Job interviews are often more intimidating than the job itself – and for good reason. In a career like nursing, which deals with human care, safety, and well-being, employers must carefully and rigorously evaluate each candidate, based not only on their educational credentials and professional experience but on their bedside manner and people skills.
Whether you’re pursuing your first post-degree nursing job or are looking to change employers or specialties, it’s important to be thoroughly prepared for your job interview. Aside from researching the employer and fully understanding the scope of the role you’re applying to, thinking through your answers to common nursing job interview questions can help you remain focused, motivated, and adaptable when you’re meeting with a prospective employer.
Follow these tips to help you get ready for your next nursing job interview and consider preparing answers to the sample questions listed.
Top Categories of Nursing Interview Questions
The job you’re interviewing for will often dictate some of the specific skill and practice-based questions you’ll encounter. However, there are some common categories of questions employers will typically bring up regardless of the nursing role or specialty.
No job is entirely independent, and how well you work with a team is a major factor in your job success. Interviewers are less interested in your personal achievements and more interested if you can solve problems by working with your colleagues. Be ready to talk about times when you had to collaborate with your team or resolve workplace conflicts.
Examples of teamwork questions:
- “Are you comfortable working with other doctors and nurses?”
- “Talk about a conflict that you experienced in a group setting. What exactly was the conflict and how did you react to it?”
2. Patient Care
As a nurse, your number one responsibility is your patients. Be sure to highlight what you’ve done for your patients in the past and why you feel it was the best option available at the time. If the situation didn’t end ideally, say what you’d do differently the next time it happens.
Examples of patient care questions:
- “Talk about a time when you surpassed patient-care expectations. What was the situation, and how was that exceptional care provided?”
- “Tell me about a time you had to handle a difficult patient.”
In the health care industry, no two days are the same, and nurses are often required to think on their feet.
How you handle the unexpected says a lot about your character. Interviewers are looking for someone who can adapt to changes in routine without skipping a beat. Be clear in stating how you’ve adapted from an initial situation, how it changed your workload and how you were able to accomplish the task at hand.
Examples of adaptability questions:
- “Talk about a time when you were under significant pressure to perform a task. How did you get the job done?”
- “Tell me about a time when you were caught off guard with additional tasks. How did you prioritize each task and ensure they were completed on time?”
4. Time Management
Interviewers will look for how well you manage your time when you’re under pressure or dealing with a patient who needs timely or urgent care. Talk through how you’ve prioritized your time at work in the past and your thought process as to how to manage it when something unexpected occurs.
Examples of time management questions:
- “Tell me about a time you were completely overwhelmed by your workload and how you managed your time and handled the additional responsibility.”
- “Have you ever missed a deadline? Why did you miss it, and how did you change your work routine to ensure that didn’t happen again?”
Communication is critical in all industries, especially in the nursing field. Nurses must be able to effectively communicate with doctors, patients, and their families about ongoing treatment and conditions. When answering questions about your communication style, be as descriptive as possible and share how others typically react to you. Your interviewer may be looking for a specific style that matches their established workflow.
Examples of communication questions:
- “How would you describe your communication style?”
- “How do you make sure everyone is on the same page when giving complex instructions or guidance?”
- “Talk about a time when you were the leader of a team. How did you communicate your goals and motivate your team, and what were the end results?”
6. Core Values
Your values reflect who you are as a person, and employers want to ensure your personal beliefs will guide you in the right direction when administering patient care.
Examples of core value questions:
- “What motivates you to do your best at work every day?”
- “What is one of your core values? Tell me about a time when it was tested and how you responded.”
A sense of self-awareness can often help professionals avoid conflict in the workplace. No matter how good of a nurse you are, you must honestly assess yourself and understand your own strengths and weaknesses.
- “How would your coworkers describe you?”
- “Tell me about a time you had a new manager come in. How did you deal with their shift in style and help adapt them to the team?”
Preparing for Your Interview
As you think about how you’d respond to the above questions, here are a few general tips to help put yourself in the right mindset for your interview.
1. Reflect on Your Educational and Career Experiences.
While you can never predict what questions will be asked, you can give yourself a leg up by writing down some of your most important and defining experiences in the nursing field. Think about your soft skills, clinical work, things you learned during your nursing education, and any important accomplishments or proud moments.
2. Be Prepared to Ask Questions.
Sometimes, the questions you ask an employer during an interview can be just as revealing as the answers you give. Have a few intelligent, thoughtful queries prepared for when the interviewer asks if you have any questions about the job or work environment.
3. Have Your Resume and Credentials Ready.
Your employer may not ask to see your resume, nursing license, diploma, or other certifications during the interview, but it never hurts to be prepared with copies just in case.
4. Set Yourself Up for Success.
A good night’s sleep the night before, a sharp interview outfit, a well-groomed appearance, and an early arrival will ensure you’re at your best when you arrive for the interview.