Whether you’re a new nursing grad or an experienced nurse, answering nursing job interview questions can make just about anyone nervous.
I mean you’re having to answer a ton of questions about yourself personally and your work experience and many of these questions are formulaic – specifically asked to see how you’re going to answer.
You want to show your interviewer that you’re knowledgeable, competent, and are familiar with the organization’s needs for the position you’re filling.
It’s a lot – but don’t worry. We’ve compiled a list of the most commonly asked questions along with what the interviewers are wanting to see in your answers. And if you stick around to the end, we’ll give you some battle-tested interviewing techniques that’ll make you look like a star.
So don’t get nervous. When it’s time for your interview and you hear them ask that first question – that you already know the answer to – you can just smile and proceed to impress them.
Let’s get started with some sample nursing interview questions.
Top Nursing Interview Questions
These are the top nursing interview questions that you can just about be assured of you will hear during your nursing interview. The reason: these are the must-know info and behavioral questions that all hiring managers have to ask to get you past the preliminary phase. Think of these as the “weeding out” questions.
The top attributes they’re looking for in a nurse are a strong work ethic, attention to detail, able to work in a team, flexibility, good time management, and communication skills.
Other personality traits include resilience, patience, toughness, empathy, and caring.
Why Do You Want To Work For This Hospital Or Healthcare Organization?
What the interview is really asking is “How familiar are you with our hospital and how much do you know about this job position?”.
This is why you need to do your homework. Do a little internet sleuthing or if possible, talk to a nurse who works in the hospital (especially the wing) you want to work in.
Get as much information as possible about the organization and the position. Tailor your answer to meet their needs then wow them with some personal info.
For example, if it’s a position in pediatric nursing:
“I’ve always wanted to care for children and pediatric nursing is my passion. Your hospital does amazing work with children. I want to be part of that team and hopefully in the future to specialize as a pediatric oncology nurse”.
How Would You Handle A Difficult Patient Or Family Member?
This question is asking you how professional you are in the face of adversity and if you have patience. It’s just part of nursing that you’re going to (regularly) have to deal with patients that are less than cheerful and possibly angry about their treatment.
If possible, have a personal story ready to go if you’ve already experienced the situation.
If you’re new and haven’t yet had the pleasure, set up a fictional scenario (tell them that it’s not real of course) and walk them through the steps you’d take to calm the patient and handle the situation in a professional manner.
Example: ‘The first thing I always do is just listen to them. Often they just need to get something off their chest or feel that their concerns haven’t been heard. I will do my best to see that their problem is heard, always communicating with them respectfully and with empathy.”
What Are Your Strengths/Weaknesses?
This is probably the most common question, not for nurses, but just about in any job interview, you go on. Some say it’s a sign that the interview isn’t going well – but that’s not always the case.
This is a chance for you to spin this question into a positive. For example, instead of calling it a weakness, talk about instead an area of “challenge” for you and then sneak in a positive as your challenge.
Example: “Well, I’m very detail-oriented, so at times I can focus too much on details. So when I catch myself doing this I remember to look at the big picture to see how crucial these details are to the task and how much they affect the wellbeing of my team and team members.”
Tell Me About A Conflict With A Nursing Team Member And How You Handled It.
In any job, there’s conflict. And this is especially true for nursing teams working in often high-stress work environments. What they want to see is how well you work with your team members, how well you handle conflict, how even-tempered you are, and that you can always act in a professional manner.
Example: “During a particularly hectic shift with a high patient load, one of my fellow nurses was getting a little short with staff (myself especially) and even patients. So I asked to speak with her and see if she was OK. She was a little angry at first, but after we talked she said that she was just super stressed and had some “stuff” going on at home with her kids. I offered to help out if she needed it and ended up picking up one of her shifts so she could get some things done at home.”
What Do You Feel You Are Bringing To Our Team?
This is your time to shine. Showcase your experience, attitude, work ethic, special skills, knowledge but most of all – show you’re a team player.
It’s okay to talk about yourself positively but do it in a humble way.
Example: ‘I’ve always worked well in a team setting because communication is one of my special skills. I make sure that I’m on the same page as everyone on the team so I can stay flexible if we need to make changes on the fly. I especially liked the team in my last job as an ER nurse – we communicated well, everyone multitasked and we were always on task when the unexpected hit.”
Common Nursing Interview Questions
In addition to the top 5 questions listed above, chances are you’re going to get one of these during your interview.
So here are 10 more common nursing interview questions you’ll hear with some answer ideas:
What Do You Do To Handle Workplace Stress?
