Reach out to the program director –
They are people just like the rest of us. They are passionate about what they do and want to fill their programs with people who will succeed. Reach out prior to your interview. Email is better than a phone call as they can get back to you at their convenience. Let them know you are looking forward to the opportunity and will be arriving early. If you are coming from out of town (which you most likely are), or especially from out of state, let them know. Do not be discouraged if you do not get a response. This is a busy time of year for them. However, a simple email does a few things for you. It lets them know you are serious and that you take initiative. You will be on their radar. Who’s better radar to be on than the person who is most likely making the final decision on whether you get a seat? It is another way to set yourself aside from every other person who will be there. You may also strike gold like I did. I was able to meet with one of the program directors the day before my interview and I ended up getting a tour of the campus with them. This time spent paid dividends and all it took was an email letting them know I would be there early.
Do NOT under any circumstance, blast their email if you don’t get a reply. They got your email and read it. Again, it is a busy time of year. They will know you took the time to reach out. Don’t sweat it any further. If something good comes from the email, great. However, you also don’t want to come off as desperate or needy.
Your interview starts earlier than you think –
You will most likely end up meeting a lot of people on your interview day. People who are involved in administration roles with the program, CRNAs that work for hospitals where you will rotate, current students, etc. The point being, you don’t know who is around or what their role is. They are there for a reason. They will be reporting back to the people making the decisions. That includes the good and the bad. If you think the current students at the interviews are not a part of the interview process, you would be wrong. I figured this was another one of those common sense things, but I cringed multiple times at multiple interviews listening to what other interviewees were saying. So, put a smile on your face and be courteous to everyone you meet. To make it simple, your interview starts at the time you shut your car door in the parking lot.
Do not be late –
Good grief people! Another common sense situation that isn’t common sense. There was at least one person late to every interview to which I went. There is absolutely no excuse for it. With as much competition as you are up against, this is a good way to eliminate yourself from getting a seat. Rushing to find where you are supposed to be also adds stress to an already stressful situation. If you end up sitting in your car for an hour, so what? Use the time to rehearse what you will say inside.
Most of you will be traveling to places you have never been before. Fly in the day before. Prior to going to your hotel, drive by where you are supposed to be. Take time to find the building and the room. If the interview is in your town it still helps to be early. Even if you know where the campus is, it can be hard to find the exact building. This is a tip from one of my interviews on a big university campus: it took me almost a full hour to navigate and find the right building.
Sell yourself –
Talking about all the amazing things you have done in your life is annoying under normal circumstances, but this isn’t a normal circumstance. This is one of those times in your life you get to tell everyone listening how great you are and how hard you worked to be sitting in that interview. Years of hard work needs to be explained in 15-20 minutes. Make sure you maximize it. If you have done something that you are happy for having accomplished, now it the time to tell your story. Remember they are looking at your whole body of work. If you have done something really cool that isn’t necessarily nursing related it is ok to talk about it. If you are an Olympic gold medalist, bring your medal. Think of it as a professional show and tell. Remember, everyone there looks similar on paper. Now is the time to show what you have done that is different and sets your aside. Keep in mind there is a fine line between confident and cocky. It is all in your delivery.
Ask questions –
At the end of every interview you will be asked if you have any questions. You better and they have to come off as genuine. Do not ask questions like “when will I know if I’m being accepted?” That is dumb and doesn’t show that you put any thought into it. Research the school prior to going and come up with questions based on what you know. An easy question I was able to ask was “will there be a bridge program to a doctorate?” This showed that I was interested in pursuing further education, but also interested in their future educational offerings. It was also genuine. This question isn’t really useful anymore because they are all transitioning to doctoral programs, but it gives you an idea for a type of question you should be asking. Stay away from anything they offer on their website. It is a good way of showing them you either didn’t research what they offered or that you are asking just to ask. Neither is good.