Questions to Ask Your Nursing Interviewer
Interviews can be a source of stress for just about anyone, and it may feel like there’s a lot riding on your answers to questions for nursing interviews. In the midst of your preparations, however, don’t forget that the questions you ask at the end of an interview can say a lot about you; oftentimes, just as much, if not more, than your answers to previous questions! Your first step involves research.
Try to understand the mission, vision, and values of the institution that you will be interviewing at and how your unit/clinic/office is run. This is important to make sure that your potential employer is a good fit. Start with the internet, but do not be afraid to find contacts at the hospital and make phone calls for more information. Once you’ve gathered information, you’re all set for your interview and the opportunity to ask further, more telling questions at the end of it. Let’s jump in!
To show that you have done your research -- and, more importantly, to know for sure that this is the job and the unit that you want to join -- it’s helpful to identify contacts on the unit or at the institution to ask questions (you may not be able to find full details about a job, unit, or program online). A great, and simple, place to begin the job description itself.
Additionally, consider reaching out to managers or staff through LinkedIn or potentially even your school’s alumni network in order to gather information about the position (this is in addition to the hiring manager you're likely speaking with).
You may also contact professors from your university or past clinical instructors to find out if they are in contact with anyone who would speak with you. Below are some nurse interview questions to help guide your research.
It may also help to have a brief history of the institution, hospital, or wing (and even interviewer) going into your interview. Make sure you know where you're meeting -- or what time you're speaking on the phone -- and be sure to plan ahead of time, leaving some wiggle room if you happen to be running late.
At the end of your interview, you will be asked something along the lines of, “What questions do you have for me?” This is your opportunity to ask any outstanding questions (although you would want to pick your top 2-3 questions rather than asking every possible question).
Think about what you need to know in order to be confident in accepting a job at this institution/on this unit. If you already feel confident, it’s great to still ask questions. Pick a few that allow you to get to know the nurse manager/staff in your interview and understand their goals for the unit as well as hopes for new hires. Here are some questions you might consider asking at the end of your interview.
Interview Questions for All Nurses to Ask
Feedback & Mentorship:
- How do you provide feedback to your staff when they make a mistake or have an opportunity to improve?
- How do you maintain accountability for professionalism and excellence in practice?
- Do you have a mentorship program on the unit? If not, do you have a vision for mentorship and what that looks like in the future?
- Describe working relationships between staff and the environment on the floor (If you are able to ask this of multiple people, it’s a great way to assess what the general consensus about the unit is. Staff nurses may be less likely to sugar-coat an answer than the nurse manager for the unit).
- How can I contribute to the culture of the unit and be a part of strengthening team unity?
- Describe what team collaboration and interdisciplinary communication look like here.
- What policies or practices do you have to encourage nurses to practice self-care?
- What QI work are you doing on your floor? What is your process for nurses to approach and implement quality improvement initiatives?
- What opportunities exist for continued education and learning?
- Do you have benefits for professional certification, attending conferences, educational benefits/tuition reimbursement?
- What percentage of the nurses have specialty certifications (CCRN, CPEN, CPON, etc.)? How would I be supported in obtaining pertinent certifications?
- Does your institution hold nursing grand rounds? Do nurses attend medical grand rounds?
- What are several qualities that you are looking for in an ideal candidate? (I even asked this one to several managers pre-interview and added “How would you advise me to cultivate these qualities as I enter my final semester of nursing school?”)
- How do you think staff members might describe your management style?
- On your website, it says you value [insert value]. Would you please tell me more about how that plays out.
- What are primary reasons that nurses leave this unit? How would you describe the turnover rates of nurses on this unit.
- What steps are you taking to ensure patient safety/safe patient care on the unit? How do you actively support nurses in this?
- How does this institution protect nurses?
- What are the biggest challenges you face working here? (I would try to ask this of staff nurses as well as nurse managers if you have multiple opportunities to speak with employees on the unit)
- How has working at this hospital changed how you practice and view nursing?
- How have you seen nursing communication compromised, and how can these communication errors be prevented?
