Crushing a Nurse Practitioner (NP) Job Interview
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According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (2022), nurse practitioners occupy the fastest-growing profession in the country. In fact, the BLS found that job openings for NPs will increase 46 percent between 2021 and 2031—more than nine times as fast as the expected average growth among all occupations nationally during that time (5 percent). States with the highest need for NPs include Arizona, Colorado, and New York. Factors such as the physician shortage, retirement, the aging of the Baby Boomer generation, and the inclusion of the Affordable Care Act contribute to the ongoing need for NPs.
To keep up with this surge, many states have an abundance of schools to educate future nurse practitioners. States like Texas, Florida, and Tennessee may actually have a surplus of NPs. This can make finding a job challenging, especially in urban areas. This is why it is important to be prepared for an NP job interview and show the interviewer that you excel amongst your peers.
The purpose of an interview is to decide if the NP is a good fit for the organization. When an NP is scheduled for an interview, the employer has already determined that the NP has most of the qualifications required for the position. Now, they want to see if they like the NP and if they are as good as they seem on paper.
Before an NP Interview
Before going for a job interview, the NP must research the facility and analyze its mission and vision statement. The NP will want to ensure that their responses during the interview align with the organization’s mission. The NP should learn the values of the healthcare system and the types of patients seen. They should also look up the services rendered at the site, and, if possible, the people that will be interviewing them.
The NP should practice common interview questions before the actual interview. They should record themselves answering questions to review afterward for spacer words and discourse markers (e.g., “um,” “like”). This will also allow the NP to reflect on themselves and past experiences to find the best answers. If possible, have a friend or relative serve as a mock interviewer to help practice. This is beneficial as it will remind the NP to keep eye contact and speak eloquently. It will also point out nervous habits such as touching the hair too much or tapping the foot.
Additionally, the nurse practitioner needs to dress appropriately before the interview. The recommendation is to wear business attire. For men, this can mean wearing a suit and tie. Women may also wear a suit or a professional dress. Avoid wearing too much cologne or perfume and too much makeup. Remember that first impressions matter, and how the NP dresses will contribute to how the interviewer sees them.
During this planning time, the NP can also research salaries in their geographical location and the specific facility they will be interviewing at. They can narrow down salary ranges by specific roles and specialties. This way, they can be prepared if the employer raises salary expectations during the interview process.
Lastly, it is important to be punctual for the interview. Be sure to arrive at the site at least 15 minutes early to account for any obstacles on the way. Being late for the first encounter with the potential employer does not leave a good first impression.
During an NP Interview – Non-clinical Phase
Many sites will require two different interviews for nurse practitioners. The initial interview will likely be with someone from human resources or management. They filter through applicants to make sure the NP is professional and responsible. They may ask the NP, “Why do you want to work here?” The NP can use their previous research to incorporate how their values and goals align with the organization’s mission.
During this phase, the interviewer will typically ask the NP to discuss their strengths and weaknesses. Valuable strengths include being communicative, great at multitasking, efficient, accountable, a problem-solver, a critical thinker, and patient. It is beneficial to put weaknesses in a positive light. Some weaknesses to bring up are, “I have a hard time saying no” or “I can have trouble asking for help.” Neither of these is a deal-breaker. However, it would help to bring up past examples of overcoming these weaknesses.
The interviewer may ask for the NP to tell them about a time they had a disagreement with a coworker or conflict in the workplace, and how the NP handled it. Other similar questions include providing examples of delegating and working as a team. They might even ask the NP to share a time when they were recognized in the workplace.
The interviewer wants to know what skills the NP can bring to the team. They want to ensure that the NP is computer-savvy, as most facilities use electronic medical records for all of their documentation. It is time-consuming and expensive to train new providers. As a result, they will want to know that the NP plans on working there for a while.
During an NP Interview – Clinical Phase
The second interview will be the clinical interview with either the medical director or several providers. It will usually start with the clinician saying, “Tell me about yourself.” They do not want to know what is already documented on the resume. They want to know the NP’s background, interests, and why they seek a job at that practice. Focus on sharing talents, professional passions, and values.
Then, the clinical interviewer will ask for specific patient scenarios. For instance, they may ask for the NP to provide an example of a time when they had a challenging or medically complex patient and how they handled that situation. Or they may ask for a time the NP served as an advocate for a patient.
These are questions that the NP can contemplate before the interview so that they are prepared to answer. Often, the interviewer will continue with some clinical questions. These questions can vary from pharmacology, health maintenance, diagnostic imaging, or lab values. The NP needs to be honest with their skill set so that the site can offer them necessary support as needed.
When answering scenario-type questions, it is recommended to use the STAR method to structure the answers. STAR stands for situation, task, action, and result. Using the STAR system incorporates personal experiences and details with storytelling:
- Situation: Describe a challenge or problem that needs to be solved. What was the exact situation?
- Task: Provide context by explaining job roles within the situation. Why were you involved in the task?
- Action: Explain to the interviewer how your experience and skills were used to solve the problem. What actions were taken to resolve the situation?
- Result: Review the outcomes of the actions and anything learned from the experience. How did you feel about the result?
Sometimes the clinical interview phase includes shadowing one of the providers. The provider will have the NP follow them for a brief time while they see patients, so that the NP can get a sense of what the practice is like.
At the same time, the leading provider wants to see that the NP is friendly and engaged with the patients and that their clinical knowledge is up to par. The interviewee should prove that they have good bedside manner.
Have a List of Questions to Ask
Lastly, the NP should have their own questions to ask the site. The hiring process is making sure that both parties are a good fit. The following are some questions that will give insight if this place is somewhere the NP can see themselves working in:
- Why is this job open?
- How many patients per day am I expected to see?
- How long is the orientation and clinical ramp-up process?
- Will there always be a physician on-site or another clinical go-to person?
- How would you describe the culture of the organization?
- Have you previously employed a nurse practitioner? If so, how was that experience?
- Am I expected to take call, and if so, how often?
- How does this company support personal growth?
After an NP Interview
The NP should send an email or note to the hiring manager and interviewers one day after an interview. Writing a thank you note is a way to differentiate from other candidates. Employers often view thank you messages as a visual representation of who the NP is as a potential employee.
This message should thank them for their time and let them know you look forward to hearing back from them. Be sure to mention one thing about the organization that you learned during the interview. The thank you note is a great way for the NP to show their excitement and appreciation.
Sophia Khawly, MSNWriter
Sophia Khawly is a traveling nurse practitioner from Miami, Florida. She has been a nurse for 14 years and has worked in nine different states. She likes to travel in her spare time and has visited over 40 countries.
Being a traveling nurse practitioner allows her to combine her love of learning, travel, and serving others. Learn more about Sophia at www.travelingNP.com.