You’ve got the education and the experience to handle the job and it’s just what you’re looking for. Your application process is going well and you’ve been called in for an interview. No sweat, right? If this part of landing a new job is daunting, have no fear, the best way to get through it is to be prepared.
By having a little advance notice as to which nursing interview questions might be asked, you can prepare in advance to handle anything the interviewer might throw at you. Here are some questions that have been asked in the past and the best way to handle them so you’ll sound like a reasonable and intelligent person but also so you’ll stand out from the pack.
The 10 Most Common Nursing Interview Questions: Why They Matter
When you interview for a nursing job opportunity, you will be asked a series of interview questions. These are unlike a standard interview. The questions are behavior based interview questions. They can outline how you will perform on a floor with patients. They can also address how you will respond in emergency situations.
While every nursing opportunity is different, they will all have a few common questions. By mastering your answers to these interview questions in nursing, they can help you do well in your interview. Prepared and confident, you can do better in your interview. This will put you one step closer to your dream job.
Below are the ten most common nursing interview questions to explore. And, we’ve included pro tips for answering nurse interview questions to help you respond:
- Describe a time when you had to take on a leadership role.
This can relate to anything. Describe the circumstance. What made you step up? Who were the people involved? What opportunity arose from this?
- Tell me about a conflict you were involved in on the job. What happened and what did you do?
Describe a conflict you were involved in at work. What role did you play? Who were the people involved? Was the outcome positive? What were you able to learn?
- Tell me about a situation when you worked with a difficult coworker.
Describe the situation. What was your relationship like with them? What happened in the situation? How did you handle it? Was the outcome positive?
- Tell me about a positive experience you encountered in nursing.
Describe the situation. What role did you play? Outline the steps. Why were you proud? Who were the people involved?
Tip: As you can see, the goal is to talk about the positive experiences in these situations and what you learned. You’re doing great. Let’s try a few more.
- Explain a time when you offered education to a patient or their family member.
Describe a time when you educated a patient or their family about their care or a medication. How did you communicate with them? Did they understand you? Was the outcome positive?
- Explain a time when a patient or their family wasn’t happy with your care. What did you do?
Careful. This is a trick question. Don’t talk badly about a patient or their family and don’t get emotional. If you did anything wrong, admit it. What was the incident? What did you do wrong? How did you learn from it? Was the outcome positive?
- Describe a time when a patient or their family was especially happy with your performance.
Describe the incident. What was the person or their family member happy with? Note: If another nurse or assistant was involved, give them credit. That shows you’re a team player.
- How do you talk to patients and their family if there’s a language barrier or if they don’t understand you?
Give an example of a situation you encountered where you needed to use medical terminology in laymen’s terms. If it was a language barrier did you ask for an interpreter?
- Tell me about a time when you had an aggressive or irate patient. What did you do in that situation?
Walk through the story and outline your actions. Why was the patient angry or hostile? Did you get upset? Were you calm and rational? How did you handle this? Were other people involved? Was the outcome positive?
- Tell me about a time you were under a great deal of pressure. What was the situation and how did you address this?
Describe a story and the steps. Maybe there was a time you were short-staffed. Who did you ask for help? How did you stay calm?
Tip: As you can tell, these questions are about how you work with patients. You’re doing a good job. Remember, don’t try to sound like you rehearsed your answers. Smile and be yourself.
Here are a few more interview questions for nurses…
Can you tell me about a situation when a patient didn’t provide important information you needed? What was the outcome?
Describe an occasion like if a patient had a reaction to a medication they didn’t tell you they were allergic to. How did you react? Who did you alert? How did you teach the patient about this?
Can you describe a time when your department went through a change? How did you adapt to it?
Detail a change your facility made. Describe the actions you took to adapt to it. Maybe it was a change in protocols. How did you communicate this to others?
Describe a time you didn’t receive the help you needed. What did you do?
Give a situation where you needed to take action to obtain information. Who did you speak to? Was the outcome positive?
