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How to prepare for a job interview

Hathaway, Lisa R. RN, BSN

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Getting that all-important interview is crucial to getting the right job. Think of it as matchmaking in your professional life. The only way you'll know that you're right for a particular job—and that the job is right for you—is to investigate face to face.

When that phone call comes to set up an interview, how do you prepare? And how do you make the most of this opportunity? Follow these guidelines.

Beforehand preparation

Like preparing for a test, preparing for an interview primes you for success. Cover the basics as soon as an interview is scheduled. Ask who'll be interviewing you and how to pronounce her name. Confirm where the interview will take place and get directions if you need them. If the facility is large, check its Web site for a detailed map. While you're online, scan the site for information about the facility and find out what you can about it. Request brochures if they're offered.

Don't forget the obvious—let your friends and acquaintances know you're applying for a position there. Use your networks to find nurses already working there so you can get the scoop on conditions.

To help prepare for your interview, look for articles about interviewing and samples of questions typically asked. Think about how you'll answer them, and jot down a list of questions you'll ask.

The night before your interview, pack key items in your purse or bag—maps to the facility, directions to the location, notes about the time and interviewer's name and phone number, plus copies of your résumé, your cell phone, and a notebook with your list of questions. Hang your clothes out, making sure they're neatly pressed. Check your shoes and polish them if they need it. Set the alarm so you'll have plenty of time to get ready in the morning, then settle in for a good night's sleep.

Step up to the plate

When the big day arrives, put your best foot forward. Show up on time or a few minutes early. If you're unexpectedly delayed—your train breaks down or you get stuck in traffic—call to notify the interviewer.

Greet your interviewer with a firm handshake, and smile—it improves your “face” value. Be positive and enthusiastic, and most of all, be yourself.

During the interview, maintain good eye contact. Focus on the person you're speaking to and listen carefully to what she says. This shows her that the interview is important to you. Take notes, jotting down key items you want to recall or follow up on. Your sincerity and enthusiasm will impress her—and these are attributes employers look for in their staff.

Accentuate the positive

As you discuss your background and experience, stress your good points in a factual, sincere manner. Don't boast, just sell yourself as the right person for the job. Talk about your experience in a positive way, avoiding derogatory remarks about instructors or coworkers. You want to clearly communicate what you've accomplished and what you've learned in the process.

No doubt, you'll be very curious about salary and benefits, but be patient. If you ask about them early on, you'll give the impression that they're your first concern. The interviewer wants to know that you're focused on doing a good job, not how many vacation or sick days you'll get, so wait until she brings such issues up.

Closing the interview

The last impression you leave is almost as crucial as the first one. If you're interested in the position, let the interviewer know it. Explain why you'd be a good fit. Don't be discouraged if you aren't offered the job on the spot, no matter how perfect it seems to you. Most hiring decisions are made by more than one person, so those interviewing you need to discuss their reactions to you and other candidates before making the call.

When you leave, thank the interviewer for her time and consideration. Send a short, handwritten note within a day or two to reiterate your interest and express appreciation for the interviewer's time and help.

Interviewing is a learning process. Take what you learn from each interview and apply it to your next one. Soon you'll be hearing the exciting words…“You're hired!”

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.