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You have completed rigorous nursing coursework, clinicals, and professional exams. Now, you are ready to take the next step in your nursing career and find a job you love. First, however, you have one more hurdle to clear: the nursing interview.

Interviewing is a must in any field, but with nursing, it conveys many essentials: passion, clinical skills, and the ability to work well under pressure. This is how employers get more details after they have pinpointed the most promising resumes.

A little preparation can make a world of difference, so we have highlighted several common nursing interview questions. You will also find suggestions for answering these questions while remaining authentic throughout this process.

Preparing for Nursing Interview Questions

The sooner you start thinking about interview strategies, the better. The preparation process should not involve memorizing answers to potential questions, as this will make your responses feel too formulaic or scripted. Instead, focus your efforts on researching the job, the employer, and yourself. Dig deep and consider what inspires you, what makes you stand out, and what makes you the right fit for the job in question.

Understand the Nursing Job Description

Before you delve into potential nursing interview questions, it helps to know what, exactly, the nursing job description involves and how you can tailor your responses accordingly. After completing many applications and sending your resume to many facilities or providers, you may understandably need a refresher.

To begin, pay attention to the basics of the job: the degree, licensure, and other credentials required. You should also be mindful of the expected shift schedule and the general work environment. Examine the listed roles and responsibilities so you can determine where any skill gaps may exist.

Research the Healthcare Institution

While job description details are helpful, background information about the employer should further boost your understanding. Interviewers appreciate candidates who do their homework, as it conveys diligence and attention to detail. From your perspective, this research can help you determine whether the role is a good fit.

The research process begins with the basics: the size and scope of the facility or healthcare system, plus its mission, vision, and values. Finally, look for details about the practice models or standards of practice your potential employer has adopted, as these can tell you a lot about the work culture.

Most Frequently Asked Nursing Interview Questions

Now that you have done your research and possess an in-depth understanding of both the healthcare institution and the specific role in question, you should be ready to focus on interview questions for nurses. To reiterate, there is no need to memorize these questions or their answers. Still, you will want to reflect on key questions to prevent being caught off guard.

Struggling to determine what interviewers want to know and why? We have compiled several common nurse interview questions, beginning with questions you are most likely to encounter and followed by questions that might throw you for a loop.

1. “Why did you choose nursing as a profession?”

The story behind your decision to become a nurse is no doubt fascinating and may be highly insightful from the employer’s perspective. Captivate the interviewer with a story that is authentic to you.

Do you remember the specific moment nursing became a passion? Be sure to share it. If, however, you have always felt called to nursing, you may need to do some soul-searching to determine what you find so compelling about this profession.

2. “Can you tell me about yourself?”

This is one of the most dreaded questions among jobseekers of all types. Because it is so vague, you may struggle with where to begin or how to keep your answer from rambling. From the interviewer’s perspective, however, this simple query can provide a wealth of information. Hiring managers can learn a lot based on how interviewees describe themselves and what happens with their body language and tone of voice.

There is no right way to tackle this question, but if we can offer one piece of advice, it is this: Do not be intimidated. Think of the interviewer as a curious acquaintance and respond with a humanizing answer that reveals not just who you are as a professional but as a person as well.

3. “How do you handle stressful situations?”

Nursing is, by nature, stressful. Even when the work environment feels chaotic, however, nurses need to continue providing exceptional patient care while remaining strong members of the medical team. Interviewers want to feel confident that nurses will continue to do their best work under pressure.

This question is best tackled with specifics: actual tools and techniques used to deal with stressful situations. Feel free to shed light on helpful mindfulness techniques or other actionable strategies that make a difference. If you have an example of a time you demonstrated grace under pressure, share your story.

4. “What are your greatest strengths as a nurse?”

Many nurses feel uncomfortable answering the inevitable “greatest strength” question, but this is not the time to be modest. Mention strengths that you are proud of and that align with the qualities your prospective employer is seeking. Examples include:

  • Educational or motivational skills that improve patient adherence and promote healthy habits.
  • Working with a team while motivating fellow healthcare employees.
  • Cultural competency, especially as it impacts your ability to connect with a wide array of patients.

5. “What are your weaknesses and how do you address them?”

The ideal nurse is self-aware. Everyone has room for improvement, but the first step is simple: Know where your weaknesses are and how they can be addressed. This question can be difficult to answer, in part, because it means getting vulnerable. Ideally, your answer will convey your ability to recognize gaps in your skill set while also describing your efforts to overcome them. Do not attempt to dodge the question or downplay weaknesses, as these evasive strategies will ultimately backfire.

