You’ve lined up an interview for a new job in the healthcare industry — congratulations! Or maybe you’re on the hunt for the perfect position to apply to, and you want to be proactive. Whatever your motive for applying for a new role as a healthcare professional, the interview process can be daunting, especially to a relative newcomer. Even highly qualified healthcare job candidates with tons of previous experience can feel fear, anxiety, and imposter syndrome symptoms before interviewing. Knowing what to expect, however, can help you get ready for the interview process with ease.
In this post, we cover the basics of what job seekers need to know to prepare for (and ace) their healthcare job interview.
Preparing for a Healthcare Interview: What to Do Before an Interview
Here’s what you need to prepare to bring to your interview:
- Resume. Don’t assume just because you’ve already sent your resume — customized for the company and position you’re interviewing for, naturally — that interviewers will have a copy right at hand. Print one copy of your resume for each interviewer, another one for yourself (to jog your memory during experience-based questions), and a few extras for good measure.
- Cover letter. If you submitted a cover letter with your application, print one to go along with each resume you pass out (including one for you). You want to make it as easy as possible for your interviewer to refer to your qualifications.
- Transcripts. Make photocopies of certified school transcripts and bring them. Even if they aren’t requested, adding them to a packet to leave with your interviewer is a great way to remind them that you’ve got exactly what it takes. They also will remind you about all the hard work you’ve done and applicable lessons you’ve learned during the course of your education.
- Reference letters. Bring copies of any reference letters you have from professors, past employers, or mentors. Accomplished people already in the field who have worked directly with you can be particularly persuasive in describing what positive personal characteristics you bring to the workplace. In healthcare jobs especially, where qualifications between candidates can be very similar, knowing what kind of person an applicant is can really give an edge in a competitive job market.This is another great proof of character to put in a packet and leave with your interview team.
- List of questions. Prepare about 5 to 10 thoughtful questions you can ask each interviewer. Some questions can be asked of all interviewers — “Why did you decide this company was the right fit for you?” or “How would you describe the team culture?,” for example — but others will be unique for the position your interviewer holds. Your goal is to find out whether this company is the right fit for you, but remember: this is not the time to ask about benefits and company perks. Save those questions for when you get the job offer.
Healthcare Interview Prep: Anticipating Questions & Practicing Answers
No interviewer will ask exactly the same questions as another, but knowing some common healthcare interview questions and practicing beforehand can help the words roll off your tongue when the time comes. The best way to hone your interview skills is simply to practice questions and answers so you won’t freeze up during the real thing.
Here are some of the most common interview topics addressed in healthcare settings:
- Personal stories that show how you’ve dealt with difficult situations. Stressful situations abound in healthcare jobs, and this job will likely require you to navigate difficult tasks while working with high-risk patients. Tell a story that shows off your level-headed problem-solving skills and decision-making abilities, especially under pressure.
- Teamwork abilities. Healthcare organizations are really just big teams full of people working for a common goal: the well-being of their patients. If a teamwork question comes up, take the opportunity to highlight your interpersonal skills.
- Previous healthcare experience. If you’re a seasoned healthcare veteran, you’ll have plenty to talk about here. But even if this is your first “real job” in the healthcare industry, you can use this question to reflect on lessons you’ve learned during your education, internships, fellowships, or opportunities you’ve had to shadow professionals in the past.
- Career path. Questions like “Where do you see yourself in five years?,” “What makes this the right career choice for you?,” and “Describe your ideal role” are all meant to determine whether the role is a good fit for you, and vice versa. Be honest about your future healthcare career goals, and keep in mind that there may be other positions that are a better fit for you within the same organization.
What Hiring Managers Want to See & Hear About
Besides the obvious items, like your ability to do the job well, hiring managers and supervisors are looking at a few key things: your experience, your potential for success, and your personality. Here are just a few ways to show your interviewer that you have both the hard and soft skills to succeed:
- Maintain eye contact. This shows your interviewer that you are confident in your abilities, answers to tough questions, and experience.
- Show that you have a positive attitude. You’re excited about this opportunity, and that should show in your answers. Keep an upbeat demeanor and use a smile, even though you may be nervous, and never bad-mouth your last job or former co-workers when answering healthcare interview questions.
- Show that you’re a good fit for the company culture. Your hiring manager wants to know whether you’ll fit in and get along with your co-workers and supervisors. The test of whether you can do that starts in the interview, with your ability to keep up a friendly and professional conversation. You can ask specific questions at the end of the interview that show your interest in the team, such as, “How would you describe the dynamic of this department?,” or “How would you describe the organization’s culture?”
- Flex your communication skills. Soft skills like communication, organizational skills, and great interpersonal style are often just as important as work experience in a healthcare setting. Aside from being kind and speaking highly of your past experiences, you can show interviewers your soft skills by describing your extracurriculars, leadership experiences, and volunteer work.
- Ask good questions. Show you’ve done your company research and that you’ve thought about the job with some engaging questions.
- Follow up the interview with a thank-you note. While email thank yous have become acceptable, be sure to use a professional format (Dear Dr. So in So) and highlight specific positives from the interview, such as what you learned or what impressed you most about the healthcare employer.
What to Bring to a Healthcare Interview
Knowing what to bring to a healthcare interview will help you feel more confident the day of the meeting. It’s an often overlooked item, but being prepared in a tangible way will do wonders for your state of mind. When preparing for an interview, get the following things ready the day before.
The Right Outfit
“It matters what you wear to an interview,” says Aisha Allen, DNP, CRNA. For healthcare interviews, the ideal candidate will dress professionally to show that they take the job seriously and know how to follow the standards of professionalism. Don’t wear scrubs to your job interview. Instead, focus on a black, blue, or gray suit and a white or light blue button-down top.
Then add a pair of professional shoes, like leather loafers. Don’t have these items? Don’t worry — there are alternatives. Dress pants or a neutral-colored, knee-length (or longer) skirt with a button-down or conservative blouse or sweater will work perfectly.
A Stocked Briefcase or Professional Tote
When it comes to packing your bag on the morning of your interview, never underestimate the power of preparedness! Here are few helpful items to bring along in your briefcase or tote:
- A notepad and pen to take notes during the interview. If a question comes up, jot it down! The interviewers will likely be asking for your questions at the end.
- Tissues and a stain remover pen. Although you’ll no doubt be very careful with your coffee and breakfast, you never know what could slip out of your hands at the worst moment.
- Mouthwash, mints, or gum. Your breath is probably fine — but it may be something you worry about even unconsciously! Just make sure to remove the mints or gum before your interview; having them in your mouth while speaking or greeting others will be distracting to you both.
- Water. During interviews, many people experience dry mouth from sheer nervousness. A sip of water can help you speak better and help you to calm your nerves and refocus.
What to Leave Behind
Here are a few things you should not bring into your interview room:
- Your phone. Though it’s tempting to scroll through social media while you wait for your interviewer to join you, leave the phone at home, in your car, or at the reception desk. Even if you have it silenced, you never know when it could go off and distract you and your interviewers.
- Your coffee. While it’s perfectly fine to have water with you in the interview room, the strong smell of coffee could be distracting to your interviewer, and spilling it could be a situation too awkward to recover from.
In getting ready for your interview, don’t forget the three Ps: preparation, practice, and pragmatism! Prepare copies of documents like your resume and transcripts, anticipate healthcare interview questions and practice your answers, and consider practical but very important choices such as which outfit to wear and which items to bring with you. And another part of your healthcare interview prep is to remind yourself of all the things you’ve got going for you. You have worked hard to reach this point, and your dedication will pay off as you search for the next right opportunity for you.