What To Wear to a Nursing Interview

Between updating resumes and researching organizations, job seeking can take a lot of time, patience, and preparation. Knowing what to wear to a nursing interview can show employers you’re the best fit for the role.

What you wear to virtual or in-person job interviews can say a lot, according to nurse managers and leaders that conduct those interviews.

“Like the saying goes, ‘You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,’” said Traciann Carr, BSN, Office Nurse Coordinator at Abington Memorial Hospital in Abington, Pennsylvania.

Nursing interview attire sets the stage and is the first thing the interviewer takes into consideration, Carr said, who regularly interviews nurses for Abington Memorial’s Department of Urology.

Professionalism is key

Yes, nurses are in high demand, but professionalism should still be top of mind, according to Cindy Sayre, PhD, RN, Chief Nursing Officer at University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, Washington.

“While many aspects of our culture may have seemingly become more casual in recent years, the fact remains that appearance and professional presence have a strong correlation with both credibility and trust in relationships,” said Jennifer Graves, RN, MS, recently retired Vice President of Quality and Safety and Regional Chief Nursing Executive for Kaiser Permanente Washington.

During the interview process, nurse candidates might meet with managers, peers, and other team members, such as physicians or human resources representatives, to determine if interviewees fit the job and culture, according to Graves.

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“As an employee, you will become the face of the organization, so employers want to make sure they will be well represented by you,” Sayre said. “This doesn’t mean you have to wear a dress or a suit. You should have clean clothes, without tears or missing buttons, at least a couple of steps up from jeans and a t-shirt.”

What one wears can have implications far beyond the interview. Attire and presence are aspects of professional attitudes and behaviors and instrumental in building strong interdisciplinary relationships, according to Graves. This, in turn, results in better patient care, improved clinical outcomes, higher patient and employee satisfaction, and enhanced retention rates, she added.

“These longer-term implications are a part of what is considered when evaluating a nursing applicant, and it is encouraged that each of us dress for the respect that we feel we deserve,” she said.

Other considerations before the interview

There is no one-size-fits-all advice for what to wear to a nursing interview. But there are a few things to consider that will help you make sound choices.

You should know your audience and dress appropriately for it. Tessa White, founder of The Job Doctor, recommended in a Wall Street Journal article that job candidates should first study an employer’s culture then “play within that space.”

Formal attire is common and can be a good choice for a job interview, but it isn’t always the best selection. The goal is to dress suitably for the environment you want to join, without sticking out like a sore thumb, according to White.

Dress like you want the job

In general, nursing candidates should dress like they want the job, Sayre suggested.

“Dressing appropriately for an interview communicates that you’re serious about the opportunity and you really want the job,” she added.

The benefits of dressing professionally go both ways — dressing up might also help the interviewee feel more confident, according to Sayre.

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Employers interviewing nurse candidates who are more casually dressed might not think they’re serious about being hired. Nurses want employers to hear what they’re saying, without being distracted by a candidate’s clothing or appearance, she said.

Nurse smiling in front of blue background who conducts nursing interviews.

Traciann Carr, BSN

How you dress matters, regardless of the type of position for which you interview. And while nurse managers don’t expect you to interview in a business suit, they do expect everyone to prepare for the conversation. That includes practicing interview skills and choosing an outfit that reflects good judgment.

The importance of interview attire also goes beyond work settings. Whether the job is in a hospital, nursing home, or clinic, dressing appropriately shows respect for the opportunity and helps create a positive first impression, said Chris McDermott, MSN, APRN-IP, AGPCNP-C, CLCP, a practicing clinician and life care planner.

McDermott said that “great” attire choices for in-person interviews at his practice include a tailored business suit or a conservative dress with a blazer.

“Pair it with closed-toe shoes, minimal jewelry, and well-groomed hair. A tie is optional but can add a polished touch,” he said. “This attire conveys professionalism, attention to detail, and respect for the interview process,” McDermott said.

Considering virtual interviews

Dressing professionally for remote, virtual interviews is important, too. McDermott recommended candidates wear a solid-colored blouse or shirt with a blazer or cardigan.

“Opt for neutral colors to avoid distractions. Ensure good lighting and a tidy background,” he said.

While scrubs are essential for nurses’ daily work, scrubs are not suitable attire for in-person or virtual interviews, McDermott said. Scrubs may convey a lack of understanding about the formality and professional expectations of the hiring process and can come across too casual, he added.

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“Nursing is part of a professional service industry where your attire is the same throughout the enterprise,” said Carr. “The interview process is not the time to reveal individuality but express professionalism.”

Nurse smiling with her hands folded who conducts nursing interviews.

Cindy Sayre, RN

Extra tips for nursing job interviews

For online interviews, check your platform background to make sure things are organized, or use a standard background. Make sure that you won’t be distracted or interrupted, and look at the camera when speaking, Sayre said.

For all interviews, do your homework before the interview by going to the employer’s website. Study the employer’s mission and vision. Reflect on how you might align with the employer’s values, she said.

Ensure you make direct eye contact when speaking. Listen carefully to each question and give answers in three to four sentences, maximum. Be ready to respond to questions about why you’re interested in the position and what support you might need to be successful, suggested Sayre.

Choosing what to wear to a nursing interview can appear a little overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. By presenting confidence in your attire and toward the role you’re applying for, you can set the stage for a smooth start to your next role.

Whether you’re actively seeking a new role or assessing your next steps, explore’s job marketplace to help match your experience and skills to the best-fitting role.

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