Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How Do I Impress the Manager in My First Travel Nurse Interview?

By Aaron Moore, RN, MSN, contributor

Q:  I’m getting ready for my first interview as a travel nurse.  How do I impress the manager even though I have never traveled before?

A:  This is an awesome question, and your desire to be prepared is a great sign.  There are definitely a few things you can do to impress that potential employer over the phone.

Even though it was a few years ago, I still remember my first travel nurse interview--including where it failed and what I could have done better.  But the interviews kept getting easier, and I learned a lot along the way. So here are some lessons you might glean from my trial-and-error methods:

Travel nurse interview: Take #1

For my first interview, I didn’t know what to expect and just thought that I could go in with a positive attitude and come out with an awesome job in sunny California.  I was wrong.  It started out great, then the manager asked why I didn’t have any travel experience listed on my résumé.  I was honest and told her simply that this was my first interview; I realize now I should have told her about the experience I did have. The questions only got harder from there, and after she made me describe to her in words the difference between Mobitz type one and type two heart blocks, I knew I didn’t get the job. 

Travel nurse interview: Take #2

So I went back to the drawing board and studied up on my heart blocks and other parts of my nursing knowledge that I thought was weak.  As I prepared for my second interview, I was still nervous about my chances to get hired as a pediatric/trauma ICU nurse with only two years of experience. 

Again the interview started off well as I spoke to the assistant manager who said she loved having travelers and that they used them all the time.  When she asked about my travel experience, I started my answer differently and pointed out my strengths and that I had floated to many other ICUs in my current job and really loved the diversity and what I could learn from a new unit.  This was the right answer!  Now maybe fate or luck intervened, but I got that job in Chula Vista, Calif., working a small ICU where I floated to the ER on a regular basis.  A great first travel job if I do say so myself. 

Lessons learned

What I learned in my first failure and my first successful interview was this: you never point out your weaknesses.  You anticipate the obvious questions they are going to ask and you prepare.  I would have my wife ask me questions and I would answer out loud so I could hear myself say the right answers.  This made it easy once I was talking on the phone.  Trust me, this is a great technique. 

Most interviewers will try to uncover your weaknesses, so look at yourself and find them before you interview.  Now I knew that I couldn’t become an expert EKG reader in a few days, but what I did learn was how to steer questions to turn my weaknesses into strengths.  For example, if they ask why you don’t have any travel experience, simply state that you are very excited to start travel nursing and that your positive attitude and willingness to learn and adapt to any situation will be a great asset to their unit. 

Follow this up by giving an example of a strange/stressful/new situation at work you experienced and how you handled it like a pro!

Finding out as much as possible about the job and the facility ahead of time is also important, so talk to your recruiter about the employer’s expectations. Your recruiter can also give you some valuable interviewing tips.

After a few interviews you’ll keep getting better and soon realize that they all ask the same questions with only a little variance.  So if you are interviewing for a trauma ICU, brush up on your TNCC; if cardiac, then refresh yourself with a little telemetry review; and so on and so on.  By the way, I love to Google stuff like this: you might not realize how many free study guides, review courses and tests are out there that can help you prepare. 

So don’t let first interview jitters keep you away from the best job in nursing.  Shake off those butterflies, study up, and prepare yourself for the obvious questions and you’ll have a good chance to ace your first interview.  And if you don’t for some reason, don’t worry; just learn from it and do better the next time. Trial and error worked for me and started me on a six year adventure that I wouldn’t give up for the world. 

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