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Nurse Practitioner Interview Questions: The Complete Guide for Students, New Grads, & Seasoned Pros

Cheerful male job candidate shaking hands with female interviewer.

No matter where you are in your career journey, working as a nurse practitioner is a deeply fulfilling journey in a career field that allows you to make a real difference. But first, you’ll need to impress future employers with your initial interview. It’s your opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge, skills, and sheer passion for the field.

Thorough preparation is crucial to success in your upcoming NP interview. You’ll need to dig deep to determine why you’re committed to this career path and which qualities you bring to the table.

You’ll find it far easier to prepare if you have an idea of the kind of questions you'll encounter during this process. We’ve highlighted a variety of potential questions and scenarios you might encounter as you work toward your ideal future as a dedicated NP.

The 5 Types of Questions You’ll Encounter in a Nurse Practitioner Interview

Whether you’re applying to an NP program or searching for a new job, you’ll want to let the interviewer know as much about you as possible — both as a person and as a professional.

Hiring or admission decisions will be based not only on aptitude, but also on your character and work ethic. Efforts to discover these qualities will typically fall into one of five types of interview questions:

Type #1: Biographical Questions

Be prepared to answer several questions about your background. These will delve into your academic history and professional experience. Beyond this, however, the interviewer wants to understand your motives, values, and personality.

Examples of these types of questions include:

  • "What inspired you to seek a career as an NP?"
  • "How have your previous experiences in the field of healthcare influenced your goals for your work as an NP?"

Type #2: Critical Thinking & Behavioral Questions

Your interviewer wants to determine the steps you take to come to conclusions and how you support your ideas.

Examples of these types of questions include:

  • "What’s your approach for dealing with demanding patients?"
  • "What would you do if you disagreed with a doctor regarding a patient’s care?"

Type #3: Cultural Fit Questions

Part of the structure of an interview is to determine how well a candidate would fit with the current culture of a particular healthcare facility.

Examples of these types of questions include:

  • "What stands out the most about you as a student or employee?"
  • "What attracted you to our program or position?"

Type #4: Ethical Questions

From deciding which patient to treat first to knowing when to break confidentiality, a variety of ethical dilemmas may arise throughout your career. Interviewers want to know if you’ll resolve these issues based on industry — and legal — standards.

Examples of these types of questions include:

  • "A teenager asks for birth control and begs you not to tell her parents. What do you tell her?"
  • "You examine a child with extensive bruising who seems nervous to answer your questions with a parent in the room. What do you do?"

Type #5: Projective Questions

Unlike biographical questions, these tend to take a forward-thinking approach, determining not only where you stand right now, but also what your plans are for the future.

Examples of these types of questions include:

  • "Where do you see yourself in X years?"
  • "Which concepts or trends are you looking forward to becoming more prominent in the healthcare field?"
  • "How will attending our NP program help you achieve your long-term goals?"

The STAR Method: The Best Strategy for Answering Interview Questions

No single answer is appropriate in every situation, as the ideal response will be tailored to your unique background, goals, and personality. Instead, look to a strategy known as the STAR method to help you prepare for a variety of difficult questions. "STAR" stands for:

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Action
  • Result

Now, let's dive into the specifics of each element of the STAR acronym:

  • Situation: This references the context in which you accomplished something or faced a particular challenge. Provide details to help the interviewer understand the unique circumstances that influenced your response.
  • Task: What was your responsibility during the event in question? Why were you committed to fulfilling this duty?
  • Action: Describe how you were able to rise to the occasion. Focus on your response, rather than the actions of supervisors or fellow employees. How did you draw on your unique knowledge and abilities to provide a desirable resolution?
  • Result: Describe how the situation came to a close. When relevant, explain what you learned and how those takeaways will influence your future work as an NP.

Examples of Nurse Practitioner School Interview Questions & Answers

There’s a fine line between preparing for anticipated interview questions and reciting a script. The latter approach might cover all the details you want to convey, but at the risk of sounding stiff and unnatural. Drawing on the STAR method will help, but you’ll also want to understand how this concept can be put into action.

To help you prepare for your NP school interview without resorting to memorization, we’ve provided several examples of questions and answers. Use these as inspiration to dig deep and think carefully about why you’re a strong fit for NP school.

