Sitting for a nursing job interview can be a nerve-racking experience. Not only will you have to face a barrage of uncomfortable questions, but you will also have to deal with the anxiety of knowing that your response to those questions could make or break your chances of getting the job.
Common Nursing Job Interview Questions (with answers)
While nursing interview questions can vary depending on the employer or manager’s needs, the questions below are common, and you stand a good chance of being asked some of them during the interview.
What’s the hardest decision you’ve had to make recently (in nursing school or on the job)?
When employers ask this question, they are trying to see how you will react when put on the spot. They are also trying to gauge what you perceive to be a difficult situation.
Therefore, try to think of a situation from a previous job that you found difficult, but then talk about how your decision was right. If you have never worked at a job before, think back to a time in clinicals when you and/or a preceptor faced a difficult decision.
- For example, perhaps there was a time when a patient wasn’t doing well, and your nursing intuition told you that something wasn’t right. You had mixed feelings about calling the doctor to report it, but you went with your gut, and it turned out you were right.
What are your future career goals, and how will this position allow you to achieve them?
If you haven’t noticed, nursing is a very goal-driven profession. When we create care plans, we’re thinking about patient goals. We have goals for our units, too. Therefore, it’s only natural that some employers are going to ask you about your career goals.
Here’s the big thing: Avoid acting like the job for which you are applying is just a temporary thing and that you hope to move on to something bigger and better soon. It costs a lot of time and money for a company to hire and train a new nurse, so they don’t want to hear that you’re not going to be committed to the job.
Instead, focus on the career goals that will align with that particular organization. For example, say that you’d like to obtain additional certification in that specific area of nursing and possibly advance to a leadership position within that organization in the future.
How do you define great patient care?
It’s important for you to know that great patient care is major focus for most healthcare organizations, especially since The Affordable Care Act instituted a system that financially rewards hospitals based on patient satisfaction surveys. Therefore, it’s important to emphasize that as a nurse, you’re going to be ALL ABOUT THE PATIENT!
You might want to say, “I believe great patient care means that you are patient-centered, which means that you address their concerns and respond as quickly as you can to their needs. It means that you take time to educate them so that when they leave, they felt as if you took good care of them and would recommend your facility to others.”
You might want to add personal anecdotes of how you’ve gone above and beyond for a patient in the past.
Describe a mistake you made on the job (or in clinicals), and how you handled it.
No one likes to re-live his or her nursing mistakes, but you really need to go into the interview with an example of an honest mistake that you’ve made in the past. However, avoid mistakes that make you look incompetent or that would cause potential legal issues.
For example, mention a time you made a simple charting error that you were able to correct. Alternatively, perhaps there was a time when you collected a lab specimen, and the specimen became contaminated.
Be sure to include the details of the steps you had to take to correct the mistake, and how you learned how to avoid it in the future.
Describe a time when a coworker or manager made you upset.
If you are asked a question like this, keep two things in mind:
- You don’t want to come across as a petty drama queen (or king), a gossip, or a troublemaker.
- Don’t talk trash about your former coworkers or boss.
Instead, try to keep it as professional as possible, and think of something that affected patient care or the nursing team, such as a time when a coworker obstructed workflow for the team, or arrived late, or didn’t give proper report.
Be ready to address how you handled the situation, too.
Describe the most valuable constructive criticism a former manager or charge nurse has given you.
This question might be phrased like this, “What’s your biggest fault as a nurse?”
Think of something that you can improve on, but again, avoid saying something that makes you appear incompetent.
Try to include a personal anecdote or story, but stick with a theme that…
- You’re a perfectionist
- You push yourself too hard
- You sometimes get emotional when a patient suffers
Finish your answer by saying that it is something that you have been improving as a nurse.
What attracted you to our organization?
If you are asked why you want to work for that particular organization, you’ll want to give a good, researched answer. So make sure that you do your homework and research the organization a bit.
Each organization will have its own focus or motto. Look into the company’s history, and incorporate that into your answer.
For example, if a company really advertises patient care, you could say something like this: “One thing I love about this organization is that you are really focused on patient care, and I love that; it’s one of my strengths.”
Here are some other things you can mention, if relevant:
- The company has a great reputation in the community, and you’ve heard great things from both patients and other nurses
- Perhaps the company has won any recent awards or received positive publicity
- Perhaps the facility has Magnet status
- Perhaps the facility has a great training/teaching system in place
- Perhaps the company has many opportunities for advancement
What’s the most important quality a nurse can have?
When asked this question, think about what it is that really drives you as a nurse, whether it’s a hard work ethic, attention to detail, a love for helping people, etc. You might even want to think back to your grueling semesters in nursing school, and try to think about what it was that motivated you to get through so that you could work as a nurse.
For me, it’s helping people. So, I would probably answer this question by saying that, of course I think it is important to have competence in your nursing clinical skills, but the most important skill that a nurse can have is to genuinely want to help people, to want to see patients get well.
How would you handle a rude physician or supervisor?
Here’s how I would answer this question: “I would try to remember that you never know what is going on in a person’s life that could be causing them to be rude. They could be going through a personal issue or having a bad day.
So, I’d try to maintain a professional attitude and overlook it. As the Bible says, “A soft word turneth away wrath.” However, if someone has a consistent problem with being rude, then I’d confront them in a professional way, and if that didn’t work, I’d talk to a supervisor or manager.”
Why are you a good candidate for this job?
This is always a tough question, and you’ll want to speak from the heart, but here are some things you might to incorporate into your answer:
- Your credentials if you have any
- Your passion or interest in that specific specialty or industry of nursing
- Your love for people
- Team player
- Strive for hard work and professional attitude
- Love learning new things and growing
- Your credentials if you have any
- Experience and knowledge
- It can help me grow
In addition, a good tip is to study up on the relevant information for the specialty for which you’re applying, just in case you are asked a question about it. This includes information such as:
- Proper skills procedures
- Relevant lab values
- Nursing interventions
Final Tips on Nursing Job Interviews
Nursing interview questions can be nerve-racking, but you can shine during the interview by going into it with a prepared mindset. I highly recommend doing a mock interview with someone to practice common interview questions.
Allow the person to throw you off by asking some random questions and follow-up questions, too. This will help ease your anxiety and condition your mind so that you can respond in a confident, professional manner.