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“Why we didn’t hire you”: What Not to Do in Nursing Job Interviews

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“I remember one nurse whose clothes were so tight, I felt like I was watching her slowly suffocate during the interview,” says one hospital HR recruiter.

“I had a gal come to an interview with an itty-bitty dog in her purse,” says another.

“Please don’t start off the interview with a litany of things you won’t do…such as work nights, touch poop or look at old people,” says one more.

A totally different senior RN tasked with hiring says “do we really have to say some of these things?”

According to anecdotal evidence, the answer to that question would seem to be “yes.”

Don’t be one of those anecdotes…

…And while you’re at it, take a look at some more common reasons that clinic or hospital may not have hired you as their next nurse:

You were late to the interview (*ouch* by the way)

This is the cardinal sin of job interviews in any field, but especially in one where people’s lives may hang in the balance at the beginning of your shift.

The most important thing to realize here is that it doesn’t matter why you were late, even if it was something that was out of your control (as unfair as that sounds).

“All I can think is ‘how many times will this happen when they’re employed?’” says one recruiter.

You didn’t show your credentials

Experience counts for a lot, but it must be backed up by the paperwork that proves your credentials.

Keep multiple copies of all certifications, from your nursing degree to every continuing education course you’ve ever taken.  And have it all on hand to support your CV in the application process and in interviews.

You came off as “a complainer”

You heard it from your mother and the same rule applies in job interviews: skip the negativity and focus on the positive aspects of current and former departments/positions.  Trash talk is a huge red flag for potential future behavior and relationships within a new team.

If you’re badmouthing a former colleague and/or employer, an interviewer will often (rightfully so) worry that you’ll be constantly on the sending or receiving end of such complaints in their hospital.

“You dressed like a a slob”

This may sound harsh, but Google it and see for yourself – tons of recruiters are actually phrasing it this way when it comes to “how not to dress in a nursing job interview”.

Dressing professionally is a sign of respect for the interview process and shows the hiring committee that you are a serious contender for the job.

“If you wear a skirt, wear one that is longer than knee length and make sure you can walk in it. I am not interested in how sexy you can look,” says an interviewer on one nursing advice site. “If you wear pants, make sure they are dress pants… If any of your clothes are tight, leave them at home.”

Don’t show up in scrubs. Even if you’re coming from your current job that requires you to wear scrubs, consider taking the time to change.

Don’t show up with greasy/unbrushed hair, no makeup (for female applicants, unless you never wear makeup), or wearing tank tops or pajamas. (Yup, more and more recruiters are actually seeing that…That and people with Nicki Minaj ringtones going off like grenades of obnoxiousness in the middle of interviews, with some actually taking the call).

You made poor decisions

A criminal history can affect your ability to enter a nursing program, secure a job, or renew a nursing license.

Don’t do stuff that gets you arrested! A DUI or even a minor misdemeanor can mean the difference between a new car in the driveway of your nice house, and no job at all.

Consult with your board of nursing about how a record will affect your license application, and if possible (which it very well may not be), get your record expunged.


Confessions from hospital HR (here’s why we didn’t hire you)

10 Worst Answers to Healthcare Interview Questions

Advice to healthcare HR: how to prepare to hire

How a criminal history will affect your job prospects as a nurse

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Contributor Tera Rowland

Tera Rowland is the senior vice president of Soliant and has worked in the healthcare staffing industry for almost 25 years in public relations, social media, marketing, and operations. In addition to Soliant, Tera worked at the Mayo Clinic as an internal communication manager and for the Children’s Miracle Network. She is a member of the American Marketing Association and the American Staffing Association. Additionally, Tera has served on the board of directors for the Jacksonville Women’s Leadership Forum as part of the communication committee. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Relations as well as a Master of Business Administration in Marketing from the University of North Florida. Tera has been published in the Huffington Post, Healthcare Finance News, Healthcare Traveler Magazine, and Scrubs Magazine. Make sure to read the rest of Tera's blogs!