What to Wear to a Nursing Interview (2023 Guide)

by | Mar 30, 2023 | Nursing Jobs & Interviews | 0 comments

Whether you’re a new grad or an experienced nurse, nailing the job interview is key to getting the position you want. While you may be focused on preparing for questions about your skills and experience, don’t forget that first impressions matter, too. What you wear to a nursing job interview can say a lot about you as a professional, and can help (or hurt) your chances of getting the job. Now let’s talk about what to wear to a nursing job interview.

I’ve seen a lot of things in interview situations… a lot of good choices, a lot of excellent choices, and a lot of regrettable choices.

What to Wear to a Nursing Interview (2022 Guide)

What to Wear to a Nursing Interview

Can An Outfit Make or Break the Interview?

If you come in and don’t look as put together but you nailed the interview, I can’t say that outfit will discount you from the job. Conversely, if you come in looking perfect and you interview horribly, that outfit will not make up for it.

If you look sloppy or disheveled and you’re kind of in the middle, it will not help your chances. If the only thing they can remember is your messy or inappropriate appearance and not your answers, that’s not a good look and won’t help you secure a job offer at all.

Remember Your Purpose

Your purpose during a job interview is not to convey without words that you are stylish, trendy, and beautiful. Your goal is to convey that you are a high-performer and the hospital would be crazy not to hire you.

High-performers look professional, neat and clean, and prepared. While self-expression is a beautiful thing, when you’re trying to demonstrate your reliability and competency for a particular professional job, that is not the time to lean into it.

Once you land a job and are established in your role, you can take more liberty in how you express your personal style within the confines of the dress code. Doing so before you even get the job is unwise and is a bit of a red flag to an interviewer.

Outfit Specifics

Do Not Wear Scrubs

This is not a time to wear scrubs, even if they’re really nice and matching perfectly. You will not be providing patient care during an interview, therefore scrubs are necessary.

I’ve seen people not only come in in scrubs but with very messy hair. They didn’t even try to look presentable. That doesn’t look very good. Remember, this is a professional environment.

Coming with huge hair clips, hair color or additional hair accessories is not going to help you in getting a job.

You do not have to dress to the 9’s but you want to look clean and put together. Coming in with a simple but attractive dress shirt, and nice slacks is more than appropriate.

Business Casual For Most Nursing Job Interviews

If you’re interviewing for a normal nursing job, business casual is appropriate. If you’re interviewing for a manager level position or higher, you need to wear business formal (suit). Let’s first dig into things to wear for business casual.

For the Gents 🕴️

Alright, gentlemen, business casual doesn’t have to be a mystery! Here’s how you can look dapper without going overboard:

  1. Top it off: Opt for a nice collared shirt, such as a classic button-down or a stylish polo. Don’t be afraid to play with colors or subtle patterns, but keep it tasteful.
  2. Bottoms up: Khakis or dress pants are your best friends here. Just make sure they’re well-fitted, clean, and wrinkle-free. No jeans, please!
  3. The finishing touch: Swap those dress shoes for a more casual option like loafers or leather lace-ups. And, of course, don’t forget to wear a matching belt!

For the Ladies 💃

Lovely ladies, it’s time to shine and show off your business casual flair. Here’s how to strike that perfect balance between professional and chic:

  1. Top of the game: Choose a nice blouse, sweater, or a tailored top that fits well and makes you feel confident. Feel free to embrace some color or patterns, but keep it classy.
  2. Skirts or pants: Either a knee-length skirt or a pair of dress pants will do the trick! Just make sure it fits well, and avoid anything too tight or short.
  3. Dress it up: Love wearing dresses? Go for it! Aim for a knee-length, A-line, or sheath dress that’s not too revealing. You can even add a cute cardigan or blazer for some extra pizzazz.
  4. Shoe time: Comfortable flats, low heels, or loafers are perfect for business casual. Just avoid sneakers, flip-flops, or sky-high stilettos.
  5. Make-up: Nothing crazy here, ladies. Just use your normal make-up routine to look presentable and polished. Excessive make-up isn’t necessary. And if you’re someone who never wears it, don’t stress. What matters is that you look put together and put in effort to look polished.

