How To Answer The Most Common Nursing Interview Questions

by TheCommuter Asst. Admin

395,375 Views | 46 Comments

This piece was written in direct response to the numerous inquiries that people make about their upcoming nursing job interviews. The intended purpose of this article is to shed some much-needed light onto a few of the most commonly-asked nursing interview questions.

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    How To Answer The Most Common Nursing Interview Questions

    To be perfectly blunt, interviews can be rather nerve-wracking because a lot is at stake. After all, you really want to be considered for this available position, and you only have one chance to make a good first impression on the interviewer. Another aspect that adds to the stressful nature of the interview process is the fact that you are most likely competing with many other applicants for that prized job opening.

    Based on my personal experiences, the vast majority of the most common nursing interview questions have remained constant and unchanged over the handful of years that I have been in this profession. Without further ado, here are some of the most common interview questions.

    Tell me about yourself.

    Although the interviewer is not wanting to listen to your life story, he/she does want you to describe your personality, educational attainment, career goals, and professional experiences.

    Tell me what you know about our company.

    You should conduct some research and be at least somewhat knowledgeable about the entity that might very well become your future workplace. You will look good to the interviewer if it appears that you have been doing your 'homework' on the company.

    So, tell us what you know about _____ nursing.

    Insert any nursing specialty into the blank space provided. You will stand out to the interviewer as a candidate who truly has passion about the specialty if you know more about it than the average person. If your dream is to work as a nurse in a well-baby nursery, you'd better be knowledgeable about the area in which you envision yourself working.

    Tell us what your current/former boss would say about you.


    The interviewer is basically looking for clues that will shed light on your work ethic and interpersonal skills. Direct quotes work well. "Jill always said I was dependable" is a direct quote that says a lot.

    Tell me why you want to work here.

    Your reasons for wanting to work at this place of employment should be positive. Also, make a connection between your career goals and how they can be achieved at this company.

    Describe to us how you perform under pressure.

    The settings in which nurses work can quickly turn into pressure-cooker environments. To be blunt, the interviewer does not want to hire anyone who is so emotionally fragile that they'll shatter like plate glass when faced with the day-to-day pressures of the job.

    Discuss your biggest strengths and weaknesses.

    The interviewer wants to hear about strengths that would be assets in the workplace. Since we all have weaknesses, the person conducting the interview will know you're a boldfaced liar if you deny having any.

    Are you a team player?

    Healthcare facilities prefer to hire people who work well with others, have good social skills, get along well with patients and visitors, and can pull together as a team for the sake of patient care.

    Discuss your salary requirements.

    This question is sneaky. Some companies have strict pay grids and other facilities are unionized, so salary typically cannot be negotiated at these places. However, smaller workplaces may offer some wiggle room for negotiating the salary. The important thing is to not price oneself out of the market.

    What motivates you to be a nurse?

    Companies prefer to hire healthcare workers who are motivated by intangible ideals, not concrete realities such as money. Even if cash is your ultimate motivation, do not elaborate on your need for money.

    Recall a difficult situation and describe how you handled it.

    If you have healthcare experience, they want to know how you have dealt with angry doctors, emotionally upset families, or difficult patients. If you lack healthcare experience, you can discuss a difficult situation that occurred in school or a previous workplace.

    Tell us why we should hire you.

    This is the last time to truly sell yourself to the interviewer. Emphasize your positive attributes, reaffirm that you are a team player, and tell them why you are the best candidate for the position that they need to fill.

    Do you have any questions for us?

    Ask the interviewer a question or two, whether it pertains to nurse/patient ratios, length of orientation, or educational opportunities. You might appear uninterested if you have no questions.

    By the way, please read Part II and Part III of this series for more interview questions and how to answer them!

    Link: A Few More Common Interview Questions (Part II)

    Link: More Common Nursing Interview Questions (Part III)
    Last edit by TheCommuter on Mar 17, '14
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  4. About TheCommuter

    TheCommuter is a moderator of allnurses.com and has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a registered nurse.

    TheCommuter joined Feb '05 - from 'Fort Worth, Texas, USA'. Age: 33 TheCommuter has '8' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'acute rehab, long term care, and psych'. Posts: 26,413 Likes: 36,380; Learn more about TheCommuter by visiting their allnursesPage Website


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    46 Comments so far...

  5. 0
    Thank you so much for this. I've never been to an actual interview in my life so I didn't even know where to start.
  6. 20
    My interviews have been nothing like this. I was prepared for these questions. I'd done my research. I'd had deep thoughts on the mission, vision, and values of the company. The questions I was asked include:
    1. Identify a time when you were distressed by your ability to provide care for a patient within the constraints of the health care system and maintained a relationship with the patient afterwards. What happened? What is the patient doing now?
    This one threw me. I told of a time when I had a patient who was uninsured and not a citizen, and they were given emergency care and were stabilized in the hospital, but the docs were unwilling to provide the $25,000 surgery to fix their broken bone. I discharged them that way. I understood the business logistics of the situation, but as a nurse, it stunk to watch that patient walking out of the hospital still broken. No I did not maintain a relationship with the patient because I draw professional boundaries in my care and do not become personally involved with patients as a general rule.

    2. Identify a time when you had a problem with a coworker. What happened, and how did it turn out.
    I told about a time when I was a new nurse, and the charge nurse took my statement of "I have no idea if I can take a new patient right now, we need to ask my preceptor" wrong-I think she thought I was challenging her authority, or maybe my tone was just wrong. Anyway, after she walked off in a huff, I chased her down the hallway and apologized for my statement coming out wrong. 3 years later, she was one of the nurses who gave me a personal reference for this new job. Happy ending.