Examples of weaknesses worth mentioning include:

  • Forgetting to ask fellow healthcare workers for help or otherwise struggling with delegation.
  • Getting too emotionally invested in patients’ situations and risking compassion fatigue.
  • Time management concerns, especially as they relate to paperwork.

Remember, your proposed solution is far more important than your weakness. Make it clear that you are taking proactive steps to address the problem and shed light on how much progress you have made.

6. “Can you describe a time you had to handle a difficult patient?”

Difficult patients are to be expected, but for some nurses, dealing with them empathetically and respectfully can be a struggle. Try to answer this question honestly, without coming across as accusatory. You want to show compassion for struggling patients while also revealing an understanding of how their behavior could make everyday nursing tasks more challenging.

It is important to describe how you respond to difficult patients: Show that you take time to understand problematic patients and integrate compassionate frameworks such as trauma-informed care.

7. “What kind of work environment do you thrive in?”

Not all nurses are equally well-suited to all types of workplaces. For example, some thrive in fast-paced, high-stakes environments such as emergency rooms, while others perform better in calmer environments that call for a slower, more thoughtful pace. Hiring managers recognize this and are eager to find the right type of nurse for each job.

This question provides the perfect opportunity to express your passion for a particular practice area, patient population, or scheduling approach. It can also touch on concerns related to workplace culture. Use evocative language, including adjectives that accurately describe your dream workplace: inclusive, passion-driven, or collaborative, for example.

8. “How do you handle criticism from superiors?”

There is no such thing as perfection in nursing, but all nurses should strive for an elite standard of care. Such a high standard means you can expect to receive regular constructive feedback on the job and learn to act on it accordingly. This feedback should prompt improvements not only in clinical abilities but also in soft skills such as communication and teamwork.

Your response to this question should convey an appreciation for targeted feedback, plus a clear desire to act on criticism and use it to improve. Feel free to also build in a story about a specific situation in which you received criticism and used it to improve your skills.

Probing Nursing Interview Questions

Some interview questions for nurses will inevitably dig deeper into the many challenges inherent to this profession. Try not to feel intimidated. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to differentiate yourself and make a strong impression with the hiring manager.

9. “How do you handle conflicts within your healthcare team?”

Passionate healthcare professionals are bound to disagree at times, but how these conflicts are resolved can ultimately determine the quality of care and, of course, employees’ job satisfaction. Nurses have a powerful role to play in easing these conflicts, as you can demonstrate while answering this common question. Mention trusted conflict resolution strategies, plus an appreciation for hearing other employees’ perspectives and incorporating their expertise into your practice.

10. “What is your approach toward patient and family education?”

In addition to providing clinical care, today’s nurses play a vital role in educating patients and their families, directly impacting patient adherence and the adoption of healthy lifestyle practices. Expand on these essentials by mentioning your desire to empower patients by implementing research-backed strategies or frameworks, such as the theory of goal attainment. Success stories are also important.

11. “How do you ensure effective communication with patients and teammates?”

This question underscores the reality that teamwork is a must in any healthcare environment and that nurses play heavily into this collaborative atmosphere. Explain how you tailor your approach based on the unique needs and communication styles of each patient or healthcare employee, mentioning communication techniques such as active listening when relevant. Keep in mind that your conduct during the entire interview will also reflect on your communication abilities.

Scenario-Based Nursing Interview Questions

Scenario-based questions aim to reveal your critical thinking and problem-solving abilities, especially under pressure. This is where you should expect the unexpected; any scenario that could realistically occur within the scope of your everyday nursing practice could also be referenced during this portion of the interview. Examples include:

12. “Can you describe a time you had to make a critical decision under pressure?”

As another question that calls for excellent storytelling skills, this interview essential is best tackled with specifics: What decision were you forced to make, which factors contributed to the sense of pressure you felt at the time, and how did you respond? Mention the frameworks you have used to make important decisions, including processes for gathering and analyzing evidence.

13. “What would you do if a patient’s condition suddenly worsens?”

The early recognition of clinical deterioration is crucial. Hiring managers are on the hunt for nurses who can act while remaining within their scope of practice. While your answer can mention intuition, it should also touch on vital signs and responses that conform to nursing best practices. Your answer should also reveal that, while you can take steps to improve patient outcomes, you are also prepared to seek additional support or insight when warranted.

