Interview Like a Pro

Tomorrow is my big grad school interview. I’m nervous as heck but also excited. And believe it or not, ready to be back in school (NERD ALERT). I even bought a new interview suit! I never wear suits (being a nurse = wearing pajamas to work).

So in honor of this occasion, I thought I’d gather together a few pearls of wisdom I’ve gleaned from others and from experience. Since beginning this journey, I’ve interviewed for both nursing schools and nursing jobs, and I’ve learned some important lessons. Most can be applied to both educational and work opportunities. So here we go…



  1. Do your homework. Know the place where you are interviewing, be it a potential workplace or a school. In this Internet age, you have more than enough information at your fingertips to demonstrate interest and knowledge. Plus doing some pre-emptive research will help you develop important questions to ask of them, as well as give you a good idea if it’s a place you would even want to work/study.
  2. Bring notes. No matter how well-prepared you think you are, you might blank. Especially when you get to the end of the interview, and they ask you pleasantly, “Do you have any questions for us?” I promise you that all those brilliant questions you mentally composed will fly right out of your brain. Write them down. It’s okay to have notes. It’s okay to take notes. No one expects you to remember it all, especially in a high-pressure situation. And speaking of those brilliant questions…
  3. Make sure to ask questions. Being ready for this opportunity demonstrates two important facts: 1) You’ve done your homework (see above); and 2) You genuinely care about this opportunity and you want to learn more. Plus, it gives you a chance to share additional information about yourself and/or slip in a detail they didn’t ask about but you want to share. (I.e. “How many opportunities for multidisciplinary collaboration are there? Because at my last job…”). See how you did that? You just showed that you value teamwork, you had a good question prepared, AND you got another chance to toot your own horn. Rock on.
  4. Follow their advice. My hopeful program sent out a letter explaining the interview process and their expectations of us for the day of. Not everyone gets so lucky, but if you do hear from them ahead of time with specific guidelines, FOLLOW THEM. For example, we were advised to familiarize ourselves with the program outcomes and the curriculum. So I went online and jotted down notes about the course summaries they had posted, as well as interesting factoids about the faculty. A little name-dropping never hurt. 
  5. Know why you want this job/program. I know, I know, thank you Captain Nurse Obvious. But if you don’t know, I guarantee you they won’t know. Be able to tell them why you want to do this in general AND why you think this particular location is the best fit for you. You want to study with them because it’s a US News & World Report top nursing school for x specialty and at least 1/2 the faculty members are FAAN-credentialed? Hey look, another chance to impress them with your level of preparation!
  6. Get there early. You never know what complications you may face. You could get lost on the way. Parking could be a nightmare. The building could be a labyrinth. It never hurt anyone to show up a little early. Worst case scenario, it gives you one last chance to review your notes.
  7. Be yourself. Yep, it’s a high pressure situation. Yep, you probably look way more put together than you feel. You may fumble your words, you may walk out of there and realize you forgot to mention that little nugget of wisdom that would have guaranteed you an instant full scholarship (keep dreaming about that one, Nurse Teeny). But if you are genuine and you demonstrate that you are invested in this opportunity, you will come across positively. My favorite interview experiences have been 2 parts conversation, 1 part inquisition. Relax!
  8. Be confident. I realize this sometimes often contradicts Tip #7. At least you probably won’t feel 100% confident. If you do, tell me your secret. Regardless of your melting insides, however, smiling, eye contact and a firm handshake go a long way. They say, “Hey! I deserve to be here and I know it!” Because you deserve to be there. Even if you don’t get the answer you want. I learned early in my nursing career that there are only so many offers to go around. There will not be room for every confident, genuine, smart, well-prepared interviewee. It’s not you, it’s them. 
  9. Try, try again. Say your best-laid plans go awry. For God’s sake, don’t give up! If this is what you want, go for it. Perhaps be wiser than Nurse Teeny and don’t put all your eggs in one basket… But knowing what you want is half the battle. The other lesson I learned as a duckling RN is that a “Yes” will come
  10. When the “Yes” comes, CELEBRATE! Shout it from the rooftops, go out for margaritas, whatever. Your life is about to change (hopefully for the better). Be proud of yourself. 

Got any tips or words of wisdom of your own? Share them in the comments below! 

P.S. One of the reasons there are only so many slots for nursing education is because there aren’t enough faculty members. So if you are applying for graduate school, I HIGHLY encourage you to consider teaching as part of your career. Be it clinical or classroom settings, we need more teachers so we can educate and hire more nurses!

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