Travel Nurse Interviews: What Agencies Don't Tell You!
Updated: Sep 21, 2021
Interviews, no matter when they occur and what they’re for, can cause a bit of anxiety. This is true for travel nurses, too. And you’d be wrong to assume that all travel nursing interviews are created equal... in fact, they’re quite different!
Whether you’re a seasoned travel nurse or fresh out of school, here’s a look at what to expect, which questions to prepare for, and how to ace your next (or first) travel nurse interview.
Why Do We Need to Interview?
Actually it's not a test, even though it may feel like it. Interviewing will actually increase your opportunity. The opportunity for the the employer to see if the employee (you) are a good fit for the opportunity. The employer is checking to see if your words match your resume (well kinda). The want any overview of your skills and experience in your own words. Providing the best care to their patients is the ultimate goal and then they look at your personality and background work lifestyle to see how well you will fit in with the culture at their facility. This is also the time to assess special arrangements and accommodations that you might need.
While this is explained from one side, we want to be very clear here at Forever Nurse, that interviews are also an opportunity for you to see if that facility is a good fit for you too. Few look at it this way, but you have the same giving opportunities and the right to decline if you feel it is not a good fit.
While this is explained from one side, we want to be very clear here at Forever Nurse, that interviews are also an opportunity for you to see if that facility is a good fit for you too.
Obviously, the employer has the final say on whether you’ll get an offer. But it’s just as important that you do your research to get an idea of whether you’d like to pursue the opportunity (or would feel comfortable doing so) if an offer is extended.
What to Expect When Interviewing?
Because of the nature of the role "travel nurse," usually the interviewer and the candidate are in different cities of great distance and the method of this interview is done by telephone. It's usually very factual and fast paced. Many interviews are on the phone around 10- 15 mins in length.
Before The Interview
Typically, your Forever Friend will ask you how soon are you available to interview (after they submit you for a need) and they will want exact dates and times that they can tell the interviewer to call you. Sometimes, someone might call and conduct what’s called a “pre-interview.”
Don’t worry! Pre-interviews are simply quick chats to double check your skillset and experience before scheduling you for a formal interview. Think of them as a back-up resume screen: just to confirm what they have.
3 Types of Travel Nurse Interviews
Interviews by Nurse Managers or Directors at the facility/ unit
Interviews by MSP (Managed Service Providers)
Recorded Interviews (Automated Systems)
The first interview type is the most common and most travel nurses prefer this type of direct access to the administration of the unit. They are able to give you a better look of the daily operations on the unit. They can answer more specific questions you have and the questions they ask are unpredictable. If a facility does not have a unit manager or director level admin to conduct the interview, they are more likely to use their MSP rep. This representative will usually have some nursing experience but won’t have the same understanding of unit conditions and policies specific to that unit. For that reason, you’ll likely receive very standard interview questions. This is good and bad. The good is the likelihood of random topics and questions is rare. The bad is the likelihood of you getting specific accommodations met are slim. The recorded interviews work very similar as the MSP style. In this case, you get the same standard interview style questions but you record your answers after the "beep" like you would during a voicemail. The disadvantage is not being able to talk to a human at all, you are less likely to get answers to your specific needs.
The key to winning a travel nurse interview is to remember there is no face to face expressions or gesture to enforce the energy. So it's important to refer back to this saying: "It's not what you say, but how you say it."
Speak slowly and carefully, and don’t be afraid to take pauses. It gives you time to collect and organize your thoughts, minimizing any speech blurs or other mistakes that might throw your answers off to the listener. It also makes it easier for the party on the other line to hear and process what you’re saying. Make sure you smile when you speak, we can hear and feel joy through the sound when you are expressing happiness.
Make a good impression without every sitting face to face with the interviewer.
Call up a friend or relative and practice your telephone response to a few standard interview questions. This will help you get use to the format and get more comfortable with talking about yourself and your skills.
Write down your answers to common interview questions. When you want something to stick, write it down and watch how better you get with recall.
Travel Nurse Interview Questions
Below, you’ll find lists of common interview questions relevant to travel nurses. This list does not cover everything, but it should be a solid jumping-off point for your interview preparation.
Questions You May Need to Answer
Interviewers are usually looking for four qualities in a travel nurse: experience/capability, flexibility, a positive can-do attitude, and a team-player mentality. You need to prepar to discuss topics and past experiences from those areas!
What’s your specialty? What certifications do you have?
Where were you trained in nursing?
What type of hospital(s) have you worked for―teaching or trauma?
How many beds were there?
What unit(s) have you worked in?
Why would you like to work at this medical facility?
How does your experience match the needs of the facility you’re applying to?
Why are you leaving your current job? What did you like and dislike about the position?
Discuss your most significant professional accomplishment. (Have a backup, too!)
