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Looking for a new nursing job? Here’s some great interview advice.

Looking for a new nursing job? Here’s some great interview advice.

Interviews are tough. There is no way to feel very natural while a person grills you on your work history, or worse, a group of managers interviews you via zoom.  You’ve got the talent and the experience, but how do you sell what you’ve got?

Interviews can seem tricky, but don’t let your inner panic make you miss some key signs about the company. After all, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.  Right now, nurses are in demand (and by demand we mean desperately needed). That means you have more leverage in choosing a position than you think.

Here are a couple of key interview techniques to get you started:

  1. Be prepared.  This goes for any position at any hospital for any level.  You should know the location of the facility, the types of specialties the hospital offers, and some basic information about core values or the mission statement.
  2. Review your own resume before you get there. You would be surprised by the number of nervous candidates who forget what they have done or what year they graduated. Be prepared to explain jobs you kept for less than a year or gaps in your work history.
  3. Don’t lie.   Nurse managers are often nurses.  They talk the talk and often spent many years walking the walk.  If you don’t have relevant experience, be prepared to discuss the attributes or skills you think will help you succeed.
  4. Listen closely to the question you are asked and pause to collect your thoughts before answering. Try to provide specific examples when possible.

Now that you’ve made it through the hard part, it’s time to consider some questions for the facility. Any good interview will end with an opportunity to ask questions. Take advantage of this opportunity; it shows you are well prepared and allows you to nail down some important details.

The interviewer likely won’t be able to give you salary information. Still, they can tell you what scheduling looks like, staffing ratios, and should have basic information about benefits like the availability of a 401K or tuition reimbursement.  For specifics, you may want to look to HR, but these factors are important indicators that you are looking for long-term benefits to the manager.

A few questions to consider include:

  • “I know with COVID needs, your staffing ratio may not look like it usually does. What is the hospital’s goal, and where are you currently?”

This question helps the hospital answer honestly.  You aren’t likely to find a 4:1 ratio on a Tele or Med/Surg floor right now.  If the hiring manager can’t answer the question or tell you how they are trying to help the nurses caring for a higher than average number of patients, it may have always been a high ratio.

  • “What kind of committees do you have in place, and are nurses allowed to take part?”

If the hospital is worth their salt, they not only have active committees, but bedside nurses make up the majority of committee members. If the manager looks puzzled or struggles to name at least 2 committees in short order, you may want to take note.  That said if the hospital has many opportunities consider following through and joining one.  Sometimes new colleagues are in the best position to see and fix broken processes.  The time commitment is minimal, and it will help you establish your role and make new friends in your unit.

  • “What kind of long-term benefits do you offer?”

You can adjust this one for your needs.  If you know you plan on going back to school, ask about tuition options. If you know you plan to stay for five years, ask about vested pension or retirement plans.  This question tells the interviewer you plan to stick around and gives you some more information about the benefits of working at the hospital.

  • “What does report look like at your facility?”

This question is two-fold.  It will give you the actual start and stop times of a typical shift, and it will help you gauge the safety practices in place at the facility.  While bedside report may not be your favorite way to get information, it leads to a safer hand-off.  Since upwards of 80% of errors happen because of communication, shift change is a particularly dangerous part of your shift. If the manager can’t give you specific practices, it is likely there isn’t a plan in place, and that’s something to consider before you sign on.

  • “What does the orientation process look like.” 

Your confidence and skills may vary as a nurse.  You may feel right at home after the first week, but most nurses need a few weeks with a preceptor to nurse safely in a new environment. If you are a new nurse looking for your first job, prioritize hospitals that offer a residency program. If you were (or are) a travel nurse looking to lay down roots, be prepared to get more training than you normally would.  Remember, you are playing for keeps, so learning the details at this job will be important.


It can be easy to let the excitement of getting a new job prevent you from noticing red flags.  You don’t want to be surprised when you finally start on your new unit.  Pay attention to safety concerns, staffing issues, or turnover rates.  Don’t be afraid to ask about concerning findings.  Remember, you are the one in demand.  Asking questions may feel uncomfortable but it is an important part of the interview process.

Now, get a jump start on your interview by reviewing some commonly asked questions here.

Happy job hunting!

Amanda Ernst, DNP, RN, CEN

Amanda Ernst, DNP, RN, CEN


Amanda is an ER nurse with 10 years of healthcare experience. She currently works as a nurse educator and as an adjunct professor for several schools. She also works as a freelance healthcare writer in her spare time. Amanda thinks the greatest thing about nursing is the endless possibilities and opportunities to learn. What have you learned today?


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