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5 Things to Emphasize During Your First Nursing Job Interview

What to emphasize during for your first nursing interview

You’ve graduated from nursing school, and passed the NCLEX. After jumping those two huge hurdles, you’re not quite done — it’s time to look for your first job as a registered nurse! While it’s every new RN’s dream to have a job waiting for them on the other side, skipping the dreaded interview processes entirely, the reality is all of us will need to go through at least one interview to land that first job.

The whole process of a job search — tailoring a resume, applying for different positions, and putting your best self out there — can feel overwhelming. The old saying “applying for a job is a full-time job” has some real truth at the root of it! The good news is that with a bit of preparation, practice, and this checklist of five things to focus on, you’ll be ready to nail your big nursing job interview.

1. The way you carry yourself

You body language isn’t something you’ll be discussing, obviously, but it’s worth noting right off the bat. Distracting or aggressive body language — crossed arms, bad posture, lack of good eye contact — can sink an otherwise great interview. So while you’re practicing what you’re going to say, and how, practice with good, pleasant, and professional posture. Nursing is a personal profession, so inject enthusiasm and warmth into your answers. Notice and put a stop to things like fidgeting. Practice with a friend and ask them if they noticed odd expressions or anything out of the ordinary. And remember that smiling, in most situations, goes a long way.

Related resources: How to Succeed at Your First Healthcare Job Interview

2. Demonstrate your soft skills

Effective, clear communication. Friendliness. Compassion. Adaptability. What do all these descriptions have in common? They’re all soft skills, the intangible skills that are becoming increasingly essential in the modern healthcare environment. Hospitals are no longer solely looking for an individual with strong clinical skills and a degree. They want the whole package, a nurse who can think critically, who can work well with others, and who has high emotional intelligence. During the interview, find ways to showcase these skills through examples and your personal experience. You’ll be much more memorable this way, as well.

3. Discuss your clinical skills

While soft skills are important, you’ll need to showcase your clinical experience through a clinical scenario. Managers are looking for people who will fit in with their team, but they’re also looking for nurses who have a good head on their shoulders. According to nurse Beth Hawkes, hiring managers aren’t looking to trick you during clinical scenarios, and they’re not looking for someone who can recite medical facts at will. Instead, she explains, they’re looking for a candidate who uses sound judgement and knows core competencies. Bonus points if you can answer a clinical question by sneaking in an example of a soft skill, too!

Related resources: 6 Tips to Succeed at Your First Nursing Job

4. Like any good nurse: Be inquisitive

Interviewers shouldn’t be the only ones asking questions during an interview. You’re there making sure they are a good fit for your goals and skills, too, and asking them questions is a good way for you to feel them out. Make sure to prepare a few questions ahead of time, but don’t shy away from asking questions based on the information gleaned during the interview. If you know who you’re interviewing with ahead of time, do some reconnaissance. See what their background is in, ask them questions about their experience, and see if you have a connection with them.

And above all else, avoid asking about pay or benefits at the first interview— save those for after an offer has been made.

5. Don’t forget to emphasize you!

Hiring managers aren’t hiring a resume or a set of skills — they’re hiring you. While it’s easy to go into ultra professional mode during an interview, it’s OK to show a little of your personality. In other words, don’t be a robot! Tell personal stories that emphasize your communication, critical thinking, or leadership skills. If one of the panelists tell a joke, it’s OK to laugh. Show you’re a human who’s passionate and friendly. Chances are, you’ll make a lasting impression by giving them a little glimpse of who you are behind the awesome resume.


Landing your dream job starts with the proper credentials. At Ameritech College of Healthcare, we’ve created a program designed to produce strong, skilled registered nurses who stand out among the crowd. If you’d like more information on our nursing program in Utah, please feel free to check out our website or reach out to us. We’d love to hear from you!

5 Things to Emphasize During Your First Nursing Job Interview