Job Interview Do’s and Don’t’s

by Patti on March 11, 2012

in Advice for CNA's

Whether you are a brand new or a seasoned CNA there will be times when you have to look for a job. We get many inquiries about this process and it’s a hot topic in the email lists as well.

For the sake of space here, this article is assuming you have located employment opportunities and have sent out resumes, made phone calls and have secured an interview at a nursing facility.

Now what?


First things first. Your appearance is absolutely vital in a successful interview. The old saying, “First Impressions can be the Last Impression” is very true.
You want to dress conservatively- you’re trying to sell YOURSELF so it’s very important to get this right.

You want to give a good first impression. You should dress neatly and appropriately:

No jeans and tee shirts; no short skirts and skimpy tank tops; underclothing mandatory
No open toed sandals or sneakers or Crocs
Limited jewelry and other accessories
Clean, wrinkle free clothing
Hair pulled up and kept out of your face
Fingernails neat, trimmed and CLEAN

While a suit is not called for in interviews for CNA work, a pair of black slacks and a blouse would be appropriate. A really nice pair of black or dark blue jeans might be alright if they are paired with a shirt that is buttoned and well fitting. Stay away from low waist style pants; stay away from dark colored underclothing as well. If possible, underclothes should not be visible to anyone. There is no other way to put it: wrinkles are equated with laziness. Iron your interview outfit!

Clean shoes that compliment the outfit and fit well are always good choices. I advice against wearing those Crocs to interviews; they are comfortable to wear at work but entirely not professional for seeking work. Sneakers are not recommended for job seeking activities of any sort.

The wearing of jewelry is a matter of personal preference. It’s a choice we all make. Other than wedding bands, most of us can go without wearing most other pieces. Keep in mind a simple bracelet and necklace are fine; stud earrings too…but ditch the spike pendants and eyebrow and nose rings. Take them out. They serve to distract people and this is the last thing you want during an interview. Also, remember that the work CNA’s do often leads to situations where jewelry can get lost or damaged (along with the earlobe or nose).

Fingernails are what patents see first- trust me. So do interviewers. You want neat, trim nails that are CLEAN. You don’t want polished, glossy shiny nails. You don’t want acrylic nails either. Okay you might want them, but infection control experts tell us germs love the long fake nails.

Now that we’ve covered WHAT NOT TO WEAR portion of the interview, lets move on to the other things:

If this means you have to leave your home an hour beforehand, then do it. It’s best to plan for accidents and other traffic problems. It’s best to be prepared for this and time your arrival for the interview a good 30 minutes before. Sit in your car and wait if you must. Enter the facility 15 minutes before the scheduled appointment.

Treat everyone you encounter with professionalism and kindness. That receptionist or secretary or maintenance man may offer his or her opinion of you to the boss. It will count.

Don’t let the employer’s casual approach cause you to drop your manners or professionalism. You should maintain a professional image. Don’t address the interviewer by his or her first name unless you are invited to.

Don’t chew gum or smell like smoke. In fact don’t smoke for a couple hours (at LEAST!) before the interview. Keep your cell phone in your car. You don’t need to check for calls/texts at this important time!

Sit straight, smile as often as you can, maintain eye contact but don’t stare the interviewer down, lean forward but not invading the interviewer’s space. Sit still in your seat; avoid fidgeting and slouching. Be aware of your body language.

Don’t be shy or self-effacing. You want to be enthusiastic, confident and energetic, but not aggressive, pushy or egotistic. Usually just being yourself is sufficient. Relax.

Don’t ever BAD MOUTH previous employers or bosses. Word travels fast between facilities.

Questions and The Right Answers
Expect to be asked many questions. Expect to be politely scrutinized.

When did you leave your last job and why?
How long have you been out of work?
What did you like most and least about your last job?
Do you prefer working independently or as part of a team?
Why do you want to work here?
What do you expect to experience in this job that you did not experience in your past jobs?
How do you feel about evening work? Weekend work?
Why should we hire you?
Are you considering other positions at this time?
How does this job compare with them?

Listen carefully. If you feel the question is unclear, ask for clarification.

Pause before answering to consider all facts that may substantiate your response.

Always offer positive information; avoid negativity at all times.

Get directly to the point. Ask if listener would like you to go into great detail before you do.

Discuss only the facts needed to respond to the question.

Focus and re-focus attention on your successes. Remember, the goal is not to have the right answers so much as it is to convince the interviewer that you are the right person.

Be truthful, but try not to offer unsolicited information.

Some questions YOU might want to consider asking, when the interviewer asks you for your questions: Besides the usual questions about pay, hours, benefits and other tangibles, consider these questions:

Could you explain your organizational structure?
Can you discuss your take on the company’s Mission Statement? Workplace Values? How does the CNA fit in?
How would you characterize the management philosophy of this organization?
Do you know what Horizontal Violence is, and how it applies to nursing departments?
What is the rate of turnover for CNA’s? If high, ask why. Then ask what you can do to make this better.
What condition is morale in on the unit you might be assigned to work?
How long have some of your best CNA’s been employed by this facility?
How do you define the “best CNA”? What is this title based on?
Are there opportunities for advancement for CNA’s? A career ladder, for example.
What does the facility offer for continuing education opportunities?
Why should I accept a job offer from you?
Why do you work for this facility?

…these are tough questions and perhaps only seasoned CNA’s would feel comfortable asking them. To me these questions are worthy of being asked, and answers should be frank and honest. A negative response, as in “I don’t know” or “Why are you concerned with such things” would lead me to believe this facility doesn’t respect the aides who are employed there.

Most of work because we have to. We need a paycheck. But we love to help people so we choose this special line of work- nursing. The hands on care giver is the least respected, lowest paid person in the health care field. The one thing we can do for ourselves is work for facilities that indeed respect US through actions and words and policies. Since most of us spend a great deal of our time at work, why not work for the facility that treats us best? We can find this place through the right people and by asking the right questions. We can raise the standards we’re willing to work by!

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