Whether you’re looking for your first nursing job, a new challenge, or even a promotion, the job-seeking process is usually the same: sending out resumes and going on job interviews. Some people focus a lot of time and attention on their cover letters and resumes, making sure they convey the right details to prospective employers. But they may not prepare as much for job interviews, figuring they know enough about nursing to wing it.
Why leave something so important to chance? Your interviewer will be seeking the best candidate possible with the right mix of technical know-how and compassion for patients. If you don’t prepare for your interview, you won’t be able to clearly convey that you’re the right person for the job.
The best way to get ready is by first finding out what some of the most commonly asked nursing interview questions are. Then, you’ll need to learn how to craft thoughtful responses to them. To help you out, we’ve created a series of articles that will get you acquainted with some frequently asked interview questions, as well as tips on how to answer them.
5 Things to Do Before Your Nursing Interview
1. Visit the employer’s website.
Get a sense of their mission statement, and make sure you know what they want people to know about them.
2. Research recent news about the employer.
Look for awards they’ve won, funding they’ve received, or employees who are making waves. These are the types of things that might be mentioned in the interview or that you could ask more about.
3. Learn important names.
Use LinkedIn or the organization’s homepage to know the key leaders in the group you’re interested in, as well as the key decision-makers.
4. Read employee reviews.
Check out sites like Indeed.com and Glassdoor to read how past and current employees feel about working there.
5. Review your own work history.
Think of about eight to 10 of your personal achievements you’d like to discuss. Prioritize this list of character traits and accomplishments on a piece of paper so you can weave them into your answers.
The Types of Questions You Could Be Asked in a Nursing Interview
We asked Seun Ross, DNP, MSN, CRNP-F, NP-C, NEA-BC, director of Nursing Practice and Work Environment for the American Nurses Association, to give his input on the types of questions nurses typically encounter on job interviews. These questions will help prepare you for any job interview.
Type #1: Introductory Questions
As an icebreaker, your interviewer may ask you to share some details about yourself and your work experience. It’s typical for an employer to say, “Tell me about yourself.”
Your interviewer may also ask why you’ve chosen nursing as your career path or why you’ve chosen your particular specialty. When you answer this question, it’s OK to gush with enthusiasm about your career choice. Share some of the reasons, whether a childhood experience made an impression on you, or something happened during nursing school that helped you discover your passion for your specialty.
Type #2: Questions About How You Handle Stress
Being a nurse can be very stressful, especially when your unit is short-staffed, your patients are critically ill, or you need to clarify information quickly for a doctor who misunderstood something. Your interviewer will want to hear how you react in stressful situations and what you do to counteract stress.
You may be asked questions like:
"Can you describe a time when you felt you were under a great amount of pressure at work? What helped you get through the situation?"
"How do you perform in a very fast-paced, pressure-filled environment?"
"Have you ever been confronted by a patient’s relatives because they were angry or upset about the care their loved one was receiving? How did you respond?"
If you thrive in a fast-paced environment, let your interviewer know. If you implement certain strategies to counteract stress, such as thinking positively about your work or talking to your colleagues about your feelings, share those details when you answer these types of questions. It’s also good to let your interviewer know that even when you experience stress, you stay focused on your patients to provide them with the best care possible.
Type #3: Questions About Teamwork & Communication
Because most nurses don’t work in isolation, your interviewer will want to make sure you’re a good fit for the team of healthcare professionals with whom you’d be working. She’ll want to know that you’re able to collaborate and communicate well with others.
You may be asked questions like:
"Do you consider yourself to be a team player? If so, can you explain which of your qualities demonstrate this?"
"Can you share details about a time when you were the leader of a group and other nurses or healthcare workers looked to you for guidance?"
"Have you ever worked closely with a colleague with a difficult personality? How did you deal with him or her? Did it affect the quality of your work? Were you and the colleague able to improve your relationship over time?"
It’s important to explain that you work well in a variety of situations and that you’re flexible and open-minded to approaching tasks differently as needed. Your interviewer will want to hear that you’re comfortable taking the lead in certain situations and stepping back in others. She’ll want to know that you can communicate amicably with colleagues, even during high-pressure situations, and that you’re a good listener, too. It might be worthwhile to mention a time when hearing someone else’s point of view helped you find a solution to the problem at hand.
Type #4: Situational Questions
Before your interview is over, you’ll probably be asked a situational question or two so your interviewer can gauge what you would do in certain situations.
You may be asked questions like:
"What would you do if a patient in your care complained constantly that she was in pain?"
"If the relatives of a patient were being very loud and unruly and disrupting other patients in your unit, what would you say or do to change the situation?"
"How would you handle it if the nurse who was supposed to take over your shift didn’t show up for work?"
When you’re preparing for your interview, it’s wise to have a few relevant hypothetical situations in mind so you won’t be thrown off-guard and can craft your answers ahead of time. You can share some of your previous experiences when answering these questions or give your best assessment of a situation. Your interviewer will learn more about your personality, your work ethic, and your communication style from your answers.
Some situational scenarios are so specific or complex, you couldn’t have possibly imagined you’d be asked that question beforehand. When this happens, be prepared to think on your feet. If you can explain your reasons for choosing one approach over another, elaborate; it will give your interviewer insights into your thought process.
Extra Tips for Your Nursing Interview
In addition to assessing your knowledge and clinical skills, your interviewer will also be gauging whether or not you’d be a good fit for the culture of the organization. She’ll assess whether you seem positive, flexible, and willing to grow; whether you exhibit appropriate social skills; and whether you demonstrate leadership abilities. While you recount stories about your previous experiences with patients, she’ll be evaluating the level of care and compassion you’d offer those who come to her clinic or hospital for help.
For all these reasons, it’s important to come across as amicable during your interview. Be sure you make eye contact and smile throughout, and try to sound open-minded rather than set in your ways. Let your passion for your work come across in what you say, especially when you’re describing any interactions with patients and their families. This can help you stand out as a memorable candidate.