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Repost: Interview Strategies for Healthcare Professionals

Written by: Lisa A. Burke
Published on: Sep 10, 2020

Doctor talking to patient

The interview is the most critical part of the hiring process since it is the step that determines whether a job offer will be extended. Interview preparation involves both hands-on preparation (rehearsing interview questions, researching facilities, etc.) as well as mental preparation (envisioning success, learning to handle rejection, etc.) Most job seekers focus on hands-on activities but it’s equally important to mentally prepare as a positive mind-set fosters success.

The In-Person Interview for a Healthcare Job

There are four steps you will follow during a healthcare interview:

  • Build Rapport: Both you and the interviewer will be looking for ways to establish areas of common interest to build rapport. For this reason, most interviews start off with friendly conversation that also serves to settle nerves on each end.
  • Clarify: Most healthcare roles involve a number of tasks. For example, a nursing role involves patient care but also report writing and medication management. During the interview, it's important to clarify the primary responsibilities of the position, along with performance expectations over the first three and six months of employment.
  • Prioritize: Understanding the priorities of the position will help you to manage expectations.
  • Close: At the conclusion of the interview, indicate your interest in and commitment to the role and clarify next steps

Step 1: Build Rapport  

There are three primary strategies you can use to build rapport with the interviewer:

  1. First Impressions Matter: The first fifteen seconds of an interview are the most important in establishing a positive first impression. There are a few strategies you can employ in getting off to a great start. Most importantly is to “dress for success” in professional attire and arrive no earlier than fifteen minutes before your scheduled appointment. When the interviewer enters the room stand up, smile, and offer to shake hands. Allow the interviewer to sit before returning to your seat.
  2. Find areas of commonality: When entering the interviewer’s office take note of pictures on the wall, diplomas or trophies. Perhaps you know someone who attended the same school. Comment on this similarity to break the ice. Alternatively, if you have performed some research on the facility, comment on an interesting fact you have read.
  3. Employ a Mirroring Technique: Mirror the interviewer’s style. If the interviewer uses hand gestures, do the same. If the interviewer speaks in a slow and careful manner, you should speak in the same manner. If the interviewer is somewhat distant and businesslike, don’t try to win him or her over by being overly friendly or humorous.

Step 2: Clarify Position Details

Your goal is to uncover the most pressing needs for this specific healthcare role by asking clarifying questions:

  • What do you want to see accomplished in this role over the next three months? Six months? One year?
  • How will success in this role be measured?
  • What are the core competencies of the “ideal” candidate for this position?
  • What is the nurse/clinician-to-patient ratio?
  • What is the paraprofessional staff to nurse ratio?
  • In what ways are nurses/therapists/aides/clinicians held accountable for quality patient care?
  • How much input do nurses/clinicians have with regard to systems development and procedural changes?
  • What percentage of time should be devoted to each of the key responsibilities outlined?
  • Who does this position report to?
  • Is there mandatory overtime?
  • What is the administration’s position on providing nurses with prescriptive authority?
  • What are the primary challenges which stand in the way of meeting stated goals for this position?
  • What opportunities does the facility offer for professional development?


Step 3: Prioritize Tasks

In the prioritize phase your primary objectives are three-fold:

  1. To establish how you will perform the tasks of the position you can ask the following questions:
  • What clinical procedures are working well and which do you seek to change?
  • What did the prior person who held this position do well? What were areas that needed improvement?
  • What changes would you like to see with regard to how tasks are carried out?
  1. Demonstrate how you have met performance goals in prior employment. You can do this with a PAR statement: Describe the Problem, the Action you took to solve the problem, and the Results of that action.
  2. Provide the employer with an overview of how you will manage competing multiple priorities.

Step 4:   A Professional Close

There are three strategies with regard to successfully closing the interview:

  1. Gain Agreement. Highlight how your background and skills are a match for this position and gain employer buy in; e.g. In my career to date I have been responsible for many of the tasks we have discussed today. I excel with assessing and planning patient care needs, providing pre- and post-operative care, and fostering a collaborative environment within the care team. What do you see as the greatest contribution I could bring to this role?”
  2. Uncover Hidden Concerns. Ask questions to uncover any concerns the employer may have; e.g. “is there anything about my background I haven’t discussed but would be important to successfully performing the role?”
  3. Express Interest in the Position. As a final step in the process, summarize your interest in the role and clarify next steps; e.g. “I’m very interested in this position as it presents a wonderful opportunity for me to fully utilize the skill set and knowledge of the field that I have developed in my career to date. What is the next step in the hiring process? Can we schedule something now?

Interviewing is a two-way street, just as the employer is questioning you, so should you be questioning the interviewer to clarify whether the role and the facility is a good match for your skills, interests and goals. If not, no loss as every interview is a worthwhile experience in terms of sharpening your skills and making valuable connections.