepared for Common Questions

Being prepared for common interview questions will require you to know yourself. Think about why you chose a career in healthcare, what your strengths and weaknesses are, how you fit into a leadership situation, and how you handle conflicts. Below are some of the more tricky questions and how you can answer them appropriately:

  • What are your long-term goals? The trick to answering this question appropriately is to let them know you have important career goals, but not that you will be moving on in a year to go back to school or find a different job. An example of a good answer for this type of question is, “I am planning on gaining some experience as a nurse in an area I know I will love, such as this one. After five years or so, I will consider continuing work and going back to school part-time to obtain my master’s degree.”
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses? The trick for this question is to name a strength that will be helpful in your healthcare career. Do not tell them you have no weaknesses. Everyone has weaknesses, so the point in asking this question is to find out how you stay aware of your weakness so you can improve them. An example of a good answer to this type of question is, “My greatest strength is that I pay close attention to details, especially while caring for patients. I can pick up on subtle cues that something is wrong, and I am able to assess and do something about it quickly. My weakness is that I tend to be introverted, so it takes longer for me to form relationships with my patients. I keep myself aware of this and spend more time getting to know my patients on a more personal level.”
  • Do you have any questions for me? This is a common question that the interviewer may ask at the end of the interview. Never say “no” to this question. The biggest tip here is to do your research before the interview and find some questions you do not have the answer to. Asking questions is one of the best ways to show that you are interested in this job. Good response questions are things like “What is the typical nurse-to-patient ratio for this floor?” “What type of patients do you commonly treat?” “I love working as part of a team. Do you feel there is a good sense of teamwork among the workers at this facility?”

Extra Tips

One of the most important things you can do to prepare for your first healthcare interview is to know yourself: Why did you choose a career in nursing? What do you like most and least about it? Where do you see yourself in the future? How do you usually handle stressful situations? How do you deal with difficult people? What makes you a great candidate for this position? Practice discussing some of these questions with a friend or family member.

Most important of all, take a deep breath and be glad to have this opportunity to speak with someone who is involved at a place where you want to work! Employers want people who will love their job and have a great attitude about being there.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Reena Dhiman on September 25, 2014:

I like your hub because you cover all nitty=gritty things related to the particular job sector.

Master Redrick on May 21, 2013:

This is an excellent resource.

Comfort Babatola from Bonaire, GA, USA on April 15, 2013:

Great hub! Very well put together. I like that you include those questions that most of us usually don't think to prepare for. This will work for any type of interview, no doubt.

Voted up and useful.

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