The Ultimate Job Search, Application, and Interview Guide for Nursing Careers
Whether you’re a new graduate from a certified nursing assistant (CNA) or other nursing program or a seasoned nursing professional looking for career advancement, you may be wondering how to find, apply for, and land a nursing position.
This comprehensive guide intends to tell you everything you need to know, from what to do before you begin your job hunt to after your interviews are completed.
No matter what stage of the job hunt you’re at, we’ve got the tips and tricks to help you stand out from the crowd during your nursing job search. What advice are you looking for?
Writing a resume & cover letter
Polishing your online presence
Setting up LinkedIn & networking
Searching job boards & resources
Finding for your perfect job listing
Completing the application
What to Do Before You Start Your Nursing Job Search
A common mistake job searchers make is trying to do everything at once. There are some things to do before you even start filling out your first application.
Arrange for Professional References
Most recruiters will ask for three to five references, either in the application or after interviews. If you have job experience, you’ll want to ask former managers and supervisors who will be able to speak positively about your capabilities.
If you are conducting a job search with your current manager’s knowledge, you can include your current manager, but many hiring managers will understand if you do not include a current manager and ask that they not be contacted. If you don’t feel comfortable approaching current or former managers or don’t have many to call on, consider other managers and coworkers who interacted with you in previous positions. Even if those managers weren’t your direct supervisors can help, though their references may carry less weight than your direct managers’ would.
If you’re a student, build positive relationships with your instructors, advisor, and peers, as well as any on-site supervisors, as you go through school. If you have previous relevant experience, be sure to keep in contact with managers and coworkers. These are your best options for references—don’t use family, even if they’re in the field.
Reach out to your prospective references as soon as you know you’re going to begin a job search. The best way to ask for a job reference is in person, but if that’s not practical, give them a call or write an appreciative, well-written email. Ask them the following questions:
- Are you comfortable being a reference for me?
- If yes, could you provide your preferred phone number, email address, address, job title, and business address?
- Would you be willing to write a generic letter of recommendation for me? (Optional)
Many people don’t think about the generic letter of recommendation. This type of letter allows you to submit applications that ask for them without scrambling to get one before the deadline. If you ask for this, allow them at least two weeks to write one for you—they’re busy, and they may be doing this for several people. Some people aren’t willing to write a letter because of the time involved but are willing to sign one, which means you’ll be writing your own letter of recommendation. Seems awkward, but it’s actually common! Indeed.com provides an excellent example of a recommendation letter template.
Prepare anyone who agrees to be a professional reference by letting them know which types of jobs you’re applying for. Glance over a few relevant job listings to give them an idea of the skills they need to speak to. You may even send the links to several job openings you are actually applying for.
Once you’ve gotten the OK from individuals to serve as job references, gather all their contact information in a single document. Use an identical header and font as you do on your resume and cover letter. (More on that below.) Simply list your references after that, using a format like:
Reference Job Title
Business City, State, Zip Code
You can also include a one- to two-sentence note explaining how you know them, especially if it isn’t obvious from their business name. If they aren’t comfortable sharing their address, most employers won’t be upset if the information isn’t included. You’ll definitely need a phone number and email address, though.
If you cultivate at least four or five references, you can easily copy and paste information as requested into specific applications or job correspondence, perhaps selecting the strongest references from among them depending on what’s needed for a particular job.
Remember that these references are positive relationships that you have in your professional network, so don’t take that for granted. For instance, if you previously asked someone to serve as a reference but it’s been a year or more since, don’t assume they will automatically be your reference again—check with them again so they are prepared. Always follow up with those who have agreed to be your reference to keep them updated about the status of your job search, and certainly if you were able to find another job. Nobody likes to only hear from someone when they need something, and they can be among the first to celebrate with you when you land your dream offer.
Perfect Your Resume
Resumes can be intimidating, but there are some key things to bear in mind when you’re writing one.
Your resume is a hiring manager’s first glimpse at you who you are, so you want to put your best foot forward. You also want to be concise. According to Ladders, a leading career site, recruiters look at resumes for an average of 7.4 seconds each.
Ladders also found resumes that succeeded in capturing recruiters’ attention featured simple layouts, with clear sections and heading titles, while those with cluttered layouts, multiple columns and long sentences, and little white space on the page didn’t do well.