Biographical Questions

Question: “Why do you want to be an NP?”

“My decision to pursue a career as an NP was guided by my deep love for the nursing profession. I’ve wanted to be an RN since I was young, but I was still blown away when I landed my first full-time job by how much I enjoyed working with patients.

“I’m proud of the calm and compassionate bedside manner I’ve developed, as well as my ability to educate and motivate patients. I believe that I can make a greater difference as a primary care NP, as this role will allow me to get even more invested in my patients’ health.”

Question: “Tell me about yourself.”

“As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to work in healthcare. I first began to make progress toward this goal while attending the nursing program at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor. During this time, I had the opportunity to spend a summer in Australia, where I took several public health courses at the University of Adelaide.

“Currently, I am a primary care registered nurse with the Allina health system in Minnesota. I work at a small clinic, where I’m able to interact with a variety of patients. I’ve developed close relationships with several NPs and have been inspired by them to take this next big step in my career. I would like to continue in primary care, but with the additional knowledge and skills that studying to become an NP will bring.”

Critical Thinking & Behavioral Questions

Question: “Can you explain your personal philosophy of caregiving?”

“I believe that as a nurse and future NP, I hold the responsibility to provide research-backed, patient-centered care. I want to be a powerful advocate for my patients, as well as an asset to the wider community.”

Question: “Tell me about a time you faced a lot of stress and how you handled it.”

“While I was studying for my BSN, I completed my clinical at a local hospital. Early on in my experience shadowing a labor and delivery nurse, I was present for an emergency Cesarean section involving a breech baby. I was shocked by how quickly the situation went from under control to chaotic.

“While my duties remained basic during this rotation, I needed to use all my concentration to focus on assisting the nurse I was shadowing with charting. I used a breathing technique I’d learned in nursing school, which I continue to rely on in stressful situations to this day.”

Cultural Fit Questions

Question: “What made you decide to apply for this specific NP program?”

“I am passionate about mental health, so I wanted to enroll at a college offering specialized training for aspiring psychiatric NPs. I am also impressed by the emphasis on integrative mental health, which aligns with the philosophy of psychiatric care that I’ve developed while working at an outpatient clinic. I believe that this program will prepare me to help patients in times of crisis.”

Ethical Questions

Question: “You are completing a clinical rotation and disagree with the supervising NP about proper care for a particular patient. What do you do?”

“While I will hold greater autonomy when I take on an official role as an NP, during the clinical process I would defer to the supervising professional. However, I would also voice my concerns, citing any research or personal experiences that influence my opinion. If I suspected a significant ethical breach, I would file a complaint.”

Question: “What would you do if, during a clinical or other field experience, you observed a breach of ethics?”

“Despite my status as a student and not an official employee, I would feel that it is my duty to bring light to the issue for the sake of any patients that might be negatively impacted. Depending on how the breach transpired and who was involved, I would either bring my concerns to the department head or the compliance department. I would respectfully explain what I observed and why I feel it warrants follow-up action.”

Projective Questions

Question: “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”

“In 10 years, I would like to work for a major hospital system as an oncology NP. I expect that by then, I will have graduated and established myself as a trusted NP who goes the extra mile to serve patients as they face painful symptoms and stressful treatment protocols.”

Examples of Nurse Practitioner Job Interview Questions & Answers

Questions asked during a job interview may place a greater emphasis on the applicant’s career experience and recent academic achievements. As with NP school questions, however, top queries will typically fall into the following categories:

Biographical Questions

Question: “How did your previous work in the healthcare profession influence your decision to become an NP?”

“As an RN, I was impressed by the NPs at my clinic. They developed warm, trusting relationships with not only their patients, but also, with MDs, PAs, nurses, and technicians. I realized that, by pursuing further education, I could hold a similar level of influence. I’ve long admired the collaborative nature of the NP role and hope to emulate this quality as I enter the profession.”

Question: “Tell me about an inspiring person who has impacted your philosophy of healthcare.”

"My deep appreciation for integrative, patient-centered health was sparked by a professor in NP school, who cited compelling research and personal stories about the power of massage in hospice care. From there, I began to look into holistic care and take a deep dive into available evidence. I now believe that, depending on the context, a variety of research-backed interventions can be incorporated to improve patient comfort and long-term outcomes."

