Top 15 Commonly Asked Nursing Interview Questions

Top 15 Commonly Asked Nursing Interview Questions

Few careers offer as strong career satisfaction as nursing does. Above-average pay and flexible schedules are common benefits; however, for most, the opportunity to impact the lives of others is at the top of the list. You’ve decided on the career – now how do you ace your interview? Most applicants do not take the time to prepare responses to commonly asked questions – put in the work now, and you’ll land the interview later.

1. Why Did You Decide to Become a Nurse?

Here’s your opportunity to share your story. Create a dialogue that engages and captures the attention of your interviewer. Nursing is a difficult career – a high stakes game. Share life experiences that have helped mold you into the person you are. 

Allow your response to illustrate some qualities that are complementary to a nurse: compassion, patience, empathy, and clear communication. While being descriptive is essential – be sure to not overshare. The interviewer doesn’t need an exact timeline of how life has brought you to this point, but noting significant experiences will be valuable in your effort to paint a visual.

2. Are You a Team Player?

Dealing with diverse groups of individuals daily probably wasn’t a core course in nursing school. Nevertheless, it is a large part of being a nurse. An ideal candidate will be a team player that can focus both on assigned duties but also be mindful that he/she is part of a team. During times of high stress, the interviewer will want to know that you can do what is required without hesitation or the need for praise. 

Problem-solving and perseverance toward a common goal will be a large portion of your efforts as a nurse. Consider sharing a time when you’ve excelled at collaborating in a team environment with positive results. If you normally perform better as a solo act, that’s OK to share as well. Simply follow that up by noting you realize teamwork is an essential and necessary component of success in the workplace.

3. Describe a Time When You Conflicted with a Co-Worker.

Nurses interact daily with patients, family, co-workers, and doctors — each requiring a different style of communication. Conflict is bound to happen. How have you handled disputes before? Can you navigate the situation calmly and proactively? What conflict-resolution strategies have you practiced successfully in the past?

Admitting that you’ve dealt with some type of conflict is encouraging. Be brief, avoid placing blame, and describe the event from a neutral ground.  The interviewer wants to see how you navigated the situation and initiated a resolution.  Creating a response that confidently displays you are able to navigate conflicting waters if similar issues arise within their organization is the goal. 

4. Describe a Time When You’ve Dealt with a Difficult Patient.  

Dealing with a difficult patient is an unavoidable part of being a nurse. An employer will be drawn to a candidate that answers this question in a positive manner. Show that you are empathetic to their individual situation. How was it a learning experience? Were you able to see the patient’s perspective? Did you strive to learn more about the patient? If so, how did that help you navigate the situation? Showing the interviewer that you can be compassionate will be key to nailing this interview question.

5. Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

Here’s the deal: Employers know that you might not know the answer to this question during your interview. Asking this question provides them insight as to what kind of employee you’d be. The hiring process involves multiple departments and isn’t cheap. In essence, employers need to visualize how your career and personal goals align with the organization. Consider highlighting specific professional development or continued learning opportunities that you’d enjoy participating in. Mention areas you want to improve upon over the next few years and how this job will help.

6. Do You Have [Skill, Experience, or Certification] in [Specific Procedure or Practice]?

If you don’t have the skill or experience in a specific area or type of practice, that’s OK! Express your willingness to learn and that you understand the importance of continuing your education. This might also be a great opportunity to mention that you are a quick learner and always eager to add to your skillset. 

If you happen to be experienced in the application mentioned, be ready to provide details. How, when, and where did you learn the skill? Do you practice it often? Are you willing to train others? How does knowing this skill make you a better nurse? Advances in knowledge and technology grant continual evolution to practices in the workplace. An employer needs to know that even if you bring a large, packed toolbox worth of skills to the job, you are still willing to grow and evolve.

7. How Would You Handle a Disagreement with a Doctor?

In an ideal situation, confrontations would be void of the workplace. Unfortunately, this is not the case. An important component to remember: you are not inferior. Do you understand your value? Nurses and doctors have different credentials; however, they are equally important in the patient care equation. 

Are you able to navigate difficult conversations? Can you effectively share opinions without offending? It’s important to remember that no one is perfect – we all have limitations and days that our stress levels are high. Employers want to see that you can look past differences and still get the job done.

