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Nursing Salary and Job Interview Advice

This article comes from CDI’s job developer and amazing employee, Anthony Bateman.  Read below and get 15 nursing job and reducing stress tips when landing that awesome nursing position.  These can be used for any opportunity in the medical profession (e.g., cna, lpn, lvn, rn, etc.).  How do you become a nurse and get a great LVN salary?  It starts off with going to nursing school and graduating.  After that you have to get a job interview and present yourself in the best possible light.  Let’s put all the pieces together and make those career dreams come true.

The job market in Los Angeles for nurses is very competitive and sometimes what will set you apart from other applicants and make you stand out from your nurse competitors is, simply, your interview. You want to take advantage of every opportunity to make yourself shine and a great interview leaves a lasting impression that helps ensure you will be remembered and invited back for a second interview. In some cases you might even be offered the job right on the spot!  Here at CDI, we will have you work with our job developer to get that resume in a great place.

But most of us get stressed out at the thought of job interviews, and the unknown list of questions that will be thrown at us, or the pressure of trying to impress the DON or the DSD or Charge Nurse, or worse yet – all of them in the room at once! All of these nurse leaders in the same room, looking across the desk at YOU, each carefully crafting questions and analyzing your answers as your mind is working at warp speed trying to come up with what you think they want to hear, stressing over whether you sound like you know what you’re talking about, wondering if they believe you, if they like you and worrying about how they’re judging you. It’s all so stressful!  Going to school to become a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) was hard enough, but now you have to take it even further.

But job interviewing doesn’t have to be so stressful if you take some time to prepare, give thought to all of your experiences, training and the lessons you’ve learned that have prepared you to work as a nurse.  It’s all about keeping a cool head and thinking things through.

How you answer interview questions is just as important as what you answer to these questions. Monster.com recently compiled a list of some of the toughest nursing interview questions along with their suggestions of good responses and examples of bad answers.

Take a look at the list and see if any of these ideas may help you as you begin to look for work as a new nurse, or re-start the job search for the next “best thing”


1. Why do you want to work in this industry?

Bad answer:
“I love to talk medical jargon. Even as a kid, I spent hours flipping through medical dictionaries and pretending I was a nurse.”

Don’t just say you like it. Anyone can do that. Focus instead on your history with that particular industry, and if you can, tell a success story.

Good answer:
“I’ve always loved nursing, but my interest in health care really started when I volunteered at a homeless shelter in college. Seeing so many people without care inspired me to pursue a career devoted to caring for others. I kept going back and volunteering, which got me hooked. It was great to be able to contribute positively to society that then led me to a field I feel so passionate about.”


2. Tell us about yourself.

Bad answer:
“I graduated four years ago from the University of Michigan, with a Bachelor’s in Economics – but I decided that wasn’t the right path for me. So I switched gears and got my first job, working as a secretary for a hospital. Then I went on to work in a dental office. After that, I took a few months off to travel. Finally, I came back and worked in a hospital environment again. And now, here I am, looking for a more challenging health care role.”

Instead of giving a chronological work history, focus on your strengths and how they pertain to the role. If possible, illustrate with examples.

Good answer:
“I’m really energetic, and a great communicator. Working in the medical field for two years helped me build confidence, and taught me the importance of patient care. I’ve also got a track record of success. In my last role, I juggled a variety of patient loads, assisted in a charity fundraiser, and became an advocate for senior patients. Because of this, the hospital is launching a new educational program to teach nurses how to better care for elderly patients.”


3. What do you think of your previous boss?

Bad answer:
“He was completely incompetent, and a nightmare to work with, which is why I’ve moved on”

Remember: if you get the job, the person interviewing you will some day be your previous boss. The last thing they want is to hire someone who they know is going to badmouth them some day. Instead of trashing your former employer, stay positive, and focus on what you learned from him (no matter how awful he/she really was).

