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A Guide to Interview Questions for Nurses

Many people feel intimidated when they interview for a new job. Nurses are no exception. While it’s natural to feel anxious or nervous about an upcoming interview, with a little preparation, you can walk into it feeling confident.

This guide will help you craft thoughtful responses to the most common nursing interview questions and leave a strong first impression.

Types of Interview Questions

Every interviewer will ask different questions specific to their needs. If you are working with kids in a pediatric unit, you’ll most likely get many questions about your past experiences and how you as a nurse would convince a child patient to take their medications. 

But many interview questions for nurses fall in the same types of categories to see how well you would work as a nurse in general. Gwynedd Mercy University lists seven types of nursing questions that you can expect in an interview:

  1. Teamwork: The nursing field is a very people-oriented profession, no matter where you work. Expect there to be many questions to gauge how well you work as a team member with your fellow coworkers, patients, and the public. 
  2. Patient care: Questions that fall under this category are designed to see how you will interact with your patients in normal day-to-day interactions and in complex situations. Before you go to the interview, think of examples of when you dealt with challenging or awkward situations in the past.
  3. Adaptability: Nurses work in an extremely fast-paced setting. Many times a day, you have to think quickly on your feet to make the best decisions for any number of patient care needs. Interviewers want to make sure any nurses they hire can make rapid decisions based on good quality care principles in the heat of the moment.
  4. Time management: Every nurse has a full checklist of duties and responsibilities every shift, whether it’s regular charting, giving patients their medications on time, or dealing with any number of emergencies that come up. This type of interview question evaluates how well you can prioritize your tasks and work efficiently without compromising the quality of care you give.
  5. Communication style: As a nurse, you rarely work in a bubble. Communication is a vital part of every nurse’s skill set, whether it’s talking with doctors, patients, or patients’ families. Interview questions in this category will test your communication style and how effectively you can communicate with others.
  6. Motivation and core values: The nursing profession is a demanding job. You will be working in an environment that is often stressful and physically and mentally demanding. Interviewers want to know your core values. Why did you become a nurse? What keeps you working as a nurse? If you can show how your core values align with the interviewer’s, you are more likely to leave a strong impression.
  7. Basic behavioral questions: At the end of the day, interviewers want to work with people they trust and get along with. They may ask about any number of topics, and they’ll judge how well you’ll fit into the job on how well you respond to unusual questions. If the interviewer feels they can work with you, they will keep your resume at the top of the list.

Common Nursing Interview Questions

While you won’t know what questions you’ll be asked until you get into the interview, you can still prepare your thoughts for common questions ahead of time. Even if the interviewer doesn’t ask the exact same questions you prepped for, you’ll likely find that you’ll be able to adapt many of the responses and experiences you thought about.

The following example questions and sample answers will help you prepare for your next nursing interview.

1. Why Did You Want to Be a Nurse?

Even though the nursing profession can be a very rewarding career choice, it’s also very difficult, and not everyone is cut out for it. When interviewers ask this question, they want to understand that drove you to become a nurse in the first place. If an interviewer feels you’re in nursing for the wrong reasons, or that your values don’t align, they may worry you won’t stick around long or hold yourself and your work to the same standards they do.

2. Can You Tell Me About a Time You Had to Handle a Difficult Patient?

Every nurse can easily work with a nice patient who takes their medications without trouble and always seems to have a smile on their face. But not everyone can work well when a patient is yelling or refusing to take part in any level of their care. Our patients come to us sick, stressed, and sometimes in pain, and that brings out every level of emotions and responses. Knowing how to deal with difficult patients and their families can be intimidating, but it’s an expected part of a nurse’s job. When interviewers ask this question, they want you to explain a specific situation, identify the problem, describe how you responded, and share what you learned.

3. What Are Your Strongest and Weakest Nursing Skills?

The key to any “strengths and weaknesses” question in an interview is to answer as honestly as possible. List specific reasons or examples why you think a skill is your strongest, and avoid trying to spin a weakness as a strength. At the same time, you don’t want to attack yourself. A weakness is just an opportunity to better yourself. When asking this question, hiring managers are looking for more than one particular skill in your toolbelt. Instead, they want a nurse who is self-aware, honest and wants to improve.

4. How Do You Deal with Stressful Situations?

This question helps the interviewer determine two things: If you manage stress in healthy, HIPAA-compliant ways, and if you can work through tough times and get the job done. When answering this question, think of specific stressful times in your life that you have worked through and how you coped. 

5. Other Questions You May Be Asked

Just like any other interview, be prepared to answer any number of questions about yourself, your past experiences, and why the interviewer should hire you. Here are some general interview questions you may also be asked in an interview:

  • What was your relationship like with your last manager?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • Tell me about a time you made a mistake at work.
  • What is your leadership style?
  • How have you dealt with a difficult coworker?
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • Why should we hire you?

Before your next interview, go over each of these questions and write down how you would respond to them. You don’t want to sound like you are giving a rehearsed answer, but you don’t want to come unprepared. Writing down your thoughts or practicing answers with a friend or family member can help you feel more confident in the real thing.

Tips to Answer Nursing Interview Questions

Interviewing for a new job is always a daunting process. You want to make a great first impression because interviewers will start assessing you as soon as you walk through the door. Before you head into the interview, take a deep breath, and remember these tips:

  • Use real-life examples. Whenever possible, use examples from your own work experience and life when you answer questions. Anyone can say they’re good at handling stressful situations, but you can tell them about what you did when the next shift didn’t show up to relieve you.
  • Get personal. The interview process is a lot like dating. At the end of the day, interviewers want to find someone they will work well within a long-term setting. If you are asked questions about your core values or the reasons why you went into nursing, you can get personal. Just remember to keep it professional.
  • Research the facility where you’re interviewing. Before walking into any interview, have a strong understanding of what the facility does, the position’s requirements, and the facility’s history. You don’t need to know every detail, but understanding their mission statement and their needs will show you are a serious candidate.
  • Use the STAR method. If you’re feeling nervous about your interview, practice answering interview questions using the STAR method:
    • Describe the situation.
    • Describe your task or role in the situation.
    • Explain the action you took.
    • Explain how your actions led to a desirable result.

Michelle Paul

Michelle Paul is an RN Content Specialist at Clipboard Health. She has worked with a variety of patient demographics, ranging from young adults in foreign countries, to elderly residents in skilled nursing facilities, to healthy blood donors in her community. Her experience in content creation gives her a unique perspective on communication within the healthcare field.

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