Working in most hospital settings can get “a little stressful. They not only want to see that you can work under pressure, but that you have coping mechanisms to handle workplace stress in a healthy way. Nursing burnout is a serious problem for nurses, and they want to make sure you don’t get overwhelmed.
Example: “Work can be stressful, but for me, it’s more like motivation to get the job done. When I get off work, I try to exercise regularly and I do mindfulness meditations to help me relieve stress.”
Describe A Time You Stepped Into A Leadership Role?
What you want to show your interviewer here is that you can show initiative, independent thought, and leadership. Even if you’re a new nurse, you can showcase a time when you took charge of a system.
Example: “During one shift change, the charge nurse was late. I stepped in and covered for her by getting everyone organized, patients assigned and everything working smoothly so that when she arrived (she was stuck in traffic) everything was running smoothly”.
Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years?
They want to know that you have long-term goals and plan on sticking around. Show them that you’ve got plans and goals you want to reach.
Example: ‘I’m really excited to get more experience in pediatrics, but I’m strongly interested in continuing my education and possibly become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner.”
Why Did You Become A Nurse?
This is simple and straightforward. Your interviewer is asking one of those formulaic behavioral questions that are meant to find out your personality and motivation. It’s OK to talk about job stability and good pay – but don’t forget to highlight your passion for helping people.
Example: “I wanted a job that had stability and good opportunities for growth plus good pay that matched my passion for helping people. Nursing has given me all of those things and so much more and even when I’m tired and it’s been a long shift, I can still go home feeling like I accomplished something – even if it’s just making one person feel better.”
What’s The Hardest Thing About Nursing?
Another behavioral question that wants to see where your strengths and weaknesses. Again, this is another chance to spin a “weakness” as a positive.
Example: “It’s always challenging to see someone in pain. You want to do everything you can to help them, but sometimes it isn’t enough. I just try to make sure that every patient I care for gets the absolute best from me and everyone who is providing the care – that’s all you can do.”
What Is Your Strongest Nursing Skill?
This is a chance to highlight a specific nursing skill that sets you apart and also tells the interviewer what you consider your strengths to be. It doesn’t just have to be precise charting or the ability to go 12 hours on your feet without a hitch. It can be anything that goes into being a nurse.
Example: “One of my strongest skills is being able to clearly communicate with patients, helping them to understand what I’m doing and what needs to be done so that they understand what is happening with their care.”
What Are Your Personal Values?
This is another question to take the temperature of your personality and how you view yourself. Be honest and it will come through when you answer the question. You don’t have to give them 5 different values, but choose a couple that really highlights your core beliefs.
Example: “I believe that all people deserve to be treated honestly and with compassion. I try to actively do this with my patients by listening to them and hearing their concerns, but I also try to be compassionate to my coworkers too.”
How Do You Handle A Heavy Workload?
Yes, working in a hospital can get pretty hectic at times so you need to show that you can handle yourself and contribute to the team when it gets busy.
Example: “I find that when things get busy, the two most important things you can do are to remain flexible and really focus on multitasking. If you need to help out your fellow nurses – you do it. If you need to stay a little bit longer to help out during shift change – you do it.”
How Do You Approach Patient Education?
Showing that you can educate your patients about their care clearly and in easy-to-understand non-medical lingo is very important. This is especially important for chronic conditions that require daily care like diabetes. Describe the method you use to educate patients and their families.
Example: “I was explaining to a patient with a recent diabetes diagnosis the importance of blood glucose monitoring and showing them how to self-inject insulin. They had never given themselves a shot before, so I used a pencil to help them practice the correct way to do it. It really helped them not only understand how to do it, but it made them less fearful”.
Do You Have Any Questions For Us?
The answer to his question is always yes. It shows that you’ve researched the position and organization, that you’re thinking and curious about. So make sure to have a question or two that highlights something you want to know about the organization – even if you already know the answer.
Example: “I’m curious to know if your hospital provides or helps to subsidize education for nurses. I’m really interested in furthering my nursing career.”
How To Answer The Most Common Nursing Interview Questions
Fully Research The Job Description And Hospital
You can never do enough homework when it comes to researching a new job. This will help you to understand the requirements to help you tailor your answers to make you the best fit for the position.
Spend Some Time Brainstorming Your Achievements
Don’t just give canned answers to the interviewer’s questions. Try to think outside the box to describe your experience and achievements in unique ways – without overinflating them. Keep it honest.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Practice saying your answers out loud in front of a mirror. Not only will it help you memorize them, but it will also help you see what you look like when you’re speaking. You want to look open, honest, and relaxed.
