Interview Questions (And Answers!) For Nurses

So you’ve found a nursing job that looks pretty interesting, maybe even gosh-darn perfect and today is your lucky day! You got the call. They want to interview you. And now, you’re nervous as all get-out. What will they ask? Will they like you? Will they think you’re the most qualified?

We’re here to answer those questions and more. But don’t forget. In fact, never forget. Interviews go both ways. What may look good on your little smartphone screen, may not look so good while you’re touring some desolate looking hospital floor and talking to a nurse manager with the personality of a dried apricot.

Below we get into all the Qs & As of some of the toughest interview questions for nurses as well as some of the things YOU should be asking to make sure that job is right for you.

Not ready to interview & need a little resume help? Download our free resume template here.

To sum it up quickly: Health care facilities are looking for nurses that would be a positive addition to the team. That means someone who is educated, experienced, flexible, organized & a darn good communicator.

Question They’ll Ask: Why should we hire you?

Answer: They’re looking for you to tell them how your qualifications and experience make you the ideal candidate for the job you’re applying for. Talk about your most recent experience as it relates to the open job. Do not go through you resume line by line. Instead – focus on those areas of your experience that are most like the job in which you’re interviewing for.

In addition, you’ll want to think back to that job description. Did they mention any “must haves”? If so, you’ll want to bring those up now. For example, the job description may have mentioned a need for experience working with chronically ill patients. If you don’t have the exact experience they’re looking for, bring up something similar.

Using the example above, if you do not have experience working with chronically ill patients, you could use your experience working in an ICU, or Emergency Care unit – or you could bring up a time where a non-critically ill patient became critical, and you’re roll in their care at that time.

Question They’ll Ask: What would you say are your biggest strengths?

Answer: Just like we mentioned above, you want to be recent & relevant in your answer. Go back to the job description and pull out the adjectives they mentioned and use those same adjectives when it comes to your strengths.

For example: If they are looking for someone that is flexible or organized, or a good communicator – talk about how these are your strengths and use your work experience to give examples.  “My experience in working with seniors at St. Joseph Care exhibits my strength of being a good communicator. Not only was I patient and optimistic but my interest in old songs and movies helped me to form genuine bonds with many of the patients.”

Question They’ll Ask: Here’s an example situation you might find yourself in. How would you approach it?

Answer: The person you’re speaking with has just given you a real-life situation that has happened, most likely recently, and was unhappy with the way the nursing staff handled it. They’re wondering if you have the skills – to perform better – do better. Your best bet is to be slow and deliberate in your response. Think through carefully what happened, and what you could have done to have achieve the best outcome possible. (For the facility and/or the patient.)

Question They’ll Ask: Do you do any sort of continuing education?

Answer: They’re looking to see how interested you are in your nursing profession and if you’re the type of nurse that is looking to go above and beyond. The answer is always going to be: YES! With all caps and an exclamation point!

Whether or not you’ve completed continuing education credits you’ll want to always mention any trade publications you’re subscribed to, conventions you’ve attended, or professional development courses you’ve taken.

Question They’ll Ask: How do you handle high-stress situations?

Answer: Nursing is not exactly a walk in the park sort of job – so you’ll want to exemplify in your interview how you manage stress. This can range from self-care routines to what you do on the job to manage stress. For example: “I allow myself one hour a day to decompress from a day’s work – especially if it’s an intense day. On the job – I’ve upped my organizational game, and being organized helps me feel less stressed about the day-to-day activities.”

Question They’ll Ask: Tell me about a time you went above and beyond for a patient or family member?

Answer: This question is asked to evaluate your attitude, work ethic, problem-solving ability and how you perform under pressure. They’re looking for proof that you won’t skirt extra responsibilities, are able to come up with unique solutions when the situation calls for it and can stay relaxed during high stress situations.  When answering this question, use the S.T.A.R method: Situation, Task, Action, Result. Clearly and concisely describe the situation, explain the challenge you were tasked with, what sort of action you took and result of your efforts.

Question They’ll Ask: Tell me about a time that you had to work with someone whose personality was different than yours and it caused a conflict.

Answer: They’re looking to see you can work well with different personality types, and those that have a completely different working style than you. You’ll want to give an example where you met this challenge without it affecting the quality of your work or your professionalism. This can include situations in which that person was simply impossible to deal with – and how you went about approaching the working relationship in a professional manner.

For example: A colleague that used inappropriate language when discoursing with you. You could describe the steps you took to rectify that situation such as:  sought counsel with human resources on how best to handle the situation.

Question YOU Should Ask: What shift will I be working?

Why: You’ll want to know not only what shift you’ll be working, but whether or not they can make shift changes if they decide there is a need. No one that works nights is going to want to switch to days and vice versa. So make sure you have some clarity on this.

You’ll also want to know what sort of advance notice you’ll be given for your schedule, is block scheduling an option, are weekends & holidays required, what holiday are paid time and a half, what hours are needed for overtime pay, and what are the on-call requirements.

Question YOU Should Ask: What does orientation look like?

Why: You’ll want to know if there is an orientation for the facility & the unit, whether or not you will be paid for that time, how long it will be, and if there is any testing involved. If they say you will be paid for orientation, you’ll want to know how much. Many facilities only pay half time for orientation.

Question YOU Should Ask: Talk to me about the specifics of the facility?

Why: Some of this information you should be able to find online, such as how many beds are in the facility and on each unit.* But you’ll also want to know what their required scrub colors are, and if there is a scrub allowance. (At $50-$100 a pop, it’s not exactly a cheap expenditure.)

You’ll also want to know what the nurse-to-patient ratio is, charting system, the units biggest challenges, resources that are available to support nurses, and their float policy.

*Pro-tip: Never ask a question, when the answer can be found online

Practice Practice Practice

Chances are you’re out of practice when it comes to interviewing. So our best advice is to grab a friend and practice, practice, practice.

Not ready to interview & need a little resume help? Download our free resume template here.

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