If you are fresh out of nursing school or in the early stages of your nursing career, facing an interview to be a registered nurse can shift your interview jitters and anxiety into high gear. RN interviews are similar to other job interviews. You'll field questions about your job knowledge, education, strengths and weaknesses. Focus on giving well-constructed and sincere responses that will land your resume on the top of the pile. Also, practice, rehearse and research are three pre-interview steps to becoming a successful RN job candidate.
Education and Credentials
When you apply for an RN job, you'll likely have to submit a CV or resume before you are invited into an interview. This document should show that you at least meet the minimum requirement for RNs, which is either a bachelor's of science degree in nursing (BSN); an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN); or a diploma from an approved nursing program. In addition, you must be certified by your state licensing board. You might be asked to further discuss your education during the interview, so be prepared to talk about how you made good grades or completed your coursework with flying colors.
When you're entering the RN field for the first time after graduation -- or even if you've been an RN for a few years -- you might need to discuss why you chose to be an RN. Practice your responses to questions such as "What made you decide on nursing;" "What do you want to contribute to the nursing field;" and "Why be a nurse and not a doctor?" Think of specific examples of your motivations for entering the field. Rather than saying something broad and generic like, "I want to help others," provide specific reasons why you want to help others, and apply those reasons to your training and experience.
The relationship you had with your preceptor during your clinical rotations will probably be a discussion topic in your RN interview. Expect questions about how effective your preceptor was in shaping your clinical skills and techniques under her supervision, and whether she influenced your decision to specialize in a particular area of patient care. Your resume should include your clinical rotations. Cite the hospitals or clinics you worked at, including the dates of all your patient care rotations. You'll likely face some questions about which rotations you enjoyed the most, and why.
Passion and Aspiration
Professional development is a key concern for many RNs. Even if the charge nurse or hiring manager doesn't specifically ask questions such as, "Where do you see yourself in five years," you should have something to share with the interviewer about your career aspirations. Give it some thought so you won't fumble around for an answer. For example, you might say you want to combine technology and nursing in a specialty area such as telemetry nursing.
Teamwork and Collaboration
Many RNs are the only connection between patients and physicians. Your ability to be part of a cohesive team comprised of nurse aides, patient care techs, unit clerks and doctors will factor into whether you're a suitable candidate. You'll face behavioral interview questions, so practice your responses to questions such as, "What do you tell a doctor when her communication with patients needs to be easy to understand?"
Strengths and Weaknesses
Practically all interviewers ask questions about your strengths and weaknesses, but because of the variety of RN duties, you might face another type of both-ends-of-the-spectrum questions. Practice your answers to questions about your most favorite and least favorite nursing duties, but tread carefully. You don't want to dwell on how much you dislike drawing blood and starting urinary catheters and PICC lines, for example. Instead, use your nursing education and background to highlight the best utilization of your skill set.
Do your research, because you'll probably face questions about the salary you want. The way to prepare for questions about compensation is to find out what the market rate is for RNs in your area. Use data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to find a baseline and search for hospital-specific salaries and wages by searching collective bargaining agreements available through the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Labor Management Standards and other sources such as large employers of RNs. Also, look at similar job postings for comparable size employers and skim through online discussion forums where job seekers, current and former employees post salary information.
2016 Salary Information for Registered Nurses
Registered nurses earned a median annual salary of $68,450 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, registered nurses earned a 25th percentile salary of $56,190, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $83,770, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 2,955,200 people were employed in the U.S. as registered nurses.
- University of California, San Francisco: Office of Career & Professional Development: MEPN RN Interviewing
- State of Oregon, Department of Human Services: Sample RN Interview Questions
- Nursing Link: 15 Toughest Interview Questions and Answers: What Salary Are You Looking For?
- U.S. Department of Labor: Collective Bargaining Agreements File: Online Listings of Private and Public Sector Agreements
- PICC Line Nursing: What is a PICC Line and Why Do I Need It?
- The New York Times: Health Guide: Urinary Catheters
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Registered Nurses
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Registered Nurses
- Career Trend: Registered Nurses
Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.