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How to Calm Your Nerves and Nail Your First Nursing Interview

As an aspiring nurse, you may feel you’ve already mastered the art of managing your emotions.

When it comes to patient care, you are calm, confident and capable.

But for many new nurses, that ability to manage stress and anxiety does not necessarily translate over to the interview process.

While there’s no magical way to eliminate nerves altogether, there are things you can do to elevate your mindset, calm your nerves and help you put your best foot forward in an interview setting.

Let’s take a look.

Hammer out the details.

Hammer-out-the-details.

Sometimes pre-interview jitters stem from simply not knowing what to expect.

You may not be able to determine exactly what will happen when you sit down with your interviewer, but you can control all the logistics surrounding the appointment.

For instance, things like knowing how much time it’ll take and the best route to get there, which building it’s in and even whether you have to bring money for a parking meter can ease your mind and help you stay focused on what’s most important: wowing your interviewer.

If necessary, drive the route a few days ahead of time and scope things out so you can plan accordingly.

Get a good night’s sleep.

Get-a-good-night-s-sleep.

This may seem simple, but depending on how your body handles anxiety, it could be a major factor in how you perform in your interview.

Going to bed too late, tossing and turning, and losing precious sleep can set you back and keep you from being on your game.

To prevent this, take steps to improve your chances of a good night’s rest.

For instance, avoid stimulants, like caffeine, late-night screen time or alcoholic beverages that can decrease the quality and/or quantity of your sleep and head to bed at a decent time.

Do your homework.

Do-your-homework.

Interviews aren’t just about getting to know a prospective employee.

They’re a two-way street, which means you should come prepared with some questions of your own.

The best way to do this is to research the organization to which you are applying.

Get to know their mission, values and culture.

Find out whether they recently received any awards or other recognition.

That way, when your interviewers turn things over to you, you’ll be able to speak with confidence and demonstrate how genuinely interested you are in joining their team.

Practice the difficult questions.

Practice-the-difficult-questions.

This can be challenging, particularly for new nurses who don’t have much experience with interviews.

Spend some time in nursing forums and other online groups and ask others you know and trust, such as your fellow nursing students, colleagues or mentors.

Try to identify some of the more difficult questions you will likely face during your interview so you’ll have an idea of what to expect and won’t be put on the spot.

Practice isn’t just for sports.

The more you go over things in advance, the less nervous you’ll feel when it comes to the real deal.

Know your strengths and acknowledge your weaknesses.

Know-your-strengths-and-acknowledge-your-weaknesses.

The reality is, most interviewers ask candidates to share their strengths and weaknesses.

If you’re not prepared, it’s a question that may leave you feeling uncomfortable, which can derail your interview fast.

Recognize that everyone has weaknesses and that by asking this question, your prospective employer wants to know that you’re capable of being honest with yourself.

Some examples of weaknesses you might mention include being too critical of yourself, attempting to please everyone or being a bit too honest at times.

Stick with soft skills that won’t make or break your ability to perform your job effectively.

Some examples of strengths may include patience, determination and versatility.

Dress comfortably.

Dress-comfortably.

You obviously want to show up to your interview looking professional, but if you’re not careful with your wardrobe selection, it could contribute to your discomfort and anxiety level.

For example, if you wear a shirt that’s too tight or a pair of pants that make your legs itch, you’ll have a difficult time concentrating and your fidgeting could be viewed negatively by your interviewer.

Choose clothing that fits well and feels good when you’re wearing it.

Dress professionally but not over-the-top formal.

Eat well and hydrate.

Eat-well-and-hydrate.

The last thing you want is to get distracted by those pangs of hunger or thirst as you’re trying to concentrate on the questions you’re being asked.

Likewise, you don’t want to deal with an upset stomach or have to resist the urge to belch.

Before your interview, be sure to eat a healthy meal and drink enough water to adequately hydrate.

Avoid too much caffeine, which can make you feel and act jittery.

And, of course, stay away from foods and drinks that could potentially bother your stomach, such as dairy or carbonated beverages.

Take your time.

Take-your-time.

When you’re posed a question, don’t feel as though you have to rush to answer.

It’s entirely acceptable – even appreciated – that you hesitate to give it some thought before formulating your response.

If you’re truly stumped and need some more time, try taking a sip of water.

(Just don’t do this too many times, otherwise it’ll become obvious.)

Be cognizant of your body language.

Be-cognizant-of-your-body-language.

It’s not just your words that will communicate with your interviewer.

The way you carry yourself can also speak volumes about who you are and what you bring to the table.

Being fidgety, keeping your arms crossed or having difficulty making or maintaining eye contact could all be red flags for a prospective employer.

If you know you struggle in these areas, proactively practice body language that conveys calmness, friendliness and self-confidence.

If you have a hard time keeping your hands still, bring a pen and notepad to hold and use during your interview.

Be conscious of the non-verbal cues you are sending.

Look your interviewer in the eye.

Uncross your arms.

Maintain good posture.

All of this can pay off.

Taking that next step in your nursing career can be an exciting and rewarding experience.

Getting through the grueling interview process, on the other hand, can be anything but.

By implementing the above strategies, you should be able to take charge of your emotions, overcome your anxiety, calm your nerves and nail that interview.

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