How to Prepare for a Nursing Interview

Tips for Landing Your Dream Job: Expectations and Challenges

Close up of a nurse holding out her hand

We can’t overstate the importance of preparing for a nursing job interview. Once you have obtained your nursing license, the next step is to get ready for the job-seeking process. We’ve all been to an interview for a new position: we’ve had the sweaty palms, uncontrollable jitters, and smile that borders on desperation.

Although the nursing field is competitive, you can help yourself by standing out during each interview. Our guide will teach you everything you need to know about preparing for this process. Whether you’re a career starter or a career changer, you can use our tips to help you get through this nerve-wracking experience.

(Click here to learn how to become a Registered Nurse.)

1. Research the Company and the Role

First thing’s first: do you homework for a job interview. Why? Not only do you want to ensure the place and position is right for you, but you also want to impress the company by understanding their culture, values, and goals. You could start by researching your potential employer through their website or news article. We would also suggest that you search for reviews from current or former employees. If the employer comments on these reviews, their responses can say a lot with a little.

Most importantly, make sure you understand the role you’re applying for—go through each and every responsibility listed in the job post. If there’s something you don’t understand or requires clarification, make a note to ask questions about it during the interview. This simple action will reinforce that you have carefully considered the position and want to ensure that you’re a good fit.

2. Review Your Nursing Experience

It might sound obvious, but we highly recommend reviewing your nursing experience. This is because you will need to discuss your experience during the interview. You must also relay how and why your experience makes you an ideal candidate for this particular position.

So, you could organize your previous roles by specialty, patient population, healthcare setting, etc. It would also be a great idea to practice answering potential interview questions based on your nursing experience. Ask a friend or a classmate to role-play this scenario with you. Don’t forget: You can usually ask your alma mater for help, too! Most of them have a career services team that prep graduates through mock interviews and resume assistance.

3. Prepare for Common Nursing Questions

Depending on the employer, your interview questions may revolve around teamwork, adaptability, patient care, time management, communication, and motivation. An article by includes extensive questions and answers for each category.

Remember to prepare for questions that are specific to the nursing field as well. These may include ethical and legal considerations, patient care management, and critical thinking or problem-solving skills. There is an element of nursing that is solely “thinking on your feet,” so problem-solving skills are vital.

Bonus tip: If you know someone who has worked for this employer (or a similar one), check with them to see what kind of questions they encountered during their interview.

4. Dress Professionally

First impressions matter. A lot. You must dress professionally for a nursing interview. Pick out the clothes you want to wear well in advance; if they need to be specially cleaned, set aside time to do so in your schedule. Interview attire should be clean, neat, and comfortable. Double-check the job posting to ensure nothing specific is mentioned for interview attire.

We suggest this because some companies have a dress code. If not, then aim for business casual for most nursing job interviews. Some examples include slacks and a blazer for women, while men might wear a suit and tie. Neutral colors tend to be best. However, if the organization has a standout logo or colors, you could add them to your ensemble.

Above all else: Don’t wear scrubs or jeans.

Side view of a smiling woman outside

5. Take Care of Yourself

Self-care is an important element of success. This means you should aim to get a good night’s sleep, eat healthy meals, and practice relaxation techniques. Set a reminder on your phone to ensure that you go to bed on time. Resist the temptation to look at screens, too—it’ll likely disrupt your sleep patterns. Ensure you have access to nourishing ingredients for breakfast with plenty of vitamins and energy for the day. Lastly, meditation or deep breaths can go a long way. If you don’t know where to start, try this 10-minute YouTube tutorial on meditation.

All these efforts can help you feel more confident and focused during the interview.

6. Arrive Early

This one is just as important as dressing in a professional manner. If you arrive early to a nursing interview, it will ensure that you are not late. It’ll also demonstrate to the interviewer that you are dependable and punctual. You want to show them that you care about this job right off the bat.

If possible, use a GPS or a reliable form of transportation. Plan out your route and arrival time. Add extra time on top of that to factor in possible traffic, delays, etc. This extra time will also allow you to prepare for the interview and get in the right head space. You don’t want to rush to the interview and appear haggard or frazzled to the interviewer.

7. Bring Necessary Materials

In order to truly be prepared, you must bring certain materials to your nursing interview. These items typically include a copy of your resume, references, and any certifications or licenses. Remember to double-check the job posting to ensure that no special documents are requested of you. In addition, you should organize and present these materials in a professional-looking folder or binder. You want to appear detail-oriented and organized to the interviewer.

When it comes to your resume, it would be helpful to consult with the career services team at your alma mater. They stay up to date on trends and know how to best present the data on your resume. Generally speaking, you’ll likely want to create a professional resume that profiles important coursework, clinical experience, and nursing career highlights. In addition, print out multiple copies of your resume and keep them in your folder.

8. Show Enthusiasm

More often than not, a candidate is chosen for their personality and fit. This is partially why enthusiasm is such a critical component of any job interview. The company doesn’t just want to hire a qualified candidate, they want a qualified candidate who is passionate about the position and will give it their all.

To demonstrate your enthusiasm, smile at the interviewer(s), make eye contact, and express interest in what they say. You also want to show a general interest in the nursing field as well as the organization. We’ve said it already, but it’s important enough that it bears repeating: passion and positivity can make you stand out from other candidates.

9. Demonstrate Your Knowledge of the Nursing Field

To enhance your image, demonstrate your knowledge of the nursing field. This doesn’t just include your studies. It means that you should be aware of the latest nursing trends as well. Discuss how they relate to the employer’s services on as many levels as possible. Before the interview, research the latest trends and set an alert on your phone for keywords like “healthcare, nursing, and news.”

Highlighting your knowledge of the field is another way to prove your passion and commitment to helping others. These are two qualities an interviewer will look for in their top candidates.

Overhead view of medical workers shaking hands

10. Ask Thoughtful Questions

At the end of your interview, the employer will usually ask if you have any questions about the position. This is your time to shine and show that you have done your research on their organization as well as the responsibilities of the role. You can also take this opportunity to demonstrate your excitement for the position.

To stay respectful of the interviewer’s time, limit yourself to two or three questions. These could include the nurse-to-patient ratio, opportunities for continuing education, or how the organization supports its nurses. For more question ideas, see this excellent article from Ask thoughtful questions to demonstrate your interest in the employer, this role, and your future.

11. Follow Up

Ideally, you will have asked the employer what the next steps are in the interview process. During that time, you can again express how interested you are in the role; it’s always important to end an interview on a high note. Whether you are provided with next steps or not, we suggest that you follow up with the interviewer by sending a thank-you email or handwritten note.

If you go the extra mile, you will show them that you are courteous and a contender for the position. Think about it like this: A professional yet thoughtful note couldn’t hurt your chances. Why not follow up and ensure you stay in their thoughts? It could be just the thing to push you ahead of the others.

Begin Your Nursing Journey at Unitek College

Without a doubt, it’s vital that you focus on preparation, professionalism, and follow-up to land your dream job. While it can be a challenging experience, you don’t have to go into these meetings feeling underqualified or underprepared. Remember to review our tips in this blog post so we can help you succeed during your nursing interviews.

Should you decide to advance your career, you can always go back to school and pursue a higher degree. For instance, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program could enhance your career prospects and potentially lead to more management opportunities, greater salaries, and more. Many employers seek to hire nurses with a BSN degree or higher.

Find the right nursing program and get started on the road to a rewarding career today.