1. Dress professionally.
You may have a stellar resume—aced nursing school, received high marks on your NCLEX, hold great recommendations—but if you come in as Sally or Sal Slop, your credibility will plunge. Steffel has had nurses arrive at interviews wearing shorts and flip-flops. Guess whether they got the job. Steffel recommends staying away from anything that will distract the interviewer from what you’ll bring to the organization—hiked-up hemlines, street attire, wrinkled slacks, flashy jewelry, disheveled hair, overpowering fragrances, or gum smacking. Since you’re applying for a professional position, look the part: Keep it conservative, neat, and clean. First impressions are lasting.
2. Watch your non-verbal cues.
According to Steffel, interviewers are looking for a nurse to be well composed and professional.
They discern this through the nurse’s non-verbal cues. Don’t forget interviewing fundamentals, like a firm handshake, a pleasant smile, direct eye contact, uncrossed arms, and an energetic tone of voice. Aside from displaying enthusiasm and sharpness, these gestures also reveal how you will interact with future customers (patients). And your poise points to how you will handle the countless unfamiliar and frightening scenarios a nurse faces during his/her career. In short,interviewers appraise your non-verbal communication as much as your verbal communication.
3. Exude enthusiasm.
When Steffel interviews nurses, she also looks for a passion for the profession and the organization for which the nurse is applying. Steffel knows people are nervous and might occasionally flounder for words—that’s expected. Still, nurses should demonstrate excitement about their careers, that they have something unique to offer, and that they are fond of the organization for a specific reason (i.e., their mission statement or they’re a magnet hospital). Engaging the interviewer in conversation about the organization, also demonstrates your eagerness and ability to interact with people (which nursing is all about). While you may not have years of experience to buttress your credibility, your excitement and interest in the organization will do so.
4. Turn off your phone.
In a world in which we are constantly reminded to turn off our cell phones and pagers, you would think it would be a no-brainer to do so before a job interview.
Not so. Steffel has interviewed nurses whose cell phones rang in the middle of the interview… and one time a nurse actually answered it. Not only are your phones and pagers a potential distraction, but the interruption demonstrates that you are not fully present for the interview— and that it’s not a priority.
“Interviewers are fully present for the interview,” says Steffel. “The candidate needs to abide by those same principles.”
5. Research the organization.
Be prepared to answer the questions: “Why are you interested in our organization? What brings you here? Why do you want to work at this hospital?” And don’t say, “Because it’s the closest to where I live.” Take time to review the hospital’s mission statement, read articles written about the hospital, or review the job posting—find any information you can about the hospital and study it. It will be invaluable information during your interview.
For instance, if you researched Edward Hospital, where Steffel is a recruiter, you’d find it’s a magnet hospital and about their brand promise to deliver care “for people who don’t like hospitals.” During the interview, use information like this to demonstrate your interest in the organization. But don’t simply say, “I want to be hired because I want to be at a magnet hospital.” Take it a step further, Steffel recommends, and explain why you want to be at a magnet hospital: because of the nurse support, the preceptor program, the internship, the transition training program, etc. This attention to detail shows the interviewer how serious you are about the position you are vying for.
6. Ask the right questions.
“You’re interviewing the organization just as much as we’re interviewing you,” says Steffel, “so you need to have questions prepared.” Maybe there was something that the interviewer said during the interview that you’d like to be clarified. Don’t hesitate to ask. Now is the time to find out what won’t work for your personality—rather than later, once you’ve signed the dotted line.
Questions nurses should ask include the following:
• What is your orientation program like? Do you have a preceptor program? What is its duration?
• Do you allow time off for and/or pay for continuing ed?
• Do you have nurse educators, and how often are they available?
• How are performance evaluations done, and how frequently?
• Will I have to work weekends and holidays? Will I be on call?
• What is your retirement plan like? Will you contribute?
Preparation at every level will set you apart from your competition—and may help you even
enjoy the process.