8. In Your Opinion, What Is the Best Way to Motivate a Nurse to Perform at their Best?

You can answer this question in one of two ways. Consider sharing what motivates you. What helps you thrive in a working environment? Is it the number of professional development opportunities offered? Is it the advanced technologies adopted to help make jobs easier? Be open and share what conveniences or joys get to you perform your best every day. 

The second option is for you to describe a time in which you’ve motivated a co-worker to do better. We all have days we fall short and struggle — what have you done in the past to encourage others? Did you cover and allow someone 10 more minutes of break? Did you do a few extra tasks to take a bit off their plate? Either route you go, you’ll want to mention the importance of self-care and stress management. As a nurse, you face many battles, the employer will want to know that you are prepared to conquer.

9. How Would You Handle a Disease Outbreak?

While not always considered a common question, this one is becoming quite repetitive in interviews. Nurses must be able to adapt and even thrive in unique situations. Each day of work will look different from the last —  be sure to communicate that you are down for the challenge. As a nurse, being committed to the job means long shifts, high stress, inconsistent environments, and putting the care of your patient first.

10. Why Are You Transitioning Out of Your Current Position?

This is a tough one. You’ll want to be careful to keep the conversation positive. Do not use this time to spread rumors or place blame. What you will want to do is highlight lessons learned, your desire for growth, and your ability to commit. Making a move from one job to another isn’t easy. As new policies, procedures, and environments are introduced, employers will want to know that you learn quickly!

11. Your Replacement Doesn’t Show for a Shift — What Do You Do?

The employer is seeking to determine how committed you are to your responsibilities. Do you still leave without reporting to your replacement or know that coverage has been found? You can highlight your ability to problem-solve when answering this question. What are the options? What action steps can immediately be taken, such as contacting your supervisor? Employers ask this question to gauge how willing a candidate is to go the extra mile.

12. As a Caregiver, What Is One of Your Weaknesses?

Don’t be shy. Give the interviewer what they asked for. Remember that weaknesses are only opportunities for growth. You’ll want to focus on the positive and how you’re working on growing as a nurse and solutions-oriented. Answering this question also allows you to show a large amount of confidence in yourself, which is an important characteristic of a nurse. Can you own up to your shortcomings? Do you have an action plan ready to implement?

13. What Makes You Want to Work for Us?

You’ll have to do your homework for this interview question. An employer values an employee that wants to align their values and skills with the needs of an organization. As a candidate that has done their research, you’ll be able to share briefly what draws you to their organization. Refrain from mentioning money or the fact that you need a job — both parties already know those factors play a role. Take this unique opportunity to compliment the organization and remind the interviewer of what you can bring to the table. 

14. Why Are You the Best Candidate for this Position?

This is an uncomfortable question for most. No one wants to boast, but this is your time to remind the employer of your strengths. You’ve probably already mentioned some: the ability to be a team player, passionate about your career, etc. but don’t be afraid to plug a few of these ideal characteristics again. Focus your comments on how working for the employer will enable you to the best version of yourself. 

Even if you are the best, the idea that you are stagnant will be a turn-off. Note how employment at this organization will allow you room to grow and improve. At times, there is an urgent need to fill a position. If this is the case, be sure to communicate your ability to be flexible and move forward promptly.

15. Do You Have Any Questions?

Yes — you absolutely have questions! Strive to have a few questions ready to ask — two or three is plenty. Write them down ahead of time and bring them into the interview. This is an easy way to show your interest and motivation. Don’t know what to ask? Perhaps you can ask about the nurse-to-patient ratio or how charting is handled? You can even inquire as to the next steps in the hiring process. Refrain from asking about salary. Luckily, you probably already have a decent idea of what your pay would be. These numbers might even be mentioned during the interview. Asking about them directly, however, shifts the mindset of the interviewer from connecting with you to logistics.

Ready for Your Interview?

As with any interview, come professionally dressed, refreshed, and energetic. If you are still working, try to schedule your meeting on a day off. You want your full attention focused on the interview about to happen. If you have references, consider bringing their contact information along as well. 

Employers are seeking to establish working relationships with individuals that are dedicated, compassionate, and humble. You’ve also got to be a team player and solutions-focused. In preparation, if you formulate answers that highlight a few of these attributes, you are sure to stand out from the crowd.

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