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Get ready for the big nurse interview
Read the rest of this free course and take the test to earn credit
: Valerie Restifo, MA, MS, RN, the original author of this educational activity, has not had the opportunity to influence the content of this current version. Margi J. Schultz, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, PLNC, a previous author of this educational activity, has not had the opportunity to influence the content of this version. Sheila J. Leis, MS, RN-BC, has professional experience that includes more than 15+ years as a professional development specialist in centralized nursing education at an 800+ bed Magnet hospital. She has previous experience as a nurse manager (renal-diabetes unit) and has been certified in medical/surgical nursing for more than 25 years. Leis currently serves as a full-time nursing faculty member at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Ind. The author has declared no relevant conflicts of interest that relate to this educational activity.
Because she assisted with a code, Linda was 20 minutes late for her job interview. She had to borrow a lab coat to cover a stain on her uniform. And she forgot her resume, which wasn’t updated. Nevertheless, she was sure she’d get the position in the home health department. She had put in five good years of medical/surgical nursing for this hospital, and the recruiter would understand — it’s time for a change. She scheduled an appointment to discuss the job with the recruiter at 3:30 p.m. on a day she was working, so she wouldn’t have to get dressed up or come in on her day off. She didn’t have a free minute during the shift to even think about the interview. By the time the interview started, Linda was so tired that she let the recruiter do all the talking while she fought to stay awake. She couldn’t tell the interviewer why she wanted the position in home care except to say she disliked her head nurse. When she was asked for the names of four references, she blanked and said she’d have to send in some names later. Finally, the session was over, and Linda left with great expectations, hoping for a speedy transfer. Instead, she received a letter notifying her that she didn’t get the job. Linda wondered what in the world had gone wrong.
Whether you’re a staff nurse, a manager, or an advanced practice nurse, interviewing is an important opportunity to market yourself for career advancement. Whether you’re
interviewing for a new position
, starting a new career, or seeking a promotion, the key to a successful interview is careful and thorough preparation. If two candidates have almost equal qualifications, it may not be the most qualified, but the best-prepared candidate who gets the offer. The better prepared you are, the more likely you’ll be chosen over the competition. This holds true for internal interviews as well. Don’t assume because you’ve been working at an organization for a number of years that you will get the job. Take a businesslike approach to interviewing, and keep in mind that interviewing is a skill that needs to be developed. Begin by thinking of an interview as a self-marketing strategy to promote a product — you. At the same time, you are the salesperson making a pitch to the customers. One way to convince customers that you are the best person for the job is to convince them you have the skills to do the job, are a fit for their company, and you really want the job.1 Just like a salesperson, you need to articulate the specific benefits of hiring you for the job as opposed to just describing your general profile. For example, instead of presenting yourself as an RN with five years of experience, emphasize that you can manage the care of five to six patients and take charge of a unit, as well. To represent yourself realistically, think about your knowledge, skills, and abilities beforehand. Ask a trusted coworker or supervisor to identify your top strengths, and then record three of your most marketable strengths on a card to take with you to the interview. Repeat your key strengths several times during the interview.
Interviews may be conducted in several ways, including behavioral, trait, conversational, screening, stress, and situational
  • A
    behavioral interview
    views past behavior as the best predictor of future behavior. An example of a question might be, “Tell me about a time you were asked by an employer to do something you did not agree with.”
  • Trait interviews
    use a structured approach to determine whether the applicant’s personality characteristics match the critical traits needed for a specific job. The interviewer might ask, “What are your daily practices to stay on track and keep focused?” to explore your level of self-motivation.
  • A
    conversational or nondirective interview
    includes a give-and-take discussion of many topics. An example of a question might be, “Tell me about yourself,” or “Why do you want to work for our company?”
  • A
    screening interview
    is designed to weed out applicants and narrow down the field of possibilities before a choice is made. Usually these are handled by a human resources representative or nurse recruiter.2
  • A
    stress interview
    intentionally generates discomfort for the interviewee to evaluate his or her ability to deal with taxing situations.
  • A
    situational interview
    is one in which the interviewer presents a scenario to which candidates can give examples of how they would respond.

Some employers conduct initial or prescreening interviews by telephone before calling in the best applicants for face-to-face interviews. For these, be sure you’re in a quiet location where you won’t be disturbed or distracted.2

Interviews are sometimes carried out by a team or panel, which must reach a consensus in choosing a candidate. Multiple (second, third, or even more) interviews are not unheard of today for positions in management, education, advanced practice, and highly specialized jobs.
How to earn continuing education
Read the Continuing Education article.
This continuing education course is
until November 3, 2018, courtesy of To take the test for FREE, go to
. After that date, you can take the course for
at the same link. If you have a CE Direct login and password (generally provided by your employer), please login as you normally would at
and complete the course on that system.
If the course you have chosen to take includes a clinical vignette, you will be asked to review the vignette and answer 3 or 4 questions. You must answer all questions correctly to proceed. If you answer a question incorrectly, we will provide a clue to the correct answer.
