5 Steps to Taking Charge of Anxiety and Nailing Your NP Interview

By Guest Contributor Justin Tillman, PMHNP

You’re at the most critical step of getting hired for a position as a nurse practitioner – the interview. It’s time to shine, exceed all expectations and leave a lasting impression in your employer’s mind. The hiring manager welcomes you with a warm smile. You engage in small talk, and she politely asks you to walk this way as she leads you to the meeting room. Without out warning your heart races to 100 beats per minute, you feel your stomach doing somersaults and a nerves rush pervades throughout your body. You’ve got the anxiety jitters and you can’t shake em’.

The worst part is that your anxiety is totally throwing you off your game. You’re dropping “ums”, “likes” and long pauses as if they’re going out of style. You forget to mention key points related to your clinical competency. You don’t ask any engaging questions. The conversation is painfully dull and bored faces grow unapologetically unanimous. Before you know it the interview is over, the prospective employer thanks you for coming and says the 6 dreaded words…“Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You…”.

When the stakes are high, anxiety comes with the territory there’s no way to completely eliminate it. Some nurse practitioners control it better than others. That said, no matter how nervous you get, you can still control anxiety and crush your interview. Anxiety is nothing more than a mental projection of a failed outcome in the future. What gives anxiety it’s fuel? The feeling of the unknown. So, how do you hurdle over the unknown? It’s simple – fight anxiety with knowledge. Here’s how. 

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1. Go Beyond Logistics

There’s no faster way to get your nerves cooking than by running late. You may be a punctual person, but let’s face it things happen. It’s in your best interest to drive to the facility a day or two before your big day; make note of the drive time and add another 30 to 45 minutes to give yourself extra cushion. Do you need quarters to park? Are the meters only good for 1 hour? If you’re at an all day interview, clear your mind, find a place for extended parking. Walking out to a parking ticket should be the last thing on your mind.

2. Know Your CV Cold

You got the interview because the employer liked your CV. You’d be shocked how many nurse practitioners don’t review their CV before interview day and just wing it. To be a serious contender for a position, know your CV like you know your Mama. If you failed an exam and your last nursing job ended abruptly, this is the hole in your game. So what, it’s time to strengthen up. Ask a friend or a fellow nurse practitioner or even your mama to role play with you. Practice making eye contact and giving a strong response to tough questions until you appear unshakeable (here are a few pointers for new grads). This will help you build some serious confidence.

3. Research the Facility

Don’t just glance at the practice’s website once, look at it multiple times and really try to understand the clinic or hospital. Is the facility “up on it”, when it comes to social media? Ask something as simple as, “Who updates all the content on Twitter and Facebook?” or “I noticed, you are working on a lot of community outreach projects this year, what inspired that?” (these are some other key things to look for…). These small, genuine 1, 2, 3 punch interest jabs, will knock out other competing nurse practitioner candidates, who were too lazy to take the initiative. 

4. Gives Concrete Examples of Interests and Skill

As a psych NP recruiter, I speak with a lot of experienced and graduating NPs. When I ask them why they do what they do, most don’t have an strong answer. For example, when I ask something like, “Why do you like work with children?” I can’t tell you the number of times, ARNP’s will say “I’m passionate about working with kids”. For your sake, this must come to an end, today! Employers need to hear more than “I’m passionate”. Rather, tell a story of about why or how you became passionate. 

5. Ask About Job Details and Next Steps

Always remember, you’re interviewing the company just as much as they’re interviewing you. Ask questions that will give you a better understanding of the practice. This is your time just as much as it is the employer’s. You may consider asking:

  • How long does the average nurse practitioner work here? You want to know, are you stepping into a growing practice or a dying one.
  • What does your onboarding process look like and what is covered in training?
  • What kind of support will I receive during and after training?

Always wrap up the interview by asking about next steps in the interview process and declaring your keen interest in the facility and the opportunity. If you want it – show it!


Justin Tillman is psychiatric nurse practitioner recruiter for a talent agency that has specialized in placing physicians and nurse practitioners with a mental health focus for more than 20 years. For more information about available career opportunities, connect with him on LinkedIn.


You Might Also Like: 8 Signs You’re Accepting the Wrong Nurse Practitioner Job 


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