Toward the end of your job interview, your interviewer will usually ask: “Do you have any questions for me?” Some people say: “No, I think you’ve covered just about everything,” forfeiting the opportunity to ask anything. But you should never decline to ask questions on your job interview.
Why? Interviewers typically expect applicants to ask questions. If you don’t inquire about anything, they could assume you’re either uninterested in the position or unprepared for the interview. But by coming prepared with a list of questions to ask, you’ll make it clear to the interviewer that you have researched the facility or unit where you’re interviewing. It will also give you a chance to learn more about the job so you can make sure it’s the right fit for you.
We asked the following experts to weigh in on the best questions to ask potential employers, as well as the kinds of topics that shouldn’t be broached:
- Laurie G. Combe, MN, RN, NCSN, and president of the National Association of School Nurses
- Stacy Doyle, PhD, RN, MBA, NEA-BC, FACHE, vice president of Ambulatory Services in the Department of Patient Care Services at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, and a member of the Society of Pediatric Nurses
- Nancy Freeland, MS, RN-BC, CCRN-K, a senior nurse educator for Adult Critical Care Nursing at the University of Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York, and a former member of the Board of Directors of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN)
- Elizabeth Rochin, PhD, RN, NE-BC, president of the National Perinatal Information Center
- Sarah K. Wells, MSN, RN, CEN, CNL, Emergency Nurses Association member and president-elect of ENA’s East Bay Chapter in California, an emergency department nurse in a community hospital in East Bay, and owner of New Thing Nurse, a professional and academic coaching company for the nursing community
Below, we’ve provided some examples of questions to ask employers during interviews.
The Types of Questions to Ask an Employer During a Nursing Interview
Questions You Can Ask About the Facility/Unit Where You’re Interviewing
Before your interview, be sure to research the institution’s procedures and protocols, and then craft questions that demonstrate you’re not only familiar with it but that you also have marketable and relevant skills to offer. This will help show your interviewer that you have a vested interest in the position.
Here are some suggestions of topics to talk about and questions to ask:
“I know your unit does community outreach to pregnant women and their partners. I’ve taught breastfeeding and newborn care community outreach classes before. Are you looking for nurses who are willing to teach community outreach courses at your facility?”
“I’ve read that your facility values patient-family satisfaction. I’ve prided myself on being a good communicator with patients and their families in past positions, even if it meant spending a little more time with each patient than expected. Will I be able to continue this level of care and communication while working on your unit?”
“I was attracted to your facility because you’re a Level II trauma center. I provide care to patients with trauma in my current position, so I feel I have a lot to offer, but I’m looking to take on more challenging cases. If I were hired, would there be a way for me to be more involved with your trauma center?”
Questions You Can About the Work Environment
If you’re hired, you’ll be spending scores of hours per week on your unit. While you’re interviewing, you may want to consider asking some questions to learn more about the position and the team. This information can help you determine if the job is a good fit for you.
These are the types of questions to ask:
- What types of patients are commonly seen in your unit?
- How many patients would I expect to see during a typical shift?
- What is the culture of your unit like?
- How are the interpersonal dynamics among your staff?
- How do the nurses work together as a team?
- Do you ever have issues with intimidation or bullying among your staff?
- How would issues like nurse bullying be dealt with on your unit?
- What do your nurses like most about the job?
- What strategies does your unit offer to promote a healthy work environment?
Questions You Can Ask About Career Growth
If you’re looking for a long-term position and hope to grow on the job, ask questions that will let your interviewer know they’d be making a good investment by hiring you.
These are the types of questions to ask:
- What strategies do you use to retain staff?
- What is the turnover rate?
- Have any of the supervisors come from within the department?
- Will I be assigned a mentor, or are there other avenues for support?
- How would my performance be evaluated in this position?
- Are there opportunities for professional growth or advancement?
- What are the professional development options in this position?
Bonus Tip: How to Discuss Salary
Although you may be curious to know how much money you might earn in the position you’re interviewing for, a first job interview is not the right time to inquire about salary. Most interviewers consider it to be in poor taste to ask about pay early in the interviewing process. You’ll have an opportunity in the future to ask about salary before you’re offered the job.
The only exception to this rule is if your interviewer brings it up. Some interviewers actively discuss compensation during introductory interviews, particularly if the position’s salary looks different from the typical salary offered for other nursing positions (e.g., school nurse positions).
In 2017, several states and cities started banning the question “What is your current salary?” from interviews because lawmakers didn’t want the answer to impact the budget previously set for the job. (For example, you say $55,000, but they were going to offer $70,000, so instead they offer $60,000.) Instead, interviewers might now ask something like, “What are your salary expectations?”
So, do your research. Wells suggests checking out online salary websites like Payscale.com or Glassdoor, or even speaking to someone who works at the hospital you’re applying to. That way, you can estimate the range they will offer and answer their question with something like, “I am looking for a job where I can grow and become a team leader. I’d hope to start at $X but can offer some flexibility for the longevity this job might offer.”
Remember: The focus of your inquiries should demonstrate that you have skills to offer a prospective new employer and that you’re eager to learn more about the responsibilities associated with the position.