So, keep it simple.
While one page is ideal, especially if you are early in your career, don’t go more than two pages for your resume. Use a clear font of a reasonable size, such as Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman at no smaller than size 11 and no larger than 13.
Stay away from lots of colors. Black writing on white paper is fine, or a small amount of color will do. Remember, you may have a hiring manager who’s colorblind, so you don’t want to do anything that could make this hard to read. In addition, some companies use software to convert various word processing files of different formats into common file type, such as a PDF, so more complicated layouts may end up looking garbled on the other end.
There are multiple acceptable formats for resumes, but generally your resume can be structured as follows:
- Have a header with your name and contact information. If you have a relevant website or professionally oriented social media account, such as a LinkedIn profile, include these as well.
- After your header, you may add a statement of purpose or objective, which is a brief statement about what skills you have and the type of job you want. This is optional but can be useful especially if you are career switching or otherwise applying for jobs for which your experience may not be an obvious fit.
- If you’re a new graduate, put your education at the top. If you’re an experienced professional, put this at the bottom or side (see example below). List your highest level of education first.
- In your work experience section, begin with your most recent position and work your way backward. Include specific dates for jobs held, including the month and year for start and end dates. Using vaguer references such as “Spring 2021” can be a yellow flag for hiring managers, who may be on the lookout for unexplained gaps.
- Use present-tense action verbs to describe accomplishments in your current job and past-tense action verbs for previous ones.
- Use short bullet points to describe your position. Focus on landmark accomplishments and results, not tasks or general responsibilities. For example, it is more powerful to say “Overhauled medicine ordering strategy in coordination with hospital purchasing department, resulting in zero stockouts since implementation” rather than “Responsible for stocking medicine for our unit.”
- On the side or at the bottom, list general relevant skills. Great skills to include for nursing jobs are:
- Languages you speak, if you speak more than one
- Skills specific to the type of job you’re looking for—read the job description and alter this accordingly
- Training you have that others may not
- Include any awards, achievements, or organizational memberships on the side or near the bottom.
If your resume is short, you can include volunteer activities and relevant hobbies, but keep the latter to a minimum.
Remember, these are “living documents.” What you’re creating is a template to be altered for each application. So, save this template as a Word document or similar, and then each time you apply for a job, save a new copy and tailor it accordingly. Things to change include:
- Your statement of purpose, so it matches with the job (don’t copy the job description)
- Your skills so they line up with what’s on the application
- Accomplishments described under each job title (you can reorder them or delete some so that they better match the job description)
- Any volunteerism or hobbies that are in line or out of line with the facility’s mission
Once you’re done with your template, proofread. Then have someone else proofread. You don’t want a typo to be the reason you don’t get a job.
Below, you can find resume and cover letter templates. Note they both have the same basic header—this makes you look organized and detail-oriented. Include the same header on your reference list.
Regarding a headshot photo: Don’t include this unless specifically asked to do so. Many hiring organizations want to reduce the effect of bias on their selection process, so sharing what you look like at this stage may be an unwanted piece of information for them. If you are using a template that has this included, you can replace it with a logo of your initials or remove it entirely, centering the header.
If you don’t feel as design-savvy as the designer of this example, that’s OK. Things like the dots representing level of experience under languages and skills aren’t necessary; those can be simple lists.
Crafting a Cover Letter
Like resumes, cover letters are living documents. Create a word processing document with the basics you want to have in most cover letters, and when you apply for a job, save a copy and change things accordingly to match with the job requirements.
A cover letter should never be more than one page and should follow this format:
- Hiring manager’s name, company, and address
- Today’s date
- Salutation (Dear Mr./Ms./Dr. Last Name, Dear Hiring Manager, To Whom It May Concern, etc.). If you don’t know the hiring manager’s gender identity, don’t use a gendered greeting.
- A short paragraph saying which position you’re applying for and where you saw the listing, ending with something like “I think I’d be a great candidate for this position based on my qualifications and experience.” You could also briefly mention something about this facility that makes you excited to apply.
- A paragraph covering your background and areas of expertise as they pertain to the job
- A paragraph detailing specific outstanding things you accomplished at jobs or in school. If you have more to add, you can include one more paragraph on this topic.
