How to Interview for Nursing Unit Manager Positions

Written by ruth mayhew
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How to Interview for Nursing Unit Manager Positions
Showcase your qualifications and expertise when interviewing for a nursing unit manager position. (Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Due to nursing shortages and the increasing number of opportunities for nurses, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a long and steady outreach for qualified nurses from 2008 to 2018. Therefore, preparing to move into a nursing unit manager role is a distinct possibility if you're looking for the chance to advance your leadership skills in the nursing profession. Interviewing for leadership opportunities requires assessing qualifications and articulating your career goals.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Submit an online application or prepare a cover letter and resume for each nursing unit manager position that interests you. Ensure your online application is complete, accurate and describes your entire work history in the nursing field. If you have management experience in another field, include that in your resume and on your applications. Your resume should also contain your full work history, credentials and training.

  2. 2

    Write a cover letter that stimulates recruiters' interest in learning more about your capabilities. It's the cover letter -- not always your resume -- that encourages recruiters to contact you for an interview. A cover letter should highlight the skills and qualifications you bring to the workforce and, in particular, examples of patient care, clinical expertise and ability to manage other nurses and health care providers in the unit.

  3. 3

    Research the health care facilities to which you've applied. Determine the structure of their facilities. Assess the philosophy, mission and values of each facility. Search your professional network for contacts who work for each of the facilities to get their perspectives on working conditions and job opportunities. Determine whether your career objectives could be served by the facilities you choose.

  4. 4

    Practice describing your work history to prepare for a preliminary telephone interview. For each previous job you've held, describe your duties and responsibilities related to patient care, clinical practice and managing or leading other nurses and health care providers. Prepare a list of accomplishments and be prepared to share them in both the preliminary interview and a face-to-face interview.

  5. 5

    Ask the recruiter or employment specialist about the upcoming interview, including who is going to participate in any panel interviews. Inquire about their clinical expertise so you can rehearse your responses to clinicians and laypersons.

  6. 6

    Draft answers to sample interview questions. Be prepared to describe how you interact with physicians, nurses, unit secretaries and ancillary care professionals. Explain your clinical expertise, including your experience in speciality areas such as cardiology, obstetrical and oncology practice. If you are relatively new to the field, describe the relationship with your nursing preceptor and how your professional and clinical expertise benefit from that relationship. Prepare interview responses that demonstrate your commitment to the nursing profession as well as your understanding of how hospital and facility units operate.

  7. 7

    Learn the difference between behavioural and situational interview questions. Responses to behavioural interview questions allow you to highlight your ability in handling workplace issues related to nursing management, such as providing feedback to nurses who report to you or preparing staffing schedules to ensure full coverage for optimum patient care. Situational interview questions probe into your ability to perform clinical procedures and how to determine the appropriateness of certain clinical procedures, such as illustrating proper intubation techniques to staff nurses or explaining to surgical candidates the milestones in their post-operative care.

  8. 8

    Follow-up all interviews with a thank-you note to the recruiters and health care professionals who participated in your interview. Restate your interest and reiterate pertinent information discussed during your interviews.

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