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This site is for student nurses or nurses starting out. Letters to a Young Nurse are blog posts written like letters to help you find your way and make your journey as a nurse less difficult. 

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Interviews and Resumes

Updated: Sep 13, 2023




I have sat on both sides of the table. I interviewed prospective employees and I have been interviewed. I have interviewed as part of a group and been interviewed by groups of people. Most of the time I have been interviewed by one person. Lately interviews are done by Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Technology has changed how we get jobs as nurses. There are thousands of sites to help you learn how to interview. Indeed.com is one of the best sites. There are free resources on every aspect of job hunting.


Let's start with the basics. Your resume is the first impression you are giving to an employer. You should not have one resume; your resume should change with the job(s) you are applying for through the research that you will do on the prospective employer. As an employer, I did not have time to read every resume so I would skim them and find those first with appropriate experience, then I would look at simple things like spelling, and formatting. If you can't spell with all of the free resources out there, then I would assume you could not perform basic tasks of the job.


Should you have your resume professionally written? Absolutely. You can find a resume writer on sites like LinkedIn and Indeed. Writing resumes, in my opinion, is like getting your teeth pulled without Novocain! Boring and tedious! Hire a resume writer who will take your past jobs, experience, lack of experience and craft a document that gets you in the door, metaphorically.


What do you put on a resume if you have no experience working? Or have no nursing experience? Check out the page https://sg.indeed.com/career-advice/resumes-cover-letters/how-to-write-a-resume-as-a-fresh-graduate This shows you how to write a resume if you don't have a lot of experience. But do not forget you do have experience from going to nursing school. What were you good at in clinicals? Did you learn how to use different types of electronic health records (EHR)? Are you proficient with computers? Did you get along with your patients? Were you able to multi-task well? Did you get along well with your co-workers? Where did you excel as a leader?


What you have to understand is nursing is 75% customer service and 25% technical skills. As an employer I needed to know that you could 1. do the job (technical skills) 2. get along with patients, staff, co-workers, patients, families etc. If you could not get along with your co-workers or other students, then how will you work as part of a team on the job you are applying for? Can you talk to strangers with confidence and ease? If you are nervous in a group interview, then how can you walk into a patient's room with family and friends present and answer questions confidently? If you are in a group interview, make eye contact with everyone around the table and address answers to the person who asked the question.


Jessica Hernandez, CPBS, CDCS who writes resumes says, "A compelling resume and cover letter are vital in making an unforgettable first impression. Unfortunately, too many job seekers use the same resume and cover letter for all job applications. Customizing your resume and cover letter to fit the job you’re applying for can significantly increase your chances of getting noticed." (Hernandez, 2023) I remember getting a stack of resumes and the one that stood out the most was the one with a picture of the applicant. Get creative with your resume but keep it professional. The picture was of the applicant in a suit and tie. Don't attach one with you in your party clothes or one that shows cleavage or chest hair.


Practice interview questions with friends and family. There are so many examples online. But you can start with the ones almost always asked.

  1. Tell me a little about yourself. This doesn't mean giving your life story from birth. Your answer should be a brief review of past nursing jobs or clinicals. This should be no longer than 2 minutes. If your past job experience was not in nursing, then relate the skills that you can use in nursing like customer service. Do not repeat your resume because the employer would not have called you for an interview if they had not read your resume. So tell a story of how your past jobs will make you a great nurse. And if you have a personal story about taking care of a family member which is why you wanted to become a nurse, use that story because it makes you personable and relatable.

  2. Give three strengths and three weaknesses. Again, these should be related to some aspect of nursing and give examples. For instance, a strength could be that you learn new procedures quickly. Explain a new procedure that you never did before on a patient and how you were successful. Another strength could be multitasking and time management. You could explain that you worked fulltime while going to nursing school and you never missed a deadline, and you had perfect attendance. A third strength could be your knowledge of different cultures or that you speak a second language. Weaknesses are harder because you don't want to label a task as a weakness that is essential to the job. For instance, do not say that you are terrible at computers if the organizations use EHR. If you list a weakness, you should follow it with how you are learning to make it a strength. For example, one of my weaknesses is that I am a "workaholic", but I am learning how to create a proper work life balance by learning a new hobby with my spouse. Or I am impatient, but I am learning how to meditate and practice mindfulness. I also say that I am overly self-critical but that I am getting better at self-care and use medication so I will stop ruminating the same negative thoughts over and over. Every weakness has an opposite strength, but you have to be authentic when you list your weaknesses.

  3. There are many situational questions that employers are asking now. How did you or how would you handle a difficult patient encounter or an argument with a coworker? What would you do if you were taking care of a patient who had a diagnosis that you had never heard of? In the first scenario you will want to show that you dealt with the situation well and that you learned a lesson from it. In the second scenario the employer is looking to see that you have resources that you could use to research a new diagnosis. There are so many free resources that you can put in your phone.

There are so many other questions, and you can find more at Indeed.com. Practice with your classmates. And look at every interview as not only a potential job opportunity but also as a chance to practice your interview skills. As someone who did a lot of interviews let me tell you a secret. Within 2-5 minutes I knew whether I was going to hire the applicant. Sometimes it took me longer to decide, but usually no more than 10 minutes. It starts with the introduction. Even if you had 800 crises that morning pretend that you are the happiest person in the world. Having a happy attitude is infectious. And shake the interviewer's hand with a firm grip. Smile often. Ask questions that show you have done your research, and you are interested in the position even if this is not your first job choice.


Regarding research, it is so important that you do research on the company or organization. The most important task is to make sure the Job Experience matches your job experiences. What is the mission statement for the organization? What are their values? How long have they been in business? What comments do you find about the organization on Yelp or other social media sites? These questions can help you decide if you want to accept a position with the organization. And this information will help you appear knowledgeable about the job in your interview. It also gives you information in tweaking your resume to the position. I also look up the manger's name (if you know it) on LinkedIn first then on social media sites. You don't want to come across as a stalker but you do want to show that you spent time looking at the company and the person interviewing you.


When the interview is coming to a close and you are asked if you have questions about the position or the company, always have a question ready. One I often asked was, "after hearing about me and my experience am I a good fit for this position?" Or you could ask about the next steps in the interview process. End with a thank you and a smile and a firm handshake.


And always send a thank you note by mail or email. This is another chance for you to compliment the interviewer and let them know that you would be a great asset to the team because of a, b, and c. And it reminds the employer of who you are and keeps your name in their mind. Go to the LinkedIn page to read about thank you notes: https://www.linkedin.com/advice/3/how-soon-should-you-send-thank-you-note-after-1e


Lastly, and most importantly, dress the part. Remember you are going to an interview, not the club! For women, breasts should be covered up. For men, chest hair should not be showing. Look professional so you can feel professional. If you are not sure about your outfit, ask the opinion of an older woman. As I said, my decision about the applicant is made in the first few minutes which includes the first impression you make with your clothes.


I am available to help you with your interview practice. Reach out by email at hello@letterstoanurse.com. Let me know how your interview went? I am rooting for you!



Hernandez, J. (2023, June 8). The Best Way to Position Yourself in a Saturated Job Market. LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/best-way-position-yourself-saturated-job-market-jessica/


“How Soon Should You Send a Thank-You Note after an Interview?” Www.linkedin.com, 1 July 2023, www.linkedin.com/advice/3/how-soon-should-you-send-thank-you-note-after-1e. Accessed 14 Sept. 2023.


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