Good answer:
“My last boss taught me the importance of time management – he didn’t pull any punches, and was extremely deadline-driven. His no-nonsense attitude pushed me to work harder, and manage my case loads way more efficiently.”


4. Why are you leaving your current role?

Bad answer:
“I can’t stand my boss, or the work I’m doing.”

Again, stay away from badmouthing your job or employer. Focus on the positive.

Good answer:
“I’ve learned a lot from my current role, but now I’m looking for a new challenge in nursing, to broaden my horizons and to gain a new skill-set – all of which, I see the potential for in this job.”


5. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Bad answer:
“Relaxing on a beach in Maui,” or “Doing your job.”

There’s really no right answer to this question, but the interviewer wants to know that you’re ambitious, career-oriented, and committed to a future with the hospital. So instead of sharing your dream for early retirement, or trying to be funny, give them an answer that illustrates your drive and commitment.

Good answer:
“In five years I’d like to have an even better understanding of this industry. Also, I really love working with people. Ultimately, I’d like to be in some type of managerial role at this hospital, where I can use my people skills and nursing knowledge to benefit the nurses working for me, and the patients and hospital as a whole.”


6. What’s your greatest weakness?

Bad answer:
“I work too hard,” or for the comedian, “Blondes.”

This question is a great opportunity to put a positive spin on something negative, but you don’t want your answer to be cliché – joking or not. Instead, try to use a real example of a weakness you have learned to overcome as a nurse.

Good answer:
“I’ve never been very comfortable with speaking up – which as you know, can be a hindrance in nursing. Realizing this was a problem, I asked my previous employer if I could enroll in a speech workshop. He said “yes.” I took the class, and was able to overcome my lifelong fear. Since then, I’ve made great strides in sticking up for my patients, communicating with doctors, and just being a better nurse. I still don’t love it, but no one else can tell!”


7. What salary are you looking for?

Bad answer:
“In my last job I earned $35,000 – so, now I’m looking for $40,000”

If you can avoid it, don’t give an exact number. The first person to name a price in a salary negotiation loses. Instead, re-iterate your commitment to the job itself. If you have to, give a broad range based on research you’ve conducted on that particular nursing role, in your particular city.

Good answer:
“I’m more interested in the role itself than the pay. That said, I’d expect to be paid the appropriate range for this role, based on my five years of experience. I also think a fair salary would bear in mind the high cost of living here in New York City.”


8. Why should I hire you?

Bad answer:
“I’m the best candidate for the role.”

A good answer will reiterate your qualifications, and will highlight what makes you unique.

Good answer:
“I’ve been a Nurse Practitioner for the past ten years – my boss has said time and time again that without me, the hospital would fall apart. I’ve also taken the time to educate myself on some of the latest industry issues I regularly use (but didn’t really understand the ins and outs of). What’s good enough for most people is never really good enough for me.”


9. What is your greatest failure, and what did you learn from it?

Bad answer:
I never finished my masters in nursing – and everything that’s happened since has taught me that giving up, just because the going gets tough, is a huge mistake.”

You don’t want to actually highlight a major regret – especially one that exposes an overall dissatisfaction with your life. Instead, focus on a smaller, but significant, mishap, and how it has made you a better nurse.

Good answer:
“When I was in college, I took an art class to supplement my curriculum. I didn’t take it very seriously, and assumed that, compared to my biology classes, it would be a walk in the park. My failing grades at midterm showed me otherwise. I’d even jeopardized my scholarship status. I knew I had to get my act together. I spent the rest of the semester making up for it, ended up getting a decent grade in the class. I learned that no matter what I’m doing, I should strive to do it to the best of my ability. Otherwise, it’s not worth doing at all.”


10. How do you explain your gap in employment?

Bad answer:
“I was so tired of working, and I needed a break,” or “I just can’t find a nursing job.”

Employment gaps are always tough to explain. You don’t want to come across as lazy or unhireable. Find a way to make your extended unemployment seem like a choice you made, based on the right reasons.

