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Tips to Help you Nail that Job Interview

*Original post released on 5/18/2020

When prepping for an interview, be sure to read up on the organization to which you are applying. Make sure their values, ideals, and criteria align with yours. If these don’t correspond, you may find it difficult to work at their facility. This will also help arm you with ammunition if you’re asked the common question of “what made you choose our facility?” Researching the facility prior to your interview also provides you with key information about the facility such as what areas they specialize in, what level facility they are, how many beds are in your unit, the overall atmosphere of the organization, etc. This also prevents you from asking simple questions about that information which can impact the impression you leave on your interviewers.

One of the BEST things you can do for yourself to prepare for your interview, regardless of the method they use, is to prepare for behavioral-based questions. These are the dreaded questions that always seem to begin with the phrase “Tell me about a time when…” I would suggest having someone quiz you with new questions each time and record the exchange so that you can look it over and make mental notes of what to change for your actual interview. When looking for behavioral based questions to practice with, definitely focus on those concerning teamwork, conflicts, conflict resolution, and strengths/weaknesses.

On the off chance that you are asked specific content-related questions, be sure that you know basic nursing knowledge. This is most likely to occur when applying to specialty units such as the ICU, NICU, ER, L&D, etc. If you don’t know an answer to one of their questions, admit it. DO NOT fake it or guess the answer because they will know. Admit that you don’t know the answer and say you’ll find out and tell them the next time you see them (wink, wink). This lets your interviewers know that you’re dedicated to staying current and seeking out information, and it also puts a thought in their minds about that “next time” they’ll see you. Another key thing to do prior to your interview is to brainstorm a few questions to have handy in case your interviewers ask what questions you have for them. Make these questions unique and NOT something you can easily locate in the job’s posting or on the facility’s website.

The day of your interview, make sure to dress professionally and appropriately. Be early (15 min is early enough). I always had this ingrained into my mind: “Early is on time. On time is late. And late is unacceptable.” Have a copy of your resume, cover letter, and certifications/licenses. I suggest keeping these in a padfolio of sorts that also has a pen holder and notebook. It’s also a wise idea to slip a few blank thank-you cards in your padfolio so you can write genuine, handwritten notes of gratitude after your interview to leave with the unit/facility. Try your hardest to remember their names! If you’re like me and completely suck at remembering names, try repeating their name back to them during introductions to help cement it in your mind (Ex: “Hello Andra, it’s nice to meet you. My name is Denise and I’ll be interviewing you today for the ICU new grad RN position.” –> “Hello Ms. Denise, it’s nice to meet you.”). It’s common courtesy to use titles of respect when addressing your interviewers. These include: Ms., Mrs., Mr., ma’am, sir, etc. If they do not wish to be addressed as such, they’ll politely correct you or dismiss that title. But follow their lead AFTER the initial use of the title to show respect.

During the interview, be genuine with your body language and make good eye contact. Speak clearly, eloquently, and avoid speaking in slang or using profanity. Be sure to turn your cell phone off and refrain from using it during the interview. This is why I suggest having a padfolio so you can jot notes, names and phone numbers, and any follow up interview dates and times. Even in today’s era of technology use, I would still suggest avoiding the use of your phone to record these details during the interview.

There are a couple of topics that will likely come up in conversation no matter the mode of interview. These are typically why you decided to pursue this career, to talk about your accomplishments or why you’d be a good fit for the position, and your goals. Keep your answers concise yet detailed. Talk about your accomplishments proudly, but refrain from being boastful or putting others down when given this opportunity. If asked about your career goals, be cautious in discussing these in an interview. Less detail is often better. Give them enough information about your goals to show that you are driven, but limit the time frame to something achievable within 2 years or less. For instance, when applying for an ICU RN position, it would be wise to discuss wanting to pursue obtaining your critical care certification after 1 to 2 years of experience. It is not wise of you to state plans of returning to school in less than two years or that you’re planning to get experience in that unit to be able to get into a graduate nursing program. They’ll see your motivation for working there as simply a stepping stone to something else. Why would they want to invest time and money into training you if you’re going to leave after 1-2 years of employment? It won’t benefit their facility or unit. Your answers need to provide them with insight as to how you’ll benefit their unit and team.


  • Limit and/or eliminate any extra distractions in your immediate environment.
  • Allow the other person to talk. Avoid dominating the phone call.
  • Have notes jotted down for reference during the call (Ex: facts about the organization, questions to ask, points to discuss, names, contact information, next appointment dates/times, etc.)
  • Expect to prepare and work harder to make a lasting impression with your interviewer. Employers often use phone interviews as a quick and easy way to eliminate applicants. For this reason, don’t be worried if you aren’t extended an offer of employment. The interviewers tend to wait until all applicants have been spoken with before offering in-person interviews or job offers.
  • Be prepared to talk about a start date and salary expectations even though they may not extend an offer or next interview quite yet. Do your research so you have a response ready for these questions.
  • Be sure to send a thank you note or email after the conclusion of your call.


  • Be sure to dress professionally (if anything, at least from the waist up lol)
  • Limit the use of notes if possible because it can appear as though you’re using your cell phone during the interview.
  • On that note, silence your phone and refrain from using it when on the call.
  • Figure out which application they’ll be using for the interview and take it for a test run to make sure you know how to operate the software. Things to check out: how to turn on the audio, how to mute your voice, how to set a professional photo as your profile picture, how to manipulate the background if possible, how to record the interview (option may be blocked by the interviewer), etc.
  • If you know the platform ahead of time, practice interviewing with someone via the same route to work out kinks.
  • Close out any other programs on your computer/laptop/tablet prior to the start of the interview and silence any notifications that are likely to pop up during the interview.
  • Set up a professional looking account specifically for interview purposes and have it separate from your personal account.


  • Straighten out the details of the meeting prior to the event. This would include the location, date, time, reservation information, how you’ll meet, etc.
  • Make sure to bring all of the items you would typically bring to an interview such as your resume, cover letter, certifications/licenses, etc.
  • Dress professionally as you normally would for an interview.
  • Be prepared for your interviewer to discuss more personal questions (relaxed conversation topics) because an interview via meal is typically extended when they are very interested in hiring you and want to know more about you.
  • Make sure you treat all people you interact with in a courteous and professional manner. This includes servers, hosts, valets, etc.
  • Use your manners! This means avoiding talking while chewing, use your napkin, don’t chew with your mouth open, say thank you, etc.
  • Avoid conversations involving taboo topics like politics, religion, money, etc. Also refrain from making any negative comments about the location, restaurant, food, and service. This is a huge turn off.
  • Try not to order messy, odorous, or expensive foods. As an icebreaker, you can ask if they’ve been to the restaurant and what they’d recommend (this can give you insight as to a good price range to order from).
  • Under no circumstances should you consume alcohol, even if the interviewer does.
  • Expect to not pay for your meal if they have extended the meal interview opportunity. This is why you should be mindful of the cost of the meal you order.
  • Do not take food home with you. Yes, you don’t want to be wasteful, but this is taboo behavior for a meal interview.

I hope these tips & tricks will help you get the job of your dreams! If you have some helpful info that I didn’t cover, be sure to leave a comment below to help each other out. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any specific questions about interviews and preparation. Good luck and happy studying!


Andra Alyse

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