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What Questions Are Asked During Nursing Interviews?

Aug 23, 2019
Charis Anderson, RN

Have an upcoming interview? These are questions that you may be asked as a new graduate nurse, an experienced nurse, or a travel nurse, so bookmark this page for future interviews! I promise it will help you ace your next one!

Before you freak out, let me explain.

This resource is about (a) seeing the types and categories of questions that might come up in your interview; (b) practicing to adapt your answers and examples to a variety of different questions; and, (c) understanding that there are a lot of questions that might be thrown your way, and the most important approach is going to be preparing for the fact that you can’t prepare perfectly for every possible question - there are too many! Frankly, I’ve learned that memorizing answers to questions like these puts me in a position to forget the answers under stress. Practicing answers over and over and trying to come up with answers on-the-spot in a mock interview format (and then going back over them/formulating a general idea of what I’d like to say if faced with one of these questions, or a question like it), helped to prepare me for anything that was thrown my way. I’d recommend using this list for mock interviews and thinking through how to modify your examples to fit multiple scenarios/questions rather than creating and memorizing answers to every single one.

As mentioned in our Trusted Guide to Interviews, it can be very helpful (for organization and for conciseness) to use the acronyms SOAR (Situation, Obstacles, Actions, Results) or STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to organize your answers. Work to keep your answers at a 2-4 minute maximum in order to avoid rambling or over-sharing.

Finally, take a deep breath... You CAN do this. To tell yourself anything else is to accept defeat before you’ve tried. Your diligence and initiative in researching this list is the first step to your success.

What Questions Can You Expect in A Nursing Interview?

Introductory Questions:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why nursing?
  • What is the most rewarding aspect of your nursing career?
  • Tell me about how you heard of this position.
  • Why are you leaving your current position?
  • What did you enjoy about this position?
  • What did you not like about this position?
  • How well do you know us?
  • What do you know about ___ institution?
  • How would you describe our mission, vision, and values and what they mean to you?
  • Why are you interested in working here?
  • What interests you about this position? This population?
  • Why do you think that we should hire you?
  • What are your goals?
  • What is your five-year plan?/Where do you see yourself five years from now?
  • How would you describe your ideal work environment?/What are you looking for in your next job?
  • What do you look for in a good manager/preceptor?
  • What is your dream job?
  • Describe the defining characteristics of two nurses whose practice you hope to emulate and why you admire these nurses.

personalities of nurses


Your Character:

  • Describe your three greatest professional or personal strengths. (This could be asked: ‘If you were a superhero, what would your powers be?’ or some other disguised/creative manner – be prepared to recognize and answer this question even if it is not asked as directly as you might expect.)
  • Describe your three greatest professional or personal weaknesses.
  • How would your boss at your last job describe you? How would your coworkers describe you?
  • What are three qualities of a strong leader that you specifically need to work on? And what are three that you would consider your strengths? Explain.
  • What are three qualities of a team player that you specifically need to work on? And what are three that you would consider your strengths? Why? Explain.
  • Name three qualities that are important in [insert your particular patient population - peds vs. adults vs. geriatrics – or your particular specialty – oncology vs critical care vs labor and delivery]?

Expanding on Your Resume:

  • Share about your very first job and your initial training.
  • What was it like to start from scratch with a new job? What did you find particularly challenging?
  • Describe situations in which you worked with very stringent and very relaxed supervisors. What challenges did you face with each style of management?

Professional Challenges:

  • Tell me about a time that you had to face adversity in your workplace. What do you do in this sort of situation? (Typically Unit-dependent, KNOW YOUR STUFF.)
  • Tell about an experience in which your unit, institution, or a team that you were a part of weathered a significant change. How did that affect you? How were you able to adapt?
  • Describe a time when you were under significant pressure or experienced stress. How did you handle this? How could you have handled it better?
  • Share about a time when you had a lot of tasks to prioritize and complete in a short period. What was your strategy?
  • Share a time when you faced a steep learning curve and discuss how you adapted.
  • Discuss a challenge you faced in a recent job. How did you deal with it and what did you learn? (Might also appear as: “Describe a challenging patient interaction. What do you think you did well in handling the situation? What could you work on in the future?”)
  • Describe a situation in which your personal goals were not aligned with your professional goals, or you had to deal with conflicting priorities. How did you decide what to do?
  • What would you do if you were asked to perform a role or task outside of your scope of practice?

Professional Successes:

  • Describe a project that you were in charge of. How did you keep yourself organized an ensure that the task was completed on time?
  • Talk about a professional goal that you made for yourself. How did you ensure that you accomplished this goal? What is your biggest professional accomplishment?

