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At the height of the nursing shortage, some nurses figured that how they dressed or what they said in interviews really didn't matter-they'd still get the job. How times have changed! Yet despite significant competition for jobs today, I still encounter avoidable gaffes in employment interviews.
The most important single piece of advice I can offer is to dress professionally. Believe it or not, I've had prospective employees show up at a formal interview for a nursing position wearing blue jeans, flip flops, shorts, logo T-shirts, and halter tops. These clothing choices tell me that the applicants either have no awareness of expectations for professional workplace attire, or they don't care. Either way, it's a red flag.
I've had interviewees express the opinion that what you wear to an interview isn't important if the facility dress code requires employees to wear scrubs or a uniform. Well, before you can wear the scrubs or uniform, you need to land the job. Enough said.
The next faux pas is gum chewing. It's okay to be discreet with a small stick of gum to alleviate a dry mouth during the stress of an interview, but it's quite another to chew vigorously, crack the gum, and blow bubbles. The bottom line: ardent gum chewing distracts and detracts.
Then there's the content of the interview itself. Criticizing past employers is generally considered bad manners. Similarly, someone who argues with a potential employer about company policies or job requirements just confirms suspicions that he or she isn't a good "fit." Projecting an air of superiority, talking nonstop, and frequently interrupting are other behaviors that grate.
So, what's your best strategy to land that job? Take the time to dress for success. Women should wear a conservative outfit, such as dress pants or a tailored skirt with a modest blouse and/or a jacket. Men should wear dress slacks with a shirt and tie and consider adding a jacket. A suit is always appropriate for both men and women.
Engage with the interviewer to honestly answer questions, explain career goals, and clarify expectations to see if the job is the right fit for you. Interviews are like try-outs for a competitive team. Don't fumble-get your best game on and play to win!
Until next time-
Linda Laskowski-Jones, MS, RN, ACNS-BC, CEN, FAWM
Editor-in-Chief, Nursing2011 Vice President: Emergency and Trauma Services, Christiana Care Health System, Wilmington, Del.
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