Tell me about a time you felt uncomfortable at work. What did you do?
Describe a situation you were unsure of. Maybe a patient was inconsolable. How did you react? What did you learn from this?
Questions On Adversity
These nursing interview questions focus on how you handle difficult situations. The key to answering these is to have specific examples of how you handled similar instances in the past. To prepare for them, go back through your work or school history and decide which examples you’ll use so they will be at the forefront of your mind. Examples of these questions include:
How do you handle a difficult patient or family member?
Talk about de-escalating the situation and displaying patience and empathy.
Tell us about a time you had to deal with an incompetent team member?
Here again, showing patience is important and depending on the severity of the incompetence, either training the team member yourself or alerting a supervisor is the right course of action.
How do you handle stressful situations?
Talk about what you do to de-stress at work. Be specific when you address these issues.
Questions on Your Motivation
These are tough questions because there are no right or wrong answers. They are the ones that delve deeply into who you are as a person and where you want your career to go. They include things like:
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
The pat answer of “I wanted to help people” isn’t enough here. Get specific. Maybe a relative or friend was sick when you were young and you always wanted to help them. Maybe you are empathetic to suffering in people. Maybe you feel strongly about helping others.
Why do you want a promotion?
Here it is best to lay out a bit about how far you’ve come and your experience. Don’t get too involved with details, those are on your resume. Talk about how you feel this promotion will benefit you, patient care and the employer.
What do you find difficult about your job?
Don’t just list problems and petty complaints. They don’t care if you don’t like the food choices in the vending machines. What they do care about is seeing how well you handle these difficulties and what your plan is to eliminate them.
What is your weakest attribute?
Don’t say you don’t have one, everyone has a weak spot. Use this question to highlight your emotional attachment to your patients. Maybe you care too much or maybe you get frustrated with the limitations of the insurance industry.
Tell us about a time you made a mistake on the job?
Here again, everyone makes mistakes so don’t claim you haven’t. Be sure your prospective employer knows that you took responsibility for your mistake and took the necessary steps to correct the situation.
Why Did You Become A Nurse?
Perhaps one of the top questions asked across the board, this one can seem so simple and innocent when first spoken, but if you aren’t prepared for it, it can leave you thinking in silence.
The reason for that is easy to understand. Most people have a complex array of motivations that led them to their decision to become a nurse. It’s not something they simply woke up one day and decided to do. You, too, probably have a whole list of events and advice that led you to your decision.
However, the interviewer is going to expect a straightforward, passionate, and punctual answer to this question and all others. That’s why you should go ahead and get your thoughts together ahead of time.
Remember, it’s not about sounding scripted, it’s about sounding well-thought-out. You don’t have to memorize an answer word-for-word, just get your ideas in order so you’re prepared when this question inevitably comes up.
What Traits Are Important In A Nurse?
Interviewers will ask this question to gauge your values. As a nurse, values are something that has been repeatedly addressed, and challenged, throughout your time spent training and working with patients first-hand.
The best way to answer this question is with a breakdown of the top values you think to apply to your work. Answers differ, but an example would be: “There are so many, but I think the top three traits that I embody are empathy, patience, and being unwilling to give up until I have exhausted every avenue of treatment.”
Generally, a follow-up question will be, “How do you exhibit these important traits?” You can get ahead of the game by going ahead and extending your answer to include a story that demonstrates one or all of these traits and how you have put them into action in your position recently.
If you lack hands-on experience, sharing a story about how you would react to a scenario that you have witnessed or heard about can help show the interviewer that you always keep these key traits in mind during your work.
What Challenges Do Nurses Face?
As with nearly every position in the medical community, it’s important that nurses are staying abreast of what’s happening in their area, in their field, and beyond that could impact their work or how they approach it.
