Learn about how the travel nurse interview process works, including what preparations an RN should take before hand, the questions to ask during the phone interview, and what steps to take once the interview is complete.
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Peter: Welcome to our fourth episode of Travel Nursing Insider. We're back in Wilton, Connecticut with Deb Shea, the Vice President of Travel Nursing at Onward Healthcare and Sera Cullen, the Director of Travel Nursing.
In our last episode, we discussed the travel nursing application process and what happens once you've submitted your online CV or resume into the Onward Healthcare database. This week we're going to talk about some interview tips, some expert advice on the kinds of things that you need to do, and the preparation that will really help you ace that interview.
First of all, I think, it's important for our listeners to understand that the interview process is always going to be a phone interview, is that correct Deb?
Deb: That's correct. It's always a phone interview, which I think is nice.
Sera: The reason that it's a phone interview is because a nurse in Florida could be interviewing for position up in Alaska and we're not going to make her go all the way up to Alaska just to do an in-person interview for a position that she may or may not want. So that's why everything is done over the phone and that's why the online applications and the profiles are sent over to the hospital beforehand so the nurse managers can review it to make sure everyone's a good fit.
Peter: In the world today out there, most interview processes, even for a full-time job, the first thing is a phone screen. Is this first interview a phone screen or is this a real interview with a hiring manager?
Deb: That's a great question. It's actually a real interview. Nurse managers, as all the nurses know, are extremely busy so when you get the nurse manager on the line, that's your time to have that interview.
Basically, when you get the nurse manager on the line, it's your time to really find out a lot about the unit and the expectations that the manager has of you. So what we do is we recommend that you specifically ask about the patient population, what types of patients are at the unit, and what expectations the nurse manager has for her nurses on the unit. If you feel that your fit, your skill set is equal to what the manager is talking to you about, then I'd suggest you get into more kind of the nitty-gritty, asking about the scheduling - does the nurse need you to work for the holidays, what's the weekend requirements, how many days a week are you going to work, what shift is available, are you going to be floating to other units - kind of getting again a little more granular. If you feel comfortable with that, then I'd suggest going more into a little bit about the orientation, how the manager is going to get you orientated to the floor.
Peter: Sera, is this similar to taking a full-time position where you really want to check that's it's a good cultural fit for you and that you're going to feel really comfortable working in this environment?
Sera: You want to be able to make sure that you hit the ground running. That's one of the biggest things. They're not there to train you. You are coming in because they have a staffing shortage and they need your help. Unfortunately, no one is going take you aside and teach you all new skills, they want someone that's already experienced that has the background to make a smooth transition onto the floor and really them out. That's the purpose of the interview too; you want to make sure that it's going to be a good fit for you. That's why the nurse manager is going to explain about the unit, the types of patients they have, the cases that they see, the ratio, the charting that they use so you have a really good idea of whether this is something that is a good fit for you.
Peter: I want to back up just a little bit in something you mentioned Deb in calling in; is this something that is scheduled or do you send them the phone number and say, this is the person you want to talk to, call.
Deb: We work at about 2000 hospitals. So I'd love to say every hospital is the same in cookie cutter but unfortunately, it's not. We have intimate relationships with each hospital. So depending on what hospital you go to, some are going to be set up because the nurse manager prefers it that way and some are going to be just kind of like a warm call to the nurse manager trying to catch them live when they are free. So it depends hospital to hospital.
Peter: Sera, what are some of the things that you should do in preparing for this interview?
Sera: Your recruiter is going to help you by sending you an email of the list of questions that you can possibly ask. They're also going to give you a description of the hospital so you're prepared going in there, knowing how many beds in a unit, what the nurse-to-patient ratio is, and kind of what the hospital is all about, whether it's a large teaching hospital, whether it's a small hospital, you will be prepared going into this interview.
One of the biggest things I want to stress is that these interviews are not intimidating. It is not going to be a nurse manager saying, what are your strengths, what are your weaknesses, that type of interview, more traditional interview that some people have in mind. It is more going to be casual conversation between you and the manager can last about 10 minutes and you're going to see whether you're a fit for the floor and whether she thinks that you've got the skill set to make it work.
Peter: Deb, can you give us some tips on just getting prepared to do an interview? What kinds of environment or things should you try to establish before you even make that phone call?
Deb: The first thing we suggest is that our nurses make sure that the message that they have on their message machine is professional and appropriate. Because when you have a nurse manager call, if you're unable to answer the machine, you want to make sure your voice message is very appropriate, a little bit more professional than you might have on a day-to-day basis. So, first thing is we make sure that your voice message is appropriate. If you're going to be calling in to the manager, you want to make sure that you're in a quiet place, and you have at least anywhere from 10 minutes to 15 minutes to talk to the manager. So you're sort of putting yourself in an environment that's quiet and professional.
Peter: So, you don't want a couple of toddlers running around in the room while you're trying to do this.
Deb: Well, sometimes that happens and if you have that, I think you should the set expectation at the manager upfront and let them know that you have a toddler bouncing around. Nurse managers are real people just like our nurses so if you have a situation like that, upfront let them know that you might have a little bump in the road during the interview and usually that cuts the ice and makes the conversation actually go a little better, but that wouldn't be plan A, but if that's what happens… if they happen to dial you in when you have two toddlers running around, just let them know upfront what your obstacles might be and see if you can work around it.
Peter: Obviously, it's best to try to be in a quiet environment; you don't want to be driving your car somewhere on your cell phone while you're trying to do this interview, right, Sera?
Sera: You want to definitely put your best foot forward. This nurse manager is going to make a decision on who she chooses for this assignment based on this 10-minute interview so you always want to be as professional as possible and also be as courteous and understanding because again, she's in a busy unit so be thankful for the time that she gives you and be professional and polite and follow up.
