Interview Tips from the Other Side of the Table

Interview Tips from the Other Side of the Table

If you had told me ten years ago that I would be a nurse owning my own business, I probably would not have believed you. It is incredible how much can change over ten years (in fact, it is incredible how much can change in 24 hours) and I cannot even fathom where I will be in the next ten years. As a nurse and small business owner, I have learned so much, taking on more roles than I ever thought I could. My role as Chief Nursing Officer involves hiring new staff for Nurses With Heart Home Care – mostly caregivers, who assist our clients with everything from bathing and grooming to errand running and companionship care.

Sitting on the other side of the hiring desk is a far cry from sitting in the chair as the interviewee. When we first started Nurses With Heart seven years ago, I was extremely nervous while interviewing potential candidates. I had set questions to ask, including the ridiculous standards of interviewing: What is your biggest weakness? Why did you apply for this job? If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be? (Well, not really for that last one, but some similar iteration of that terrible question – for the record, I would be California Redwood).

Your Nurse Friday - Interview Joke

Pine-ing for Better Interview Questions…

Over the past seven years, I learned how to ask better questions, what characteristics make for good hires and what the red flags are for poor hires, and simply became more comfortable with the process. While I no longer get nervous when interviewing, I still get excited about the new people I get to meet and variety of life stories I get to hear. Because of the numerous interviews I have had the opportunity to participate in, I would like to share my do’s and don’ts for those sitting on the other side of the table.

(It is my duty to disclaim: some details have been changed to maintain confidentiality of individuals, but the following are all based on actual  experiences I have had while interviewing potential candidates.)

The Don’ts

Don’t show up late…but if you have to, call well ahead of time to demonstrate that you actually care about the appointment and you have an accurate perception of how time works. We have had many people run late, but call at the exact time of the scheduled interview to say they are running late (well, duh!). Plan to arrive at least five minutes early, know where you are going, and if you have difficulty following directions, visit the location prior to the scheduled interview. If you are running late, call immediately with an accurate time of when you will arrive (this is not the situation to try to bend time to five minutes when you will actually be ten minutes late).

Don’t show up in your pajamas, or clothes you would wear to go clubbing, or clothing emblazoned with a competitor’s logo, or flip-flops, or sweatpants with “JUICY” written across the bottom or…the list is endless. This is an interview. With professionals. In a serious community. You don’t need to show up in a three piece suit, but business casual is always noted and appreciated. What does business casual mean?

  • Pants (no jeans) and a button-up shirt, nice blouse, or sweater
  • Appropriate footwear (we work in health care, so it is nice to see people that own something besides sandals and stilettos)
  • And take it easy on the cologne/perfume – we appreciate that people want to make a good impression, but your presence should only linger in our minds as a good candidate, not in the air of our office for the rest of the day

Don’t insult your previous employers. One interviewee once told us that she left her previous jobs because all of the supervisors she had ever worked for were “idiots” (I was not too keen on joining their ranks). Be honest regarding why you left previous positions, but avoid name-calling, finger-pointing, and (especially) expletives. We are realistic when interviewing – we understand that everyone is human, things happen, and jobs end.

The Do’s

Do know the company you are applying to and the details of the potential position. I am always impressed when people check out our website, read one of our blogs, and can ask questions that relate specifically to our agency. Have a couple of questions ready for your interviewer (even if you already know the answers), so that you appear engaged and actually care about the position to which you are applying.

Do bring all required paperwork to your interview. Like most other companies, we have several documents required for potential hires. Those who bring in everything in an organized manner get a checkmark from me on their abilities to plan appropriately and ahead of time (which is critical in home health care).

Do give extended answers beyond one word. Nothing is more painful than interviewing someone who is answering open-ended questions with answers like “I like this” or “I’m good at that”, with no additional information. Always give examples (and don’t make us drag them out of you). It is a good idea to have concrete scenarios demonstrating why you would be good at the job prepared prior to the interview. Not only does it help us assess your abilities, it also creates an easy conversation, which we are more likely to remember than someone who simply answered “yes” or “no” to all of our questions.

BONUS TIP! Do not come in to an interview under the guise of interviewing for one position only to inform us that you would actually be better suited for a position not on the table. Don’t think you will pull a fast one on your interviewer – when I am looking for caregivers, I am looking for caregivers. I am not looking for someone to take over the company and accidentally hire them to be my new boss (I am not bossy, I am the boss!).

In Conclusion…

Whether you are applying for a position where you are a newbie in the field or an old pro to the job, it is always critical to be as professional as possible. You never know who you are going to meet (or who you are going to meet again) and they may be the next step to an exciting opportunity on your career path. Even if the interview does not go well, it is always an chance to improve upon your interviewing skills and you never know what great connection you may make with your interviewers, which may lead to other employment possibilities.

Good luck and happy interviewing!

Home health nurse and wearer of many hats in sunny Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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