How Do You Overcome Lack of Experience in a NP Job Interview?

If you’re on the hunt for your first nurse practitioner job, you may have run into some hurdles along the way. Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to get an interview, but things took a turn for the worse after meeting the prospective employer. Landing a nurse practitioner position without NP experience isn’t easy. But, if you approach an interview the right way you just may find yourself hearing the words “you’re hired!”.

Here are a few tips for addressing your new grad status in a nurse practitioner job interview. 

Remember you are no longer a student

Taking the leap from education to practice can be difficult for nurse practitioners. Your mind is currently set on student mode. You’re accustomed to having a preceptor available to answer questions 24/7. It’s perfectly acceptable for you to refer to reference materials when making clinical decisions. 

During your job search you need to snap out of student mode. Quickly. Don’t forget that you are looking for a j-o-b. Unless you are applying for a nurse practitioner residency, your next place of employment is a place for you to begin your career not to continue your learning-at least from an employer’s perspective.

An employment relationship must be mutually beneficial

Many new nurse practitioners fall into the trap of expressing a need for mentorship or guidance in a job interview. While it’s true that you do need these qualities in your first position, be careful how you express this, or don’t express it at all, in an interview. During your time in school you are paying a university to teach you. Now the tables are turned. An employer will be paying you for the services you provide patients. Expressing a need for mentorship and continued learning along with a salary in an interview makes it seem like the employer isn’t getting anything out of the deal. 

To get an idea if a practice can provide the support you will need as a new grad, ask questions along the lines of “How many patients will I be expected to see per hour?” and “How do you measure success in this role?”. This let’s you know to what extent the employer is about the bottom-line. Don’t expect special treatment or a reduced patient load simply because you are new to the profession.

Use the sandwich method

You will likely be asked about your lack of experience in your next NP job interview. Even if you aren’t, the topic does deserve to be addressed. When doing so, use the sandwich method. State a few reasons you are enthusiastic about or a good fit for the position, followed by a mentioning your inexperience in a positive light, then discuss the qualifications you do have.

For example, say something along the lines of “Given my 5 years of nursing experience in primary care and the fact that I’m looking to call Boston home, this clinic seems like it could be a great fit for me. While this will be my first position working as a nurse practitioner I am highly motivated to become a top performer“.

Remember, medicine is a business

Whether you’re working for a non-profit organization, a community clinic, or the sleekest new practice in town, clinics and hospitals are businesses. They operate under pressure to meet certain revenue goals to keep their doors open. Using works like “top performer” and expressing a desire to be a “productive provider” indicate you have a little business savvy and will make your interview stand out. 

Don’t overcompensate

If you continually dwell on you lack of experience in an interview, even if you are attempting to put a positive spin on the matter, you only serve to highlight the issue. Don’t focus on your lack of experience in a nurse practitioner job interview. Instead, you may choose to talk about your prior experience as a nurse. Or, discuss the responsibilities of the job at hand with your interviewer. Don’t dodge questions, but avoid broaching the subject yourself more than once. 

Dress the part

An “I know what I’m doing” appearance can make up for a whole host of misgivings in an interview. Wear a suit to your interview. Come prepared with a few copies of your resume printed on quality paper. Take notes. Jot down a few questions you have for your interviewer ahead of time to reference during the interview. Coming across prepared and polished lets your employer know you will behave in the same manner on the job. It gives the impression that you will overcome your inexperience quickly and professionally. Carry yourself in a confident manner

Don’t forget-you do have experience to offer

While you may never have been employed as a nurse practitioner, you do have a wealth of life and educational experience to fall back on. Think of a few examples of situations where you performed at high levels academically or in previous nursing positions that you can reference in your interview. You have completed hundreds of clinical hours in the nurse practitioner role preparing you for your new career. So, boost your confidence and market yourself. 


Could you use some help finding your first nurse practitioner position? Let a ThriveAP Career Advisor know and we’ll be in touch.


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