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5 interviewing tips for new graduate nurses


Image: Creatas | Thinkstock

The economy hasn’t been nice to the new graduate class of nurses out there lately. Budgets are being noosed, staffing numbers are more constricted, and most places have a hiring ‘freeze’. So when the time comes for you to get the ‘call’,  you want to be prepared. The difference between landing a job and being another piece of paper filed away can be so simple and subtle that most pay them no mind. Here are some tips to keep your name in the game:

Dress for success

This sounds like a no-brainer, but I’ve seen it one too many times. Men and women show up in casual clothes, or worse they show up in a work uniform. I don’t care what job you’re working, if you want THIS job you are interviewing for, then you will find a way to dress for success. For the men out there the only option is a suit, don’t settle for less. And keep the flashy socks and ties at home. For the women, nothing open toed. I would suggest a business suit if possible. Conservative with powerful undertones is the best.

A portfolio

Everyone should have one. It will have all your basic school records, as well as your career highlights thus far (yes, I now you just graduated). It should emphasize your strengths and also address your weaknesses (employers respect it). Everything from scholarships, letters of recommendation and any certificates you may have acquired (BLS, ACLS, PALS, etc.). Be sure to include a copy of your resume and a list of references. All of this is to show your organization skills and how well you prepare.


Everyone knows the basic questions that most employers ask (for nurses, and all other professions). When I was in nursing school we actually did mock-interviews to help you understand and appreciate the questions that will be asked. Everything from ‘where do you picture yourself in 5 years’, to ‘give me an example of a difficult situation, and how you handled it’. The truth of the matter is most employers have a basic ‘script’ they use for all interviews. I did a quick Google search for sample questions: check them out here.

Not only should you prepare for the question being asked of you, but prepare the questions that will be asked BY you. You should definitely have appropriate questions to ask your interviewer. Everything from ‘what is the skill mix on the unit’ to ‘what is your retention/ turnover rate’ should come to mind. Be sure to get a handle on how you will be treated as a new grad. What will the orientation be like? How long? Type of preceptor? More than one preceptor? Feedback? Guidance? The worst thing you can do when going to an interview is to ask no questions at all! This is probably one of the reason many do not get hired. Why would an employer want you on their team if you have no interest in learning about them?]


Be professional above all, but don’t be afraid to let your guard down and be personable too. We all are human the last time I checked. It’s OK to be nervous, and it’s even OK to admit you are nervous. Always remember the person behind that desk conducting this interview was once in your very shoes!

The best piece of advice I can give you about any interview is this: The interview is your chance to ‘sell’ yourself as well as ‘buy’ into the facility offering the position. The interview is a character evaluation, nothing more, nothing less. You’re already qualified for the position, otherwise you wouldn’t have been called. The interview is all about your character and your personality. Are you a right fit for the organization? And does the organization want to invest in you?

Remember that not all interviews are about getting the job. It’s all about what YOU want as a nurse. Don’t take a job simply because it was offered. Be sure it is the right fit for you. The worst thing that can happen for you over your career is the hit – miss phenomena of hopscotching from job to job because you didn’t take heed. It not only is counterproductive to your time and money, but it will look poorly upon your career.

Lastly, you will get everything out of the interview that you put into it.

Best of luck to you.

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