Once you successfully complete the short test associated with the clinical vignette (if there is one), proceed to the course posttest. To earn contact hours, you must achieve a score of 75%. You may retake the test as many times as necessary to pass the test.
All users must complete the evaluation process to complete the course. You will be able to view a certificate on screen and print or save it for your records.
In support of improving patient care, Relias LLC is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) to provide continuing education for the healthcare team.
Relias LLC is also an approved provider by the Arkansas State Board of Nursing, District of Columbia Board of Nursing, Florida Board of Nursing, Georgia Board of Nursing, New Mexico Board of Nursing, South Carolina Board of Nursing, and West Virginia Board of Examiners for Registered Professional Nurses (provider # 50-290). Relias LLC is approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing, provider # CEP13791.
Relias LLC's continuing education (CE) contact hours are generally accepted by most professional nursing organizations and state boards of nursing. Relias LLC has made substantial efforts to obtain appropriate providerships for CE offerings. However, Relias LLC does not warrant that all professional organizations or licensing authorities will accept its CE contact hours. If in doubt, nurses are advised to contact their professional organizations or licensing authorities to confirm their acceptance of these contact hours.
You can take this test online or select from the list of courses available. Prices subject to change.
T |
E |
Illegal questions are seldom asked intentionally.
These include questions related to:
National origin
Physical or mental disabilities
Political affiliation
If an illegal question does come up, try to answer it briefly and positively and move on. Not answering or reacting emotionally could destroy your chances of getting an offer. For example, if your religious affiliation comes up, you could simply say, “My religion has never interfered with my work because it has taught me respect for all faiths.”
Marital status
Sexual orientation
Interviewing for Career Advancement
By Sheila J. Leis, MS, RN-BC
This course is 1 contact hour
Course must be completed by April 15, 2019
Goals and objectives:
The goal of this continuing education program is to enhance nurses’ ability to prepare for and participate in job interviews. After studying the information presented here, you will be able to:
  1. Identify at least four strategies for preparing for an interview
  2. Select the best responses to typical interview questions
  3. Choose appropriate questions to ask an interviewer educational activities are provided by OnCourse Learning. For further information and accreditation statements, please visit
. The planners and authors have declared no relevant conflicts of interest that relate to this educational activity. OnCourse Learning guarantees this educational activity is free from bias. See
“How to Earn Continuing Education”
to learn how to earn CE credit for this module or visit
Complete course and take the test
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Types of interviews
Setting up the interview
When you schedule your appointment, find out as much as you can about your future interviewer, such as title, department, and contact information. Ask about the interview, such as where it will be conducted, who will be participating in it, how long it will take, and what you should bring. Schedule your appointment when you’re at your best — early in the day if you’re a morning person or in the afternoon if you’re not. Don’t forget to get detailed directions and parking information ahead of time; a trial run to the facility at the same time of day as your interview is helpful if you’ve never been there before. It’s a good idea to
update your resume
or curriculum vitae (CV) and to get an application form ahead of time so you can complete and copy it before you go. Check your interview materials for any mistakes or misspellings and have someone else review them for another opinion. For information on how to write a CV, go to
Be ready for the interviewer’s questions. Interviewers ask three basic kinds of questions:
  • Background questions
    ask for elaboration and clarification of information on your resume or CV; for example, for a new graduate, “What was your favorite clinical experience?” For an experienced nurse, the interviewer might ask, “What did you particularly like about your last position?”
  • Professional questions
    relate to your career goals and their relationship to the position you’re seeking. An interviewer might ask, “Where do you see yourself in three years?”
  • Functional questions
    try to gain insight into your skills and abilities; for example, “How would you handle a situation where you thought you were right and others were wrong?” or “Tell me about a situation when you had to deal with an angry family member.”
Interview questions: Be prepared4
Get to know the organization first
Besides marketing and promotion for both the recruiter and the job candidate, an interview provides an opportunity for screening, finding a match or fit, and simply getting acquainted. Regardless of the type or purpose, following some basic guidelines can improve your chances of getting that important job offer. Research your prospective employer. Doing your homework pays off. You’ll be more successful and at ease if you prepare in advance for each interview. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to arrive at an interview without any background information on the organization. Search the organization’s website and check the American Hospital Directory for information about the institution’s financial state and utilization data.3 In your search, it may be helpful to find out the number of beds or patient visits, the size of the staff and the annual budget, the specialties or services offered, the age of the organization, and its accreditation status, which these sites can provide. Check nursing publications’ annual career guides, review the organization’s advertisements in the newspaper, or go to the reference section of the public and institution’s libraries to obtain as much information as you can about a potential employer and the job, including the practice role, specialty, and setting of interest. The advertisements will also provide information about other available positions, nursing salaries, and benefits. You may also want to get a copy of the job description, organizational chart, philosophy of nursing, mission statement, strategic goals, and employee and patient handbooks from the nursing, human resources, or public relations departments. Conducting interviews by phone or in person with people who know about the agency’s reputation, work environment, corporate culture, and competitors can be extremely informative. From what you learn about the organization, figure out why you’d want to work there so when you’re asked, you’ll have a concise answer.
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