The phone rings. It’s an unknown number but the area code signals that it is from California. Quickly, you realize, it’s the manager calling you to interview you for that dream travel nurse position you just applied for. You’ve been dying to go to California ever since you became a travel nurse! And your recruiter just submitted you! But you start to panic. What types of travel nurse interview questions they are going to ask? How do you nail this interview to ensure that you get this job?
When I was a brand new travel nurse, each time I interviewed for a coveted position, I would panic. I would forget how qualified I was, and how much I deserved to be in the hospital I wanted to be in. It wasn’t until I had interviewed 10+ times that I started to relax and also started to notice trends in how these interviews would go. Now, I can confidently say that I can 100% nail a travel nurse interview every single time I apply for a job. I’m going to share with you the most common travel nurse interview questions that are asked by managers and give you the tools you need to nail your travel nurse interview.
Before reading further, please note that this post is an amazing starting point for those looking to take the leap from staff nurse to travel nurse. If you need more guidance and more information, consider purchasing The Ultimate Travel Nurse Bundle
4 Common Travel Nurse Interview Questions (and How to Answer Them)
While I sometimes interview with managers who ask questions that I’m not prepared for, more than likely all questions that I get asked are similar. Below is a list of travel nurse interview questions I get asked over and over again and the answers that managers are looking for.
1. Tell me about your experience? – This is not the time to be shy and humble. This is your time to shine! I always answer this question by stating how long I’ve been a nurse and then start with the experience I gained at my home hospital. I don’t give too many details (now that I’ve been a nurse for 5+ years, this list goes on), but I give a general idea of my skillset. Plus I always end with, “the only things I don’t have experience with are XYZ” so that the manager knows I’ve covered everything. An exact example of my answer would be this: “I’ve been a NICU nurse for 5+ years. I started in KC where I worked as a staff nurse for 2 years taking care of babies as young as 24 weeks. It was a surgical floor so I got to take care of a lot of surgical patients. Mostly g-tubes, bowel perforations, and VP shunts. We did everything besides hearts. I then started as a travel nurse where I worked on a level III surgical unit in Santa Barbara where I also floated to the PICU and peds floors. Then I completed a level III surgical unit in Phoenix, then a level IV surgical unit in Austin where I floated to the PICU. Next, I moved onto a level III surgical unit in Seattle, then a level III unit in Boston, and most recently I just wrapped up a year at a level IV surgical unit in Seattle where I also floated to the PICU and CICU. The only things I don’t have experience with are cooling babies, the jet ventilator, and it’s been some times since I’ve had an oscillator but I’m sure I could reorient to it pretty quickly.”
2. Tell me about a time where you saw a co-worker do something wrong. – Now they are trying to get to know what type of a nurse you are. Are you the type to turn a blind eye? Or are you the type to correct your co-worker? I believe that in this case, they want to know that you are kind and helpful to your co-worker but will also stand up for what is right. If I have never had a co-worker do something wrong in front of me I would say, “That is a great question. I haven’t had that happen yet but if I did I would approach my co-worker and ask for an explanation of what happened. I would then tell him/her that I don’t agree with what they did. If this threatens the life of the patient I would take it to management, but if it didn’t I would approach my co-worker and then choose to keep it to myself.”
3. What kind of patient ratios are you used to? – When management asks you this kind of question, they want to know that you can keep up with the workload. I truthfully say what patient ratios that I’m used to, but I also point out that if I need help I’m not scared to ask for help and that if my co-worker needs help I am the first to jump in and help.
4. Tell me about a time where you felt like a provider ordered something you didn’t agree with. – Here, they want to make sure that you can stand up for your patient and advocate for them. They want to know that in the case of a dangerous situation, you can take the issue to someone else. The type of answer I would give would be this: “If that happened to me I would ask the provider to please explain their reasoning behind ordering XYZ. If I still didn’t agree or understand I would ask another nurse for his/her understanding of the situation. I know that if needed and I was worried this would gravely affect my patient, I would approach another provider or take the issue to my charge nurse.”
While you may or may not get asked each of these questions (plus other random ones at times), generally, managers are wanting to know – are you a safe nurse? Can you stand up for yourself and your patient without knowing the other nurses and providers? Can you work efficiently? What type of experience do you have? If you get asked a question that you don’t know the answer to, just say that you don’t know. That is an acceptable answer and if you try to make something up, more times than not the manager will be able to tell. If I’m asked a scenario question, I usually clarify that “that has never happened to me, but if it did… this is how I’d react”.
5 Steps to Nail Your Travel Nurse Interview
Now, more importantly, how do you take your answers and make sure that you stand out from the rest of the nurses interviewing for the same job? What sets you apart from everyone else? I have interviewed for 8 travel nurse assignments and have gotten every single one of them because I bring passion, excitement, and confidence to the interview. Below are 5 things I bring to every interview, and things that you should apply to your interviews too.
1. Confidence. In this case, when you are being interviewed in a matter of 2 minutes and being compared to many different nurses, confidence is key! Before picking up the phone, repeat to yourself “I am qualified. I can do this job better than anyone else.” Believe in yourself and sell it! If you don’t think that you could do a better job than everyone else or you feel like you have room for improvement, there are plenty of things you can do to make yourself the best candidate. Get another certification, learn a new skill, float to a new floor. You’ll never know everything but the more confident you are at your job, the more it will show in your interview.
2. Enthusiasm. If you want this job more than any job out there, you have to show it. Now isn’t the time to play coy. Let them know how excited you are that they are interviewing you and how much you want this particular job.
3. Tell the truth. At all times during your interview, you need to tell the truth. There is no room to lie and why would you want to? You may get asked tough questions that you don’t know. And you will probably be stumped at some point. But if you lie, the manager is going to be able to tell. And if they aren’t able to tell then they will learn once you get to the unit that you had lied in your interview, which will be grounds for dismissal. It is 100% okay to admit that you don’t know something. That is being human and that is being a safe nurse.
4. Sell yourself. Throughout the interview, you should be selling yourself. What is a positive trait about you that you’ve heard about yourself from a manager? A co-worker? Or a patient? Use that to your advantage. It’s necessary to have a humble brag moment. I sell myself at the end of the interview by saying, “I just want to let you know that I’m a quick learner and I get along with everyone. I have a lot of experience but I admit that I don’t know everything. I’d be honored for the chance to work on your floor, but I am wondering if there is anything else you need to know about me to make your decision?”
5. Be thankful. At the end of the conversation don’t forget to thank the manager for spending time on the phone with you. Even if your interview didn’t go the way you wanted it to go, make sure not to burn any bridges. Managers are busy and the one that just called you is taking time out of their day to speak with you just as you are to speak with them.
Things aren’t always going to go your way. Somebody else might out-interview you or may just have way more experience than you. That is something that you can’t control. Think of every interview as practice and continue to improve. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Keep applying and interviewing, and eventually, you will ace the process too.
For those of you just beginning, or those who would like more guidance on what it takes to be a travel nurse, these articles may be helpful:
Why Travel Nursing? Taking the Leap from Staff Nurse to Travel Nurse
Travel Nursing – Where Do I Start?
Common Travel Nurse Questions Answered by a Recruiter