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The Secret that Nurse Managers Look For In An Interview

This is the third post in my Get Hired! Series. The first two posts were:

10 Insider Tips You Need to Land Your First Job in Acute Care

Why Your Resume Should NOT Be All About You

Maybe you have an upcoming interview. Congratulations! Or perhaps you’re just looking ahead towards future interviews. Either way, thanks for coming here, and I believe that I can help you…wherever you are in your journey. I’ve personally hired a countless number of nurses and learned alot about job interviewing that I want to share with you.

The best thing about an interview? You can WOW them with your presence. You must wow them with your presence. Here’s how to bring your A game to the face-to-face-interview and blow the competition away:

Confidence Confidence Confidence

I asked my good friend Jamie, Director of our hospital’s  Versant Residency Program, “Jamie, all things being equal…. how does the hiring panel (consisting of managers, directors, and staff RNs) select the winning candidate?” Jamie reflected and said “Confidence.”

[Tweet “I asked a Nurse Manager, “How does the interviewing team pick the winner ?” She said..”]All things being equal, the confident candidate gets the job. “Gee, thanks, but that’s no help!” you may say. “Me? I’m not confident! I’m Nervous Nellie!”

You may not FEEL confident. But you can APPEAR confident. Which MAKES you confident.

Here’s how:

Project a Confident Interviewing Presence

A confident interviewing presence can’t be measured, but it’s  something that can be recognized and learned.

Confidence is assessed within the first 30 seconds of you entering the room.

Your confident interviewing presence makes you immediately likeable and irresistible. Employers hire the candidates they like!

The most qualified person in the world is not getting the job if they come across as aloof or dull.

Interview presence is learned

Before entering the room, stop and focus. Breathe in. breathe out. Summon up your positive energy. Picture yourself about to step onto a stage to receive an award, and your awaiting audience loves you.

lupita, confidence, interview

Step onto Your Stage

Now enter the room. Smile a big, warm, genuine smile. Do not be timid in your bearing or your walk. Project high energy, because nursing takes energetic, fast thinking, fast-moving people. Don’t convey slowness or hesitation.

Immediately approach the interviewer(s) and extend your hand. Give a firm handshake. It takes a lot to compensate for a limp handshake.

When answering questions, do not look away, up, or down. Lean forward slightly and maintain eye contact with the questioner. While speaking, go around the table and make eye contact with each person. Don’t skip anyone. When you first catch their eye, widen your eyes slightly. (Women know how to do this, it’s subliminal flirting, but it’s not taken as such.)

Confident Posture

Good posture alone increases self-esteem and confidence. Do not allow your back to touch the back of the chair when seated. Keep your shoulders back and relaxed.

“Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the face.”
Helen Keller

Excellent bearing, carriage and posture assure that you will stand out by default. People assume you are successful and confident when you carry yourself well.

Strange Confidence Building Exercise

This may sound strange, but try it at home. Stand up. Take a big breath in. Strike a body building pose.

confidence, nurse interview

The Hulk has confidence!

Picture the Hulk. That pose. Be the Hulk, be Big. Bigger! Watch out that your shirt doesn’t rip open! Note how you feel. Shy? No! Powerful? Yes! (Men probably know this one).

Note, I am not saying to walk into your interview like the Hulk. I am saying to become familiar with that bodily feeling of power and confidence and to practice summoning it up at will.

confidence, interview

Matthew’s Confidence Building Chest Thump

Did you know that Matthew McConaughey thumps his chest  before starting a scene to loosen up and not be nervous?

Confident Professional Appearance

Ladies, consider getting your hair done the day of your interview. If you don’t need a cut, have it blown out and styled. Men, be well-groomed. Be familiar with the dress norms in your area.

Dress conservatively. Dressing conservatively shows respect by sublimating your individual dress style to that of the organization’s image.

Invest in a classy, classic outfit that you can wear for years to come, not a trendy outfit. Tempted to show the world your artsy, colorful, cutting-edge self ? Great, but not in a nursing interview. Know the organization’s policy on tattoos and piercings and dress accordingly.

Your clothes should fit, flatter, and be functional. Functional meaning if your pencil skirt does not have a kick pleat in the back, you will walk with minced steps and said skirt will ride up your thighs when you sit. Skip the perfume and colognes.

Manage Your Nervousness

You already know if you’re a fast talker. I am. The solution is to practice strategies to lessen your nervousness because the real problem is nerves. Record yourself on your phone and practice slowing it down. It will sound uncomfortably slow, but only to you.

If you think you talk too much, you probably do. Answer the questions, but don’t ramble tangentially. If you find yourself talking about your family or pets, you’ve gone on too long. Notice the body language of the interviewers. You can tell when you’ve lost their interest.

Warning-if the interviewer is all chatty and casual, respond in kind, but remain professional. They are not a chummy friend, they are assessing you.

Confidence Specific to the Job Requirements

Deep down, you have to believe that you are the best candidate for the job. Once you believe this, you will find your voice and be able to articulate as much to the interviewer.

If you have not identified your marketable assets, do this.

  •  Assess your personality, traits, and character. Meaning make a list. Enlist the help of a couple of people who know you well, because you need outside perspective. Also, if you hear the same trait mentioned more than once from different sources, you’ll internalize it and believe it. Add what they say to your list.
  • Carry the list around, pull it out frequently, and look at it. Your Fabulous List, the List of You. It may include traits such as passionate, caring, determined, dedicated, detailed, loyal, creative, analytical, team player (I would love to hear what your list says!).
  • Now look at the list of job requirements for the job you want. Hmmm….you may see that they are looking for someone who is detail-oriented and compassionate with strong team work and problem-solving skills.
  • Finally, cross match the lists to see what a great fit you are for them!

Here are a couple of things to avoid:

Never Events During an Interview


  • Be late. Be 10-15 minutes early.
  • Carry a drink in hand. It makes you look too casual and you might spill it.
  • Handle your phone. Mute it and put it away.
  • Be unprepared. Know as much about the company as you possibly can.
  • Forget copies of your resume, license, CPR card, etc. Bring extra copies.
  • Bring up the topic of salary or benefits. That comes later.

Be courteous to everyone from the minute you step onto the campus. It’s the right thing to do, and for all you know, Kaitlin the front desk person may be the ICU Nurse Manager’s niece.

Have you any tips to add from your interview experiences?  I would love to hear from you, and Good Luck!

Related Posts

Uncensored Thoughts of a Nurse Interviewer

How to Answer “Tell Us About Your Greatest Weakness”

Until next time my friend,

Nurse Beth


About Beth Hawkes (146 Articles)
Nice to meet you! I'm a Nursing Professional Development Specialist in acute care, a writer, speaker and career columnist.

6 Comments on The Secret that Nurse Managers Look For In An Interview

  1. Beth, I think a follow up with examples of commonly asked interview and behavioral questions will be helpful for your readers. Knowing how to answer these questions ahead of time fits right I with your article about confidence.

    • Great idea! Thanks so much for the feedback.

      • Interviewer: Share a challenging situation you had and what you did to over come it.

        Me: Well, let me tell you about a time when I was the Critical Care Supervisor and was called by one of the unit nurses informing me two nurses were duking it out in the med room……….

        That story get’s em every time. In fact I probably should write a blog about it because it is situations like that which aren’t covered in any textbooks or orientation materials.

        • You have such great ideas! It’s true, makes me want to hear the rest of the story!

          • I actually gave that story as a response to that very question during the last interview I was on. It is so crazy you can’t make this stuff up and was a great way to illustrate how I could think on my feet during a very rare and unique situation.

          • You’re good at thinking on your feet! Interviews are hard if you’re not.

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