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10 travel nurse interview tips

by Lindsay Wilcox

Phone interview

Now that you’ve found the right travel nursing job, it’s time for the phone interview with the facility — which may be the most stressful part of the process for you. But it doesn’t have to be! If you prepare well and follow these 10 tips, your interview can go much more smoothly (and you’ll be closer to getting to work in your new area).

  1. Prepare for a phone interview like an in-person interview

    The downside to phone interviews is that the only cues you have about how well things are going are from the interviewer’s voice inflections and the amount of questions she’s asking. Give yourself confidence by preparing for the interview the way you would if you were meeting the person face-to-face. Dress nicely, eat a healthy breakfast that gives you energy, and tidy your home or facility (wherever you’ll be taking the call) so that nothing can distract you on the phone. If it helps, sit in front of a mirror while you talk to the interviewer so you can see your facial expressions and make sure your tone of voice and demeanor come across in a friendly way.

  2. Find out as much as you can about the person interviewing you

    If you have time before your interview, ask your recruiter for the hiring manager’s first and last name so you can search for them on LinkedIn. See how long he or she has been working for the hospital, what their work history is, where they went to school, and who their connections are. Once you’ve done your homework, write down the person’s name and keep it in front of you during the interview. This ensures you won’t forget it while he or she is asking you questions (which can happen when you get nervous) and that you thank the interviewer by name when you’re finished talking.

  3. Make sure you have a good connection and won’t be interrupted

    An interviewer probably isn’t going to redial and start the conversation over if your call drops. If you work in an area where cell service is unreliable, ask a friend or colleague with a landline if you can borrow their phone for 30 minutes or so. Make sure the interviewer and your recruiter have this temporary number in advance. If a landline isn’t an option, find a quiet place inside where your connection isn’t likely to be interrupted and take your interview call there. Never have a phone interview while driving in your car, walking around outside, or sitting in a loud public place (like a coffee shop). The noise will be distracting and make it hard for you and the interviewer to hear each other. You may also cut out or lose your signal entirely, and the interviewer may think you’re not taking the job seriously.

  4. Always be honest 

    If you’re a mom returning to the workforce after a few years off or a fresh graduate who traveled abroad for a while after an exhausting hospital job, you may have some gaps on your resume — and that’s OK. As long as you can show you have excellent nursing skills and have kept your credentials and license up to date, facilities won’t worry about the space between your employment. If you’re asked about it, be honest with the hiring manager about why you didn’t work back-to-back jobs. Follow up with a response about your commitment to continuing education and confidence in your aptitude as a nurse.

  5. Repeat the question

    Do you find yourself rambling in interviews, especially if you’re not sure how to answer the question? Curb your tendency to talk by repeating the question (or a form of it) as you begin. This helps you remember what the hiring manager asked you, gives him or her the chance to clarify the question if you didn’t understand it correctly, and keeps you on track as you think through your answer. If you don’t know quite what to say, it’s fine to be honest and say, “That’s a tough question. Can I think about it for a moment?” However, give yourself only about 15 seconds to think about it before answering. Silence in a phone interview can become uncomfortable (and you want to impress the interviewer).

    travel nurse interview - RNNetwork - image of nurse on a successful job interview

  6. Speak clearly and don’t interrupt the interviewer

    Practice talking slowly and clearly before your interview, since you’ll probably start chatting faster once the nerves kick in. The hiring manager won’t be able to read your lips or gather what he or she thinks you said from nonverbal cues, so it’s important to speak clearly and articulate your words. Even if you need to correct the interviewer or didn’t understand something he or she said, wait until they’re finished talking to cut in or answer a question. It’s too difficult to hear over the phone if someone interrupts, and it can be off-putting if the interviewer can’t see you face to face.

  7. Keep notes close at hand

    One benefit of a phone interview is having access to notes or helpful documents you wouldn’t otherwise have in person. Have a copy of your resume and work history in front of you to refer to when the interviewer asks questions, and jot down a few notes before the interview if you think they might be helpful. This might include specific experiences where you demonstrated leadership skills, times where you had to work as a team, challenges you overcame, memorable work days, and skills you’ve learned as a result of your years in nursing. There’s no need to frantically rack your brain for an example when you can write it down and refer to it if the interviewer asks.

  8. Do your research before the interview

    Instead of asking the hiring manager about the number of beds at the hospital or the specialty they rank for, search for the facility online and do your homework. Impress the interviewer by mentioning that you noticed the level I trauma center rating or that U.S. News ranked it number five among cancer hospitals. If you have time, ask friends what they’ve heard about the hospital and see if you can connect with someone who works there. Going into the interview with as much knowledge as possible about the facility can set you apart from other candidates.

  9. Follow questions about your challenges with examples that show your strengths 

    One of the questions that sometimes trip interviewees up is What is your greatest weakness? The interviewer is testing you to see a) what you feel you need to improve and b) whether you can overcome your weakness. Too often, candidates talk about their weaknesses, such as time management or working as a team, and don’t take time to explain how they’re trying to overcome them. Make sure to immediately follow a story about a time you failed with a story about how you’re getting better or what you learned from that mistake.

  10. Have questions ready to ask the hiring manager

    When your interview is over and the manager asks if you have any questions, be sure to have several ready. Some examples of good questions include What is your favorite part of your job? and What qualifications would you most want in a nurse at your facility? Asking questions shows that you want to learn more about the position and are also taking an interest in what the hiring manager has to say.

With these 10 travel nurse interview tips, you’ll be better prepared for your next phone interview and ready to tackle future in-person interviews as well. Check out Four Tips for Recent Nurse Graduates for more ideas on ways to stand out in your job search.

About Lindsay Wilcox

Lindsay Wilcox is a healthcare writer and editor with more than 10 years of professional writing experience. When she's not circling typos, she's enjoying fish tacos and hanging out with her family.

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