Supercharge your healthcare career by acing these common questions!
Ready to dip your toes into the world of healthcare? Once you’ve applied for a nursing job and landed an interview, you need to prepare answers to nursing interview questions. You don’t want to stumble over your words and bumble through the event. Just like on the actual job, during the interview you need to be cool, calm, and prepared for anything the hiring manager has to throw at you.
So, you’ve passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and you’re about to launch your nursing career. Alternatively, maybe you’ve been working in the sector for a matter of years and you’re ready for a brand new challenge. Either way, you will need to ace your nursing interview before you get the job. Luckily, we’ve got you covered here.
At Resume.io, we have everything you need to boost your career prospects STAT. No matter how far along you are in your nursing career, we’ve got expert-backed advice to help you excel. Within this guide, we will cover the following topics:
- Popular nursing interview questions that you may be asked
- Example answers for each of the nurse interview questions
- Handy statistics and research to help empower your job search
- The questions you should ask the hiring manager at your interview.
The most common nursing interview questions and answers
Before you put on your glad rags and head to the interview, you need to do a little homework. Getting to grips with the most common nursing interview questions won’t take you too long. In this section, we’ve included the questions that you may well get asked along with some example answers. Why not practice your responses ahead of time?
1. “Tell me about yourself.”
First up, it’s one of the most open-ended nursing interview questions: “Tell me about yourself.” When the interviewer utters these four words, they want to know what makes you right for the job and what you plan to bring to the table.
While it’s most likely the first thing a recruiter will ask you, this question requires an in-depth yet concise answer. You don’t want to do a whole soapbox speech, but you do need to let the interviewer know that you have what it takes to succeed.
I recently graduated from nursing school and have a 3.53 GPA. While studying I volunteered at a child care facility where I learned a wealth of hands-on customer care skills. As part of my education, I undertook a placement at a local hospital and received positive feedback from my superiors. During this time, I was commended on my initiative and unfaltering dedication to providing patient clarity and communication.
I have experience in managing tough workloads and prioritizing different patients’ needs. While this can be a difficult part of the job, I always keep a cool head and approach challenges using logic. I am currently looking for a permanent position at a teaching hospital, where I can hone my skills and work hard to deliver top results.
2. “What makes you a good nurse?”
You’ve answered one of the most difficult nursing interview questions. Now it’s time to showcase your passion for the sector. When a recruiter asks you what makes you a good nurse, they are really asking what motivates you. Highlight the core reason you chose this career, the caring attributes you have, and any special skills you’ve got under your belt. Don’t be afraid to throw in some anecdotes to back up any of your claims here.
I’ve always been a naturally caring person and — as a teenager — I helped look after my sick grandmother in her final months. Shortly afterward, I volunteered at the hospice that had looked after her on a part-time basis. It was there that I realized my dream to become a nurse.
I am well-suited to the position as I understand the care system well, have a nurturing approach to patient support, and know how to manage my time. I can handle difficult situations with ease and will always put the comfort of patients before anything else.
3. “What are your strengths?”
When we talk about nursing job interview questions, it’s important not to overlook the generic ones. Chances are, the recruiter will throw in the odd “ what are your strengths” question to get a general feel for you as an employee. Here’s your chance to toot your own horn. For every skill that you list, be sure to back it up with some supporting evidence.
If you want to stand out from the crowd — and you absolutely do — include your Unique Selling Point (USP). What do you have that other candidates do not? For instance, you may have an in-depth knowledge of maternity care or end-of-life care. Be specific here!
I’m a natural-born problem-solver. When I come up against a difficult situation, I use logic to overcome the issue. For example, if I’m dealing with multiple patients who need help at the same time, I prioritize them in order of their needs and work my way through this list. I’ve found this to be the most effective way of supporting large groups of people.
Additionally, I have a deep knowledge of maternity care — having previously worked in a busy ward and having two children myself. I understand the strain that labor puts on mothers and am well-versed in how to tend to their needs. I also have a compassionate approach to patient care and am all-too-happy to talk them through intricate processes.
4. “Do you work well with other team members?”
If you want to make it in the fast-paced world of nursing, teamwork is an essential skill. Recruiters will want to know how to collaborate with others before sealing the deal. The key to answering this nursing interview question is highlighting your supporting skill set. That includes communication, intrapersonal skills, and the ability to adapt to others’ needs.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned working in a busy ER unit is the importance of communication. The moment new patients come in, we need to assess their priority levels and needs quickly. There’s not a moment to spare. I pride myself on my ability to effectively communicate well with doctors, nurses, and other medical staff.
The number one priority is always delivering the most appropriate care to each patient. I’ve learned that it takes a level of flexibility. By working alongside doctors and listening to their expert advice, I am able to offer the highest level of care and help to each one.
5. “How would you handle a difficult patient?”
Here’s one of the top questions to ask a nurse. When you’re working in healthcare, you’re on the frontline, dealing with patients. While that is often a fulfilling feat, you may come up against difficult people. Managing these patients’ expectations will take high levels of compassion, empathy, and communication. Try to draw upon a relevant experience you have had — if applicable – or imagine how you might deal with a fictitious scenario.
While working in a maternity ward, I dealt with a new mother who constantly demanded my attention. When I was doing my rounds, she kept calling me over and asking what I was doing or whether something was wrong. If I didn’t stop what I was doing immediately, she became irritable with me.
