January 18, 2018

Preparing for your nursing interview

Preparing for your nursing interview - photo copyright 2012 Rick Sherrell

Every year, new nursing professionals graduate and make the transition into their chosen field. In their minds, they have big dreams of making a difference in the world by using their skills they just learned. They also have big goals that include finding a job that allows them to make a difference. Students who have attended quality programs may have already had the chance to interact with working professional nurses and ask questions as well, but there is no substitute for the kind of hands-on, real world experience that only working in a professional capacity can offer.

Some new nursing professionals may hit their sweet spot in terms of finding a great career fit right out of school. For others, though, they may work for a year or a few years and suddenly their eyes are opened to a new facet of their chosen profession that sounds appealing. Through classes, the interview process for finding a job, advanced education and certifications, and hands-on professional experience, each nursing professional will find their own path to a rewarding lifelong professional career. Here, learn how to prepare to take those first exciting and critical steps towards your own career as a professional nurse.

Know Your Goals

Knowing what your career goals are can help you target your job search and tailor your responses to the specific interview questions to give you a better chance of landing the job you want. First, you should target the employers who offer the greatest amount of exposure to the facet of nursing you want to work in most. If you are still “undeclared” in terms of a final career destination, sometimes choosing a larger organization with more variety in terms of nursing positions can help you do some of that work while you are at work each day.

Create a “wish list” of employers and make contacting them for interviews a priority.

While you are waiting to hear back from your inquiries, you can then productively spend your time learning how to best sell yourself. Whether you aspire to work in the forefront of the nursing field in nursing sales or education or to work behind the scenes with patients, your very first goal in pursuing your chosen career path will be to do the best sales job of your life in selling yourself to your chosen employer. Don’t be afraid to highlight your strengths. If you have a master’s degree or plan to return to school in the future to earn this advanced degree, share this with your interviewer. You will appear bright, motivated and stable to an employer. If you have relevant leadership experience in prior jobs or volunteer work, mention it as well. Make a list of your strengths and be prepared to recite them on demand. To really impress a potential employer, tailor each of those strengths to how they will meet the employer’s needs in the job you are interviewing for.

Ace the Interview

Your next step, once you have done your “homework” on your prospective employers and yourself, is to prepare to ace the interview. All of the preparation in the world won’t do you a bit of good if you get tongue-tied in high stress situations. If you are one of those people who tend to freeze under pressure, practice interviewing with a friend beforehand until you feel comfortable with the give-and-take of being asked questions and delivering answers in an interview format. If you have graduated from one of the many nursing masters programs that offer free career counseling to students, make use of those services to prepare for your interview as well.

You can find lists of potential questions online and use those questions to practice with.

Also, plan ahead what you are going to wear and try it on before the interview to be sure you feel comfortable moving in it. In particular, be mindful of accessories and shoes to be sure they support you rather than inhibiting your movement or comfort during the interview. Be sure to dress for the occasion as well – if you have tattoos or purple hair, for instance, do your best to play those down so they don’t distract the interviewer from paying attention to your qualifications.

Finally, come prepared with a list of questions you want to ask
about the employer and the job you are applying for.

While it is best to steer clear of salary or benefits-type questions until you have received an actual offer, other questions such as opportunities for training and advancement, the composition of the department you will work in, your supervising professionals, advice the interviewer has for you from their own years of experience and more are valid questions that show you are eager, motivated, trainable and willing to be a team player. If you follow this process, you will have the best chance of landing a new job in nursing on your very first interview.

About the Guest Blogger: Marguerite Cancho had never been more excited than on the day she finally graduated with her Master’s Degree in Nursing and mildly recalls her first interviews. After working as a clinical nurse for the last 15 years, she decided to go back to school and is now currently pursuing her masters in curriculum and instruction.



  1. You just have to have a clear vision in mind beforehand and go into that interview as confident as possible. Then, the job’s just there in the palm of your hand.

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