Critical Thinking & Behavioral Questions

Question: “What are your main strengths and weaknesses?”

"I sometimes spend too much time charting patient notes. This can make it difficult to abide by strict schedules and deliver care in a timely manner. That being said, this tendency is tied to my greatest strength: attention to detail. I want to be as thorough as possible, as I know that a strong medical chart leads to accurate diagnoses and effective treatments.

“To address this weakness, I’ve mastered several tech solutions, including automated systems and digital shortcuts. I’m also aware of charting needs throughout each shift, so I don’t leave it all to the end of the day.”

Question: “Tell me about a time you dealt with a difficult patient.”

Sample Responses:

“I am used to being interrupted and talked to rudely by patients, but I was most surprised by the sheer apathy of one particular individual when I worked as a geriatric nurse. It was easy to feel impatient or cynical, but instead, I considered the underlying issues and talked to the patient’s family to get a better sense of the problem.

“While we were primarily focused on an acute concern at the time, it turned out that the patient also had undiagnosed depression and required follow-up care. Without empathy for this ‘difficult’ patient, this mental health diagnosis may not have been possible.”

Cultural Fit Questions

Question: “How would your previous supervisor describe your bedside manner with patients?”

“I have been described as tenacious and unlikely to give up. My supervisor for my clinical during my BSN admired that this quality was present not only when dealing with ‘easy’ patients, but also, with the more difficult individuals who might otherwise make my work as a nurse stressful.”

Question: “How have you committed to improving your cultural knowledge and developing empathy as an NP?”

"I have read extensively about disparities in the healthcare field. I've also watched documentaries, listened to podcasts, and engaged in discussions with fellow professionals. I am currently enrolled in a cultural competency course and intend to learn more as part of my continuing education efforts."

Question: “Is there any specific type of patient you prefer not to work with?”

“Every patient carries unique challenges and opportunities. I sometimes feel worried about working with patients who are skeptical of vaccinations or other research-backed protocol. However, I view this as a chance to empathize with patients’ fears and educate them about which solutions are most likely to keep them and their loved ones healthy both now and in years to come.”

Ethical Questions

Question: “What steps do you take to protect patient privacy and remain HIPAA compliant?”

“I am committed to protecting patient confidentiality. I modify both my behavior and my use of technology to achieve this goal. For example, I avoid discussing patients with colleagues in busy areas. When such conversations are necessary, I lower my voice. While using mobile devices, I incorporate a privacy filter to prevent patients from seeing information displayed on screens.”

Question: “Have you ever witnessed unethical behavior in the healthcare field? How did you respond?”

“When I was working in labor and delivery, I suspected that a particular OB was quick to turn to Cesarean sections due to scheduling concerns. This concern was sparked by discrepancies between the level of cervix dilation for certain patients and resulting determinations about whether they were progressing rapidly enough. Alongside a fellow nurse, I gathered evidence of the issue and then filed a complaint.”

Projective Questions

Question: “How will you keep up to date with industry trends?

“Education is a lifelong pursuit for any NP. I am committed to continuing education not only as part of maintaining my certification, but also because I believe it helps me better serve my patients. I’m already a member of the AANP’s CE program and set aside time for taking classes and attending virtual conferences. I also read a variety of research journals, such as The Nurse Practitioner, the Journal of Advanced Nursing, and the Journal of Pediatric Health Care.”

Question: “Which new technological devices or apps are you most excited to take advantage of as an NP?”

“I am looking forward to seeing more chatbots in healthcare. I think that, with proper safeguards, AI solutions could be key to providing more efficient care and meeting the needs of patients who are resistant to opening up to doctors and NPs. I still think the human element is essential, but I am excited to incorporate chatbots in my future work as a psychiatric NP.”

The Best Questions to Ask Your Interviewer

There’s more to interviewing than discovering how you, the aspiring student or NP, will be an asset to your future school or employer. Questions for the interviewer allow you to determine whether a particular employer or program is a good fit.

As Kimberly Poje — an RN at Boston Children’s Health Physicians of New York and Connecticut — explains: “Ask about job expectations, including patient load, how much time you’d have with each patient, and work hours.”

Poje also recommends asking about the extent to which the position offers administrative support.