Good answer:
“My work is important to me, so I won’t be satisfied with any old nursing job. Instead of rushing to accept the first thing that comes my way, I’m taking my time and being selective to make sure my next role is the right one.”


11. When were you most satisfied in your job?

Bad answer:
“I was most satisfied when I did well, and got praised for my work.”

Don’t give vague answers. Instead, think about something you did well – and enjoyed –that will be relevant at this new job. This is an opportunity for you to share your interests, prove that you’re a great fit for the job and showcase your enthusiasm.

Good answer:
“I’m a people person. I was always happiest – and most satisfied – when I was interacting with patients, making sure I was able to meet their needs and giving them the best possible care. It was my favorite part of the job, and it showed – I was rated as “Good or Excellent” 95% of the time in peer reviews. Part of the reason I’m interested in this job is that I know I’d have even more interaction with patients, on an even more critical level.”


12. What did you like least about your last job?

Bad answer:
“A lack of stability. I felt like the hospital could collapse around me at any time.”

Try and stay away from anything that draws on the politics, culture, or financial health of your previous employer. No matter how true it might be, comments like these will be construed as too negative. Also, you don’t want to focus on a function that might be your responsibility in the next role. So think of something you disliked in your last job, but that you know for sure won’t be part of this new role.

Good answer:
“There was nothing about my last job that I hated, but I guess there were some things I liked less than others. My previous role involved traveling at least twice a month. While I do love to travel, twice a month was a little exhausting – I didn’t like spending quite so much time out of the hospital. I’m happy to see that this role involves a lot less travel.”


13. Describe a time when you did not get along with a nurse.

Bad answer:
“I’m easy to get along with, so I’ve never had any kind of discord with another nurse.”

Interviewers don’t like these types of “easy out” answers. And besides, they know you are probably not telling the truth. Think of a relatively benign (but significant) instance, and spin it to be a positive learning experience.

Good answer:
“I used to lock heads with a fellow nurse in the INCU ward. We disagreed over a lot of things – from the care of patients to who got what shifts to how to speak with a child’s family. Our personalities just didn’t mesh. After three months of arguing, I pulled her aside and asked her to lunch. At lunch, we talked about our differences and why we weren’t getting along. It turns out, it was all about communication. We communicated differently and once we knew that, we began to work well together. I really believe that talking a problem through with someone can help solve any issue.”


14. What motivates you?

Bad answer:
“Doing a good job and being rewarded for it.”

It’s not that this answer is wrong – it’s just that it wastes an opportunity. This question is practically begging you to highlight your positive attributes. So don’t give a vague, generic response – it tells them very little about you. Instead, try and use this question as an opportunity to give the interviewer some insight into your character, and use examples where possible.

Good answer:
“I’ve always been motivated by the challenge of a tough patient. In my last role, I came across a particular patient who refused a handful of nurses before he was assigned to me. I was able to find something we had in common, which calmed him down. After the patient saw me make an effort to better understand his situation, he became much more agreeable to my aid. I love facing and overcoming challenges on such a personal level.”


15. How would your friends describe you?

Bad answer:
“I’m a really good listener.”

While being a good listener is a great personality trait, your employer probably doesn’t care all that much. It’s unlikely that they’re hiring you to be a shoulder to cry on. You’ll want to keep your answer relevant to the job you’re interviewing for – and as specific as possible. If you can, insert an example.

Good answer:
“My friends would probably say that I’m extremely persistent – I’ve never been afraid to keep going back until I get what I want. When I worked as a program developer, recruiting keynote speakers for a major tech conference, I got one rejection after another – this was just the nature of the job. But I really wanted the big players – so I wouldn’t take no for an answer. I kept going back to them every time there was a new company on board, or some new value proposition. Eventually, many of them actually said “yes” – the program turned out to be so great that we doubled our attendees from the year before. A lot of people might have given up after the first rejection, but it’s just not in my nature. If I know something is possible, I have to keep trying until I get it.”

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