Most Common Nursing Job Interview Questions, Best Answers, and Tips

Discover everything you need to know to crush your nursing job interview, from the most common questions to what to wear to top tips for success. Resources

Updated   Published

Nursing job interviews can be nerve-wracking. You might be nervous about your lack of experience in the specialty, answering questions on the fly, or dislike talking to people in an intense environment. No matter your anxieties about sitting across from a hiring manager and other interviewers, we have the information you need to make a great first impression.

New grads, LPNs, registered nurses (RNs), and nurse practitioners (NPs) alike can use these nursing job interview questions and sample answers to prepare during the Job Search. Change the example answers to fit within your nursing experiences and scope of practice, and you've got the start of a great response to some of the most common nursing job interview questions.

Nursing Interview Success and 5 General Tips

Having a successful nursing interview takes practice and planning. While it's important to consider what types of questions the interviewer will ask and the sample answers you'll provide, preparation is critical.

Below are some nursing interview tips you can use so you'll be ready for the big day and can begin living your career goals now.

Tip 1: Practice Your Interview Answers

No two interviews are alike. Interviewers use different questions, making it a little challenging to practice. However, there are a few questions that most interviewers ask that you can practice your answer to so that you'll feel confident when asked. A few of these questions include:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Where do you see yourself in five/ten years?
  • Why are you interested in this role with this company?

Tip 2: Use the STAR Method

The STAR method is an excellent strategy you can use anytime you're asked to provide real-life examples of how you handled a specific situation. You can do this by remembering the acronym STAR and laying out each detail following the prompts below:

  • S - Situation Describe the situation.
  • T - Task Explain the task or challenge you faced.
  • A - Action Explain your action and why you chose it.
  • R - Result Talk about the outcome you achieved.

Tip 3: Review the Job Description

Read the job description just before you go to the interview. This will help you keep key responsibilities on your mind when answering questions.

Tip 4: Bring Your Best Attitude and Biggest Smile

How you treat others is the first sign of the type of team player you'll be on the new team. Always smile and speak respectfully to the receptionist and other staff you encounter. The nurse manager may return to anyone you interacted with and ask how they felt about you. So, treating others with respect and kindness is essential.

Tip 5: Be Yourself

Some of the best career advice anyone can give is to always be yourself. Acting with authenticity, genuineness, and positivity helps the interviewer to see the real you and imagine how you might fit into the team culture.

Most Common Interview Questions & Best Answers

Knowing the types of interview questions you might encounter and sample answers is essential. Common types of questions during nursing interviews include:

  • Skills-based interview questions seek to understand your proficiency in specific nursing skills, specialties, or practices.
  • Traditional interview questions help the interviewer get to know you better and learn basic information about why you're looking for a new job or how you might describe yourself to others.
  • Situational interview questions ask, "What would you do?” in a specific work-related scenario.
  • Behavioral interview questions are used to identify the "soft skills" you might use on the job. Soft skills are things like teamwork, problem-solving, and communication skills.

You may also notice that interview questions have similar topics. We've rounded up some of the most common questions and answers below by subject. Remember to personalize the response to yourself and your nursing experiences and skill sets.

Teamwork Questions

The following questions focus on how you work within the nursing team.

Can you describe a time when you had to work closely with a difficult coworker? How did you handle the situation?

This question assesses your ability to navigate a challenging interpersonal situation. Highlight how you handled the situation while maintaining a productive working relationship with your coworker. Avoid discussing the coworker's lack of professionalism or specific negative traits because the interviewer may perceive this poorly.

Your answer might sound something like this:

I once worked with a coworker I never meshed well with. One night, we were the only RNs on shift and had a code, and it didn't go too well. Afterward, I asked our manager and the coworker if we could talk about the situation and how we might handle it better. The three of us spoke of the problem and our general strengths and weaknesses so we knew how to work better together in the future.

Tell us about a time when you contributed to a team achieving a specific goal.

This question concerns teamwork and how you work together to achieve team goals. Think of a time when you helped to improve a process, policy, or situation and share a specific example.

Try to tell about a situation when you used leadership qualities within the team and turned a challenging problem into a victory. This will help the interviewer see how you implement problem-solving skills and remain positive even during tough times.

How do you handle disagreements within your team, especially regarding patient care?

This question evaluates your conflict resolution skills and ability to advocate for patient care while maintaining a positive team dynamic. It also assesses your leadership skills and ability to resolve issues and remain a good team player.

