How to Interview for a Nursing Job: What to Expect (& How to Nail It)
Let’s talk about how to interview for a nursing job. Don’t feel like reading? Listen here!
Have a nursing job interview on the horizon? Congratulations—you’re about to embark on an exciting journey! But first things first: you need to land the job. This raises an important question: how to interview for a nursing job?
As a nurse, you’ll face a unique interview experience that differs from other types of job interviews in several important ways. And you may be feeling the heat—whether you’re a new grad hoping to land your first job or a seasoned nurse who hasn’t interviewed in a while. But with the right preparation, you can ace your interview and sail into the scrub-filled sunset of your dreams. Promise.
In this article, we’ll explore how nursing job interviews differ from regular interviews, what to expect throughout the interview process, and how to nail it every step of the way. Let’s dive in!
Pre-Interview Prep for Nurses
As with many jobs, proper preparation is crucial to acing your interview—and it begins long before you step into the interview room.
Do Your Research
Start your pre-interview prep by researching the hospital or healthcare facility online. Look up their mission statement, values, and size. How do they stack up in rankings for patient care and satisfaction? Is there a particular area of service or treatment they’re known for? Then, reach out to any personal connections at the facility and ask whether their experience lines up with what you’ve learned.
You should also familiarize yourself with the specific nursing unit you’re applying to.
Learn as much as you can about the patient population it serves and any specialized training or certifications it requires. This will show your interviewer that you are invested in the job and have taken the time to learn more about it. It will also help prepare you for potential interview questions.
Know Your Role
Once you’ve researched the facility and the unit, take a deep dive into yourself (yes, really!). Review your resume carefully to become an expert in your own work history, experience, and education. It’s also helpful to list out any notable experiences from your career or studies, focusing on those that will translate well to this new role. Consider the challenges you’ve faced, lessons you’ve learned, and moments of triumph that highlight your strengths. This is a valuable way to jog your memory in preparation for situational interview questions.
(Don’t) Dress for the Job
Whatever you do, don’t wear scrubs to your sit-down interview. Yes, wearing the professional equivalent of pajamas to work every day is a luxury—and it’s one you’ll earn by nailing your interview in business-casual attire. No need to get flashy or overdo jewelry and make-up—just arrive looking clean and professional. Trim your nails and avoid perfume, as patients on the unit may be sensitive to smells.
How to Interview for a Nursing Job: What to Expect
So you’ve done your research, reviewed your resume, and put your scrubs away (for now!). Next, let’s take a look at how nursing job interviews compare with other types of interviews you may have experienced. Don’t worry—it’s not all different!
Same Old, Same Old
Some aspects of nursing job interviews are similar to other types of job interviews. For example, you’ll be asked about your work experience, education, and skills. You may also be asked about your strengths and weaknesses, why you want to work in nursing, and what your career goals are.
But because nursing is a care-based, clinical profession, you’ll notice some key differences, too. Keep reading to learn more!
What Makes Nursing Job Interviews Different?
Due to the nature of the work, job interviews for nurses vary from regular interviews in several important ways.
Soft Skills, Hard Advantage
Nursing is a caring profession—so soft skills mean the world. Interviewers want convincing evidence of your empathy, adaptability, and cultural awareness. Worried? Don’t be! Chances are high that if you want to work as a nurse, you already have these skills in spades.
Pro Tip: Be prepared to give examples of situations where you demonstrated your soft skills, such as a time when you went above and beyond for a patient, or how you handled a difficult situation with a patient or coworker.
Sharing Is Caring
When it comes to nursing interviews, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over—because many nursing units consider “share time” a crucial part of the interview process. Also known as a “share day,” this consists of several hours spent shadowing staff and getting to know more about the unit.
Your “share time” may happen before or after your formal interview, and you can typically wear scrubs for this portion (yay!). You’ll get a tour of the unit, meet the staff, and take part in patient care to a very limited degree. This is a golden opportunity to ask questions and get an up-close look at unit culture. Take full advantage and learn what it’s actually like to work there.
But be gracious because the staff is interviewing you, too. Many units ask staff for feedback on job applicants, and some even use a formal scoring system.
Pro Tip: To impress, you’ll want to be enthusiastic, friendly, and outgoing. Ask smart, relevant questions—and don’t be afraid to jump in and help. Timidity never wins in the world of nursing.
Behavioral Questions Galore
Nursing is skills-based and interactive—so your interview will be as well. Don’t worry—you won’t have to insert an IV or demo chest compressions on the spot! But your interview will include many behavioral and situational questions.
In a nutshell, behavioral interviewing means asking how a job applicant has handled various situations in the past. The idea here is that past performance offers a reliable window into future behavior. Another advantage? Behavioral questions allow interviewers to better assess a candidate’s personality and soft skills.
Situational interviewing takes a similar approach—but instead of asking about the past, these questions address hypothetical future scenarios. Situational questions show interviewers how well you think on your feet.
Pro Tip: The STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) is the gold standard for answering behavioral or situational interview questions. Using it as a roadmap when prepping your answers will ensure you shine bright on the big day.
Phew! You survived the interview—now what?
The Thank-You Note: A Must
It’s critical to follow up with the hiring manager to express your gratitude and reiterate your interest in the job. Handwritten notes are always nice, but email is also acceptable—especially if you know that the hiring process is moving quickly.
Your follow-up note should show that you’re serious about the position and appreciate the interviewer’s time and effort. You can also briefly emphasize why you believe you’re the best person for the job.
Pro Tip: To make your note extra personal, mention a specific detail or two that stuck with you from the interview—for example, something positive you learned about the unit culture.
The Status Check: A Maybe
We get it: waiting is hard. If the suspense is killing you, it’s acceptable to follow up with an email or phone call (just one!) to ask about the status of your application and how the hiring process is progressing. A good rule of thumb? Give the interviewer at least a week to contact you before you reach out to them. And always, always, always be polite and patient in your communication.
Nursing job interviews are unique in several ways. Soft skills like empathy, adaptability, and cultural awareness are highly valued in nursing, and you’ll likely be asked behavioral and situational questions to assess these skills. You may also be asked to participate in a “share day” to get a better sense of the unit culture and the staff you’ll be working with.
Preparation is key, so be sure to do your research on the hospital or healthcare facility, practice your responses to common interview questions, and leave your scrubs at home on the big day. After the interview, don’t forget to follow up with a thank-you note to express your gratitude and interest in the position.
Remember: a job interview is an opportunity to showcase your skills and experience, but it’s also a chance to learn more about the facility and nursing unit you’re applying to. Now that you know how to interview for a nursing job, all you need to do is be open-minded, confident, and professional. You’ll be well on your way to landing the job.
For curated job postings, career advice, and help getting your job search off the ground, visit Lensa today. Good luck out there!