By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP, FAAN
You’re ready to make the transition from a traditional to a nontraditional area of nursing, for example, the pharmaceutical industry. But you wonder if you can survive the interview. The following tips will help you master the skills you need to succeed in a new setting. And they can help when seeking employment in the clinical setting as well.
Learn about the company. Find out all you can about the company and their products or service before the interview. If it is a publicly held company, you can get a wealth of information in the public library and even over the Internet. Try calling the company’s public relations office for corporate literature.
You should be familiar with the company’s major product or service. Ask around. If you’re going on an interview with a managed care company, talk to the utilization management people in your hospital. If you’re going on an interview with a pharmaceutical company, talk to physicians, hospital pharmacists, and drug/product company sales representatives that come through your facility.
Talk to people in the field beforehand, if possible, to get as much information about the industry and the job as possible. Consider joining appropriate associations and subscribing to publications in the field of interest to you, so that you keep abreast of what’s happening.
Present a professional appearance. Both men and women should wear a business suit to an interview. Wearing a suit conveys the seriousness of your purpose and your respect for the person who is interviewing you. Don’t forget to consider your accessories, such as purses and shoes. Professional appearance is a key element in making a strong first impression.
Be confident. Go into every interview with a confident, can-do attitude. A winning attitude will often win out over limited experience. Come across as positive, upbeat, and confident about who you are and what you can do. Be yourself. People want to know who you are – your personality, not just your clinical experience. Actively participate in the interview process. Ask questions about the job and company, while showing interest in the interviewer.
Follow business protocol. A good, firm, handshake, accompanied by direct eye contact is essential. Shake hands at the beginning and end of the interview. If you are introduced to others in the course of the interview, shake their hand as well. Always start and end the interview with a smile and good eye contact as well.
Be ready to answer the most common interview question: “Why do you want this job?” Prospective employers are particularly interested to know why you want to pursue something that is different from what you have done before. Your answer must specifically relate to the job in question, so that the employer knows you have some concept of the job responsibilities or of the industry.
Focus on what you can do. When speaking about your experience and job responsibilities, focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do. Think about transferable skills you have acquired as a nurse and how you might use them in this situation. Rather than telling a prospective employer that you don’t have experience in a particular area, think of some way you have done something similar in a traditional nursing setting. For example, if you are interviewing for a sales position, you might tell the interviewer that you have to “sell” all the time in nursing. Go on to say that every time you have to convince a patient to adhere to a new regimen or follow-up on some testing, you are selling.
Some other common transferable skills are teaching, counseling, critical thinking, planning, and organizing. Think about the highly technical environment you work in now. It takes versatility, above-average intelligence, and an ability to learn quickly – all valuable in the business world. And don’t forget the problem solving and communication skills you have honed.
Send a thank you note. An important, but often ignored aspect of interview etiquette is sending a thank you note after the interview. A note sets you apart from the other candidates. It should be short and thank the interviewer for his or her time, say how much you enjoyed meeting and talking with him or her, express your continued interest in the job, and state, briefly, what qualifications you would bring. Send the note no later than the day after the interview. Use good stationery or note cards. If more than one person interviewed you, send a note to each person.
Copyright Nursing Spectrum Career Fitness Guides. All rights reserved. Used with permission.