Interview Questions

Some people hate interviews. Some people don’t mind them. And most people hate nursing school interview questions. What both groups of people have in common is that they want to know what to expect when they go in for an interview with Human Resources, their potential Charge Nurse, Nurse Manager, or Nurse Director.  The unknown nursing school interview questions you will be asked during your interview is the scariest part of all this.  Will you be prepared enough to answer their questions? Will you have the correct answer? Will you go off on a rant and ramble through your answers? Are you saying the right thing? Are you going to say the wrong thing? These are just some of the questions you may have been asking yourself over the last few weeks after you finally received that call/email from HR.

Nursing Interview Tips is here to help make this interview question process a bit more bearable. The interview questions and answers below will help steer you in the right direction and help you to win the Nursing job you’ve been yearning for!  These are also in no particular order, so please don’t take this as a scripted interview.  You may get one of these questions, all of them, or none of them! We will try to cover our bases as best as we can!

Disclaimer: There will be a lot of rhetorical questions in these answers.  They are meant to get you thinking and formulate your own response.  Nursing is a tough field that employs some of the smartest people in the world. It is far from a cookie cutter scenario with black & white answers.  We trust you will be able to come up with successful answers to these nursing interview questions.

Question 1 – Tell me about yourself

Okay so this isn’t really a question, but it is generally the first thing that comes up in all interviews regardless of industry. This is not an opportunity to tell your life story about how you won your High School Volleyball Championship back in 76′, even though you were an awesome setter.  The interviewer is trying to gauge your character and personality.  Talk briefly about your hobbies, where you went to school, what other professional experience you may have, what your career goals are, etc. It does not have to be long and elaborate, but don’t read off a script like a robot would.

Question 2 – What kind of nursing experience do you have?

This is more or less self-explanatory for the more experience nurses who are already in the middle of their nursing career.  Backtrack your previous 5-10 years and talk about the different hospitals/clinics you worked at.  You want to show your expertise and experience that you are the right candidate for the job.

For the folks just out of high school or college, this is a tough question to answer. You will need to fall back on your school work. What clinicals did you have? Where did you attend them? What are some of the courses or projects you worked on?  Go into as much detail as you can because you are going to be competing with some of the more experienced nurses.

Question 3 – So why do you want to work here?

Don’t say for the money. Everyone likes money, but this is not what you say unless you want a very short interview.  If you are unfamiliar with where you are applying, then research the hospital or clinic and commend them for any awards they may have won or recognition they received (this shows you did your homework!). You will want to keep your answers about the hospital/clinic positive and connect them back to your career goals to show you want to continue to advance your nursing career.

Question 4 – What are your opinions of your previous boss?

Be careful! This is a character question. Whether you had a great Nurse Manager or an awful one, keep your answer positive always! The last thing you want to do is start talking negatively about a previous employer. It shows a lot about someone’s character.  What did you learn from your previous employer? Did they teach you better time management? Did they teach you a new procedure you may not known about? How did your previous Nurse Manager make you better?

Question 5 – What would your previous boss say about you?

Flip-flopping from the previous question, what opinions do you think your previous boss will have about you? Look back at the amount of time you spent in your previous nursing role. Do you think you were a team player? What could have you improved on? Chances are, if you had a good relationship with your Nurse Manager or Directory, they are going to say good things about you.  Were you a hard worker? Did you clock in on time each day you were scheduled?

Question 6 – Why are you leaving your current position?

Be honest. Did you feel like you were hitting a wall? Did you stop learning? You want to show your new Nurse Manager that you are up for a new challenge. You want to prove to them that you are a go-getter who wants to continue to better themselves. Regardless of the reason for leaving, even if it was bad, always remain positive.  Don’t say you are leaving because you hated your previous boss or because you weren’t compensated enough. It will make you look bad and most certainly halt any chances of earning this job.

Question 7 – What are your greatest strengths & weaknesses?

Ah, the strength & weakness question. One of the most feared questions in any job interview. I’m sure you can talk for hours about your strengths.  You’re a hard worker, you’re dedicated and motivated, nobody is better than you at putting in an IV, etc. But what about weaknesses? Do you say that you are a perfectionist and pay too much attention to detail so your work might be a little slower than others (The classic switcheroo)? Or do you come out and actually say what a weakness of yours is?  Maybe you’re terrible at time management. Who knows.