Business casual doesn’t have to be a headache. Just remember to keep it classy, comfortable, and professional, and you’ll be ready to rock any business casual event with confidence and style 🎉

Business Formal for Manger Level and Higher

When interviewing for a manager-level position or above, it’s crucial to make a fantastic first impression, and dressing in business formal attire is the way to go. So, let’s explore what this polished dress code entails to ensure you look professional and poised for success.

In a nutshell, business formal attire exudes a more sophisticated and polished appearance than its casual counterpart. It demonstrates your respect for the organization and the role you’re pursuing, as well as your commitment to professionalism.

For the gents, this means donning a sharp suit (preferably in a neutral color like black, navy, or charcoal gray), a crisp dress shirt, and a coordinating tie. Don’t forget to polish those dress shoes, and if you want to elevate your style game even further, add a pocket square or a tasteful watch.

As for the ladies, a tailored suit (either with pants or a skirt) in a neutral hue is your ticket to success. Pair it with a sophisticated blouse or shell, and complete the look with closed-toe pumps or flats. For an extra touch of elegance, consider adding tasteful jewelry or a delicate scarf.

Ultimately, dressing in business formal attire for a managerial or higher-level interview is all about showcasing your professionalism and making a lasting impression. So, dress to impress, and get ready to conquer that interview with confidence and flair!

Where Should I Purchase My Nurse Interview Outfit?

Now that I’ve explored what you should wear, let’s dig into places you can purchase these items from.

Budget-Friend Business Casual Options

Scoring affordable business casual attire for an interview is easier than you might think. There are plenty of budget-friendly retailers that offer stylish and professional options to help you dress for success without breaking the bank. Check out these fantastic shopping destinations:

  1. H&M: Known for its trendy and affordable fashion, H&M offers a variety of business casual pieces, including blouses, dress pants, and blazers.
  2. Old Navy: With a great selection of basics, Old Navy is a go-to spot for affordable dress pants, skirts, and tops suitable for a business casual interview.
  3. Target: Target’s clothing section often carries stylish and reasonably priced business casual attire, such as blouses, dresses, and trousers.
  4. Zara: Zara is another fashionable destination with a range of business casual items, like tailored blouses, skirts, and dress pants, at reasonable prices.
  5. Uniqlo: Uniqlo is a Japanese brand that offers high-quality, minimalist clothing at affordable prices. Their selection includes professional button-down shirts, blouses, and trousers.
  6. ASOS: ASOS has a wide variety of business casual attire at different price points, including many affordable options. Shop their online store for dresses, blouses, and more.
  7. T.J. Maxx, Ross, or Marshalls: These discount retailers are treasure troves for discounted designer and name-brand business casual clothing. It might take some digging, but you can often find incredible deals.

Don’t forget to also check out local consignment stores and thrift shops. You might be surprised by the gems you can find at a fraction of the price! So, happy shopping, and get ready to nail that interview with your affordable, stylish, and professional business casual outfit!

Business Formal Options

When it comes to business formal attire, I recommend investing in high-quality, timeless pieces that will help you make a great impression and last a long time. Being a manager means you’ll need to wear more professional clothing on a regular basis, so it would be wise to invest in pieces that you can wear for years.

Here are some popular shopping destinations known for their business formal offerings:

