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How to Interview a Nurse Applicant

by Ellie Williams, studioD

When interviewing candidates for nursing positions, it’s critical that you find someone who’s not only skilled and knowledgeable, but who also possesses integrity and works well with others. Consider not only training and experience, but also each applicant’s ability to act quickly under pressure and fit in with the rest of the team.

Introduce Your Facility

It’s important that applicants understand the facility’s culture, services and policies. Offer insight into how you operate and what you’re looking for so they can more effectively address your questions. Describe the hospital’s mission and values and discuss details such as how many patients the facility typically treats, any specialty areas, the typical patient demographic and the size of the staff. Mention key qualities that nurses must have to meet patients’ needs and support the rest of the staff’s efforts. Give applicants a tour and let them see potential colleagues in action.

Involve Everyone

Caring for patients requires a team effort, so you want to find someone who can work well with your existing staff. Ask multiple members of your team to interview candidates, either individually or as part of a panel interview. For example, the unit manager can evaluate an applicant’s clinical competency, while fellow staff nurses can assess her interpersonal and communication skills and determine if she shares the facility’s values. Ask other employees if they could see themselves working alongside her every day and trusting her with patients’ lives.

Assess Motivations

Nursing can be a complex and high-stress job, so you want to ensure applicants are applying for the right reasons. Screen candidates for passion and dedication by asking why they chose nursing and how they decided which area of nursing in which to specialize. Also ask them why they’re interested in the position and why they want to work at your facility. Be wary of candidates who discuss high salary as an incentive to pursue a particular specialty, for example, because that might mean they’re not genuinely interested in patient outcomes. It could also mean they’re more likely to leave if a higher paying opportunity comes along.

Ask for Examples

Get a glimpse into how the applicant will likely behave on the job by using behavioral and scenario-based questions. Choose several skills crucial to the position and ask questions that require the applicant to discuss what she would do or how she has responded in similar situations. For example, describe a set of symptoms and ask her how she would assess the patient and which treatment she would administer first. Or ask what she would do if she disagreed with a doctor or fellow nurse about a patient’s case.

About the Author

Ellie Williams has been a journalist since 2001. Her work has been recognized by her state's press association and by her local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Williams graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications and humanities, with minors in French and theater.

Photo Credits

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