- A final paragraph explaining why you and the company would make a good fit
- A confident call to action, like “I look forward to speaking with you,” not “I hope to hear from you.”
- A sign-off, such as “Sincerely,” followed by your first and last name
Notice this doesn’t say anything about references. Unless the application instructions ask for them, hiring managers assume you have references ready to provide at a later stage and may find it odd to include within the cover letter.
Whatever you do, don’t lift a cover letter from the internet and just change some words—make this your own, following this basic formula.
Once your template is done, you can customize it based on the job listing by changing the company name, specific abilities and experience tailored to the listing’s requirements and preferred skills, etc.
And again, proofread, and have someone else do so, too.
Saving and Submitting Your Resume, Cover Letter, and References
While you want to have word processing documents of all your pieces so you can tweak them, save them as PDFs before you submit them. This is because PDFs are the least likely to carry viruses, making the companies more likely to open them, and they also “play nice” with different operating systems.
Before you save your PDF, make sure things have formatted correctly—sometimes the formatting can change when converting. If it looks off, alter your document and try again until things look the way they should.
Additionally, verify if the employer wants the documents separately or as one file. Then, save them as “Last Name, First Name, Position, Type of Document”—for example, “Smith, Bob RN Resume.” If all documents are going in one file, you can leave out the type of document or use “Application,” like “Smith, Bob RN Application.”
Occasionally, a company asks for hard copies, and you’ll definitely want to have these on-hand for in-person interviews. You don’t have to use expensive resume paper for this, though you can if you’d like—no one will find it strange either way. However, don’t use paper with patterns on it, as they can be harder to read for some people—plain white or off-white paper is fine. Be sure printed copies are neat, with no wrinkles, stains, or bleeding ink. Folding them to mail is fine.
Clean Up Your Online Presence
In a field like healthcare, which is so focused on privacy and trust, it may surprise you to learn it’s perfectly legal for hiring teams to look you up online. In fact, you should expect it. So, you need to make sure you’re presenting your best self on the internet.
However, be sure to not scrub yourself from the internet entirely—according to CareerBuilder, 47% of employers are less likely to call someone with no online presence. This can be because they like to learn more about a candidate’s “real life” or simply expect someone to exist online. They might find it strange if you don’t—could this applicant be hiding something?
But overall, social media is a good thing to have when job searching—you just need to be aware of what you’ve shared. Though LinkedIn is the most obvious place hiring managers look, they also check other sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You don’t need to be on every social media site, but having a couple is helpful.
You also don’t need to have all of them set to public—go ahead and set your accounts to private if you want them to be harder to search. However, your LinkedIn account should be public, and you may want to consider having a public Twitter account.
Twitter is a great option for job-seekers because you can have a strictly professional account. Something like @BobSmithNurse would be a good handle, and you can focus on sharing articles and engaging in conversations related to your field.
When it comes to social media, regardless of the site, go through your entire persona. Remember: Even if it’s OK with you, it might not be OK with someone else. Anything that could come across as unprofessional should be deleted. Things others could consider inappropriate may include:
- Photos of you drinking, partying, or making rude gestures
- Images of you scantily clad or in clothes with curse words on them
- Highly political or religious posts (while matters like this are personal and often a major part of your identity, employers may worry these will influence your patient care)
- Anything that could be interpreted as discriminatory
- Posts including curse words
- All posts relating to specific patients, even if you don’t provide names or identifying information—you should avoid these anyway
Analyze your social media as if you’re an outsider. If you’re struggling to be objective, have someone look things over for you—especially if you know someone who has made hiring decisions, regardless of their field.
You should do this even if your information is set to private. If an employer sees you have mutual friends, they may ask them about you. If you’re still concerned, consider changing your name on these sites; for instance, if your name is Bob Allen Smith, you could change to Bob Allen or Allen Smith, and ensure public things (such as a profile picture) are not images of you.
Additionally, Google yourself and be ready to answer questions about what comes up.
Note: Continue to be mindful of your online presence after you’re employed. CareerBuilder reports 48% of employers monitor their employees’ social media, and 34% have reprimanded or fired staff over what they discovered.
Create a LinkedIn Account
LinkedIn is a major site where healthcare employers look for candidates, including those who have applied and those they may headhunt based on skills.
