This week’s ReNegade 💫 is Sharon!
Check out her interview advice below!
I've been a nurse since 2012. I remember submitting more than 100 applications when I graduated from nursing school and passed the NCLEX. I mean, I was applying near and far at this point because I had a family to consider. Finally, I landed my first interview at Washington Hospital Center in Washington, DC. It was a mass hiring for the nurse residency program. I was more than nervous and anxious. I remember walking in and seeing all these people sitting and standing around, waiting to be called. My stomach was doing flips. I heard my name being called and stood up and went into the HR office. Honestly, I didn't know what their interviewing process looked like, but it was a doozy. The HR woman began asking me the normal questions about why I wanted the job and why I chose the option of wanting to work in cardiology. The one that got me was cardiology because I have always been petrified of the heart all during nursing school. Now, why would I voluntarily ask to be placed on that unit? My answer was honest and to the point. I responded, "well, miss, I feel confident in a lot of the other areas, but I chose cardiac because it scares me the most and if I can conquer that fear then I feel like I can do any part of nursing." She was smiling and told me she wanted to place me there before seeing that I had already chosen it. Whew, I was off the hook, or so I thought.
No, then she says I'm going to call the unit's Assistant Director of Nursing because she'll come down to interview you as well. My heart was beating so fast as I said okay and went to the waiting room to await my fate. It seemed like I was waiting forever, but it was only a few minutes. I looked up to see the HR woman walking toward me with a Black female she introduced as the ADN. I stood up, looked her right in the eyes while extending my hands, and said “I'm Sharon; it's nice to meet you.” Now I thought we'd go into one of the offices, but no, she says “come with me. I'm going to take you to the unit, and you'll meet the Director of Nursing and our nurse managers.” I walked as quickly as I could in my kitten heels in what was an eternity to get to the floor. It's a huge hospital. I was introduced to the unit's floor managers, and they did a quick quizzing of simple questions that were easy to answer. Then on to the DON's office, where I met a tall, well-groomed, Black woman who had the brightest smile. They both offered me a seat, and I handed them a shiny black folder with a cover letter, my resume, three letters of recommendation, and a card.
They asked me to talk a little about myself, and I did. Then the DON said, "we're going to ask you a series of questions and just take your time and respond, there's no need to be nervous." I said to myself, "says who?, Lord I’m about to drown. Whenever someone says there’s no need to be nervous it’s time to be nervous." but I smiled and patiently waited as they started to quiz me. Boy could I use a bathroom break right now, my stomach was bubbling all over the place. I was so scared. And I told you previously that I was scared of cardiac, right? Well, wouldn't you know they'd ask me everything cardiac? Lord, I thought I'd die. I said this is my worst nightmare. I was sweating and trying not to look like I was about to pass out. Remember, I'm fresh out of nursing school now, lol. “So, Sharon, what steps would you take if you walked into your patient's room? Their BP was 68/50, they were barely responsive, shallow breathing, and their heart rate was 55. I took a hard swallow, looked down to the floor while I tried to think of the right things to say. I looked up and said, well, I know the BP is too low, so they're hypotensive (trying to use the big words to impress them). I know they're bradycardic and can hardly respond. They looked at me and said “yes, so what's your next step?” I said “scream for help,” lol. They looked at me and said okay with smiles on their face. As if to reassure me that they were sort of okay with that response. Then the DON said, “well, is there anything you can be doing while waiting for help?” I'm thinking to myself, miss; I just got out of school. All I know is to ask for some help. Instead, I said “I’d take the blood pressure again, maybe even manually, position the patient's bed for CPR just in case, and call for the crash cart.” I was trying to remember what I saw on Grey's Anatomy and Hawthorne but was drawing a blank. It was the best I could come up with, but they were satisfied and said I’d learn more as I go along.
They started asking about how the blood flows through the heart, and I thought, oh Lord, I just lost this job. I started but stumbled through it and told them honestly, I couldn't remember everything. I was honest, and they appreciated me for it. We sat talking a little more, and they opened the folder and said, “what is this? They opened the card. I had written a note expressing my gratitude for the opportunity to interview them. I told them I looked forward to my start date and learning so much from them. The DON said, "well, you already sound like you know you got the job." I smiled and said “I'm getting good vibes.” I was called the very next morning and offered the position. The HR woman said the DON and ADN both raved about how much they liked me and my spirit.
If there were any words of advice I could offer someone going for an interview, it would be this:
Show up like you already have the job.
Be confident but humble.
Dress the part! ( I saw people come in with jeans and tennis, and they were escorted right out when the HR person came to get them and saw how they looked. Some young ladies looked like they were going to the club instead of an interview).
Practice things to say with people who've been on many interviews so you won't be so nervous and stumbling over your words.
Have a folder with cover letter, resume, recommendations, and a handwritten card in hand for at least 4-5 people because you never know how many people you'll interview with on that day.
Please make a list of questions you want to ask about the position-specific to the interviewer. For example, HR (what is the wage, benefits, how is leave accumulated, etc.). Director of Nursing (the patient to nurse ratio, how many techs per shift, scheduling, time off requests, etc.). e They appreciate it when you come with something to say and not just expecting them to do all the talking.
Know something about the organization and be interested in telling or asking them about one or two specific things. Ex. I see your hospital is Magnet; how is it striving to maintain that status? What are some of the committees you offer for new grads to join?
Remember to Breathe! Pause or ask to come back to a question you’re not sure of the answer! Always be truthful, if you don’t know say “I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.” People respect people with integrity and it shows you’re honest and forthcoming about all things and not just what you know or believe to be true.
Lastly, be ON TIME!!! Early is on time, and on time is late. I live by this. Good luck to you as you embark upon an incredible journey in nursing. It’s well worth it!
-Sharon (IG @Shesthatrn)
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