When sitting in a job interview for a new nursing position, do you feel like you have to be constantly on the defensive? Are you anxious about how to respond to questions geared towards creating a crack in the foundation of your career and self-confidence? Do you tremble at the thought of verbal swordplay?
Job interviews can feel like you’re being grilled and prepared for dinner, and there are tactics that you can employ to counter those cutting questions and turn the conversation in your favor. I’m not saying it’s easy, but a calm, cool, and collected interviewee can indeed think on her feet and learn to spar with the best of them verbally.
Nursing Interview: It’s About Spin
Yes, the term “spin” is often used in relation to politics and how politicians and their spokespeople try to “spin” a story in a more positive direction. And you know what? They have something there. Verbal sparring or swordplay is an important skill, and job interviews are one place where you need to get out your sword and cut through the negativity with agility and aplomb.
A Case in Point
Let’s say you’ve been a nurse for four years and are in a job interview for a nursing position that you’re really excited about. You’ve jumped around a bit in those four years in an attempt to find your place in the profession, so you have five positions on your resume. Moving around frequently from job to job is often a red flag for potential employers, so the ability to “spin” the story in a positive direction becomes crucial.
Your interviewer says:
“So, Penelope, you’ve had five jobs in your four years as a nurse; we’re a little concerned that you may not have what it takes to be a loyal employee. Onboarding a nurse is expensive, you know.”
You take a deep breath, smile, and say:
“Thanks for bringing that up, Sandra. As you know, entering the nursing profession can be challenging, and finding the right ‘fit’ in terms of a facility and a position can take a while. In my previous career, I demonstrated loyalty to many employers; you’ll see from my resume that I was with Company X for seven years and Company Z for eight years.
“As a newer nurse, I’ve been searching for a facility where I feel my gifts can be most readily utilized, and I’ve been looking for a work environment where multidisciplinary collaboration is truly practiced.
“From speaking with other nurses at Hospital Y, I’ve learned that collaboration and teamwork are central to how you conduct patient care, and my colleagues rave about the workplace culture here.
“I’m looking for the opportunity to dig deep into the company culture and grow as a nurse over time. I am confident I’m the perfect candidate for the Hospital Y team; I’m ready to demonstrate my loyalty at every turn and jump right in.”
Let’s unpack Penelope’s response. She didn’t try to explain why she left those other jobs; that could quickly turn into slinging mud on her former employers, making excuses, or otherwise being on the defensive. Instead, she calmly and non-defensively explained that she’d been honestly “shopping around” during her first years in a new profession and pointed out how she had demonstrated loyalty in her previous career. She didn’t dwell on the negative; she “spun” it towards the positive.
In her response, Penelope made it clear that she has friends who work at Hospital Y and that she’s heard very positive things about the workplace culture. She’s ready and willing to commit to the right employer, which is Hospital Y. She also boldly stated that she is the perfect candidate, not that she could be, might be, or would like to be. That boldness is risky, but it’s a calculated risk that’s often worth taking.
Turning Job Interview Minefields Into Goldmines
If you become comfortable with verbal sparring and spin, you can turn a potential conversational minefield into a goldmine. It’s not always easy, and it won’t work perfectly in every situation, but such a skill is one to have sharpened and stored in your interview toolbox at all times.
Interviews can be tricky, and the stress and uncertainty can be unnerving. When you’ve developed the skill of calmly turning the conversation in the direction you want it to go, you’ll know that you’re onto something. Being able to maneuver in such conversational situations is a skill worth honing. This can be learned, and it’s well worth your attention.
In your next interview, try some of these tactics and strategies; practice in your head, do mock interviews with friends or colleagues, and learn the art of skillful conversation. Who knows? Your next minefield may turn into a goldmine of opportunity.
Daily Nurse is thrilled to feature Keith Carlson, “Nurse Keith,” a well-known nurse career coach and podcaster of The Nurse Keith Show as a guest columnist. Check back every other Thursday for Keith’s column.