If you’re a nurse in the job market, resumes and cover letters are a central part of your search strategy, but it doesn’t end there — job interviews are something you need to contend with, too. And no matter how anxious you may be about the interview process, there’s one thing you want to bear in mind: nursing job interviews are a two-way street (or at least they should be). 

You Can Interview Them, Too

As you prepare to sit for a nursing job interview, there are common interview questions that you’ll probably be rehearsing your answers for: 

  • What can you tell us about your most important weakness and strength? 
  • Why do you want to work for us?
  • Why should we hire you? 
  • What salary are you hoping to earn? 
  • Tell us about a time you had a conflict with a colleague — how did you resolve it? 
  • How do you respond when a patient is unhappy with their care? 
  • What is your philosophy about patient care?
  • What would you do if you saw a colleague make an error (e.g., breaking sterile technique)?

And while you want to be ready for all sorts of interview questions, there’s often a question that some interviewees don’t prepare well enough for:  

  • What questions do you have for us? 

When an interviewer asks you if you have any questions for them, this is your moment to take the bull by the horns, so make sure you’re ready with something meaningful.

The chance to ask questions has two purposes.

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1) Ensure you get answers to things you genuinely want to know.

2) To demonstrate to your potential employer that you’re thoughtful, curious, and intelligent, not to mention that you care about the more subtle nuances of a career within their organization.

And if you’re wondering how to arrive at these questions, the following are some ideas to get your thought process started:

  • What is your facility’s practice and philosophy about staffing levels? Do you have specific nurse-patient ratios that you follow? How do you adjust staffing when the census is unusually high?
  • How would you define your overall workplace culture and the culture of the nursing staff in particular?
  • Speaking of workplace culture, how would the administration or nursing leadership respond if somebody filed a report that a nurse bully was on one of your units?
  • Are your CNO and other executive team members accessible to staff if they want to request a meeting?
  • What would you say are one major strength and one major weakness of your organization?
  • Can you explain what professional development and career advancement opportunities are available to your staff nurses? Is there a process for nurses who want to advance into leadership?
  • I noticed in your mission statement that your organization is very focused on _____________ and ___________. Can you tell me more about what that looks like in the life of the facility?

Be Prepared

During a nursing job interview, if you ask questions that reflect on your knowledge of the organization (e.g., its culture, mission, values, recent accomplishments or rewards, history, etc.), this demonstrates that you’ve done your homework and have a true sense of curiosity about what it would be like to be chosen as a member of their staff community. 

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If an interviewer asks you if you have any questions and you draw a complete blank, that doesn’t necessarily reflect well on you. Being as prepared as possible for a job interview is extremely important. Although you’ll want to focus on practicing for the more difficult questions that may come up (e.g., behavioral scenarios), having some key questions of your own up your sleeve is prudent. 

Remember that a job interview should also allow you to interview them. Many employers may not necessarily see it that way, and some interviewers may not even allow space for your questions, but you have the right to receive answers to your most salient questions.

If you’re going to put your career, well-being, and safety in the hands of an employer, then you should have the opportunity to have your questions answered. Be ready, be assertive, and make sure your interviews are truly a two-way street. 

Minority Nurse is thrilled to feature Keith Carlson, “Nurse Keith,” a well-known nurse career coach and podcaster of The Nurse Keith Show as a guest columnist. Check back every other Thursday for Keith’s column.

Keith Carlson
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