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Secrets of Successful Job Interviews

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By Nancy Deutsch, RN, contributor  

When it comes to impressing potential employers, the most notable attribute of prospective nurse employees is their sincere love of the profession.

“We’re looking for a passion for nursing,” pointed out Barbara Klett, a nurse recruiter with Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Nurses from all over the country apply to Georgetown University Hospital, so newly graduated nurses need to stand out from the competition. From this experience, Klett has gleaned several characteristics of new nurses that help them succeed: academic excellence; an ability to approach patient care from a holistic perspective; and good fundamentals.

“They need to know the basics—it’s paramount,” she confirmed.

Cheryl Petersen, with the American Nurses Association, recommended three additional interview tips. She said that nurse recruiters are impressed with those who are articulate, as well as can demonstrate that they can work somewhat independently, and have problem-solving skills.

Before the interview, new nurses should prepare some mental examples of how they handled problems that arose during clinical rotations or school experiences, as well as how they managed to balance working as part of a team with working independently. They should be prepared to share those examples during the interview.

Both experts recommended doing research before the interview on the facility and prepare some questions based on the research.

“[The job candidate] should know all about the institute,” Klett said. “She should know, for example, that Georgetown is a Magnet hospital and what that means.”

Petersen added that if a hospital has Magnet status, the nurse will already have insight into the values of the hospital—and that can make the hospital a more attractive place to work. “We’re encouraging nurses to ask ‘Are you a Magnet facility or on the Magnet trail?’” Petersen said.

Questions for the Facility 

As mentioned, a well-prepared new nurse will have a set of questions to ask the recruiter. Below are examples of important questions to ask:

Staff-to-patient ratio: Ask about the typical staff-to patient-ratio.

Culture: “Not only ask during the interview about the culture of the unit, but I think it’s important to ask to speak to other nurses on the unit directly” to get a flavor for the work environment, Petersen said.

Safety: Ask about the facility’s lift policy.

Types of patients: Klett said she is impressed with job candidates who want to know about the types of patients on the unit.

Benefits: The typical questions, such as those that have to do with salary or benefits, are equally important, Petersen said. Nurses should not be too timid to inquire about what they will earn in order to weigh that into the final decision. She is also impressed with nurses who exhibit an interest in furthering their education.

“[Nurses] should definitely ask about salary,” Petersen said. “Some hospitals will be more attractive than others when it comes to salary.”

In the End 

Klett said that while a nurse who presents well and asks good questions is on her way to being offered a job, there are two more things she looks for that may help her make up her mind about hiring that individual—and these factors may be the most important of all.

The first one was mentioned before and cannot be over-emphasized: “Do they have a love of nursing,” Petersen said. The other is a trait that one cannot fake: “If they have a spark in their eye.”

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