Nursing Interview Guide Cheat Sheet

As nurses, we don’t always have time to read through a complete guide. Here’s a cheat sheet on nursing interviews to help you out in a pinch.

Before You Show Up

Once you’ve set up the time and place for the job interview, here’s what to do before you go:

  • Know what it says in the job description about: 
    • Preferred qualifications
    • Skills and responsibilities
    • Information about the company
    • Job details
  • Research the company
  • Dress appropriately
  • Bring any documents you submitted in the application, like a cover letter, resume, or references list.

Read more about this stage in the interview process in Nursing Interviews Decoded Part 1 – Before You Show Up

How to Answer Questions

There’s an art to answering interview questions, and a lot of it has to do with following a formula and making it personal:

  • Use your own personal experiences as examples
  • Be positive
  • Answer the “why”
  • Control your body movement and don’t fidget
  • Maintain comfortable and confident eye contact
  • Practice interviewing.

Read more about how to build a strategy to answer questions in Nursing Interviews Decoded Part 2 – How to Answer Questions

Tell Us About Yourself

Interviewers want to know if your cultures, personality, and values match the culture and values of their company. These types of questions will ask about your motivations, your goals, your strengths and weaknesses, and your wants. 

Some quick tips to remember when answering these questions:

  • Don’t restate your resume
  • Don’t get too personal
  • Don’t monologue
  • Personalize your response to the interviewer or company
  • Be specific and avoid generalizations
  • Use personal and professional examples
  • Stay focused on a few important points

Example question: Tell me about yourself.

Example answer: I’ve been in nursing school at [university] for the past few years and just recently passed the NCLEX-RN exam. During school, I worked part-time as an LPN in a rehab facility during swing shift. I loved the variety of skills I used and learned while working with patients gaining their independence back. 

Now that I have my RN license and have done clinicals in a variety of specialties, I’ve found that I’m most interested in working with [this patient demographic], and I know your facility is one of the best in the state.

Other questions in this category include the following:

  • What are your strengths and/or weaknesses?
  • Why did you become a nurse?
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Read more about how to answer these types of questions in Nursing Interviews Decoded Part 3 – Tell Us About Yourself

How Well Do You Work With Others?

Your potential employer wants to know how well you handle conflict and work in a team with colleagues, patients, and patient family members. Answering these types of questions will rely heavily on your past experiences with these attributes. 

When you think of how to answer, think of experiences that help show the following attributes:

  • Problem-solving
  • Patience
  • Conflict management
  • Good communication skills
  • Prioritization

Example question:  How did you handle a difficult patient?

Example answer: When I used to work at a blood donation center, we used to have donors come in who would get very frustrated when they were deferred during the screening process. Whenever I would defer someone, whether they seemed like they would become angry or not, I would take the time to tell them that I was very sorry. I would explain that we weren’t able to take their blood at this time and tell them why as clearly and as simply as I could.

I found that explaining the situation usually helped people feel a lot less frustrated. Staying calm and sympathetic when someone was understandably frustrated, helped them also stay calm.

Other questions in this category include the following:

  • How did you handle a difficult family member?
  • Do you consider yourself a team player?
  • What would you do if a coworker wasn’t practicing safe practices?
  • How do you handle conflict with other health care professionals?
  • Other questions in this category include the following:

Read more about how to answer these types of questions in Nursing Interviews Decoded Part 4 – How Well Do You Work With Others?

Can You Do the Job?

These types of questions are for the interviewer to determine whether or not you can do the job responsibilities and duties that will be required of you and how well you work under stress.

If you don’t have experience with a skill or job duty that is listed as preferred on the job description or that they ask you about directly, give an answer that shows them that you are eager and willing to learn new skills.

Example question:  What is an example of a time where you didn’t know what to do at work?

Example answer: When I was working as an agency nurse, I had my first med pass shift at a rehab facility I’d never been to before. When reviewing what patients I had for the day, I noticed a patient needed his medication given via his PEG tube. 

Since I hadn’t had to care for a patient with a PEG tube for many years, I immediately went and asked one of the full-time nurses working the same floor for help in reviewing the facility’s policies in giving medication via PEG. When I went to give the patient their scheduled medication an hour later, I felt confident in doing it correctly. 

Other questions in this category include the following:

  • Do you have any experience with [this skill]?
  • What is an example of a time where you didn’t know what to do at work?
  • Describe a time that was very stressful. How did you handle it?
  • Why should we hire you?

Read more about how to answer these types of questions in Nursing Interviews Decoded Part 5 – Can You Do the Job?

What About Job Details?

Usually near the end of the interview, the interviewer will ask you questions about basic information for the potential job, like when you can start, what sort of pay you expect, and what sort of shift availability you have.

These questions can be some of the toughest ones for some people. Here are some tips on answering them:

  • If you have to give a number for a potential salary, give a range that’s higher than you expect and be willing to negotiate. 
  • If the job description lists specific shifts you’re interested in, don’t commit to working other types of shifts if you aren’t interested in them.
  • Don’t provide details the interviewer doesn’t need unless asked.
  • If you aren’t sure about something, let them know you’ll find out.
  • Be honest and upfront.
  • Don’t be afraid to put yourself first and negotiate for what you’re worth.

Question: What are you looking for in terms of salary?

Answer: I’m open to a salary that matches my experience and qualifications. Ideally, I’ve been looking for something between $60,000 and $70,000.

Other questions in this category include the following:

  • What shifts are you available to work?
  • Can you work weekends?
  • When can you start?

Read more about how to answer these types of questions in Nursing Interviews Decoded Part 6 – What About Job Details?

Do You Have Questions for Us?

Changing gears, these are questions that you can ask your interviewers to learn more about the job and the company you’ve applied for.

Here are some questions that you might consider asking:

  • How did your company take care of staff and patients during COVID-19?
  • How would you describe the culture here?
  • How do you give feedback to staff if there’s an issue or they’ve made a mistake?
  • How do you measure success during annual performance reviews?
  • What are your staffing ratios like?
  • What do you like about working here?
  • How would you describe your management style?
  • What would a typical shift be like?
  • What are the next steps after this?
  • What are your on-call/overtime/weekend rotation policies?
  • Are there any opportunities for further education or training?

Read more about how to answer these types of questions in Nursing Interviews Decoded Part 7 – Do You Have Any Questions for Us?

After the Interview

After the interview is finished, you have the following to do: write a thank you letter and followup email appropriately.

An example template for a thank you letter is shown below:

Hi [interviewer’s name],

Thank you so much for inviting me to interview with you for [job position] yesterday. It was great meeting with you in person. I appreciate being considered for the position and for you taking the time to talk with me.

After working as a nurse in the PACU for the last three years, I loved seeing the level of care and attention to detail that you and your unit has when caring for patients. You mentioned that the unit was working with research groups to improve patient outcomes, and if selected, I’d love to be a part of that as much as needed.

If you have any questions about my resume, or anything that came up in the interview, please let me know. I’m looking forward to hearing from you soon. Have a wonderful day!

Thank you,

[Your name]

An example template for a followup email is shown below:

Hello [interviewer’s name],

This is [your name]. I interviewed for [this position] on July 2, and I remember you told me to expect to hear back in about a week. I just wanted to follow up and see if there’s an update on the status for [that position]. I’m looking forward to hearing back from you. Thank you for your time!

Have a great day,

[Your name]

Read more about this stage in the interview process in Nursing Interviews Decoded Part 8 – After the Interview