Tip: don’t just give canned, memorized answers. Try to memorize the overall point you want to make, then answer naturally, freestyling a little.
How To Ace Nursing Interview Job Questions
Come On Time
Punctuality = Professionalism. Arriving at your interview late doesn’t make a good impression. In fact, if there are multiple people being interviewed that day, you may lose your slot. Have your route mapped and allow for traffic or unexpected delays. It never hurts to be 30 minutes early – that just gives you more time to prepare.
First impressions matter. You want your image to say: “Professional, Smart, Prepared”. You don’t have to dress uber-formal, but smart business attire is recommended. Hair (and facial hair for guys) should be neat, jewelry simple and cologne or perfume at a minimum, if any at all.
Research the organization and position you’re applying for. Know the organization’s history, why/how they were founded, what their mission statement is, and any other relevant information.
Be familiar with the position and department you’re applying for. Know the job requirements and duties.
Also, bring plenty of copies of your resume. Some panel interviews can include as many as 15 – 20 people and you want to make sure everyone gets a copy. Even if your interview is one-on-one, they may ask for copies to distribute around the department.
TIP: Get yourself a simple, presentable briefcase. Even a nice computer bag will work, but it looks more professional than just bringing a stack of papers.
Take Your Time
If you’re nervous, don’t rush through your answers and explanations. Take a breath, calm yourself. Take some time to think about your responses. It’s an interview, not a race.
Have A Story To Tell
You MUST have a story to tell. In fact, you’ll need a couple of stories. You’ll be asked open-ended behavioral questions, asking how you did this, solved that or why you did something.
Work on 2 – 3 monologue-style stories. They should be thorough but short and to the point. They should show that you can solve problems, multi-task, and work well with others.
The Mayo Clinic recommends the SHARE method:
S – Describe a specific Situation
H – Identify Hindrances or challenges
A – Detail the Action you took
R – Discuss the Results or outcomes
E – Evaluate and summarize what you learned
Here are some common open-ended behavioral questions:
- Why did you decide to get into nursing or healthcare?
- Have you ever dealt with an angry patient and how did you handle the situation?
- Have you ever had a conflict with fellow nurses and how did you resolve it?
Know When To Shut Up
Don’t be afraid of silence. If your interviewer stops talking for a while, it can be a bit awkward but it’s actually an interviewing technique. Many people are so uncomfortable with a break in conversation that they’ll just start blabbing. DON’T do this.
You can dig yourself into a hole or say something you don’t want to. Simply answer their question to the best of your ability and if the silence lingers just ask them if there’s anything you need to elaborate on.
Show You’re A Team Player
Nursing isn’t a solo job. You’ll be working as part of a team with fellow nurses, technicians, and doctors. Your interviewer will want to know how well you’ll work with others. So, highlight anything you’ve done or things you do that let them know you’ll be a productive member of the team.
TIP: While they want a team player, they also want someone who can work independently and show initiative. Make sure to include how you’re a self-starter and can work without constant supervision.
Know Your Strengths & Weaknesses
You know you’ll be asked about what you think your strengths are. For a nurse, strengths including compassion, attention to detail, work ethic, and working well with others are attributes they’re always looking for.
You’ll also be asked about your weaknesses. Pick something relatively minor like, being shy or becoming emotionally attached to patients. Don’t choose anything that would get in the way of your job as a nurse. Most importantly, you’ll need to highlight what you’ve done to improve yourself and grow out of this “weakness”.
Have Your Own Questions
Many interviewers will ask you if you have any questions for them. YES, you need to have questions for them. It shows curiosity and initiative and frankly, doesn’t look good when you just say “Nope”.
Here are some common things you can ask about:
- Ask them to describe the culture or work atmosphere of the department you’re interviewing for
- Inquire about mentorship or career development programs
- How do they measure success and quality of care?
- How do they solve problems within the department?
- Ask about their residency program and how they evaluate the competency
Smile & Relax
A smile goes a long way and our brains have hardwired positive responses to them (just don’t plaster on a creepy Joker smile). Take a breath, calm yourself, smile, and be friendly but professional.
You’re going to be nervous but you’ve already made it through nursing school, relax. Nurses are in high demand; you will find a job you love
Some people are completely at home in a job interview – others, well the nerves can get to the best of us. But with this list of questions, a little homework, and a lot of practice before the big day, not only will you be prepared – you’re going to show them that you’re the best nurse for the job and they need to hire you on the spot.