Nursing Interview Questions and Answers

November 27, 2022
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Nursing continues to be an in-demand profession, and many nurses are entering the field with the promise of job stability and security that comes with it. The job interview process is an important step that any nurse should prepare for. One of the biggest concerns many nurses have is being able to anticipate and have good answers for some of the most common nursing interview questions.

Whether you are a new nurse looking to land your first nursing job, or a veteran nurse making a change after being in one position for a long time, the following guide can help.

Understanding and Preparing for Your Nursing Interview

Employers need to know that the person they are hiring is both qualified for the job and a good fit for the culture and work environment of their organization. Prospective employees can also interview the organization to find out if this role or position is right for you too. The goal of nursing interview questions is to help both parties get to know each other while offering insight into your personality, experience, and ability to handle difficult situations.

To prepare for any nursing interview, take a thorough assessment of your previous positions, skills, and education and think about how they can apply to different situations. Research the prospective employer and make sure you have thoroughly read and understood the job description and the larger services they provide.

15 Common Nursing Interview Questions and Answers

Every interview is different. But you can expect to encounter many of these questions or similar questions in a nursing interview:

1. What made you want to be a nurse?

When answering this question, you can be honest about your personal story and goals, but the most important thing to emphasize is your desire to help people and make a difference to patients. A potential answer could be “I have always been a helpful, hardworking person who has cared about other people, and I see nursing as a way to put these qualities to work in a fulfilling way.”

2. What is your biggest strength?

Be honest and show yourself off without bragging. Strengths that nurses should exhibit include compassion, empathy, hard work, attention to detail, adaptability, and ability to learn. When answering this question, think about two or three strengths that genuinely apply to you and give specific examples of you exhibiting them in your life and work.

3. What are some of your weaknesses and challenges?

Avoid answering this question in a non-genuine way such as “I work too hard” or “I care too much.” The purpose of this question is instead to show that someone is honest about themselves and willing to grow. Find some areas that are legitimate challenges for you, and how you can positively build or change the challenges. It is also important to show how you are working on this area and improving.

4. Describe a situation where you had to work with a difficult coworker.

The purpose of this question is to show how you respond to a difficult interpersonal situation and worked to overcome it. Try to be as diplomatic as possible when describing this person and talk about how you worked within the guidelines of your workplace to overcome the conflict. For example, “One time, I worked with a person who was recognized by myself and others as being difficult to work with. I did my best to always be courteous and keep the focus squarely on the work that needed to be done.”

5. Why do you think you would be a good fit for this company?

When answering this question, try to build an honest bridge between who you are and what the prospective employer’s mission, culture, and objectives are. For example, when interviewing with a home health organization, you could say “I love the prospect of being able to help patients right in their home who are dealing with challenging situations. I consider myself a flexible and adaptable nurse who thinks on my feet and genuinely loves making a difference in people’s lives.”

6. Do you like working on a team?

No matter what type of nursing you do, it will involve working on a team. Hospital nurses consistently work on teams with multiple people. Even home health nursing involves considerable interaction with clinicians and administrators, not to mention the patient’s family. A great answer would be, “I love working on a team and prioritize strong communication and helping people work toward a common goal whenever I come to work.”

7. What are your goals as a nurse?

Examples of goals could be to advance to a leadership position, learn new skills, or focus on becoming a better patient advocate. Employers want to know that you have realistic career goals, be specific and describe an actionable plan to achieve them.

8. Describe a time when something went wrong. How did you respond?

To answer this question, try to think of a specific story that happened to you that demonstrates your ability to stay calm under pressure and come up with a helpful solution. Nurses are constantly dealing with adversity, and employers want to know that you can handle it.

9. Talk about a time when you didn’t know the answer to a question. What did you do?

If you encounter this question, the person asking it wants to know how you deal with situations where you are caught off guard and that you immediately sought a solution. Try to answer in a way that shows you can still inspire confidence while being transparent and honest. For example: “One time I was asked when a doctor would be in, even though the schedule had not been published yet. I thanked the person for the question, told them that information should be available shortly and I would give them the answer as soon as it was available. I then made a note to follow up.”

10. What does work-life balance mean to you?

Work-life balance is the idea that being too stressed out at work or home can have a negative effect on the other. An employer asking this question can be a great indication of a company caring about employee wellness and a supportive culture. Answer in a way that shows you are committed to healthy decisions at home to be the best nurse you can be. For example “I want to have fulfilling personal relationships and a stable and healthy home life, and I think it’s important to have a workplace that supports this so that I can be a better nurse and help patients when I come to work.”

11. Tell us about a time you were in a leadership position. How did you handle it?

Even if you have never had a former management position, there should still be some time when you were “in charge” of something. From being an officer in a club, to leading a group assignment in nursing school. Your answer should show your ability to listen, motivate a team, make a plan, and reach goals.

12. What is the most challenging patient experience you have ever had?

Every nurse will deal with difficult patients, so saying that you have never had one is not a realistic answer. Similar to questions about difficult coworkers, this question should show how you overcame the situation. As a nurse, you should be able to demonstrate a commitment to ensuring patient care while doing everything possible to diffuse the situation. For example: “One time I had a very belligerent patient who was refusing the treatment I had to provide. I stayed calm, explained the procedure, why it was needed, and how it helped him. It took a few times, but by being persistent and patient, I was able to get him to calm down and let me give him the treatment.”

13. Describe a time you went above and beyond.

As a nurse, you should try to think of a time when you demonstrated exceptional care and patient advocacy to really make a difference for a person. Ideally, this should show persistence, determination, flexibility, selflessness, and compassion.

14. What role does a patient’s family play in the care process?

Nurses should understand how critical family support is to health and wellness during the care process. For example, “I believe a patient absolutely needs the love and support of their family and friends. As a nurse I strive to integrate them as much as ethically possible into the care process, and in many ways I work to be an extension of the caregiving role that families so often play.” This can be especially important in home health care, where the nurses work very closely with family members.

15. What do effective patient communication and education mean to you?

Nurses should have a clear understanding of therapeutic communication and the importance of educating patients on their condition and treatment. Your answer should showcase your knowledge and approach. For example, “Therapeutic communication and patient education are at the center of a nurse’s role as a care provider. I always strive to ensure that patients feel heard and understood, while also being committed to ensuring that patients understand their situation and can make informed, confident decisions.”

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