Job hunting. Does anyone enjoy it? But all of us—including nurses and other healthcare professionals—have to do it.
You know the drill. If an employer is interested in your application, they’ll ask you to attend a job interview. There, you’ll need to ace a series of questions to land the job (always the most nerve-wracking part!).
To help you prep, we’ve compiled a list of the most common nursing interview questions, along with some general tips on how to answer—so you can show up to that interview with complete confidence.
Most common nursing interview questions
“Tell me about yourself.”
“Tell me about yourself” is a fairly common nurse interview staple (or any interview, for that matter). When answering, be brief, personal and tie your individual facts back to the job at hand. Talk about your certifications, too.
“Why do you want to be a nurse?”
This question gets to the heart of why you decided to pursue a nursing career. More specifically, a recruiter is probably trying to suss out whether or not you’re a nurse for the right reasons. Answer this question honestly and on a personal level. Emphasize your adaptability and dedication to a communal goal to help others.
“What are your strengths?”
When someone asks this, it’s a part of a set of behavioral interview questions. Essentially, they’re looking for an honest self-assessment of what you can do, so try to strike a balance between keeping things real without selling yourself short.
For example, if your strengths are patience and communication, play those up, as they’re both necessary skills for the nursing profession. Provide examples of where those strengths come into play.
“What are your weaknesses?”
This one’s always tricky—how do you reveal a weakness that doesn’t impact your chances, and in a constructive way? We promise, there’s an answer.? First of all, the interviewer will be looking for an honest self-assessment, so don’t claim you’re perfect—that’s an instant red flag.
Instead, pick a weakness but not one that’s a deal-breaker. Then, make it constructive by explaining why you recognize this trait as a weakness, and how you aim to improve.
For example, you could claim your weakness as “being introverted,” so sometimes you don’t “speak up at critical moments.” But, you’re working on it by “challenging yourself to use your voice, even if you’re not sure the answer is correct.” Your potential employer will appreciate your honesty, and that you’ve got a plan in place to turn your current weakness into a future strength.
“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
When it comes to interviewing tips, the best strategy is to make it clear you’re looking for a long-term commitment. However, tie it to two things: a natural trajectory from the job you’re interviewing for, and back the specific reasons you became a nurse (instead of something generic and overly fawning). You want to sound like you understand exactly where this position can take you, as well as authentic and truthful in your response.
“How do you manage stress?”
Nursing is a stressful industry; in fact, being able to handle stress is a core requirement. For this section of questions and answers, talk about the healthy coping mechanisms you’ve learned to manage stress levels. Also, explain how you’ve managed to destress in previous workplace situations.
“How comfortable are you working with others?”
Healthcare is a collaborative environment where teamwork is critical. Together as co-workers, doctors and nurses save patients’ lives. To answer this question, talk about a time where a collaboration turned out to be successful. Explain the context behind the partnership and why it worked.
“Have you ever had to interact with a difficult co-worker before?”
This can be a tricky topic to navigate, as speaking poorly about your former co-workers can leave an unfavorable impression. It’s also technically one of many situational interview questions you may encounter, so be as tactful as you can in this scenario.
Instead of bringing up a major argument, pick a relatively minor conflict to discuss, one where you could resolve the situation successfully. You need to show that you can work through interpersonal problems professionally and be a team player.
“Have you ever handled a tense situation with a difficult patient?”
Keep patient confidentiality in mind, and don’t use identifying details. Like the previous question, pick a situation that you resolved successfully. Explain how the solution came to be, to end on a positive note.
“Have you ever encountered someone who wasn’t pleased with your patient care?”
Once again, be honest about your self-assessment. Pick a situation where a patient was less than pleased as your example answer, and explain the context behind it. Also, explain how you learned from the experience. Like you would with your former co-workers, never speak ill of a patient during a nurse job interview.
“Tell me about a time that you failed a task.”
When asked this, pick a situation that was an apparent failure but not a deal-breaker. Be honest with how you feel about that failure (everyone makes mistakes—it’s not a mark on your capabilities!), but end on a positive note by sharing what you learned (most likely, this is what they’re ultimately looking for).
“How do you prioritize your tasks when you work in a fast-paced environment?”
In healthcare, you can always find something to do and not enough time to do it. Here, talk about how you prioritize your daily tasks and your thought process behind that prioritization, and how you redirect in emergency moments or unexpected situations.
“How would you explain medical terms to a patient?”
Sometimes you’ll need to explain complex medical terms to the general public, a patient or a patient’s family member. Give an example of where you completed this task and what made your explanation successful.
“Tell me about a time you took on a leadership role.”
You may not be slated for leadership, but you might have unofficially taken on that position, at least temporarily. Explain how that situation occurred, why you stepped up as the leader and how you resolved the scenario.
“Describe a time where you were proud of yourself and your team.”
Here, describe a workplace outcome you really enjoyed and why, along with the situation leading up to it.
“Have you ever persuaded a patient to overcome their fear of treatment?”
If asked this question, explain the context leading up to this situation and why that situation arose. Explain how you put the patient at ease and successfully allayed their concerns.
“What is the most difficult thing about being a nurse?”
Be honest with your point of view without sounding pessimistic. Talk about the aspect of nursing you find most challenging and explain how you have tried to overcome it.
“What is the most rewarding thing about being a nurse?”
Feel free to talk about a specific aspect of nursing that you love or one that brings you joy to complete. Answering this question will show your enthusiasm for the job.
“Why are you the right person for this job?”
Touch on your key selling points again, such as your communication skills or dedication to your patients. Create an overall snapshot of why you’d be the best person to hire.
Questions to ask after a nursing interview
Lastly, a few more things we want to recommend to help you prepare:
If allowed to ask questions at the end of the interview, take the opportunity to do so. Asking questions will show enthusiasm and give you a better understanding of the healthcare team already there and the role you will need to fill.
Some nursing interview questions to ask include:
- What is your company’s workplace culture like?
- Do you provide additional employee training?
- Are their workplace benefits, like group ordered supplies?
- What is your policy for tuition reimbursement?
- Will I be required to work weekend rotation?
- What is your staffing ratio?
How to ace the nursing job interview
- Research the healthcare facility and, if possible, the interviewer. Know their mission statement.
- Practice your interview answers. If you know what to say and how to say it, you’ll be less nervous.
- Prepare your own questions before the interview. You need to know what to ask the interviewer to speak confidently.
- Dress appropriately for the interview.
- At the interview itself, make sure to smile and convey enthusiasm.
- Thank the interviewer for their time, and ask them how to follow up if need be.