In addition to applying for jobs, you can join or follow groups and businesses specific to nurses. Following healthcare facilities you’re interested in lets you know quickly when they’ve posted new jobs.
Make sure your page is professional and public. Keep your resume up to date, and be sure to proofread. Eisenhower Health details what a successful nursing LinkedIn profile looks like, but here are some highlights:
- A personalized URL, like linkedin.com/in/Bob-Smith-RN.
- An excellent profile photo (more information below)—profiles with photos earn 21 times more views than those without.
- Credentials after your last name (e.g., Bob Smith, RN).
- A headline detailing your expertise.
- A summary of your experience in the first person.
Your job details don’t need to be copied directly from your resume, though they can be. If you think you’re better presented through narrative, you may do so—just keep it brief.
Your profile photo should look like a professional headshot. Keep it natural, appropriately clothed, and free of distracting backgrounds (including cropped arms or faces of others in a group photo) or heavy makeup. If you must use a selfie or other photo taken by an amateur photographer, make sure it meets these standards and is well-lit.
*Just be sure to crop it so your arm holding the camera isn’t visible.
We’ve all heard it: “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” While you should absolutely be a well-trained nurse, who you know can get your foot in the door for a job.
As you go through school, work on forming positive relationships with peers, professors, and supervisors at on-site work. These are all folks who may find out about job openings before you do and send along recommendations to you or mention you to their contacts at those locations if they know you applied.
Additionally, you should look into networking organizations specific to your field. These groups provide resources, continuing education opportunities, various types of support, and, of course, networking opportunities.
Some organizations to consider are:
- American Nurses Association
- National Association of Health Care Assistants
- National Association of Licensed Practical Nurses
- National League for Nursing
Nearly every nursing specialty has an associated organization, so dig around the internet to see if you can find one that could further meet your needs.
Where to Identify Job Openings Online
Thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to search for jobs. There are many, many sites allowing you to search for positions from the comfort of your own home.
Industry Job Boards
Industry-related job boards are a great place to start your search, as you won’t have to sift through unrelated jobs.
Most job boards allow you to upload a resume and set alerts for new jobs. Ten of the best job boards for nurses are:
This site specifically focuses on nursing students and recent graduates.
This board is for all sorts of healthcare professionals—including nursing assistants, which many job boards don’t focus on.
They offer searches for nurse practitioners and certified registered nurse anesthetists. If you want to work in academics or research, they have options for you as well.
On this site, you can apply for practically any job in the healthcare field, from internships to full-time positions.
You can search for nursing jobs from various concentrations, including psychiatric nursing and pediatrics, among others.
What makes this site unique is that they offer a “short form application,” which shows your basic skills to potential employers. The site notifies you about jobs that may fit your skillset.
This site allows you to search for travel, per diem, and permanent nursing positions. They also have a resource center for newly graduated nurses.
This job board is exclusively for nurses and includes pretty much any nursing job you could be interested in, from CNA to lactation specialist to Ob-gyn nurse.
This is a site exclusively for traveling nursing positions.
As the name implies, this site is primarily for RNs. They host a “virtual job expo,” which allows you to visit online “booths” for different positions in your state.
General Job Boards
While industry-specific job boards are fantastic, you should also check out general options—some employers only choose one place to list jobs, and they may pick one of these.
As we’ve already discussed, LinkedIn is the premier online job board. You can upload all your information, search for jobs, join relevant groups, and network virtually.
Indeed is similar in size and scope to LinkedIn, but it has a bit of a simpler interface. They also allow you to check out company reviews and investigate salaries.
Glassdoor allows you to post a resume and search for jobs. Even if you don’t opt to use them for applications, you should sign up so you can get an in-depth look at potential employers and what their employees say about them.
Google for jobs
Unlike the other options, this is an aggregator, not a job board—though you can often apply directly through the listings. All you must do is type something like “nursing jobs in [your city],” and Google searches the internet looking for relevant positions. You get results from job boards and individual facilities through this search.
Local Job Resources
Another place to begin is right in your hometown or its surrounding area. In fact, you can even begin at your school in many cases.
- College career center: Your school may have a career center, which can help you perfect your resume and cover letter and point you in the direction of potential employers.
- Individual facilities: You may have a lot of luck searching directly on the websites of places at which you’re interested in working.