14. “How would you handle a medical emergency?”

For some nurses, emergencies are an everyday part of the job. Others, however, may only deal with emergency situations occasionally. Regardless of which environment you work in, you must be prepared to provide emergency care. Your answer to this question should reassure hiring managers of your ability to do so.

If possible, use details from your background in emergency nursing or otherwise mention situations that have involved urgent care. Touch on evidence-backed frameworks such as HIRAID (History, Identify Red flags, Assessment, Interventions, Diagnostics) and how you would implement these.

Reflective Nursing Interview Questions

Self-reflection is a must, as it encourages you to compare your professional practice against professional standards and your own vision of nursing. Ideally, you will have adopted the habit of self-reflection long before you show up for the interview. Do not be surprised if you encounter these reflective questions:

15. “What was the most rewarding experience in your nursing career so far?”

The challenge with this question will not necessarily involve coming up with a story, but rather, choosing just one. After all, every day on the job delivers at least one rewarding experience. A remarkable patient recovery story is always appreciated, but you could also detail the small, seemingly mundane interactions and their surprising impact. Remember: the actual answer is nowhere near as important as the deep-seated passion you reveal along the way.

16. “What was the biggest challenge you have faced in your nursing career and how did you overcome it?”

This is an excellent chance to weave a compelling story about a notable experience that forced you to grow as a nurse. While many interviewees focus on emergency situations or other challenging clinical ordeals, it is also acceptable to tackle challenges related to the nursing team, so long as you avoid throwing anybody under the bus.

Future-Oriented Nursing Interview Questions

Nurses tend to live in the present, which makes perfect sense: the day-to-day challenges of nursing leave little room for thinking long-term. Still, it is important to keep an eye on the future, especially if you hope to rise through the ranks and take on higher-level nursing roles. Prepare by thinking carefully about your future. This will guide not only your responses during interviews but also your job search in general.

17. “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

The answer to this question will largely depend on your level of nursing and whether you hope to seek additional credentials or degrees. Perhaps you would like to explore a particular niche or pursue a leadership position. It is okay if you are not exactly sure what the next several years will bring. You can express your desire to continue making a difference for patients as you further explore your passion and learn more about various specialties.

18. “What are your long-term professional goals in nursing?”

In addition to clarifying your immediate goals, you may be asked to provide insight into where you want your career to go in ten or even twenty years. This is your chance to reveal your true ambitions as a nurse while aligning them with the values of the organization in question. For example, if a potential employer is actively seeking nurses for roles you hope to secure eventually, feel free to mention what your ideal career trajectory might look like.

Questions to Ask Your Interviewer

Many interviews include an opportunity to ask questions of your own. Prepare thoroughly for this, as the specific questions you ask will reveal whether you have done your research and what you expect from future employers.

This is also your chance to vet employers and reveal which roles are too good to be true. You could be a shoo-in, but if you do not like what you learn about the employer, it is better to cut your losses now than to commit to a less-than-ideal workplace.

When in doubt, these questions should prove insightful:

19. “What is the work culture like here?”

You may have already conveyed your preferences for your future work environment, but now, you can learn for yourself what your potential workplace will be like. Take the hiring manager’s answer with a grain of salt; be mindful of the adjectives you hear and how they compare to your definition of the ideal employer.

20. “How does this institution support the growth and development of its nurses?”

Many nursing interview questions encourage you to share your long-term professional goals, but you deserve to know how those objectives will be aided by your future employer. This is your chance to learn more about training and mentorship opportunities. If the hiring manager fails to provide concrete details, think twice about taking the job. You want to work somewhere that will help you grow as a person and as a professional.

21. “What are the expectations for this role in the first 90 days?”

The onboarding process can be challenging, but it helps if you know what will happen as you adjust to your new role. Such a transition period will reveal whether you and your new workplace are a good fit. The answer to this question should reveal exactly what the onboarding and training process entails and which tools or resources you can take advantage of along the way.

Prepare for a Rewarding Career in Nursing

Interviewing is a lot easier when you arrive equipped with a strong educational background, an excellent professional network, and a wide range of soft skills. You will have the opportunity to learn about these skills in one of the nursing programs at American Sentinel College of Nursing & Health Sciences at Post University such as our RN to BSN program and our Master of Science in Nursing. Contact us to learn how we can support your growth as a nurse.

Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a complete list of our programs on our website or reach out directly!

Please note jobs and/or career outcomes highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs or career outcomes expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s programs and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions advisor.