If you're a trained nursing professional, you can afford to be a discriminating job seeker. But you still need to prepare thoroughly for every job interview.

Part of the process of getting ready is knowing the interview questions to ask a potential employer. These questions should demonstrate your interest in the opportunity while helping you gauge whether the position is the right match for your skills, goals, personality and lifestyle. Your inquiries should cover three main areas: orientation and training, the working environment, and the employer's management and administration. Here's an interview cheat sheet: Orientation and Training What is the level and depth of orientation? Will more orientation time be granted if I feel I need it? Will my orientation take place during the shift I will be working? Is there a mentorship program? What are your expectations of new hires during their first six months on the job? Describe typical first-year assignments. What qualities do your most successful nurses possess? Working Environment What is the nurse-to-patient ratio? How long are your shifts — eight, 10 or 12 hours? How do you go about scheduling? Is self-scheduling an option, or does someone else dictate the schedule? How long have most nurses been on the unit? Why did the last person in this position leave? How long has this position been vacant? Will I be on call if I accept this position? If so, what are the conditions/requirements of on-call duty? Management and Administration How would you describe your management style? How do you motivate employees? How do you demonstrate that you value your nursing staff? How much autonomy do you give your nurses to make decisions regarding patient care? How often do you conduct performance reviews? Is the administration open to suggestions that would improve patient care? What challenges is this facility facing? What have been this unit's most notable successes and failures over the year? What are nurses' biggest challenges at this facility? What makes this facility unique among others in this region? What steps do you take to ensure safe working conditions? What are your plans for future growth? Why should I want to work here? An Offer in Hand Once you have the job offer — and not before — ask the standard questions about salary and benefits, such as: What is the salary? Is special compensation awarded for overtime? What is the differential for second-shift, third-shift and weekend work? What is the benefits package? Do you offer other incentives, such as paid journal subscriptions or scholarships for dependents? Do you provide financial support for continuing education? Are grants available for ongoing education? Are there special incentives for bilingual nurses? Is there room for advancement? What is the career path? How do you reward employees for exceptional work? A couple of interview caveats: Never ask about the number of ethnic employees, and never ask the interviewer any questions that could be construed as personal. Think of the interview as a conversation, not an interrogation. While the meeting is the interviewer's chance to find out about you, it's also your chance to ask about the issues that can significantly affect your short- and long-term job satisfaction.