It also demonstrates a higher level of interest and dedication to your work if you’re able to pull from a professional publication that you recently read and tie it into your answer. Here’s an example of a younger nurse tying together an article she read with a personal story about an older nurse she has worked with or known:
“I actually just read a piece on Daily Nurse the other day that spoke on the latest innovations in the field of nursing. It got me thinking about this exact question and I realized that adapting to the increased usage of tech is just as fascinating as it is difficult for some nurses.
In today’s training courses, nurses use digital interfaces like a third arm. However, it was a real eye-opener for me when I was interning at the local hospital and worked side-by-side with some seasoned nurses who didn’t have the same hands-on experience with the new systems as I did.
It was very rewarding for me to help them learn the new systems while on-the-job and it also made me recognize how important it is that I stay abreast about everything new in the world of nursing, because things change quickly.”
This answer demonstrates an interest in the growing using of technology (which is always big in the field of medicine) and, even more importantly, the young nurse’s initiative when she took a leadership role to help the seasoned nurses at her last internship get a handle on the updated systems their hospital had implemented.
Craft an answer that is able to tie in your interests, dedication, and some top qualities. It doesn’t have to speak on innovation, you might consider an answer revolving around work/life balance or a number of others pertinent topics.
Why Do You Feel You’re Qualified To Work Here?
This is the question where you can really allow your passion and skill to shine through. You’ll need to hone your salesmanship skills, especially when this type of question comes up during the interview.
Talk about your past education, any experiences that have influenced your decision to be a nurse, and your hands-on experience. In addition, remember that you need to emphasize the emotional and human aspect of your work.
They want to know that you’re qualified with your degree, of course, but they also want you to showcase an attitude and personality that qualifies you for your line of work and the environment as well.
If you did not already cover it under a prior question, remind them of what personally motivates you to do the work you do and the dedication that you will bring to the table.
Hardest Nurse Interview Questions and Trick Questions in Nursing Interviews
Ready for the toughest nurse interview questions and the top interview questions nurses are asked? These can be tricky questions so be careful how you respond:
Why do you want this job?
This is a broad question. Don’t over talk and don’t be too brief. Outline how you want to offer quality patient care or help in a specific area of nursing. Maybe a family member or former caregiver inspired you.
What’s a good nursing shift to you?
Careful. Don’t say when everything is quiet. Try to describe an ideal situation when it’s both busy and slow. Outline how you will use the breaks to get caught up with paperwork or consult with other staff members.
Do you have questions for me/us?
Careful. Most people smile and shyly say no. But, this is your opportunity to ask a few questions about the floor, the program, the schedules, and the staff.
How would others describe you in 3 words?
The goal is to show maturity and insight into how you receive feedback from others. What would you say in your 3 words? Loyal, resilient, caring, patient, fair, dedicated, committed, helpful.
If you saw another nurse administering the wrong drug dosage what would you do?
With this answer, remember to follow nursing protocol and describe how you went to a supervisor. Don’t make it personal and demean the nurse, but detail how you stayed professional to protect the patient.
What are you most proud of in your career?
Careful. Most nurses keep this answer too general. Give a personal story about how you did everything to help someone. Outline how you provided excellent care. Include how you saw the patient get better or how they were discharged.
How to Tell Your Story
Many nursing interview questions require you to give specific examples of situations you encountered and had to deal with. In most cases, you’ll want to keep humor out of these stories. You don’t know how the interviewer handles humor and you also don’t want to be seen as someone who takes things lightly. Laughing at yourself is okay, but you can easily stray into making comments about patients, family members or team members, which would be bad.
Keep your descriptions of events short and to the point. This is why getting them organized in your mind before the interview is so important. You don’t want to sit there and take long pauses to recall details. Be sure you include information on how you responded and overcame each situation.
The Bottom Line
Now that you’re prepared for some of the nursing interview questions you might be asked; you’ll be able to form a cohesive answer on the spot. Remember not to memorize a response but just to have some talking points in your head for each one. That way you can customize your answer to the specific question. You also won’t sound like a recording. When trying to land that perfect job, take a page out of the Miss America playbook. If you want to win, you’ve got to nail the interview portion! Now go get ’em!
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