Common Nursing Interview Mistakes

Common Nursing Interview Mistakes

Preparing for your first nursing interview can be daunting. You’ve worked so hard to get to this point, and it’s all riding on nailing your interview. You’re wondering what to wear, what questions they’ll ask, and how to show your strengths. We’ve outlined the most common nursing interview mistakes to help you prepare. 

Being Late 

First and foremost, and generally, something everyone knows is don’t be late. In addition to not being late, it’s vital to be early. Our rule of thumb is to leave an hour before you need to be there, leaving plenty of time to enjoy the drive, not stress out when there’s traffic, and it gives you extra time to scope out the place and visit the restroom to do a double check in the mirror before checking in. 

Dressing The Part 

Dressing the part does not mean you should show up in scrubs. However, it does mean that you should not show up overly flashy or in too rigid of business attire. Below we’ve outlined what items are considered to be “safe” when applying for a nursing position. 

  • Skirt (knee length with pantyhose) or pantsuit 
  • Jacket/Blazer that matches pants or skirt
  • Button-down collared shirt or blouse
  • If choosing to wear a dress, it also should be knee-length (covering the top of knee with pantyhose)
  • Avoid flashy colors or patterns
  • Heels should be low or wear flats, no open toes
  • No cleavage exposure
  • Avoid dark makeup, keep to neutrals 
  • Well-groomed 
  • No visible tattoos or piercings
  • Natural hair color
  • Earrings should be studs 
  • The necklace should be simple
  • Handbag should be neutral
  • No perfume or mild use of perfume
  • Fingernails should be short and without polish but clean and recently manicured

Enthusiasm For The Job  

Showing enthusiasm for the position is more than communicating. It’s also about the role itself, the unique opportunity, and the key values of where you’re applying. Show your enthusiasm for the job by diving deep on their website before the interview. Know the employer’s values, what they stand for, and what opportunities this particular career you’re applying for could lead to. 

Negative Comments About Your Previous Employer 

If you’ve had any previous medical experience before applying for your current role, and even if it’s not medical related, chances are your hiring manager will question you about it. This is not an opportunity to place blame. Make sure when you’re talking about the position, you never place fault or speak negatively. This can be tough and will likely require at-home practice. 

Cracking Jokes 

This is for both the introverts and the extroverts. When introverts get nervous, most of us inadvertently laugh (like when we don’t know the answer to a question). Extroverts, on the other hand, may crack a joke. Although somewhat obvious, cracking jokes and laughing in interviews most commonly will not land you the job. Hard to avoid knee-jerk reactions, and generally the only way to prevent this is to pump yourself up before the interview and practice practice practice at home. If you have trouble with interviews and selling yourself, consider joining your local Toastmasters chapter for a boost of confidence. 

Blaming Others 

Have you been in a situation in the past that may have been shared when telling a story about your previous experience? Blaming others for things that have happened before will not only show the hiring manager that you can’t learn from your mistakes, it also communicates that you’re not a team player. During the interview, you’ll want to make sure to highlight that you’ve learned from a mistake and that you’re better from it (if and when that topic comes up). 

Not Highlighting Your Strengths

What makes you better than the next person or the person that came in before you? Not highlighting your personality is one of the most common nursing interview mistakes. Now, this can be tricky as it’s not something that’s written on your resume. It has nothing to do with your past experience, it has to do with your personality and what makes you unique. In addition to this, its something that needs to come naturally with your responses to the interview questions. To learn more about what questions are asked and how to prepare, visit our recent article, Five Common Nursing Interview Questions and Sample Answers.

Poor Body Language 

Body language is everything. During your interview, make sure that you sit up straight, it shows that you care, are attentive and that you have self-confidence. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that you seem happy and engaged with the conversation, and you’re not closed off. Uncross your arms, if in a skirt cross your legs at your ankles and keep your hands on your legs unless when you’re talking. A great way to practice correcting your body language is to set up a camera at home and practice your interview with a friend. Watch the recording and continue to improve until you seem natural and open. Hiring managers want to feel like you have the energy and professionalism to be a part of the team, and body language communicates a portion of that. 

Not Asking Questions 

One of the biggest mistakes that nurses make during interviews is not asking questions. Below we’ve outlined a few questions you should ask for both your benefit and to show the hiring manager that you really care about the role and you’re looking for a career and being there for the long-haul. 

Common Questions

Ask one or two and prepared to talk about why you asked them and respond positively to their response.

  1. Tell me a little about the community culture?
  2. Are there opportunities for advancement?
  3. What’s the average turnover rate?
  4. What are the scheduling requirements?
  5. What are the average patient ratios?

Questions to Avoid Asking 

  1. Will there be a drug test? (yes, there is always a drug test)
  2. How soon can I request time off?
  3. Did I get the job?
  4. Where and when can we take a smoke break?
  5. Are we required to work holidays?

Did we cover all the common nursing interview mistakes? Have something to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below. 


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About the author

Ashley Carty

Ashley Carty is a seasoned medical professional with over 8 years of experience working at the top hospitals in Southern California, including Hoag, Saddleback Memorial, and UCSD.

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