Deepen Your Job Interview Skills | The Nurse Keith Show, EPS 115

On July 3rd, 2017, I published a blog post entitled, “Elevate Your Nursing Job Interview Skills.”  I chose to write that blog post because so many nursing career coaching clients ]come to me with true pain about how to make nursing job interviews more successful and less riddled with anxiety. Are you anxious during interviews? Are you knocking your interviews of the park? 

Interview cartoon

If you really want to rock a job interview as a nurse, you need to step up your game and swing for the fences. In episodes 18 and 59, I dove into interviews in terms of building confidence and basic skills. Now we’re going deeper. 

Prior to and during a job interview, you need to consider what the interviewer really wants to know. What is he or she looking for? What can you say and do that will make you shine in their eyes? An interview is a two-way conversation, and you need to demonstrate that you understand the organization to which you’re applying, as well as how you can make a contribution to that organization. 

Passion and genius:

Can you communicate where your passion lies in terms of nursing and your career? What are you bringing to the table that no one else can deliver the way you do? 

Your rich life experience is something that no one else can claim; you can use it to differentiate yourself from the competition. And make no mistake about it, an interview home run is about your differentiation from the pack. Generic statements and goals won’t cut it — you have to authentically communicate who you are. 

Your relationship to organizations and colleagues: 

Here’s what I wrote about this in the aforementioned blog post: 

Interviewers want to know how you see your place in the world, how you relate to others, and the quality of your relationships with organizations you work for or interact with.

A potential employer wants to know if you’re a loyal team player. They also want to know if you value the collective genius of the organization and the people within it, as well as your willingness to contribute to that collective genius as an active participant within the workplace community.

Nursing doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it’s a collaborative venture. They want to see that you’re up to the task and if you’d be a good fit for the corporate culture.

How do you communicate?

Verbal and non-verbal communication are key during interviews. You need to show and be your very best. 

Your body language says a great deal about you, and there’s no doubt that your interviewer will be “reading” how you use your body to communicate. Crossed legs and arms can demonstrate a closed way of communicating with others, and poor eye contact can betray a lack of self-confidence. Are you busy drumming your fingers on your notebook or tapping your foot out of anxiety?

You must also remain aware of your facial expressions during the interview process. Do you smile easily? Do you make eye contact when speaking, or do you look at the floor or to the side? If you have a tendency to frown or wrinkle your forehead when thinking or speaking, that habit could be easily misinterpreted. Self-awareness is key.

Your sense of purpose and mission: 

Give them a sense of who you are and why you do what you do. Can you explain why you’re a nurse, why you’re working in healthcare, and what your purpose and mission are? Being able to articulate this clearly may come in handy. 

Walk in their shoes: 

One method of interview preparation is to put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes. What are they after? What are their pain points when it comes to hiring and retention? What is the stated mission of the organization? What hiring mistakes have they made in the past? What would make you stand out from the pack? Which of your answers would shine with the authenticity that they’re dying to hear?

If you were the interviewer, what would you want to hear from a nurse applicant? What is it that would make you say “yes” to one candidate and “no” to another? Is it just a gut feeling or is it something else?

Overcoming anxiety:

Anxiety can kill your chances in an interview. Personally, I love interviews; rather than seeing them as high-stakes do-or-die moments in my career, I see them as opportunities to test my conversational skills and match wits with an interviewer or interviewers. Now, if you’re applying for a high-stakes position in a special internship or doctoral program, a little anxiety is understood. However, it must be overcome in the interest of your success.

If you have extreme anxiety, psychotherapy or counseling may be in order for you to gain control and quell your fears. If it’s garden variety anxiety, learning breathing techniques and other strategies for controlling your nervousness may be enough. There are also dietary supplements and other means to work with anxiety if it’s really getting in your way. 

Overall, I believe that excellent preparation and mastering interview strategies will help you a great deal. This may include practicing your answers to the questions that make you sweat; taking part in mock interviews with a coach or a willing friend, family member, or colleague; and doing research on the aspects of interviews that make you most uncomfortable. For example, if clinical questions are your nemesis, learn how to approach them with more ease. Or if questions asking for stories or examples make you shake in your boots, practice those. 

Mercilessly market yourself: 

Finally, an interview and job application process are about marketing. Like I’ve said in the past, you are a commodity in the job market — be able to sell yourself like the salesperson you need to be. Here’s what I said about marketing in that blog post: 

In business, we identify what’s known as the unique selling proposition (USP) behind our product or service, and we then use that USP to appeal to potential customers and buyers. To sell a product or service, we need to know our target market and use a sales pitch that appeals to their sensibilities. A product or service simply needs to affordably solve a “pain point” (problem needing to be solved) felt by the consumer.

For you and your nursing career, the pain point of your potential employer is that they need to fill a nursing position with the best possible candidate who will give them the best possible return on investment (ROI). Nurse turnover can cost tens of thousands of dollars; thus, a hiring manager wants to try to choose high-quality nurse employees who will contribute in positive ways and remain with the organization for as long as possible.

As you market yourself to your potential employer, the case you make must clearly proclaim that:

  • You are the ideal candidate for the position
  • Your longevity within the organization will provide them with an excellent return on their investment in your training and acculturation
  • You will be a good cultural fit within the organization
  • The skills and experience you bring to the table are exactly what they need
  • You have exactly what it takes to deliver consistently high-quality nursing services (in whatever capacity you are hired for)
  • They will never regret their decision of bringing you into the organization

An interview is about marketing, language, mission, purpose, values, and communicating that you, the candidate, have a contribution to make. You need to differentiate yourself from the pack. The relationship between employer and employee is a two-way street, and you can also hold the expectation that the organization will offer its allegiance and commitment to you, the highly valued and valuable nurse.


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Be well, dig deep, and keep in touch!

Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BCKeith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind NurseKeith.com and the well-known blog, Digital Doorway.

Keith is co-host of RNFMRadio.com, a wildly popular nursing podcast; he also hosts The Nurse Keith Show, his own podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses. Keith was previously the resident nursing career expert at Nurse.com.

A widely published nurse writer, Keith is the author of “Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century.”

He has also contributed chapters to a number of books related to the nursing profession, and has written for Nurse.org, Nurse.com, MultiViews News Service, LPNtoBSNOnline, StaffGarden, Working Nurse Magazine, and other online platforms.

Mr. Carlson brings a plethora of experience as a nurse thought leader, online nurse personality, holistic career coach, writer, and well-known successful nurse entrepreneur.

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