How to Ace Your Nursing School Interview: Pros Tell All
By Jess Scherman on 10/02/2014
You’re confident that you’re destined to become a nurse. Nurses are integral to the framework of medical treatment and it takes a brave, caring and hard-working person to fill those scrubs to their tremendous potential—someone exactly like you!
But not everyone has what it takes to pursue this prestigious profession. There are a few hurdles you’ll have to jump first which include exams, courses and clinicals. But none of these can happen until you pass your nursing school interview.
Just hearing the word “interview” might be enough to make your stomach queasy. But the best way to be confident is to be prepared. We enlisted several nursing pros to share their tips on how to ace your nursing school interview.
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7 expert tips for your nursing school interview
Tip #1: Research the program
There’s a lot to consider when walking into an interview. You never know who your interviewer will be or what exactly they’ll be evaluating. It can be daunting not knowing who will be sitting across the table from you.
One thing you can be sure of is that he or she will appreciate it if you are familiar with the program for which you’re applying. Research the program and find out what makes it unique. This information will come in handy when asked why you’re interested in that school.
Tip #2: Anticipate possible questions
There will inevitably be a few unforeseen questions, but most nurses can agree on a few basic questions you can expect in your nursing school interview. Here are a few questions you should be ready to answer:
- Why do you want to become a nurse?
- Why did you choose this program?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What sets you apart from others?
Your answers will help the interviewer determine if you have what it takes to become a nurse. It takes a special kind of person to work in this profession, says Marcie Sivertson Frederick, registered nurse (RN) certified in neonatal care.
“We work weekends, nights and holidays. We get puked on. We deal with angry doctors, families and patients,” she says. You should leave your interviewer with no doubt that you possess the high character and hard-working nature needed to succeed in nursing.
Tip #3: Practice giving creative answers
Your interviewer has likely done this dozens (if not hundreds) of times before. It’s also likely that he or she has heard the same rehearsed answers time and time again. Our experts agree that there’s a good chance you’ll be asked why you want to be a nurse. Megan Drake, RN at the University of Minnesota Medical Center urges you to go deeper than just saying you want to help people.
“Being a nurse requires much more than that: critical thinking, planning, organizing, professionalism, empathy, prioritizing, coordinating and delegating,” Drake explains. Your answer should definitely reflect your altruism, but it’s important to intertwine these other skills as well.
Tip #4: Think about the future
“Interviewers may want to know about various long and short-term goals, and if the prospective student wants to specialize in a particular field of nursing,” says Nick Angelis, nurse anesthetist and author of How to Succeed in Anesthesia School.
Be sure to sketch out a five-year-plan in your mind, equipped with future goals, specialties and community initiatives. Your plan will likely change between now and then, but having an answer ready will prove to the interviewer that you are serious about your future in nursing.
Tip #5: Be ready to think critically
Nursing is a non-stop, fast-paced profession. You will likely encounter difficult situations and at times you’ll have to conjure a quick solution to an abrupt patient issue. Angelis says you should expect some of your interview questions to put your critical thinking skills to the test.
He explains that most nursing hopefuls have no hands-on experience, so the answers given will be hypothetical. Rest assured that your interviewer doesn’t expect you to know how to treat a patient without any training. He or she is more focused on your willingness to think on your feet and remain calm under pressure.
Tip #6: Expect the unexpected
“You have to be prepared for all angles because it totally depends on the personality of the person giving the interview,” says Brie Peters, graduate student at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing. After conducting several interviews, your evaluator has probably learned to get creative with his or her questions.
Peters recalls some unexpected questions from her nursing school interview. She remembers being “totally thrown off” when asked how she would explain to another applicant that she was a better candidate than him or her. She was also asked about the last book she read outside of schoolwork.
It’s understandable to be at a loss for words in the heat of the moment. Peters advises you to always remain confident and personable even if you feel you don’t have a perfect answer.
Tip #7: Be yourself
One of the most important takeaways that each of our nurses emphasized was to be yourself. Angelis made a point to embrace his sense of humor in his interviews. “Truthfully, I am a weird person and I had to professionally acknowledge my wacky sense of humor from the beginning so it wouldn’t take my professors by surprise,” he says.
Letting your unique personality shine through will be a breath of fresh air for interviewers who may be accustomed to conducting stale interviews. Angelis believes a healthy blend of professionalism, humor and practicality will surpass glib clichés and bland answers.
You can do this!
Interviewing can be stressful—especially when your dream career is on the line. With these tips in your back pocket, you have everything you need to nail your nursing school interview.
Getting into nursing school is only half of the battle. Take advantage of more expert advice on how to overcome the difficulties of nursing school and how to manage your stress level throughout.