- Local employment offices: All states have offices dedicated to helping you find a job.
- Your school’s alumni association: If you’ve graduated and need help in your job search, your school’s alumni association may help you.
How to Know Which Jobs to Apply for
When you search for jobs, the number of results you get can seem overwhelming.
The first way to pare things down is to filter as much as possible—be specific in the job titles, locations, part- or full-time work, etc. You can often filter by salary, too, though many job listings don’t include that information. This generally won’t exclude them from your search, but you may find out during the interview process that the pay is lower than you’d hoped.
Once you’ve narrowed down your search, there are a few steps you can take to quickly see if a job is right for you before you apply.
- Read the skills requirements thoroughly. Be sure to check their requirements and their preferred skills If you meet most of the requirements, consider applying—but if you don’t meet many, don’t waste your time. Ideally, pick ones where you have at least a few preferred skills as well.
- Look over the job duties. Make sure they match your goals and skills.
- Compare the pay to local norms. If they list a salary, see how it compares to your local norms. Many sites could help you find this data, but here are two excellent ones:
- Salary.com allows you to search by job title, location, level of experience, and more. It not only shows the salaries in your area but factors in your experience and performance to give you a personalized estimate.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics is the federal government’s site for this information.
- Check for benefits. If insurance and retirement plans are essential to you and a job listing doesn’t mention it, they might not offer them.
- Location matters. Consider if you’re willing to move or make the commute required to get to this job. If you use public transportation, map it out to see how long it would take to get there.
- Research the companies. You want to make sure you’re comfortable with this facility. Do this by going to their own website to understand their mission, read Google reviews of them, and check Glassdoor to see if there are employee reports.
- Consider your future. Is this a place you could see yourself working five years from now? A resume filled with many jobs could make a recruiter think you’re a “job-hopper.”
What to Expect When Applying for Jobs
There’s no getting around it: Applying for jobs is exhausting and time-consuming. A single job application can take hours. Make sure you’ve blocked off time to complete them. While most job sites allow you to save a partially completed application and return to it, this isn’t universal.
What Will I Find on Job Applications?
Most job listings will require you to upload your resume, cover letter, and references as documents—and then make you type them in as well. This is where a Word document comes in handy, as you can easily copy and paste in most cases. Verify the pasted information is readable on the application before submitting it.
Some job listings include short-answer questions about your background, goals, or reasons you want to be a nurse. They may also ask about situations you could encounter and how you would deal with them. A helpful hint: Many companies ask similar questions, so save the questions and your responses in a Word document so you don’t have to start from scratch each time. Proofread your work before submission.
What’s This EEOC Questionnaire, and Do I Need to Complete It?
You’ll often find an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) set of questions. These ask you about protected statuses, like race, gender, and disabilities. Some companies are legally obligated to have this section, but it’s illegal to require you to answer—you can respond “prefer not to disclose.” The hiring manager won’t see your responses—they’re sent to a reporting database.
When Should I Apply for Jobs?
While you shouldn’t rearrange your whole life around job applications, some days and times are better to apply than others, according to TalentWorks. Applications submitted on Mondays fare best. Between Tuesday and Thursday, applications turned in before noon do better than those later in the day—and before 10:00 a.m. is best. Those turned in Friday through Sunday or during evenings don’t do as well—though this doesn’t mean they won’t be considered.
Additionally, applying within four days of a job being listed is best, so pay attention to those job alerts.
How Many Applications Should I Submit?
While there isn’t a hard-and-fast rule about how many applications you should submit, ZipJob recommends sending out 10 to 15 applications per week. This is because job applications can take a long time, and you want to tailor your resume and cover letter to each job.
Keep track of every job you’ve applied to, including the date on which you applied, so you can follow up if needed.
Following Up After Applying
As any nurse knows, people who work in healthcare are busy. Additionally, hiring teams may have specific timelines they’re working with, and it’s common to not receive confirmation your application has been received, let alone a personalized response. So, you may want to immediately contact them about your excitement or to see if they got your information.
While healthcare employers are undoubtedly looking for enthusiastic candidates, there’s a fine line between enthusiastic and overeager. Before you sit down to write that follow-up, remember: Only 37% of applicants hear back from an employer within a week, and an even smaller 4% hear back within a day. Waiting for up to two weeks is pretty standard. Keep applying for jobs during this time.
