What Are Common Nursing Interview Questions?
Although there is a nursing shortage, employers understand the importance of hiring the right nurse. This means that how you present yourself and answer questions during your interview is just as important as it ever was — maybe more.
Preparing for nursing interview questions is a big part of getting the job. We talked with two nursing pros about the common nursing interview questions new graduates may encounter and how to prepare.
What to Expect From a Nursing Job Interview
The employer's goal is to determine if the nurse they are interviewing:
- Will fit in well with the team
- Can work as a team player
- Is teachable
- Can provide safe, effective patient care
The nursing interview questions will be aimed at those goals. You will likely see some key topics covered during the interview, including:
- Time management skills
- Background and personality
- Communication skills
- Conflict management
- Career plans
- Patient care
We asked our nursing pros for advice to help new nursing graduates prepare for nursing interview questions.
Seven Ways to Prepare for Nursing Interview Questions
Research is one of the most important things you can do to help prepare yourself for your nursing interview. Take the time to research the facility and make sure the information you are reading is up to date.
During an interview, it's important to know your audience. If you haven't researched the institution, your interviewer will know.
Nithya Mathai, DNP, is a doctorally prepared, board-certified nurse practitioner who specializes in neurology and ALS. She advises one main thing: research!
"Research the facility, the faculty, and the department you will be working at. Review the job description so you are prepared," Mathai says. "It is always better to be overprepared rather than underprepared."
Understand what the organization's mission, vision, and values are. It is important to have a strong understanding of the job you're applying for and how you can interact with its mission and values.
What populations does the organization serve? Have they been awarded or recognized? It's also important to research your potential new boss. Look them up on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram. Get a feel for how they interact with other people and what they post and repost.
Do the employees comment on their posts? What kind of content are they posting? Look for websites that allow patients and employees to leave reviews to find out what people say about the facility. You can use this information to help inform your answers to some common nursing interview questions.
2. Be Prepared for the Unexpected
In every interview, it's important to always prepare for the unexpected. Employers sometimes use questions to see how well you can think on your feet. Mathai recounts one interview she had right after graduating. The interviewer asked, "If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you want to be and why?"
"This question threw me off, and safe to say, I did not get the job," she says. "This question made me realize early on that I should not only expect medical questions or questions pertinent to my skill set but also questions that may not be medically related."
3. Know Some of the Common Questions
While preparing for the unexpected can help you on the fly, there are also common nursing questions you can prepare to answer.
While the interviewer may not ask the exact questions you practiced, preparing your answers for common questions can increase your chances that you'll have an answer for the questions you are asked.
We have listed some of the common questions you'll find during nursing interviews below.
4. Practice With a Mentor or Friend
There are several ways to practice answering interview questions. The most common is to ask a friend or mentor to do a mock interview and provide you with honest feedback. While it is nice to hear what you're doing correctly, it is most helpful to know what needs to change.
Do not prepare word-for-word answers. These come across like you're reading from a script. Consider videotaping the mock interview so you can do some self-assessment afterward. Not too many people enjoy watching themselves on video, but it can be a helpful way of evaluating how you come across to an interviewer.
On video, watch your body language, such as your facial expression, hand placement, and posture. Each can tell your interviewer something about your emotions and feelings before you speak.
5. Prepare to Ask Questions
Lizzette Cruz, RN, MS, is a registered nurse with over eight years of cardiovascular and research experience. She advises new nurses to be prepared to ask questions of their own at the end of the interview.
It's important to remember that the interviewer is assessing whether you are a good fit for their team. Yet, it's also important for you to determine if you want to work there.
"Employers will often have you interview with future peers, which gives you the perfect opportunity to ask questions on the role and expectations," she says.
Asking your own questions can give you a sense of the work culture when speaking with someone who is already performing the job.
6. Dress the Part
Although you'll likely be wearing scrubs at work, it's important to dress professionally for the interview. This makes the best impression on the hiring manager or panel of nurses with whom you'll be speaking.
Ensure that your hair and facial hair are neat and tidy. Wear a modest amount of accessories. Be sure your shoes are polished, and you're wearing a matching belt to create a cohesive appearance.
If your interview is remote or over a video call, your shoes are a bit less important. But we recommend you at least put on some pants to avoid any embarrassing video call mishaps.
7. The Right Attitude
The right attitude starts at the front door of the organization. Smile at people as you're walking past and be friendly. You never know if you're encountering a future coworker or someone on the interview team.
If the interview is in person, arrive at least 10 minutes early for the interview. This demonstrates to the team that you are punctual and respect the interviewer's time. During the interview, be sure to keep eye contact with the interviewer. Avoid using profanity or slang. Keep your answers focused on the question.
Sample Questions for Nursing Interviews
Hiring managers often have a list of standard questions they use to compare potential employees. It helps determine if you have the skills and ability to fit in with their team. Cruz recommends focusing on practicing your responses to behavioral and situational interview questions. She recommends new nurses use examples from their clinicals.
"Interviewers want to get a sense of your strengths, weaknesses, critical thinking skills, and your work ethic. As you answer these questions, focus on highlighting your skill set and qualities that are pertinent to the role," she says.
These are some sample interview questions that may crop up during your interviews.
Tell me about a time you made a mistake and how you fixed it.
Your interviewer recognizes that people make mistakes. It's more important to know if you take ownership of your mistakes and how you fixed them.
Use a specific instance to demonstrate how you follow the chain of command and take the right steps to minimize damage to the patient and the organization.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
You should expect this standard interview question, even if it is not phrased exactly this way. These questions offer you an opportunity to highlight your best qualities. Interviewers understand that everyone has weaknesses.
They want to know how your weaknesses will affect the type of nurse you're going to be. If it's possible, make your weakness sound like a strength. For example, if you're a perfectionist, you can talk about how it's important to you that tasks are done correctly while paying attention to time management and organization.
How have you contributed to your current job that helped to improve patient care?
Mathai uses this question during interviews to determine how dedicated the nurse is to patient care and the hospital. Tell a story of a time you went beyond your job description to ensure positive patient outcomes. Mathai uses this example:
"I noticed that follow-ups were falling through, so I took initiative, discussed the situation with my manager, and started to implement biweekly phone calls to maintain continuity of care for the patients."
Was there a time you didn't meet a patient's or teacher's expectations? What happened, and how did you resolve the situation?
The interviewer is looking for how you might handle a difficult situation with a patient to continue delivering the best patient care possible. Stress the importance of always putting the patient's needs first and giving patients the information they need to understand the situation.
When was the last time you got constructive criticism, and how did you respond?
New nurses will always get feedback from their mentors, charge nurses, and unit managers. It's important to know how well you receive feedback and what you do with it. Use a specific example of when a patient or teacher gave you feedback and how you responded.
Meet Our Contributors
Nithya Mathai, DNP, APRN, FNP-C
Nithya Mathai is a doctorally prepared, board-certified nurse practitioner specializing in neurology and ALS. Mathai started her career with a strong emergency room//trauma background and eventually ended up as the clinical nurse professional developmental specialist for the emergency room and interventional radiology. She is involved in ongoing ALS research and continues to provide research opportunities for her patients. She is currently the codirector of a multidisciplinary ALS clinic.
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