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Interview Tips for Nurses

Whether you are a new graduate or experienced nurse it’s always important to consider how you can improve your interviewing skills. Recent changes in the both the economy and health care insurance legislation have made it more difficult for many new grads to find a job.

Furthermore, the budget reductions and hiring ‘freezes’ have forced many experienced nurses to sharpen their job interviewing skills—just in case. Polishing up on your job interviewing skills could be what it takes for you land a new job or advance your career.

Pam Price-Hoskins holds a doctorate degree in nursing and has been an RN for almost 43 years. In her role as a Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) she conducted interviews and hired nurses for 7 years.


When I asked her what characteristics employers are looking for in nurses today she said, “Honesty, integrity, work ethic, comm

itment to lifelong learning, [the desire] to work in collaboration with other nurses and team members, and [the] ability to think clearly about complex issues.

Let’s look closer at these characteristics so you can sharpen your interview skills and find the right job for you.

interview tips for nursesCharacteristics Employers are Looking for in Nurses

Honesty – When interviewing for your next nursing position it’s important that you display qualities of your character to the person who is interviewing you. Interviewers can sense when an interviewee is augmenting their achievements or sugar coating the challenges of working in modern health care.

These types of displays during an interview indicate to the potential employer that the candidate may be prone to dishonesty or has a desire to appear ‘perfect’. Potential employers know that honesty is an extremely important characteristic of what it takes to be a successful nurse.

Teamwork – Describe your experiences in working on a team. For new graduates, this could be your experience with teamwork in nursing school or on a sports team. Experienced nurses can explain any efforts they have taken to improve teamwork in their clinical area and why they think teamwork is important to modern health care practices. Potential employers know that holistic, therapeutic nursing care cannot be provided apart from teamwork.

Acknowledge how important teamwork is in the nursing profession and what gifts you will bring to the team. Describe what you consider to be the most challenging and rewarding parts of working together on a team.

Provide examples of the difficulties you encountered while working with others on a team and what you learned from the situation. Potential employers understand that today’s health care system cannot function well without teamwork. It’s important that you share your views on how you will work as a team in the interview.

Critical thinking – Potential employers understand how technical and complex modern health care is today and therefore want to hire nurses who can think clearly about complex issues. Share any experiences you have had in employing critical thinking in clinical situations.

Discuss the situation, how you responded, and what you learned from your experience. Your experiences will give the potential employer a first-hand look into your critical thinking skills to determine if you are a good fit for the unit or organization.

Work ethic – With the increasing amount of job hopping found throughout the U.S., employers want to hire nurses who have the ability to stick it out, roll with the flow, and deal with the ups and downs that come with working in complex health care environments.

You can relay your work ethic during an interview by providing examples of how you have dealt with negative situations in the past and continued to press on toward your goals. To set yourself apart from other candidates, provide the interviewee with a specific example of your strong work ethic and positive coping skills.

Commitment to the field – Many nurse managers or CNO’s have a desire to improve the nursing profession. In order to do this, they may prefer to hire nurses who demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning, provide interventions that are supported by empirical evidence, and strive toward advancing the profession.

Relay how you plan to do this as a new nurse by staying up-to-date on new research, participating in nursing associations and societies, or continuing your education.

Experienced nurses can provide the interviewee with examples of how they have sought out opportunities to advance their learning throughout their career. If this is something you haven’t pursued simply acknowledge this in the interview and share your plans for how you will commit yourself to lifelong learning in the future.

Although you want and need a job, it’s important that you remember that it’s not just a job, it’s a commitment. Just taking the first job you are offered without considering whether you will make a good fit may backfire on you. In the words of Dr. Price-Hoskins, “An interview is not a commitment; it’s an interview.

You want the right fit, not just a job.” Take a little time to strengthen your interviewing skills before your next interview because it could be what sets you apart from the other candidates.