  1. Brooks Brothers: A classic choice for well-tailored suits, dress shirts, and ties for both men and women. Their timeless designs and quality materials make them a top pick for business formal attire.
  2. Banana Republic: Offering a range of sleek and sophisticated suits, blouses, and dress pants, Banana Republic is a go-to destination for both men’s and women’s business formal clothing.
  3. Ann Taylor: Known for their women’s professional wear, Ann Taylor offers elegant suits, tailored dresses, and blouses that are perfect for a business formal setting.
  4. J.Crew: J.Crew provides a selection of smart suits, dress shirts, and accessories for both men and women. Their Ludlow and Crosby suits for men and Parke blazers for women are particularly popular.
  5. Nordstrom: As a department store, Nordstrom offers a variety of business formal attire options from different brands, such as Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein, and Ted Baker, making it a convenient one-stop-shop.
  6. Macy’s: Another department store option, Macy’s carries a variety of brands that cater to business formal needs, including Ralph Lauren, DKNY, and Tommy Hilfiger.
  7. Charles Tyrwhitt: For men’s dress shirts, suits, and accessories, Charles Tyrwhitt offers high-quality, stylish options at a reasonable price point.
  8. Suitsupply: Known for their modern and well-fitted suits, Suitsupply is an excellent option for men looking to elevate their business formal wardrobe.

Remember that quality over quantity is the key when it comes to business formal attire. Investing in a few well-made, versatile pieces will serve you well in the long run.

Focus on What You Bring to the Table, Not What You Wear to the Table

The last thing we want to do is pull focus from the fantastic clinical skills and expertise that you’re bringing to the table. They want to learn if you’ll be a high-performer or a high-risk candidate, and it is much better use of your time if you focus on being able to articulate how awesome you are on the job rather than how awesome you look. We want the interviewer to focus on the message you’re trying to convey, not distracted by what you’re wearing. A distracting outfit creates a barrier and you do not want to work against yourself!

Basically, you want to walk the line between caring enough to look presentable and polished between caring way too much and caring way too little. The middle of that spectrum is wide, so please put in the effort to look appropriate.

There is zero need to drop $400 on a suit and then get it tailored for an interview on a cardiology floor. A well-fitting business casual outfit would be very appropriate. Save your money and spend the time you would have spent finding an outfit on practicing interview questions. You’ve got this!

FAQs About Nurse Job Interviews

How Do You Stand Out in a Nursing Interview?

Standing out in a staff nurse job interview takes a combination of thorough preparation, a professional demeanor, and showcasing your unique strengths and experiences. Here are some tips to help you make a lasting impression and increase your chances of landing the job:

  1. Research the facility: Before the interview, take the time to research the healthcare facility or organization thoroughly. Understand their mission, values, patient population, and any recent news or achievements. Demonstrating your knowledge of the organization will show your genuine interest in the position.
  2. Review common nursing interview questions: Familiarize yourself with frequently asked nursing interview questions and practice your responses. Be prepared to discuss your clinical experiences, strengths and weaknesses, conflict resolution strategies, and how you handle stress. (I have a download of common nurse interview questions that comes with a fillable PDF to help enhance your practice time.)
  3. Dress professionally: See the post above for details!
  4. Bring a portfolio: Organize a professional portfolio with copies of your resume, nursing license, certifications, transcripts, and any letters of recommendation or commendations you’ve received. Having these documents readily available showcases your preparedness and professionalism. While this isn’t required and won’t count against someone for not having it, it will make a great impression.
  5. Ask insightful questions: Prepare thoughtful questions to ask the interviewer about the facility, team culture, or specific job responsibilities. This demonstrates your engagement and desire to understand the expectations and challenges of the role.
  6. Showcase your unique skills: Emphasize any unique skills, experiences, or certifications that set you apart from other candidates. These might include advanced certifications, experience in specialized care settings, or fluency in multiple languages.
  7. Be enthusiastic and confident: Display your passion for nursing and your enthusiasm for the role by maintaining a positive attitude, making eye contact, and engaging in active listening. Speak confidently about your skills, experiences, and how they make you the ideal candidate for the position. You want to be confident, but not overly. Be comfortable in your own skin.
  8. Follow up: After the interview, send a personalized thank-you email or handwritten note to the interviewer, expressing your gratitude for the opportunity and your continued interest in the position. This thoughtful gesture helps keep you top-of-mind and shows your professionalism.

We go through all of this in my course Hired: The Ultimate Guide to Nurse Resumes & Interviews.

By incorporating these tips into your interview preparation and execution, you’ll be well on your way to standing out in your staff nurse job interview and increasing your chances of securing the position. Good luck!

Can You Wear Jeans to a Nursing Interview?

