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Interview 101: It's not just the candidate who should prepare

You have a candidate coming in tomorrow to interview for a position that has been open for a while. The nurse has the certification you are searching for, has several years of experience, came with great recommendations, and you are confident you want him or her to work for you. In all honesty—you need this nurse to work for you. Before you start filling in the empty schedule gaps, ask yourself this question, "Have you done your homework?"

It's a competitive market out there, and in order to grab a hold of the best possible nurses for your facility, it might be smart to brush up your own interviewing skills. The most qualified job candidates are spinning the tables around on nurse managers and probing them with some tough questions. But a little preparation will help you answer the tricky questions in the best way—and may determine whether or not the candidate walks away from your offer.

The following is a list of questions that candidates may ask. Sharpen up your answers before the interview:

  1. Can you tell me what you think are the best and worst aspects of your hospital?

    Every work environment has its flaws, which you don't want to talk about and scare the candidate off, but you also don't want to present a false image. The best way to answer this question is to begin talking about the positive aspects and slowly work into the aspects that may be viewed as negative and how you are working to change them. Support the challenging aspects of your facility with concrete reasons as to how they got to this point and focus on what is being done to improve them and the successes that your team has been able to bring about.

  2. What would I see if I was a fly on the wall in your unit? Would your staff be getting along? Smiling?

    Don't tell the candidate that everyone is sweetness and light if that is not a true representation of the unit. Before you answer the question, mentally evaluate your staff. Do they communicate well with each other? Are some of them strictly business and don't take the time to socialize with others? Do they bicker? Whatever the case, emphasize that proper communication is essential to a functioning nursing unit, and that all work together to ensure patient care is the top priority.

  3. Many hospitals offer great programs to their nurses. What makes this opportunity superior?

    Think about what perks your hospital offers and sell them as if you were working on commission. Discuss the professional practice environment and opportunities nurses have for professional development, such as participation on committees, councils, or research projects. Have you received designation from the ANCC Magnet Recognition Program? Do you practice evidence-based nursing? Have you formed a journal club?

  4. Do you offer any outstanding benefits? Pay for advanced degrees? How are these better than your competitors?

    Familiarize yourself with the benefits package prior to the interview. If you have to, set up a meeting with someone in the Human Resources department so they can brief you on the highlights of the benefits package. Make a point to highlight professional development opportunities, such as pay for continuing education, and any of the better benefits you have to offer.

  5. Where do you see me six months from now? What competencies do you expect I will develop that I don't presently have? Who at this facility can I learn the most from?

    Think about recent new hires at your hospital and how they progressed after they set foot in your unit. What skills did they acquire and what are they doing presently? Do they still work in your unit or have they moved onto other things? Also, keep a mental note of the best team members who have excelled and/or gained the most experience and consider having them conduct a peer interview with the candidate where they can sell the professional opportunities at your organization. Also, start thinking about who might serve as a great mentor.