- What would you define as success in this position?
- What are some needs that you can identify as a manager that I can participate in meeting?
- Can you give me an example of a time when something didn’t go as planned on the unit? How did the team respond?
- What are common errors that you see on this unit? How can these errors be avoided?
- How would you like me to follow up with you after this interview? (This is important because it will provide you with an email address for your thank-you note. If you had an interview panel, you may ask “May I request your business cards?”)
- [Insert a customized question specific to your institution that demonstrates that you have done research and are invested in this institution/unit]
Questions For New Grads to Ask
- How long is the residency program, and how do you define or measure competency?
- What is your process for matching preceptors with orientees? Roughly how many preceptors can I expect to work with?
- What is the breakdown and timeline for clinical hours and class hours? How many education hours will I receive in total?
- During the residency program, who are my support people, and how often will I have contact with a nurse educator?
- What structure exists around new grad nurses coming off of orientation? Is there continued support and supervision? If so, for how long? Do you have a plan as far as skills and competencies that I will be evaluated on? How often?
- What have been some of the biggest struggles you have seen with new grads, and what can be done to avoid them?
- What types of committees are available to join? How do you advise new-to-practice nurses with regards to the timing and extent of their involvement in shared governance?
- What qualities and practices are most important to you which you would encourage me to cultivate in my nursing practice?
- Will I be expected to serve as a charge nurse? How do you determine a nurse’s level of readiness for the charge nurse role?
Questions For Travel Nurses to Ask
- Has this unit previously hired travel nurses?
- Will I be expected to float to any sister hospitals or other locations?
- How common is it for you to call travelers off?
- What opportunities will there be for OT?
- What are your expectations in hiring me as a traveler?
Questions for All Nurses to Ask, Sparingly
If these questions are not a priority to you, they can wait until after you are hired. They are a bit too nitty-gritty for the interview, so I would recommend that you avoid asking these questions at the end of your interview.
- How long is orientation? What does it entail?
- How would you describe your patient population (acuity, common diagnoses, etc.)?
- What is the bed count on this unit?
- What are average nurse-to-patient ratios? What are nurse-to-patient ratios like when there are staffing challenges?
- What electronic medical record system do you use?
- What scrub color do you require? Is there a particular brand or embroidery that nurses are required to have?
- What kind of support staff do you use? (CNAs? LVN/LPNs? Tele techs? IV team? Phlebotomy?)
- What does your leadership structure look like on the unit and within the hospital?
- What proportion of your nurses are engaged in shared governance? What opportunities are available?
- How often will floating be required?
- Which units would I float to? Will I get an orientation in each new unit?
- How does scheduling work? What is your weekend requirement? What are your holiday requirements?
By this point, you should have a good idea of what questions to ask in which contexts during interviews. You should also have an idea of what to have ready going into an interview as well as what to do following one (hint: thank-you notes/emails). So what are you waiting for? Get out there and ace those interviews!
Example Questions for a Traveling OB/NICU Nurse
Pending your unit and specialty, here's more or less what you should be ready to ask the hospital (this is an example of a traveling OB/NICU nurse):
- Submitting company
- Hospital location
- Start/finish date(s)
- Unit: OB/PP/NSY/Ante/GYN, etc.
- Patient ratio
- # of deliveries/month
- Level NICU: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4
- Charting program
- Scrub color
- Scrubs provided?
- If nights block scheduling?
- Orientation length
- General hospital orientation x day(s) / Unit x day(s)
- Skills check off
- If PM shift block scheduling?
- Guaranteed hours in contract?
- Hospital name & phone number
- Name of interviewer, title, & phone number
- # of beds x beds / Unit (i.e. PP)
- Assignment length
- Floating policy, what units?
- Traveler float 1st, etc.
- Locked unit Yes or No / Security system used
- Number of PCT/patient
- Unit secretary available 24/7?
- Medication system
- Parking on-site?
- OT available / traveler approved to work OT?
If you're still looking for somewhere to begin the job-search process, start here!