6 Ways to Stand Out in Your Interview

How to stand out in your interviewAmelia is sitting outside of the interview room in the hallway with 4 other new grads who are all interviewing for a coveted ED position. She is a ball of nerves waiting for the call “Amelia? This way, please.” She knows she has to stand out but really has no idea how to do that.


Amelia knows that the minute she enters the room, the interviewers will be making snap judgements about her. Here’s what they will be thinking:

  • Is she confident? If she’s a Nervous Nellie, how will she handle high pressure situations that call for instant judgement with little information?
  • Competent? Sure, she’s new, but is the seed of competence there? Is she teachable?
  • Will she be a good fit in our ED? Can she forge allies and get along with the existing staff? No use hiring someone who  will never fit in.

Aside from the instant impressions Amelia makes, she will have to stand out if she wants to make it to the next round of interviews. Here are 6 ways to stand out from the others in an interview.

High Energy

Enter the room with high energy and presence.  You are an energetic and productive worker. There’s a light in your eye. A spring in your step. You’re special. Smile.  Offer a firm, brief handshake. A “limp fish” handshake can cost you the job or at least be difficult to overcome; it is a highly negative first impression.

Be mindful of your posture. Do not let your back touch the back of the chair- sit up straight, with head high and shoulders back. Make eye contact with each person and smile frequently.

Be Visually Memorable

Wear something visually memorable. Think an unusual pin on your jacket/blouse, colorful watchband, or a barrette on one side of your hair. Reason? The interviewers, at the end of a long day of “speed-interviewing”, can then easily summon a visual image of you. “Remember the girl with the peacock brooch?” or “How about that guy with the orange watch?”

You want to be memorable and instantly recallable. Even better if your unusual pin/brooch has a story “My grandmother, who was a nurse, gave it to me when i told her I was going to be a nurse”.

Tell Your Story

Be ready with 3 stories. These are 3 compelling stories that each  illustrate a point about yourself you want to make. Did you care for an ill relative or watch your mother do so? (shows compassion). Did you help a co-student to pass their exam (illustrates teamwork), or did you make a difference for a patient in clinicals (shows initiative and/or understanding of customer service)?

Stories are remembered. You will be memorable with a story attached to you. Prepare and practice your stories, but do not memorize them. Take an opportunity at some time during the interview to share your stories. Stories are the best response for “Why should we hire you?” and other behavioral interview questions.

Project Passion

Passion is contagious. Tap into your passions- what are they ? Be prepared to answer “What is your passion?” This is not one of the top 10 interview questions, but being prepared to answer this question helps articulate who you really are to others.

Think back to your reason for choosing nursing. Think about a time in clinicals that made an unforgettable impression on you

Nix the Nerves

Control your nerves as they will ultimately work against you. You have just a few minutes to show that you are confident and you must control your nerves to do this. Rehearse with a friend or even make a session with a counselor if needed to overcome outward signs of nervousness and replace with confident mannerisms.

What makes the difference for a nervous person is practice and familiarity.  Nursing schools do well to prepare their senior students with interview questions and panel interview rehearsals.

Achieve Authenticity

Authenticity makes you irresistible. Authenticity cannot be faked. The secret is to being your authentic self is feeling safe enough to relax and just let the real you shine. It’s an “I’m good enough” mentality. You are good enough. Every other person in the room was once a new grad, and they landed a nursing job. You will, too.

Being authentic means being spontaneous and open. Not guarded, not afraid and not fake. As a new grad, don’t fake knowledge and experience- it’s not what they are looking for. A fake nervous person is a risk as the managers do not know who they are really getting. Communicate humility and teachability. Be humble because they want someone confident but teachable.

Believe me, if you project high energy, are visually memorable, tell your stories, and project passion and authenticity- you’ll get a call back!

Write a thank you note immediately after the interview. It should be brief and memorable. Good luck 🙂 and please share this post! Thank you.

Until next time, friend.

Nurse Beth

About Beth Hawkes

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Nurse Beth (Beth Hawkes, MSN, RN-BC), is a nursing career specialist and blogs at nursecode.com. She's also the author of Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job. If you have ever submitted a resume or interviewed and never heard back, this book is for you. You will learn why never to say “I’m a perfectionist” when asked “What’s your greatest weakness?” You will be given insider tips and discover what nurse managers are really looking for in a candidate. Filled with real life examples and testimonials, “Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job” truly is the ultimate guide to composing winning cover letters, essays, resumes-and landing a nursing job. Available at Amazon.