Your answer might sound like this:

I feel that the best way to handle disagreements within the team is head-on. For example, suppose I disagree with a colleague about handling a difficult patient or family member. In that case, the first thing I do is have an open conversation about it and try to understand their point of view. I always keep the patient's care at the forefront of my mind because that almost always unites us as nurses, and we can quickly come to a resolution.

Can you provide an example of a time when you had to rely on your team to solve a problem or handle a difficult situation?

Nursing is all about collaboration. So, this question assesses your ability to trust and rely on your team members. It might also allow you to talk about how you depend on those in leadership roles, especially during challenging times or working with complex patients or families.

Always end this type of question by telling the interviewer about the outcome. If your story involves patient care, you might also try to discuss critical nursing topics such as patient safety or the importance of charting.

Patient Care Questions

If you're interviewing for a clinical role, you'll likely get asked about patient care. Here are a few of the most common questions.

Can you recall a time when a patient's family was unhappy with the care you provided? How did you respond to that situation?

This question assesses your ability to handle criticism, communicate effectively with patients' families, and take steps to improve the situation.

A sample answer might go something like this:

I made a medication error while caring for a pediatric patient. I took full responsibility for the mistake as soon as I realized I made it. I spoke to the family and let them know too. They asked that I no longer care for their child. I respected their wishes. However, we were able to chat about it later and move past the situation. I think about this error often and learned a lot from it. It has impacted how I conduct med passes and provide patient care even today.

Describe a time when you went above and beyond to provide exceptional care for a patient.

This question is all about your dedication to the job and patient care. It's also looking to see how you feel about exceeding the patient's, family members, and your leader's expectations to ensure patient satisfaction. You can use the STAR method to guide how you develop your answer. It might sound like the following:

I cared for a terminally ill patient who was very dear to me. He was actively dying at shift change, so I talked to the unit manager and asked if I could stay for a few hours so that the patient and family didn't have a different nurse. The manager agreed, and the family appreciated that I could sit with them and give my undivided attention to them during that challenging time.

How do you handle a situation where a patient is not following the care plan?

This question can be a little tricky. It's evaluating your problem-solving skills, ability to motivate your patients, and strategies you use to ensure patients follow their care plans. However, you must also demonstrate your understanding and ability to advocate for your patient's rights, a crucial nursing responsibility.

You might say something like the following:

Education is key when it comes to patients not following care plans. I always make sure the patient is part of the care plan process and that they agree to the interventions. This helps ensure buy-in and increases the chances for compliance. However, if they don't follow the care plan, I educate them on the consequences while supporting their rights and ability to choose what's best for them.

Tell us about a time you had to advocate for a patient. What was the situation, and what was the outcome?

Here is another question where you can showcase your ability to advocate for your patient's needs and rights. You might share a story about a time you advocated for the patient's right to be in charge of their care or one about a conflict with a difficult patient or family member.

A sample answer might be something like this:

I cared for a 20-something quadriplegic patient after a car accident. He required around-the-clock care. His lifestyle didn't mesh well with the traditional long-term care facility schedules. So, I advocated changing his meal schedule because he didn't like to get up early and stayed awake late into the night. I worked with the food services department to create a meal schedule that worked for him that wasn't disruptive to their team or nursing. It worked very well for everyone and helped him maintain decision-making power over his schedule.

Personality and Background Questions

The interviewer wants to get to know you. So, they'll probably ask one to two questions like the following to better understand who you are as a person and a nurse.

How would you describe your communication style?

Communication is a critical skill every nurse must have. This question provides an opportunity to share how you interact and use communication skills with patients, their families, and your colleagues. Your answer should also reveal your strength in adapting your communication style to different situations or people.

A sample answer might sound like this:

I'm a direct communicator. However, I always try to change my communication style to meet the person and situation. For example, how I communicate with a 90-year-old versus a 20-year-old patient often looks different. And how I speak with patients versus colleagues is also different. Meeting the person where they are and how they learn, and process information is critical.

Can you describe a situation where you had to demonstrate empathy towards a patient or their family?

The interviewer wants to see how you use empathy on the job, handle emotionally charged situations, and your capacity to provide comfort and understanding.

To answer this question, think of a time you cared for a patient or family member by showing compassion and empathy for their situation. Your answer might include how you used communication, active listening, or specific actions to develop cultural competence or show genuine interest in the patient's care.

How do you handle stress and high-pressure situations at work?

This question aims to understand how you manage stress, maintain composure, and provide high-quality patient care during challenging circumstances. You might answer like this:

I handle stress well during the situation. However, I've found that times of high stress wear on me. So, I practice meditation and deep breathing daily. I also find much comfort in talking about things with my colleagues.