According to The Balance Careers, you should wait two weeks after applying before sending a follow-up email. Your email should have a clear subject line, including your name and the job you applied for, and the body should use a courteous tone and be very brief. Proofread before hitting send.
If you don’t hear back, you can try again—but wait at least a week. And if you still don’t hear back, then leave it alone and keep on trucking along with other applications.
Nailing Your Nursing Job Interview
You got an interview! Now what?
Before any interview, you need to prepare for what’s coming. Thoroughly research the healthcare facility to understand what they value, who their patients are, and so forth. This will make you look prepared and eager to work for them.
Be Ready for Common Questions
While every healthcare facility is unique, there are some standard questions you should be ready to answer. Many are similar to those you may have been asked while interviewing for nursing school, like why you chose nursing, how you’ve handled disagreements, and what your most meaningful interaction with a patient has been.
However, they’ll also ask you questions more specific to the nursing profession and their facility, such as:
- Why do you want to work for us?
- How will you benefit our team?
- If you disagree with a doctor’s or other supervisor’s decision, how will you handle that?
- What experience do you have with our population (pediatrics, geriatrics, specific diseases, etc.)?
- Describe a time you had to deal with a difficult patient/family and how you handled it.
The Interview Guys provide even more questions you may be asked during your interview.
Prepare Your Own Questions
Undoubtedly, an interviewer will ask what questions you have for them. It won’t seem odd if you come in with a list of prepared questions. You should have questions specific to the organization and its population based on your research, but you should also have others prepared in case those were answered during the interview. Some of those questions could include:
- What is the atmosphere/culture like here?
- What do you like about working here?
- What are the next steps/what is your timeline for filling this position?
While a first interview is typically not the time to ask about pay—if they bring it up, you can discuss it—you can ask about benefits, tuition reimbursement, and continuing education options.
Types of Interviews
There are three main ways interviews are conducted: over the phone, virtual, and in person. No matter which type you’re having, you should always be prepared to answer and ask questions, speak clearly and politely, and show your best self.
Phone interviews are usually basic, covering things you found on the job listing, verifying your background, and asking for additional information for the hiring team. Though this isn’t a time to ask about salary, they may bring it up—especially if it wasn’t listed in the job description—so they can make sure you both want to go forward.
However, they may choose to do a full interview this way—and you may not know if this is a “meet-and-greet” situation or a full interview ahead of time—so be prepared.
Keep your resume and cover letter in front of you so you don’t have to try to recall what you wrote.
Despite not being seen, you should still make sure your environment is distraction-free, so the recruiter won’t hear any background noise—and you won’t be derailed. Don’t eat or drink while speaking on the phone. Make sure your phone is fully charged and functional.
Are you nervous about talking on the phone? A lot of people are. Do a practice run with a friend or family member. They can ask you interview questions, or you could just shoot the breeze so you’re more comfortable speaking this way.
There are two types of virtual interviews: recorded and real-time.
Recorded virtual interviews are where you read a question on a screen and record your answer. Sometimes they’ll let you redo your recording, sometimes they won’t, so give it your best shot. These will often have time limits for recording, but not for preparing to answer, so you can jot down some bullet points and practice what you’re going to say first.
Real-time interviews are almost identical to in-person interviews. You’ll speak directly with a person or group of people.
No matter which you end up with, there are norms to follow.
Firstly, dress professionally (more information on this below). This includes the bottom half of your body—you never know when you may need to stand up to adjust a camera.
Secondly, test out your technology well ahead of time. You need a camera, microphone, working speakers or headphones, and a strong internet connection. Your interviewer won’t find it odd if you wear headphones, so feel free to wear them. Have a friend hop on a video call with you so you can test everything out.
Make sure your camera centers you on the screen, you’re well-lit from the front, and nothing distracting is behind you—including open windows.
Tell anyone you live with you can’t be bothered during this time. If you have young kids, try to set up a play date or have someone watch them. If you have no choice but to record in public, find a spot like a library study room for this—but avoid this option if possible.
Below, you can see what you should strive for when setting up for a virtual interview. He’s professionally dressed, his background isn’t busy or distracting, he’s centered and well-lit, and, perhaps most importantly, he looks friendly and relaxed.
