Laura Berlinsky-Schine
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Whether you’ve just completed nursing school and are on the hunt for a position or are a seasoned nurse looking to make a change, interviews require some serious preparation. Fortunately, there are some questions that are typical of many interviews for nursing jobs.

How do you prepare for a nursing interview? Here are some common sample nursing interview questions and answers to help you out.

11 Nursing Interview Questions and Answers

1. Tell me about yourself.

The “tell me about yourself” question is typical of job interviews in many industries, not just healthcare. While it sounds open-ended, the hiring manager really wants to know about your work and experience as a nurse. Instead of narrating your life history, focus a few qualities that make you good at your job and describe a couple accomplishments.

Answer: 

I’ve always been passionate about helping people, so nursing felt like a natural fit. I’ve been working in the industry for three years, and have become committed to advocating and caring for my patients. In my last role, I worked in the children’s wing, and one parent told me her daughter looked forward to my visits every day.

2. What made you choose nursing as a career?

Again, this question is one you’ll encounter at job interviews in many industries. This is an opportunity to discuss your history and what drives you, as well as personal strengths, skills, and accomplishments. It’s also a chance to complement your field and nursing colleagues.

Answer:

I’ve always loved helping people. Throughout my life, I’ve been happiest when I’m volunteering and support others. Nursing seemed like a natural path for me since it combines my passion for helping people with my love of science. Since it’s such a rapidly growing field, I knew I could find an area that fit my particular interests.

3. What do you find most rewarding about being a nurse?

Potential employers want employees who are satisfied, eager to do their work, and committed to their nursing careers. In your response to this question, demonstrate how the work is important to you and highlight your strengths. It’s a good idea to use anecdotes to illustrate your response.

Answer: 

As a pediatric nurse, I'm thrilled to work with children who have shown me how strong young people can be. A couple of years ago, I worked with a 10-year-old girl who was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, and her bravery continues to inspire me. Being able to support her and be her friend through a difficult time was one of the most challenging and meaningful experiences I’ve ever had. She taught me how to be brave as well.

Learning from and growing with my patients are the most rewarding aspects of my job, and something I carry with me in my work and personal life.

4. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Your interviewer wants to know that you have personal ambitions in the industry, but also see that you are satisfied with the direction of your career. Additionally, your potential employer is looking for someone who will be committed to the organization, rather than somehow who will leave quickly. Your long-term career goals will give her insight into the kind of work you want to do and how dedicated you are to it. In describing your career goals, explain how you want to grow, and demonstrate your commitment to your particular niche and overall career.

Answer:

I love being a surgical nurse. So far, I’ve been lucky enough to have very rewarding opportunities. In five years, I hope to continue working in the surgical wing and taking care of post-op patients, but would also like to add more administrative and managerial duties to my repertoire.

5. Why do you want to work at this facility/hospital/clinic?

While you may be interviewing at several different facilities, you want to appear invested in the one at which you’re currently interviewing. Make sure to do your homework and highlight some of the facility’s recent or ongoing initiatives to demonstrate that you truly appreciate what this particular role will offer you.

Answer: 

I really admire the work you’ve done to build up your ER. As one of the top-ranking ERs in the state, your hospital will really help me grow and use the skills I’ve learned as an emergency response nurse. I’m excited to work the physicians who have pioneered X technique.

6. What are your greatest weaknesses in your career?

It's hard to talk about you're greatest weaknesses. While you may be tempted to offer a weakness that’s really something positive, such as “I work too hard,” try a different route to demonstrate how you’ve grown, as well as how you cope with setbacks. For instance, you might describe a weakness you’ve overcome and explain how you managed to do so. You also might describe a difficult situation you encountered and explain how you dealt with it.

Answer: I used to struggle with becoming overly involved with my patients. As someone who cares about people, it’s difficult to watch patients suffering. I’ve learned to accept that this is part of my job as a healthcare provider, and while I don’t work to distance myself, I remind myself that this is the nature of the work and try to make my patients as comfortable as possible.

7. How would you describe your interactions with doctors and other nurses?

The facility wants a candidate who is a team player. While you’re not going to get along with everyone you meet, it’s important to set aside differences in order to do your job well. If you don’t work well with others, it will become a problem for the facility, since your manager may end up getting complaints from your colleagues.

Answer: 

I would say I’ve always been easygoing but maintained professionalism with my colleagues. I’ve never had a major dispute with another nurse or doctor.

8. How well do you work in groups?

Like the previous question, this is a question about teamwork. Healthcare is a field that demands that people work together, and you need to be a team player. While you will need to fulfill your personal duties and responsibilities, you’ll also need to work well with others.

Answer: 

I love working with others. I would describe myself as a people person; that’s why I became a nurse. While I strive to complete my personal responsibilities independently, I also enjoy being part of a larger effort to deliver excellent patient care and working in a group setting.

9. What do you find most challenging about your career as a nurse?

Every job has unique challenges, and every person encounters obstacles. Nurses encounter especially stressful situations. You should probably avoid mentioning particular work you hate; instead, opt for something that can highlight a personal quality.

Answer: 

It’s difficult to watch patients suffer. I find that the most challenging part of the job—coping with people I’ve grown to care about dealing with pain.

10. How would you handle a patient who is unsatisfied with your care?

When you work in patient care, sometimes patients are going to complain. Most hospital patients are there because something is wrong, and they may be unhappy and want to take it out on someone. That someone might be you. What’s most important about your response is not the fact of the complaint, but how you handle the difficult situation.

Answer: 

I would listen to the complaint and do my best to resolve it. I would continue to treat the patient with courtesy and professionalism and take the complaint to a higher-up if that seems appropriate. Unless the patient’s request is unreasonable or outside the boundaries of my job, I would do my best to accommodate it.

11. Do you have any questions for me?

Always come prepared with questions. It’s best to have a few questions you’ve planned out beforehand and develop a couple based on what the hiring manager says during the interview. That shows that you’ve been paying attention and are genuinely interested in the position and facility.

A word of caution: Don’t ask a question that your interviewer has already addressed, even if it’s one you've prepared. However, you could ask her to tell you more about the project, initiative, or whatever the question concerns. Just be sure to make it clear that you know she addressed it and want to know more about it.

Answer:

Example #1: Can you tell me about the day-to-day responsibilities I’ll be performing?

Example #2: You mentioned that the cardio wing is expanding. How might that expansion affect my role as a cardio nurse?

FAQs for Nursing Interviews

• What should I wear for a nursing interview?

Most sources recommend dressing formally for a nursing interview, meaning a business suit for both women and men. However, some suggest that entry-level nurses may opt for something a bit more casual, such as slacks and a nice blouse.

• What qualities should a nurse have?

There are plenty of personal attributes and qualities that are important for nurses to have. Among others, they include, empathy, problem-solving, communication, attention to detail, self-awareness, and interpersonal skills.

• How do I prepare for a nursing interview?

Practicing your responses to these questions is a good starting point. Ask a friend or family member to roleplay as the interviewer and offer feedback on your responses. It should be somehow who can give you honest feedback that will help you hone your answers. You should also research the employer and the surrounding community and be prepared to discuss qualities of yourself, such as your strengths and weaknesses. Also, be ready for different scenarios, such as a series of one-on-one interviews or a panel interview.

• How do I prepare for a nursing phone interview?

Phone interviews are screening interviews to determine whether or not the employer wants to bring you in for a face-to-face meeting. You can expect them to be much shorter than in-person interviews. Still, you should be prepared to discuss some basic information and qualities about yourself, such as your educational background and work history, clinical experience, and nursing aspirations.

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