What motivates you in your nursing career?

Almost all nurses have a reason for becoming a nurse. You can show vulnerability by telling a bit of your "why" or the personal story that led you to a career in nursing. It might be a story about a personal healthcare situation with yourself or a family member. This story can showcase your passion for nursing and your ability to be vulnerable with others.

Adaptability Questions

Nurses must be agile and adaptable. Here are several questions you might encounter.

Can you share an example of a time when you had to adapt to a significant change at work?

Change is an inevitable occurrence in nursing. So, let the interviewer know how well you handle it and showcase your critical thinking skills and on-the-job resilience.

Use the STAR method to keep this answer short and specific. It might sound like this:

Our admission policies and procedures recently changed. I had to learn the new processes and be able to implement the policy in about seven days.

I reviewed the policies independently and attended an in-person training session. I took notes and made a cheat sheet that I kept in my pocket during each shift until I got comfortable with the new policies and procedures.

I had a few questions about the first admission I completed after the changes. However, once I got answers to my questions, I could complete admissions without problems. Those admissions have been through quality assurance checks, and I scored between 96 and 100% on each.

Describe a situation where you had to make a quick decision in a high-pressure environment.

If you've been a nurse for a while, you'll probably have several situations you can use here. However, if you're a new grad, you might need to consider your time as a nursing student.

Patient care scenarios make excellent answers to this question. Be sure to link your story to patient outcomes, safety, and quality of care.

Tell us about a time when you had to learn a new procedure or technology quickly. How did you ensure you became proficient?

This question provides an opportunity to talk about your agility and how you quickly learn new skills. Your answer might be something like the following:

I was reassigned to the emergency department for one shift. The processes and charting were pretty different than what I'm used to in my unit. The charge nurse gave me a crash course to be productive. I took notes while she trained me, and I was able to work effectively and be a valued member of the team.

How do you handle unexpected situations or emergencies? Can you provide an example?

This question assesses your ability to stay calm during emergencies and continue using practical critical thinking and problem-solving skills. You might talk about a code or other urgent patient care situation where you had to resolve an emergency quickly.

Questions To Ask the Interviewer

Interviews aren't only for the interviewers to learn more about you and your nursing abilities. It's also an excellent opportunity to learn about the facility, the role, and the people who may soon become your teammates.

Check out a few types of questions you can use to find out more about your new possible employer.

Company and Culture Questions

Understanding the company's culture before your first day on the job is vital. Here are a few questions you can ask.

Can you describe the company culture here and how it supports the work of nurses?

Reason: This question can help you understand the organization's values, mission, and vision and how they translate into the everyday work environment for nurses. Discovering how each person you come in contact with during the interview process describes the culture can help you understand what it might be like if you take this new job.

What is the patient-to-nurse ratio in this facility?

Reason: This question can give you an idea about the workload you can expect and how the organization prioritizes patient care.

How does the organization promote work-life balance for its nursing staff?

Reason: You'll learn much about how the organization supports its nurses' well-being and provides for work-life balance. You should be able to discover how the company puts its nurses in control of their schedule and any programs they offer that help you adjust to work.

Can you share some examples of how this organization has responded to the feedback of its nursing staff?

Reason: Listen for specific examples that can help you understand how the company values input from staff and if the administration acts proactively when making improvements based on feedback.

Training Questions

You should ask about new hire training, orientation, and what kinds of training and career advancement opportunities the company offers. A few sample questions are below.

What opportunities for professional development or continuing education do you offer?

Reason: Life-long learning is key for all nurses. This question will help you understand what to expect from the facility in terms of ongoing learning, continuing education, and other opportunities for growth.

Can you describe the orientation or onboarding process for new nurses?

Reason: Orientation shouldn't be a one-size fits all solution. Hopefully, the answer to this question will help you understand how they approach training and what happens if you need more or less of it. Ensure that the approach they take to orientation supports the transition into the new job.

Does the organization support specialty certifications for its nurses? If so, how?

Reason: Certifications are an excellent way to upskill, gain more knowledge in a specialty, and advance your career. Find out if they pay for training courses, any required exams, and ongoing certification fees.

How does the organization stay updated and implement the latest best practices in nursing care?

Reason: Best practices are imperative in nursing. Be sure the education or training department ensures that best practices are included in all policies and procedures so that you can always provide the best patient care.

Policy Questions

Here are a few critical policy-related questions you can ask.

Can you explain your policies on nurse scheduling and patient assignments?