I quickly learned that the patient was struggling with anxiety and needed reassurance. At that point, I took a few minutes to sit with her and listen to her concerns. It turned out that she was worried about the health of her newborn. I provided her with resources to help her and offered a patient ear as she described her fears. After speaking to me, she was much calmer and no longer called me over while I was continuing my shift.
6. “How do you deal with workplace stress?”
Nursing is far from easy — and it can take its toll on your emotional health. 75 percent of nurses have experienced stress due to their job, according to recent data. So, when a recruiter is hiring, this is one of the most common questions to ask a nurse. You need to prove that you are resilient and know some stress-management techniques. Be honest about the approaches you have found useful and explain how they work for you.
Having worked as a nurse for five years, I’m no stranger to the demands of the job. Finding a work-life balance has always been important in managing my emotional health. To ‘switch off’ after a challenging shift, I find mindfulness meditation to be helpful. I actually use an app to meditate daily and get some grounding. In my free time, I enjoy swimming and exercising, which I find helps me to balance my stress levels.
During my nursing studies, I attended a seminar on stress management and the importance of self-regulation. The speaker gave advice on how to leave work at work and how to use your social support system. I’ve taken these vital lessons into my career.
7. “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
Among the most common nursing interview questions, you will find this classic. Employers expect you to have a five-year plan. This is their way of asking you what it is. While you don’t have to be ultra-specific, sharing your career vision is important.
The interviewer wants to know whether you enjoy nursing enough to stick with it. After all, if you’re looking to career hop some time soon, you will be a bad investment for them. With that in mind, be clear that you see a future for yourself within the healthcare sector.
In five years’ time, I would hope to be a senior nurse within your team, overseeing a few staff members. I noticed that you have career advancement opportunities in the job description and I would take the opportunity to bolster my leadership skills. Having honed my skills as a nurse, I would love the chance to share that knowledge with new trainees.
8. “How do you handle a crisis or an outbreak?”
As a nurse, you need to be prepared for every scenario. Dealing with an epidemic, pandemic, or any other outbreak is part of the job. If you have nursing experience in recent years, chances are, you have already dealt with the impact of COVID-19. You can draw upon this when answering the questions and you can comment on what you’ve learned. Interviewers want to know that you understand the safety procedures and can manage the workload.
Like all departments, mine felt pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our team had to work extra shifts to cover absences caused by staff members testing positive. While that was a challenge, we pulled together as a team and supported each other.
Since I had previous experience working with vulnerable adults, my manager put me in a busy ward with new inpatients. I was charged with sharing details with family members and general healthcare of those with the virus. Thanks to our seamless procedures, I was able to protect my own health — and that of those around me — while working in this ward. We were well-versed in which PPE to wear and the safety processes.
9. “What’s the hardest thing about being a nurse?”
Let’s not beat around the bush — nursing is hard. A massive 2.7 million nurses in the US feel burned out. When you enter this role, you will quickly learn that it can be extremely demanding. Your job includes long shifts, tiring work, and challenging scenarios. So, when an interviewer asks you this question, you need to show that you understand that fact. Layout why you believe that nursing is hard and demonstrate how you manage it.
To be honest, I believe that the emotional strain is the hardest part of nursing. When you’re dealing with patients and their families, it can be tough. You often have to deliver difficult news or support people in their darkest hours. I’ve found that the more mentally healthy I am, the better I can cope with these situations. For that reason, I focus on establishing a solid work-life balance and taking time out to rest when I need it.
10. “What do you find rewarding about being a nurse?”
It’s not all doom and gloom. Here’s one of the most likely nursing job interview questions you will get. Working in healthcare is extremely rewarding. When a hiring manager asks you this question, it’s time to show off how passionate you are about the role and why you do it. You may want to throw in a few anecdotes to back up this interview answer.
As a nurse, I support people during the toughest periods of their life. For me, being able to give patients peace of mind and hope when things are hard is endlessly rewarding. Helping to calm people’s fears and giving them the information that they need is always a pleasure. I realize that it is equally difficult for a patient’s family members so I also dedicate time to giving them the advice and support they need. I can’t imagine a more rewarding and fulfilling role — it is a career that keeps giving.
Questions you should ask the employer at a nursing interview
As your nursing interview draws to a close, the hiring manager may hit you with one final thing: “Do you have any questions?” The answer should be a resounding yes. Asking questions shows that you have a genuine interest in the position for which you’re applying.
Before you head to the interview, consider what you would like to know about the role. The more questions you can note down, the better. Here are some examples to think about:
- What training or career advancement programs do you offer here?
- What growth opportunities — if any — will be available for nurses?
- Can you tell me about the workplace culture at this hospital?
- What is your managerial style?
- How can I best prepare for a role within this hospital?
- How long are the shifts and how is the shift pattern determined?
- How do you measure success among your nursing staff?
- What is the company policy when it comes to overtime?
- What are the next steps in the interview and hiring process?
When the recruiter answers the above questions, be sure to practice active listening. It’s not only about you saying the right things. Demonstrate that you know how to take in information by asking follow-up questions and continuing the wider conversation.
1. Landing a nursing job doesn’t have to be hard. When you are qualified, make sure you know how to answer the common nursing interview questions.
2. Whenever possible, add evidence to your answers. That could be statistical backing or even anecdotes from your experience so far.
3. Prepare your answers well in advance and practice for your interview early on.
4. Make sure you have questions for the interviewer to show your interest in the role.