How To Prepare For Your First Interview After You Get Your Nursing Degree

Congratulations! After years of study and perseverance, you have completed your NCLEX and earned your nursing degree. But before you run your first diagnostic test or jot your first medical history note, you need to get a job—and that means nailing your interview. Here is a list of things to do to prepare for your first interview after you get your nursing degree.

1. Do Your Research

If you have just finished a nursing degree, you are no stranger to doing close, critical research. In this case, though, your focus is not on a medical problem but on your potential employer. You should start with finding a trustaff nursing agency. Focus on your preferred geographic area, but be prepared to look further afield if there are hospitals, medical centers, or practice offices that better fit your care philosophy.

Find out everything you can about the employer’s staff, mission, designation, awards, and the population they serve. Be prepared by learning what specialists and specialized services they provide, their relationships with other systems or institutions, and their history.

2. Presentation Matters

The employer will be assessing the way you present yourself, from your hygiene, to your wardrobe, to your body language, tone of voice, and expressions. As a nurse, you will be working on a personal level to comfort and support people in distress and pain. Being cordial, friendly, clean, and professional will count a great deal toward whether or not the employer even bothers to take into consideration your qualifications and expertise.

3. Show Your People Skills

Your people skills are what set you apart as a professional caregiver. Communicate clearly, demonstrate flexibility, and show that your emotional intelligence is equal to any scenario they might introduce. One great way to accomplish this is to respond to the interviews with the same kind of compassion, patience, and sensitivity that you would show to a patient—even one of the most difficult temperament.

4. Show Your Clinical Skills

During your interview, the employer will present you with a clinical scenario. They want to see how you respond, under pressure, to a real medical situation. For this part of your interview, do not simply parrot medical knowledge from your studies but showcase your critical judgment and your professional competencies. If your clinical scenario incorporates other staff members, remember that you are also being evaluated based on how effectively you interact with—and collaborate with—those people.

5. Show Them Who You Are

Assume that every other candidate interviewing for this job has the same clinical expertise, professional credentials, and soft skills as you. Think about what you can bring to this particular employer that sets you apart from the rest of the pack. Be prepared with stories of your personal experiences and that demonstrate your style of communication, quick thinking, and teamwork. Show them that you are a full person and make sure they get a sense for how you, as a person, are more than just a cog in a caregiving machine.

6. Know the Process

Go into your interview process aware of the usual steps in nursing searches and use that knowledge to your advantage.

Your first interview will likely be a brief phone or video interview with a human resources staffer or an agency recruiter. At this stage, the employer is screening out unqualified individuals and will ask about subjects such as your education, clinical experiences, and current employment. Be straightforward, positive, and enthusiastic, and be sure you take the call in a quiet space where you can focus on the conversation. Be prepared to schedule the in-person interview (have your calendar at hand) and do not be afraid to ask about what happens next in the search process.

The second interview typically happens in-person and is intended to evaluate not just your qualifications but also your personality and objectives. This interview is typically with the hiring manager, whose primary interest in assessing how well your strengths and competencies could serve the employer’s objectives.

In some cases you may have a different second interview. Many second interviews are “peer interviews” that will have you meeting with another nurse, either one who has been with the employer for a long time or, more likely, one who serves in a management capacity. These interviewers are looking for clear evidence that you will be part of their team and that you will fit in with the unit’s culture and mission. Provide specifics, and remember that you are speaking with a colleague.

Sometimes the second interview will be a “series interview” in which you meet one after another with other members of the employer’s team. For a serious interview, remember that each person is meeting you for the first time and may ask you the same question or questions as previous people: maintain consistent enthusiasm and keep your answers consistent.

Some employers use a “panel interview”. When this happens, you will be speaking with three or more people at the same time. Do not let this intimidate you. When someone on the panels asks a question, answer that person directly, but then open up the conversation to the rest of the group as well. Make sure each person feels attended to and listened to.

Asking, “Is there a nursing agency near me?” is just the first step in successfully landing a nursing job. Just because there is one near you does not mean that you will end up with a placement through that agency. Managing your interview experience is crucial to securing your first job.

Remember that the interview is not just a chance for the employer to learn about you: you, too, should be evaluating them. Bring authentic questions so you can determine if this facility or practice will be the best fit for you, your nursing style, and your professional goals. Avoid asking questions about salary or benefits but do ask about the work environment, professional advancement, and care philosophy.