No. That is not professional or appropriate, and the interviewer will note that you cannot follow directions and don’t take this process seriously as a professional.

How Long Do Nurse Interviews Last?

The average nurse interview lasts around 45 minutes. Some may be shorter, while others may last a bit longer. Interviews can vary depending on the hospital, position, and other factors.

What Should I Bring for Nursing Interview?

Some items you may want to consider packing for your nursing interview are a copy of your resume, a list of references, letters of recommendation, and any licenses or certifications you may have. You may also want to bring a notepad and pen to jot down any important information during the interview.

For women, you can keep this all in a portfolio in your purse. For men, you could bring a professional messenger bag to keep these documents from getting wrinkled.

What Employers Look For in Nurses?

Employers seek a mix of clinical expertise, interpersonal skills, and professional attributes when looking for the ideal nursing candidate. Here are some key qualities and characteristics that many employers value in a nursing professional:

  1. Education and licensure: Employers seek candidates who have completed an accredited nursing program and hold a current, active nursing license in their state or jurisdiction.
  2. Clinical skills and experience: A strong foundation in clinical skills and relevant experience in the specialty area or patient population is essential. Employers may also value additional certifications or training, such as Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) or Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS).
  3. Critical thinking and problem-solving: Nurses must be able to assess complex situations, prioritize patient needs, and make sound clinical decisions. Employers look for candidates who can demonstrate strong critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.
  4. Communication skills: Effective communication is crucial in nursing, as it facilitates collaboration with interdisciplinary teams and fosters therapeutic relationships with patients and their families. Employers value candidates who can communicate clearly, professionally, and empathetically.
  5. Teamwork and collaboration: Nurses often work in teams and must collaborate with various healthcare professionals to provide optimal patient care. Employers look for candidates who are team players and can effectively work with others.
  6. Adaptability and flexibility: The healthcare environment can be unpredictable, and nurses must adapt to changing situations and needs. Employers seek candidates who can remain flexible and respond effectively to unexpected challenges.
  7. Compassion and empathy: Providing compassionate and empathetic care is a cornerstone of the nursing profession. Employers value candidates who can connect with patients and their families and demonstrate genuine concern for their well-being.
  8. Time management and organization: Nurses must juggle multiple responsibilities and prioritize tasks effectively. Employers look for candidates who can manage their time efficiently and stay organized in a fast-paced environment.
  9. Professionalism and work ethic: Employers appreciate candidates who exhibit a strong work ethic, maintain a professional demeanor, and adhere to ethical standards and guidelines.
  10. Leadership potential: Nurses may be called upon to lead teams, mentor junior staff, or take on additional responsibilities. Employers value candidates who show initiative and have the potential to grow into leadership roles.

By demonstrating these qualities and skills during the application and interview process, you can position yourself as an ideal nursing candidate in the eyes of potential employers.

Can I Wear Scrubs to a Nursing Interview?

No, you should not wear scrubs to a nursing interview. Scrubs are usually worn by medical professionals while they providing direct care to patients. You are not taking care of patients, you are at a job interview.

Are you done with the guess-work of applying and interviewing for nursing jobs?

hired: the ultimate guide to nurse resumes and interviews course cover

Hired from FreshRN is a self-paced, online course for ambitious nurses who want to be the ideal candidate for their dream job. Amber Nibling, MSN RN-BC, and Kati Kleber, MSN RN have interviewed hundreds of nurse applicants and they give you the inside scoop of what interviewers are thinking. Learn everything you need to know to impress potential employers (and yourself) by learning what the hiring team expects from you, so you can not only meet, but exceed those expectations.

More Resources for Nurse Job Interviews

Picture of Kati Kleber, founder of FRESHRN

Hi, I’m Kati.

Kati Kleber, MSN RN is a nurse educator, author, national speaker, host of the FreshRN® Podcast, and owner of FreshRN® – an online platform created to educate, encourage, and motivate newly licensed nurses in innovative ways.

Connect with her on YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, and sign-up for her free email newsletter for new nurses.

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