Peter: How much time do these interviews usually last?
Deb: The interview are anywhere from 10 minutes to about 25 minutes just depending on the nurse manager, how much time he or she may have. I wouldn't say it's anymore than 20 to 25 minutes.
Peter: But it's always a good idea and this is something that Sera brought up to have a list of questions because you do want to ask questions during this interview, is that correct?
Sera: Onward has a great list of interview questions, maybe not all of them will apply for every nurse applying for a job, but you can definitely pick and choose the ones that you are most interested in and make sure that you bring them up in the interview. One of the big things is time off request, what shifts, my weekend requirements, everything that Deb went through before, those are things that you want to bring up upfront because if the nurse manager knows where you're coming from, then she's going to be able to make the best decision as well.
Peter: Are there any standard questions that you should expect hearing from the nurse manager?
Deb: I don't think there's anything standard. Again, we work at over 2000 hospitals, so it can vary from hospital to hospital but every single interview, they're going to be asking what shifts you're going to be comfortable working with so if you should go in to the interview as flexible as possible but again, you should know what shift you want to work, whether it's a night shift or a day shift. They're going to be asking what kind of computerized charting that you've worked with in the past. They're going to ask about some of you're credentials, whether you have BCLS, ACLS, what skills set that you have and they're going to be asking you about what type of patients you worked with in the past, and tell you about the patient load at that particular unit to see if you guys are a good fit.
Other than that, I think what Sera mentioned, a lot would be due to the scheduling - can you work every other weekend, are you available to work the holidays? S, you're really going to be able to kind of - you and the nurse manager - peel back the layers of the onion to find out exactly what they need and if it matches what you can do. That's really the purpose of the interview.
One thing that's nice is as a company, we've been in business a long time and we have awesome relationships with these hospitals, so once we send your file over for interview, you're going to be able kind of from a clinical standpoint fit in on the unit, it really then comes down to kind of the nitty-gritty. Can you do this shift, can you start where the nurse manager wants and does you personality fit in with that floor.
Sera: That's huge, Deb. One of the biggest things, a lot of times the interviews are started out with the nurse manager describing what the unit is like. Just because the nurse does have to hit the ground running as we said before, and so the nurse needs to find out what kind of environment they have on the unit just to make sure that it's a good fit. So that nurse manager is going to try and give the nurse the most accurate description possible because she wants to have no surprises. That nurse manager doesn't want you to get on the floor and then realize that something was different than what you guys discussed during the interview because then it's not going to be a good fit and you know, then we're going to have to make some changes. So she really is going to give you the most accurate picture of what the unit is like.
Peter: How many applicants are typically looked at for each position that's available within a unit or within a hospital?
Deb: I'd say anywhere from 5 to 10 nurses are being sent for every one open position. It's extremely important that you understand that because timing is of the essence. Once your recruiter submits your file and then gives you interview information, it's extremely important that in real time your following up and setting up that interview because if you're not, the other 9 or 10 people are, and then you're not going to get the job.
Peter: And Sera, once that phone call is over, what's the next step that you should take if you really want to have that particular job?
Sera: Well, you're always going to thank the nurse manager for her time and then as soon as you hang up that phone, you're going to call your recruiter back and tell your recruiter that you've just interviewed. You're then going to tell the recruiter if it was a fit or not. You're gong to say I love the position, go confirm that I've got the offer, I'm so excited or they may come back to me and say you know what, I interviewed, it just doesn't sound like it's the right fit for me. It was too small, it was too busy, whatever didn't fit for the nurse and then I would simply write a thank you note to the hospital for giving us the time to interview and we'd move on to the next one.
The biggest thing is that the nurse call the recruiter back right away so we can jump on it and get the ball rolling.
Deb: But if you do want the position, at that point what would happen is you'd let the recruiter know and the recruiter would totally hold your hand through the process, work through the pay rate package, work through the start date, and work on telling you the items that you need in order to be compliant to start the assignment. So once you want that job and the hospital wants you, we would kind of hold your hand through that process to get you started into the position.
Peter: During the interview, if I decide that Wow! This is just really a perfect fit for me and I'm really excited about this and I really want this job, should I express that interest and that enthusiasm to the individual who is interviewing me, Sera?
Sera: You definitely want to tell the nurse manager that you think that you're a perfect fit for the job, that you can do the required tasks that they're asking, that you've been on a unit similar to that and you think that you would fit in right away. So, yes that is something nurse managers definitely want to hear.
Peter: What haven't we discussed about acing the interview that you'd like to share with the audience today, Deb?
Deb: I think we covered quite a bit. The one thing I'd like to say on the last point that you made is if you are on the line with a nurse manager and you really feel you're a good fit and you're excited about the job and want the job, ask for the position. Let the nurse manager know I really want this job, I know I'd be an excellent fit, can you offer me the position? That's showing confidence and will generally get you the job. So if you think you've got a good fit in that and when you talk to that manager, ask for the job for sure.
Peter: Does Onward Healthcare do the negotiating as far as the pay and benefits, or if I'm saying to this individual offer me the job, are they going to negotiate directly with me or are they going to go back to the recruiter at Onward Healthcare, Sera?
Sera: They're going to come to us. They don't need to discuss pay or anything like that with the nurse manager. The nurse manager is there to interview the nurse, to see if it's a good fit. Anything beyond that comes directly to us.
Deb: You're an Onward Healthcare employee and we would manage the whole pay package; the hospital really doesn't have anything to do with that.
Peter: This is really a fun and informative interview. Thank you so much for joining us again today on Travel Nursing Insider.
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