While some facilities may only conduct virtual interviews, they’ll often want to see you in person as they near making their decision.
As you would for a video interview, dress professionally (full details below) and come prepared. We’ve already discussed bringing questions with you, but these aren’t all you need. Consider investing in a professional folder, like this one:
Nurses need to bring standard items, like several copies of their resumes and references, in their folders. But there are also some materials unique to this field that you should bring:
- Your nursing license and training certifications
- Exam scores
- Immunization records
- A list of your residential addresses going back seven years, in case they’re needed for a background check
- A couple of working pens so you can jot down notes—and the names of your interviewers so you can thank them (though you should get their business cards if possible, where you can easily find their email addresses)
You should also have your driver’s license or other state-issued ID on you. Some jobs may ask you to bring your Social Security card, though they’re more likely to just ask for the number—this is to run a background check.
How to Dress for an Interview
You need to look professional during video or in-person interviews. Though there’s a cliche of “dress for the job you want,” this doesn’t include jobs where you’ll be wearing scrubs.
Dress professionally and conservatively. This doesn’t mean you can’t wear color or patterns—you should just have no excess skin showing. A collared shirt, blazer, and slacks or professional skirt are always acceptable, as are suits. If you opt for something outside of these, ensure your shoulders are covered and you look well put-together. It’s better to be a bit overdressed than underdressed.
Shoes and accessories should be kept simple. Your shoes should be professional—no sneakers or flip flops—but also comfortable in case they want to take you on a tour of the facility. While jewelry is fine, make sure it goes with your outfit and isn’t distracting.
As far as hair and makeup go, make sure you look clean and professional. If you have long hair, you can wear it down—but if you’re the kind who plays with your hair when you’re nervous, pulling it into a bun or sleek ponytail is the way to go. If you have facial hair, ensure it’s clean and nicely trimmed. If you’re the type who wears makeup, keep it simple and natural. If you don’t wear makeup—regardless of gender—that’s fine; just make sure your skin looks its best.
Additionally, be sure you’re clean (check those nails) and don’t wear anything that could have an overwhelming scent, like perfume or cologne.
You can see examples of appropriate interview clothing below:
What about tattoos and piercings at job interviews? Well, this is a struggle.
Your research on the facility may come in handy here. If you saw photos of nurses and doctors with visible tattoos and piercings, so long as yours don’t contain inappropriate messaging, their visibility is probably acceptable. If you don’t see such photos, consider keeping tattoos covered and removing piercings.
If you can find their corporate policies—perhaps in the job description or mentioned on sites like Glassdoor—abide by them during your interview. Some companies mandate no visible tattoos or piercings. (Exceptions should, of course, be made for those that are part of one’s culture.)
If you’re at all in doubt, do your best to cover up tattoos and remove piercings, just in case.
After the Interview
The interview is over, so now you can breathe a sigh of relief—you only have a couple things left to do.
First, write a thank-you note to each interviewer. While some employers appreciate a written note, you should weigh your options here. Unless you were told they won’t be deciding for a few weeks, it’s safe to assume they’ll be choosing someone quickly—so go with email. If you know it’ll be a couple of weeks, a handwritten note is fine. For an email, send it within 24 hours. For a written note, make sure it’ll be in the mail no later than the following day.
Your thank-you note should include:
- An introduction thanking them for taking time out of their day
- A couple of previously discussed highlights about yourself
- A few things you liked about the facility
- A restatement of your interest
After you’ve sent that note, it’s time to wait. Most employers don’t send updates or “rejection” letters to applicants, so unless you’re quickly offered the job, the next communication is up to you. A follow-up message should be short, polite, and reiterate your interest without being pushy.
If you found out what their timeline is, reach out via email one or two days after the deadline they gave—they may simply be running behind.
If you didn’t find out about a timeline, wait one or two weeks before reaching out. They may give you a timeline, say they’re still considering, or not respond at all—don’t take that as a snub; they’re busy! If you still don’t hear back after their updated deadline or in another two weeks, you can choose to reach out one last time—or move on.
If they send you an email saying the position has been filled, you should still respond, thanking them for the chance to speak with them and learn about their facility. Who knows? Maybe they’ll remember you positively if you’ve taken these steps and apply for another job with them later.