Communication:

  • Share about a scenario in which you were challenged to teach a concept to coworkers, a patient, or a patient’s family. How did you assess that your teaching was clearly understood?
  • Tell about a time when you opted not to rely on written communication (text, page, etc.). What was your rationale for this decision?
  • Discuss your reactions and actions in a scenario in which you needed to share complicated or technical information with someone who was angry or agitated. What did you learn from this?
  • Share about a time when you needed to communicate or ask a question of someone, particularly in regards to a patient care scenario, who did not respond well or (did not respond at all) and how you were able to obtain the necessary information?
  • Describe a time in which you did not agree with a decision that was made by your coworker, a manager, or a provider. How did you handle this situation? How could you have handled it better?
    Share about a time when you were insensitive towards a patient or coworker and how you worked to resolve this situation.
three old telephones hanging on the wall


Leadership:

  • Share a time when you were given free rein for your creativity in the workplace. How did you make the most of this opportunity and what were the challenges involved?
  • Talk about a time when you had to seek advice from someone more experienced than you in order to proceed with patient care. Who did you consult with, and what was the outcome?
  • Give an example of a time when you identified a problem and took initiative to solve it instead of assuming that someone else would address it. (May also appear as: “Describe a time that you demonstrated leadership? What were the results of your actions?”)
  • Discuss a situation in which you demonstrated leadership. What were your actions and what results did your actions produce?
    Imagine that you want to institute a change which alters patient care for the better. What steps might you take (who would you seek advice from/who would you discuss the idea with), and what should you anticipate? Explain your reasoning.

Patient Care/Advocacy:

  • Share about a time when you provided family-centered care for a patient or were a patient advocate. What did you learn from the experience?
  • Describe a scenario in which you went above and beyond in your patient care. (May also be phrased: “Share about a time in which you went above and beyond at your last job”).
  • Share about a time when you made a mistake or experienced failure. How did you resolve the situation and what did you learn from it?
  • Share about a time when your patients’ preferences conflicted with team goals. How did you navigate this situation and advocate for your patients?
  • Give an example of a time when your patient’s cultural beliefs or personal preferences were inconsistent with evidence-based practice. How did you proceed, and what did you learn?
  • Share about a time when you did not meet your patient’s expectations. Describe the situation and what you did to rectify it.

Relationships:

  • Share about a time when you struggled to build rapport with a patient, family member, or coworker. How did you approach this relationship and what did you learn?

Teamwork:

  • Discuss a scenario in which you collaborated effectively with someone whose personality or perspective differed significantly from yours. What challenges did this bring? How did you navigate the situation?
  • Tell about a time when there was tension among group members on a team that you were working with. How did you help to improve the cohesion of the team and contribute to the resolution of the conflicting ideas?
  • Describe a time when a necessary intervention was not being provided to a patient, or you felt that the healthcare team was overlooking an important element of a patient’s plan of care. How did you handle this situation?

Delegation:

  • How do you ensure the delegated task was completed? Tell me about a time when you had to confront a coworker that did not complete the delegated task
  • Tell me about a time when you effectively delegated duties to accomplish a goal
  • How do you decide to delegate tasks and responsibilities to a CNA or another Nurse?

Conflict:

  • Describe a time in which you faced a conflict with a coworker. How did you resolve this conflict and what did you learn? How could you have handled this better?
  • Share about a time in which you did a poor job of managing a conflict with a coworker or colleague. What do you wish you had done differently and how have you prepared for future similar situations?

Research/Quality Improvement:

  • Share about a time in which you collected patient data for research purposes. How did you use this data, and what was the effect on patient care and outcomes?
  • Discuss your involvement in a quality improvement initiative and the manner in which you evaluated the effectiveness of the initiative. What did you learn from this process and experience?
assessment


Assessment:

  • A child (or insert your primary patient population) is admitted to the cardiac ICU (or insert your primary specialty) with (insert assessment findings). Explain what steps you would take to care for this patient.

Getting to Know You Better:

  • What do you do when you have downtime at work/are fully caught up? (This is an opportunity to express the importance of being proactive and importance of helping out your team!)
  • What is the role of mentorship in your nursing journey and practice?
  • How do you spend your free time?
  • If you were an animal/Disney character/super hero/etc., which would you be and why? (common for peds peeps for a lighter question that gets to know you a little bit)

Moving Forward:

  • Where else have you interviewed?
  • What will you do if you don't get this job?
  • What salary are you looking to receive?
  • What questions do you have for me/us?

The above list should cover almost everything that might be discussed during an interview for a new nursing position. For travel nursing in particular, the interviews are usually much shorter, but if you're looking for a staff position, expect to talk more about yourself. Either way, make sure you prepare and mentally prepare yourself to speak about your awesome nursing achievements!