Discuss your strengths and weaknesses as a nurse.
What are your future career plans?
How do you handle difficult patients? Provide an example from your experience.
Provide an example of a time that required you to quickly make a decision on care management of a patient.
Have you ever disagreed with a colleague over the management of a patient? How was this resolved?
Discuss your approach to handling stressful or frustrating situations. Provide an example from your experience.
Questions You May Want to Ask
Don’t pass up this opportunity to figure out all you possibly can about the hospital and unit! Remember that the best interviews are two-way streets.
What is the uniform requirement for this unit/ facility?
What are the most common challenges that nurses in this unit encounter?
What is the nurse-to-patient ratio?
What is the patient population? The average census? The average length of stay?
What other medical professionals do nurses collaborate with on a day-to-day basis? (i.e. doctors, physicians, physician assistants, IV team, secretary, CNA’s, etc)
How many other travel nurses are working / have worked at this facility? In this unit? Have any travelers extended?
What is the orientation process for travelers? How many days of orientation do I receive? How many precepted shifts?
Is floating required? Will travelers always float first? Which units could a nurse float between when census is low?
Is on-call required? How often?
Is overtime available to pick up on a volunteer basis?
Can nurses get shifts back to back? How far in advance is the schedule available? How much notice is given for scheduling changes?
What is the policy for breaks/lunch?
What type of charting system is used?
Will this assignment include requirements to act as a charge nurse?
Does this assignment carry the possibility for an extension?
Questions You Shouldn’t Ask
Pending the exactly situation, there are usually a couple questions you simply shouldn't ask during an interview (these questions fit better once an offer is extended).
Anything about your pay rate or money
What health/vision/dental insurance do you offer?
Time sheet and time keeping policy
While getting answers to these questions is important, we don't recommend asking them in your travel nurse interview because factors like compensation and benefits will be handled by your nurse staffing agency, not the folks at your medical facility. Save these negotiation points for your recruiter!
Negotiating Your Day-to-Day
Finally, if you have certain conditions that you want to guarantee the facility can and will abide by (think approved time off, start and end dates, how much floating you do, what shifts you’ll be working), the travel nurse interview is your time to speak up and secure them! These changes should be added (in writing!) to your contract to ensure that you, your agency, and the facility are on the same page when it comes to your working conditions.
Be sure to follow up with your Forever Friend to make sure that your contract and confirmation reflect any agreements between you and the facility you're speaking with.
Taking Your Interview Call
Where should you take the call? We’d recommend a relatively quiet spot―that way, you reduce background noise which can:
Come off as unprofessional (remember, what your employer hears on the other line is all they have to go on in terms of first impressions)
Distract you when you’re listening or speaking
Make it difficult for both sides to hear exactly what the other is saying
...none of which will help with your career goals!
Remember to keep water nearby―the last thing you need is a dry throat mid-interview! Having a way to take down notes or organize your thoughts before speaking will be helpful, too.
After you’ve nailed down your location, preparations, and the time (based on your chat with either your recruiter or the pre-interviewer), it’s showtime! Keep your phone nearby and be sure to answer any calls from numbers you’re not familiar with―even if the call is slightly before or after the interview time. Depending on their schedule, the interviewer may be running slightly early or slightly late. (We can't stress this enough! Sometimes the calls will be completely out of the blue.)
If you miss a call that could be from your interviewer, be sure to call the number back ASAP. Depending on how urgent the need is, the interviewer may quickly move on to the next candidate if you don’t answer their call the first time. Inconvenient, we know, but better safe than sorry.
Occasionally, the interviewer will offer you the job on the spot. Don’t feel pressured! While it’s important to be timely and responsive, you should take the time to really assess all the details of the offer, make sure you’re satisfied with the day-to-day responsibilities, and are on the same page with BOTH your recruiter and the medical facility.
Don’t feel pressured to take a job offer on the spot! Take the time to really assess all details of the offer and make sure you’re satisfied with the day-to-day responsibilities.
You can always kindly thank the interviewer for his/her time and ask that the details of the offer be passed along to the recruiter while you think over the opportunity.
You’ve finished your travel nursing interview, now what? The next steps are simple:
If possible, follow up with a thoughtful, but concise "thank-you" email to the interviewer. They’ve taken time out of their day and (hopefully!) answered your questions; it’s the least you can do! This practice is surprisingly uncommon, but it’s an easy way to leave a great impression especially if you are trying to land your first travel nurse contract.
Follow up with your Forever Friend to confirm that you’ve interviewed with the facility and ensure that any details/changes discussed in the interview make their way to your contract/confirmation.
Sit back and await the results! Remember, you’ve done all the preparation you can, and if it’s meant to be, you’ll know soon enough!
Once you accept an offer (yay!), there’s a whole new set of preparations to do, so enjoy some well-earned downtime!
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