How to Ace Your Travel Job Interview
By Claire Brocato, feature writer Whether you’re an experienced travel nurse or a newcomer to the field of travel health care, creating a favorable impression during your telephone interview with a hospital’s hiring manager plays an important role in securing the travel job you want.
While it is safe to say that most hospitals today are clamoring for nurses—both permanent and temporary—nurse managers and other hiring personnel won’t just settle for any candidate. They want to be sure that the travel nurse they hire will be a good fit for their team, will adapt quickly and easily to their unit and have a positive, “can-do” attitude.
Due to time constraints and physical distances, travel nursing job interviews are usually conducted by telephone. The important thing to remember is that the interview is a two-way street. While the hiring manager is assessing your skills, credentials and work ethic, this is the perfect opportunity for you to evaluate the facility, its management style and how well it matches your needs.
The interview process
Once you and your recruiter have discussed your job preferences and narrowed your search to a select number of assignments, your recruiter will submit your application form and skills checklist to the hospital of your choice. The facility’s hiring manager will review the materials and schedule a time to call you for an interview.
Bear in mind that the hiring manager has probably received more than one application for the travel job and will need to determine, during the course of the interview process, whether you have the right qualities for the assignment.
According to Renee Stoltz, RN, clinical liaison at American Mobile Healthcare, one of the nation’s leading travel nursing company based in San Diego, California, the first priority for any hiring manager is to screen for candidates whose experience matches the needs of their unit.
“Expect to be asked detailed questions about your clinical expertise and experience,” Stoltz said. “Managers want to be sure that your experience with patient types and procedures matches what they need.”
In many instances, the interviewer will ask questions based on your application form or skills checklist. It is a good idea to have a copy of those documents on hand so you can refer to them during the course of the interview.
To showcase your knowledge and experience, Stoltz recommends answering the hiring manager’s questions in as much depth as possible without offering information that is not part of the question. She also strongly advises against one-word answers.
“Being able to establish a good rapport in a short amount of time is an important part of being a successful travel nurse,” Stoltz explained. “Nurse managers are on the lookout for effective communicators.”
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To encourage dialogue, interviewers will often ask open-ended questions. Instead of asking you what unit you last worked on, you may be asked to describe your last assignment or job.
Denise Bentz, RN, BSN, manager of staffing resources at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downer’s Grove, Illinois, said that she often asks travel nurses to tell her about themselves.
- About the facility
- How many beds in the facility?
- Is it a teaching facility?
- What is the management style?
- What services are available? (i.e.: Cath lab, open heart, NICU, PICU, L&D, pediatrics, X-ray, CT scan, MRI, pharmacy, radiology)
- Are these services available 24 hours a day?
- Is staff parking provided? Is it free?
- What are the cafeteria hours?
- What is the dress code?
- About orientation
- What type of orientation do you offer travelers?
- Is your orientation general or unit specific?
- Do you provide tests and study guides?
- About the schedule
- What are the weekend and holiday requirements?
- What are the coverage, on call and overtime rules?
- How often is an assignment cancelled due to low census?
- How is scheduling done on the unit?
- How far in advance is scheduling arranged?
- About floating
- What is the floating policy for the unit?
- What units or facilities do you float to?
- Is orientation provided for float units?
- About the unit
- What is the patient population?
- What is the average length of stay?
- What is the nurse-to-patient ratio?
- How many travelers are on the unit?
- What experience do you have with travelers on the unit?
- Do you extend traveler assignments?
- How are problems resolved on the unit?
- Who do travelers talk to if they have a problem?
- About the staffing mix
- Is a unit secretary available?
- Do you have LPNs or is the staff all RNs?
- Do you have lab techs? Do they do all blood draws?
- Do you have EKG techs, respiratory techs and a transport team?
- About the job
- What are the responsibilities of this position?
- Why are you hiring a traveler?
- What special skills are required for this job?
- Do you have computerized or hand written charting?
“This helps me get a handle on their personality, their confidence level and communication abilities,” she said. “I want to pinpoint the nurses that will work well with our patient population and fit in well with our staff.”
Hiring experts advise that you should let the interviewer take the lead. They warn against making the mistake of trying to show that you can lead by taking charge of the conversation. Instead, you should listen carefully, don’t dispute what is said and don’t interrupt.The right stuff
Joanie Rother, RN, a senior recruiter at American Mobile Healthcare, who has been with the company for 10 years, knows what qualities hiring managers are looking for.
“Nurse managers are on the lookout for nurses who are quick learners and adapt to new situations easily,” explained Rother. “They look for an enthusiastic attitude and someone who has a team player mentality.”
“Besides strong clinical skills, I look for flexibility and good interpersonal skills,” said Orchid Stewart, RN, BSN, traveler manager for the University of Michigan Health Systems. “Travelers need to be able to communicate effectively, find their feet quickly and be flexible with their schedule.”
Beverly Jordon, RN, BS, chief nursing officer at Baptist Memorial Health Care in Memphis, Tennessee, admits that it’s more than just skill that makes a good nurse.
“A passion for excellence, a caring and compassionate nature, a team player attitude and the ability to anticipate the needs of patients as well as staff members are the qualities I try to look for,” she said.
A guide to important questions
While the nurse manager is eager to find a nurse that will work seamlessly with her staff, you also need to ensure that the facility and unit will be a good match for you. Facilities vary widely in their management style, traveler policies, staffing mix and scheduling, and while there is no right or wrong system, you may be better suited to one system than another.
Stoltz, who worked as a travel nurse before joining American Mobile Healthcare as a clinical liaison, understands how important it is for traveling health care professionals to get a detailed picture of the facility, the unit and the job— including its expectations and demands—before accepting a travel assignment.
To help you determine whether an assignment is right for you, Stoltz suggests asking as many questions as possible during the interview. The answers to the list of questions in the sidebar will give you a good idea of what a specific job entails and what is expected of you.
While any interview, whether it’s over the phone or face-to-face, can be nerve-racking, bear in mind that the interviewer is as anxious as you are to know the outcome of the hiring situation. Being prepared, providing clear, detailed answers, asking pertinent questions and letting your personality shine through are the keys to helping you and the interviewer determine whether an assignment is the perfect
match for you.
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