10 Questions to Ask During a Nurse Practitioner School Interview

Here are some recommended questions to consider asking when you're doing school interviews:

  1. "What one feature about this program distinguishes it from competitors?"
  2. "What do I need to know about this program’s accreditation?"
  3. "Does the school offer job placement assistance before and after graduation?"
  4. "Will I have the opportunity to gain hands-on practical experience in this program?"
  5. "Where do students in this program typically complete clinical rotations?"
  6. "How much class time can I expect to spend preparing for the board exam?"
  7. "Will I be able to conduct and publish research on my chosen specialty?"
  8. "What is the expected timeline to graduation?"
  9. "What percentage of students who enter this program graduate within the expected timeframe?"
  10. "What percentage of students who complete this program secure NP jobs within a year of graduating?"

10 Questions to Ask During a Nurse Practitioner Job Interview

If you’re applying for a job, here are some key questions you should consider asking your interviewer:

  1. "How do you provide support for the mental and emotional wellbeing of NPs and other healthcare professionals who work here?"
  2. "Are there any mentorship programs or initiatives available?"
  3. "Will I be expected to act as a mentor for any nurses or other employees?"
  4. "How will my success as an NP be measured during performance reviews?"
  5. "What is this facility’s stance on holistic healthcare?"
  6. "What challenges do you anticipate for this facility or provider in the next year?"
  7. "What challenges do you anticipate specifically for the NP who eventually accepts this position?"
  8. "How do you support NPs in their effort to maintain patient confidentiality?"
  9. "What qualities do you observe in NPs who thrive at this facility?"
  10. "To what extent is autonomy granted to NPs as opposed to PAs or MDs?"

Other Frequently Asked Questions About Nurse Practitioner Interviews

NP students and job candidates often have a range of questions about the interview process. These cover everything from note-taking suggestions to wardrobe advice. We've pulled a list of some common interview-related FAQs and provided responses below:

What is the best way to prepare for an interview?

Here are some key tips for preparing for your interview, no matter whether it's with a school or for a job:

  • Review your application and resume one last time. Consider how you'll add depth to the information outlined in these documents once you have the opportunity to discuss your background in person.
  • Research key contacts on LinkedIn. Information you discover about the outgoing NP, the department head, and, of course, the interviewer, may influence which types of questions you ask or where you can find common ground to build rapport.
  • Read employee reviews on websites like Glassdoor. This will help you determine how actual NPs and other healthcare professionals feel about the employer in question. Look for responses that reference workplace culture.
  • Take care of yourself. Don't underestimate the value of self-care in the days leading up to your interview. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners advises getting plenty of sleep so that you feel "refreshed and ready."

How should I dress for the interview?

When in doubt, formal is better. In most cases, a suit and tie or blazer and slacks are advisable. Do NOT wear scrubs or other uniform-based attire. Experts at Career Trend advise researching company culture to determine the ideal level of formality for interview dress.

Is it OK to bring or take notes during the interview?

Notes are perfectly acceptable during interviews, as they lend an air of credibility and proactivity. As Human Workplace CEO Liz Ryan tells Forbes, it's crucial that you "lift your head out of your notes often to make eye contact." In fact, previously written notes may trigger your memory when you feel flustered, but only look at them briefly when you feel stuck.

Notes taken during the interview may influence which questions you ask the interviewer near the end of the session. Feel free to arrive equipped with previously drafted notes, but adapt your questions based on what you learn during the interview process.

How do you close an interview?

As your interview draws to a close, you may be asked whether you have any additional questions. Whether prompted or not, this is a great time to ask any questions you may have forgotten earlier. This serves two functions: You will gain a solid grasp for the benefits and challenges of the job or college program; and you’ll demonstrate your proactive, detail-oriented nature.

Once you’ve had the opportunity to ask questions and listen to the answers, the interviewer will outline next steps. Pay attention so you know how to proceed after the interview ends. Don't forget to thank the interviewer for their time.

Final Thoughts

How you prepare for your NP school or job interview can determine how you're perceived during this process and whether you ultimately land an acceptance letter or your dream job. Any time you dedicate to mastering the STAR method, researching your employer, or examining your resume will pay off with a successful start to your career as an NP.


Image courtesy of iStock.com/nortonrsx


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Berxi™ or Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company. This article (subject to change without notice) is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute professional advice.

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