Reason: Loving your schedule goes a long way toward overall happiness on the job. So, be sure to ask for as many details as possible about how work schedules and patient assignments are managed, and find out how tenure weighs into these processes since you'll be new to the team.

What is your policy on handling workplace conflicts or disagreements among the nursing staff?

Reason: Not only does this question provide insight into policies, but it also helps you understand how involved leadership is with any conflicts that arise. This question also gives you an idea about how positive or negative the work environment might be before you accept the job.

Can you describe your policies regarding safety and infection control?

Reason: Safety and infection control policies protect patients and workers alike. Be sure to ask for specifics about these policies to help you understand the facility's priorities.

What is your attendance policy, including holidays, weekends, and vacations?

Reason: Nurses must work weekends and holidays. However, it's crucial to understand the expectations to ensure you agree to the employer's requirements before you take the job.

Management Questions

You must always ask questions about how nursing leadership interacts with the staff. Below are a few questions that work well.

How does management support the nursing staff in their daily duties?

Reason: Supportive nursing leadership is crucial to a successful nursing team. This question should help you understand how much support, resources, and guidance you can expect from all levels of the nursing leadership team, from shift leads to unit managers to nursing directors and administrators.

Can you describe the leadership style of the nursing management team? 

Reason: Nursing leaders use various types of management styles. It's critical to learn how leadership approaches the team and if it aligns with the type of leader you need on the job.

How does management handle feedback and suggestions from the nursing staff?

Reason: It's imperative that nursing leadership is willing to give and receive feedback. This question should help you understand if leadership is open to input and what they do with it once received.

What is the process for performance reviews and promotions within the nursing team?

Reason: Knowing what to expect regarding your performance and any issues you might have is essential. Be sure to find out if the company offers career ladders or other programs that can help you advance in your nursing career.

Preparing for Your Nursing Interview

Preparation is key when looking for a new job. Below are some tips you can use to crush your next nursing interview.

In-Person Interviews

Preparing for in-person interviews is critical. A few ways to ensure you're ready include:

  • Map out your route the night before.
  • Arrive at least 15 minutes before the interview begins.
  • Bring a water bottle so you don't struggle with dry mouth.

Video Call Interviews

Interviewing from home can reduce worries about traffic and parking. However, they still come up with worries and the need to prepare. Here are a few things you should do to be ready for your next video interview:

  • Check the link the night before to ensure it works.
  • Let your family know when you'll be in the interview and that you can't be interrupted.
  • Schedule a family member or babysitter to care for babies and other young children.
  • Dress as if you're interviewing in person.
  • Find a location with adequate lighting and one that is clean and tidy.
  • Use a virtual background if you don't have a background you like.

Phone Interviews

Phone interviews are often more relaxed than remote or in-person interviews. However, it's still crucial to schedule it when you can focus on the interview. Be sure young children are tended by another adult. You must also make sure your phone is fully charged and that you can talk in a quiet environment.

What to Wear and Bring to a Nursing Interview

Your appearance is likely the first thing the interviewer will notice about you. So, be sure to follow these quick five tips to ensure you make a great first impression.

  1. Be sure your clothes fit well, are wrinkle and stain free, and are professional.
  2. Wear business attire and refrain from wearing scrubs.
  3. Choose comfortable, stylish shoes that match your outfit.
  4. Wear your hair away from your face and go light on make-up.
  5. Keep jewelry to a minimum so it's not distracting during the interview.

Flex Your Research of the Facility

The more you know about the healthcare system, the better prepared you'll feel during your interview. Below are a few key areas you should research.

History of the Nursing Facility

Research the history of the nursing facility. This might include knowing who owns the facility and if they've recently acquired or merged with any other facilities. You should also know if the facility has any associations with other companies, organizations, or non-profit organizations.

Goal and Mission of the Facility

Knowing the facility's mission, vision, and values will help you answer questions during your interview. You can also discuss this during the interview if the mission or values align well with what you believe or how you act as a nurse.

Statistics of the Facility

Find out basic information such as how many beds it has, the types of professionals on the healthcare team, and what types of units the facility offers. Be sure to investigate if they have any specialty units you might want to advance to in the future so you can talk about future goals.

What to Do After Your Nursing Interview

You can take a nice deep breath once the interview is over. However, you're not finished.

It's critical to send an email within 24 hours of the interview to thank the interviewer for their time and hospitality. This also affords you an excellent opportunity to let them know how much you're truly interested in the job and that you'd love to join the team.

Workforce Development Columnist

Melissa Mills has 26 years experience as a BSN and specializes in Workforce Development, Education, Advancement.

126 Articles   373 Posts