There are a couple ways to look at this question. Is the interviewer looking for someone who is aware of their faults? Or are they looking for someone who can talk some good BS? If it’s the former, the interviewer will respect you more for knowing and identifying your faults.  If it’s the latter, it could go either way.  The interviewer might be impressed with your answer or think you’re full of crap.  This is the type of question where you need to read the interviewers body language and have an idea of their personality to answer correctly.

Question 8 – What was the most difficult situation you had to deal with and how did you handle it?

Sit down and brainstorm for a little while. Write them down. Was a patient giving you a hard time? Was a patient’s family member giving you a hard time? Were you juggling 4 patients at once and had to determine who to care for in a specific priority order? There are millions of difficult situations out there that can’t all be covered in this single answer.  Think long and hard about a time you were truly stressed out over a situation and ended up coming out on top.

Question 9 – How would you handle a difficult doctor?

Doctors are obviously very intelligent people. They wouldn’t be where they are if they weren’t. But… they are not always right. Nurses are the people with their boots on the ground in the trenches getting *bleep* done! So were you ever in a situation where a doctor recommended a certain medication that you knew was not in the best interest of the patient? You want to approach this question in a way that shows the interviewer that you are a team player, but you can also stand your ground if you believe there is a better solution.

Question 10 – Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Another standard interview question that is asked across all industries.  Undoubtably, this can be a difficult question to answer. Some people don’t know where they see themselves tomorrow. You need to ask yourself: What is my next career goal? Do you want to be an Assistant Nurse Manager? A Nurse Manager? A Nurse Practitioner? Do you plan on going back to school? Starting a family? You want to show the interviewer you have the motivation to work towards something and that you are not going to be simply floating through life.  Hospitals & clinics are businesses at the end of the day. They are investing in you. And they want to know they are going to have a good return on their investment.

Question 11 – What are your salary requirements?

Don’t give a number. We can write for days on negotiation tactics, but this is not what you’re here for. You want to show the interviewer you are more interested in the role rather than the compensation. That is the most important thing for you to remember. You may want to jump the gun and say “Well I made X at my previous hospital, so it only makes sense that I make Y here.” No. Don’t. Please don’t. At the very least, you want to say that you’re willing to hear what the salary range is for the position you’re applying for.  Hopefully you did your research prior and have an idea of what a fair compensation package should look like.  If you don’t like the numbers they give, move on to the next question.  You can also negotiate later.

Question 12 – What motivates you to be a nurse?

Some of the more experienced nurses may be thinking, “Well I’ve been doing it for 20 years so I figure I should keep going!” Even if you have that attitude, you need to reach deep down and think about what made you want to become a nurse.  Was seeing the smile on a patient’s or family member’s face enough to make you keep coming back into work each day? Was it your coworkers that you worked with? Or are you passionate about the field? Remember, always remain positive. This is your chance to put some energy in your answer and wake up your interviewer.

Question 13 – Why should we hire you?

“Because I want to work here,” is not the right thing to say. You are an awesome, go-getting, hard-working, rootin’ tootin’ kickass person who wants nothing more than to care for their patients and bring them back to 100%. That’s why they should hire you. You’re dedicated, you’re motivated, you strive to be better. You want to make it so the interviewer is thinking it would be a huge mistake letting you walk out that door.

Question 14 – What did you hate most about your previous job?

Be careful! This is also a character question. Remember, “hate” is a strong word. It should take a lot for you to legitimately hate something.  You can start by saying that you didn’t hate anything specifically, but you do need to find something that was not-so-good.  Did you have to travel at all? Did you have to work too many holidays back to back? Were you putting in too many hours because the floor was understaffed?

Question 15 – Was there ever a time you didn’t get along with another nurse?

The fact is, some people just don’t get along. It happens. It’s life. But should that affect the workplace? Absolutely not. Think about a situation you had where you had a disagreement with one of your fellow nurses.  How did you resolve it? How did you both come to a solution to the issue you were facing? You want to be able to show the interviewer that you are a problem solver and not a problem creator.

Question 16 – What are your hobbies?

Remember in question 1 we told you not to go into too much detail?  That’s because this question will usually come up.  This is where you can talk about your off-hours extracurriculars.  Do you like going to the gym? Going to movies? Maybe you love traveling? Do you like competing in the annual soap box derby? What’s your favorite sport or sports team? These are all fair game. How interesting are you?

Question 17 – How would you handle a procedure you’re not familiar with?

Don’t say “eh, I’d just wing it!”  That would be bad!  You would probably want to ask one of the more senior nurses for help if they are around first.  Next, are there any steps or information on the hospital intranet/computer? The purpose of this question is so the interview can gauge how much of a problem solver you are. And also if you’d get into any trouble!

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