    3. Tell of a time you failed at something. What was it, and how did it turn out.
    I discussed a med error I had made. It was minor, and resulted in no harm, but an error all the same. I considered it a failure of many things including a stressful work environment and simple human nature. I related how it made me much more vigilant when checking medications, and how I consider it a success if I don't make the same or similar error again. I discussed how I have a hard time with the definition of failure because in my eyes the only "failure" is giving up. As long as something is learned from a mistake, it can never be considered a complete failure.

    There were several more questions, very open ended, but tailored to very specific circumstances. I felt good about it afterwards. I paid a lot of attention to my appearance and body language. It was a difficult interview, and I didn't get the job. The interviewer told me she would let me know either way by the end of the week. This was several weeks ago, and I never heard anything. I'm not sure what to think. Anyone else had an interview like this?
    sponce, miamiabean, DiogoE, and 17 others like this.
  7. 0
    This is a really good article for the basics. And you should always be prepared for them! In my case, I was prepared for these, and got asked just one of them (the last one.) All of my questions were, "Tell me a time when..." type questions. Even though I wasn't prepared for this, I'm happy to say I landed the job. I have heard from quite a few people who work in human resources that many companies are starting to use this format for interviews!
  8. 2
    Thanks for posting. I had some of these very questions thrown at me for a new grad position a week ago. Didn't get it and I have to say I was totally unprepared for the interview. It was 2 days before my NCLEX date and I was so worked up about taking NCLEX that I did no prep for the interview. Now that the exam is out of the way and I've at least been on my first nursing interview, I feel a bit more confident about what to expect and how to better prepare myself for the next interview.

    On a brighter note, my best friend snagged that position, so happy for her. There is hope for us new grads.
    amberoo and JulieL like this.
  9. 2
    Quote from NayRN
    My interviews have been nothing like this. I was prepared for these questions. I'd done my research. I'd had deep thoughts on the mission, vision, and values of the company. The questions I was asked include:
    1. Identify a time when you were distressed by your ability to provide care for a patient within the constraints of the health care system and maintained a relationship with the patient afterwards. What happened? What is the patient doing now?
    This one threw me. I told of a time when I had a patient who was uninsured and not a citizen, and they were given emergency care and were stabilized in the hospital, but the docs were unwilling to provide the $25,000 surgery to fix their broken bone. I discharged them that way. I understood the business logistics of the situation, but as a nurse, it stunk to watch that patient walking out of the hospital still broken. No I did not maintain a relationship with the patient because I draw professional boundaries in my care and do not become personally involved with patients as a general rule.

    2. Identify a time when you had a problem with a coworker. What happened, and how did it turn out.
    I told about a time when I was a new nurse, and the charge nurse took my statement of "I have no idea if I can take a new patient right now, we need to ask my preceptor" wrong-I think she thought I was challenging her authority, or maybe my tone was just wrong. Anyway, after she walked off in a huff, I chased her down the hallway and apologized for my statement coming out wrong. 3 years later, she was one of the nurses who gave me a personal reference for this new job. Happy ending.

    3. Tell of a time you failed at something. What was it, and how did it turn out.
    I discussed a med error I had made. It was minor, and resulted in no harm, but an error all the same. I considered it a failure of many things including a stressful work environment and simple human nature. I related how it made me much more vigilant when checking medications, and how I consider it a success if I don't make the same or similar error again. I discussed how I have a hard time with the definition of failure because in my eyes the only "failure" is giving up. As long as something is learned from a mistake, it can never be considered a complete failure.

    There were several more questions, very open ended, but tailored to very specific circumstances. I felt good about it afterwards. I paid a lot of attention to my appearance and body language. It was a difficult interview, and I didn't get the job. The interviewer told me she would let me know either way by the end of the week. This was several weeks ago, and I never heard anything. I'm not sure what to think. Anyone else had an interview like this?
    I've had one interview exactly like that for a CNA position (I'm not a nurse yet, but these interview questions apply to just about any job in the Healthcare field). I had a lot like your question three. I felt like the interview was an attack and there was no right way to answer the questions. How are you supposed to describe a time when you gave bad customer service when you don't feel you ever have? Then after finding a time you did the interviewer says that it is very worrying that you provided bad customer service?
    lisa1957 and amberoo like this.
  10. 0
    Thanks for posting this!
  11. 1
    Interesting

    This may be an international difference

    My interviews that I do are nothing like that. I ask clinical scenarios, how you would deal with difficult family members, dealing with a problem with a collegue, weakness and strengths. Then there is the one question that EVERYONE in our organisation is asked. XY organisation has core values, blah blah blah.

    Just about to sit down to a full day of interviews for next years' graduate nurses program

    We are a public hospital and are bound by a government agreement regarding wages
    sponce likes this.
  12. 2
    I can NEVER think of anything to say when it comes to naming my weaknesses. It's not that I think I don't have any, I definitely do, but everything I think of I'm afraid to say because I'm afraid they won't hire me based on that! I HATE, HATE, HATE that question! Anyone have any suggestions?

    Also, what exactly should we know about the facility? I mean, I can get on their website and see how many beds they have, etc. What do I need to talk about in an interview? This baffles me.
    CrazyGoonRN and theleaf like this.
  13. 0
    This whole discussion has been great! Thanks for everyone's suggestions...hopefully, I will get an interview and be able to try them out!


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