Passing the board exam isn’t a guarantee that you’ll have work right away. For you to actually get to work as a nurse, you have to go through a lot. You have to search for a job, send your resume and be called for an actual interview.
This is where things get tricky.
You see, employers conduct interviews to know an applicant’s interpersonal and conflict-management skills. If you can’t answer any of their questions that well, there’s a good chance that you’ll never get called back again.
So, to help you ace your interview and application, here are the toughest nursing interview questions and the best responses to them.
1. Tell me about yourself.
What the interviewer wants to know: Your personality, attitude, and general approach to nursing
What you should do: Prove that you have the traits of a good employee. Narrate pertinent details about your personality, professional experiences, educational attainment, and career goals.
It’s important that you can discern what the employer really wants to know when the interviewer asks you those interview questions. By being able to have a deeper understanding of what motivates your interviewer’s line of questioning, you can properly formulate the best answers.
Additional tip: Focus on your strengths and how they help you excel as a nurse.
Example: “I’m a lively and energetic person. After a year of volunteer work in a child care facility, providing compassionate care has been my primary focus in working as a nurse. I have excellent time management skills since I juggled different patient loads and patient wellness programs at the same time. Seeing my patients get well as I provide nursing care gives me never-ending energy in this profession.”
2. Why did you pursue a nursing career?
What the interviewer wants to know: Your motivation for entering the field of nursing and if you are really dedicated to it
What you should do: Prove your commitment and devotion to nursing. If you can, briefly narrate the turning point that made you decide to be a nurse.
Additional tip: Avoid being vague and just answering that you like nursing. Talk about the steps you’ve taken to pursue your goal to be a nurse.
Example: “As a kid, seeing how well the nurses took care of my grandmother in the hospital really made an impact on me. But, my interest in nursing started when I volunteered at a hospice care facility near our school. The fulfillment I felt in taking care of the patients there made me decide that I wanted to pursue nursing as my profession someday.”
3. Tell me what you know about our institution.
What the interviewer wants to know: If you are really interested in joining their institution or if you just want to get into any hospital
What you should do: Before the interview, conduct research about the institution you are applying for. You can visit their website, check out patient feedback and reviews, and even ask friends who work in the same place. You’ll definitely score points if you can show that you are knowledgeable about their institution.
Additional tip: Relate what you know about the institution with why you chose to apply there.
Example: “St. Patrick Medical Center is currently the country’s leading chemotherapeutic treatment center for children. Its mission to provide the best treatment options for sick children made me interested to establish my career here.”
4. Why should I hire you?
What the interviewer wants to know: How you can be an asset if hired and how you see yourself and your strengths
What you should do: Prove that you can be a part of the institution’s solutions to existing problems. Show them how your characteristics will be valuable to them.
Additional tip: Emphasize your strengths and correlate them with how they can benefit the institution.
Example: “I believe my strengths are valuable to the institution’s reform on the provision of nursing care. Because of my dedication to the nursing profession, I will ensure that providing quality nursing care will be my highest priority. I have these plans in my mind since I really want to be part of making this facility the center for quality nursing care.”
5. Tell us how you work under pressure.
What the interviewer wants to know: Your capacity to perform everyday nursing duties.
What you should do: Present a previous experience where you can prove your ability to work under pressure.
Additional tip: Cite your positive attributes during this kind of situation.
Example: “In my previous job as a Labor and Delivery nurse, we sometimes experienced sudden surges of patients into the unit. Since we could not turn away pregnant patients undergoing labor, I learned strategies to manage these surges. I would multi-task between patients while ensuring that I was still prioritizing. I would write down the things that must be prioritized within the L & D unit and carry out the tasks. Because of this, during some really busy shifts, we were able to handle up to 30 patients.”
6. Do you have any career goals?
What the interviewer wants to know: If you have a definite career plan and if the employer can rely on you for possible promotions.
What you should do: Talk about your plans to excel.
Additional tip: Show also how your employers can benefit from your personal career goals.
Example: “Five years from now, I aim to complete a post-graduate degree in Oncology Nursing. If ever I will be hired for the job, I will spend the next two years mastering all the skills of being an Onco nurse. I will get additional certifications and possibly pursue a Master’s degree in a university to further my knowledge and skills on the job.”
7. Do you have any weaknesses?
What the interviewer wants to know: How you deal with your weaknesses
What you should do: Mention your weaknesses but cite something positive about them.
Additional tip: Be realistic and honest with your answer. The interviewer can easily tell if you are presenting a form of flattery for yourself.
Example: “I have tremendous amounts of self-initiative- sometimes too much. I realize that it can be a bad thing so I make sure to consult with the nurse managers regularly.”
8. Are you a team player?
What the interviewer wants to know: Your thoughts on the importance of working as a team in the provision of patient care (1).
What you should do: Talk about how you worked alongside your team in your previous nursing experience.
Additional tip: Stress the importance of good team synergy in successful patient care.
Example: “Yes, I’m a team player since I believe in the importance of working together in this field. Managing our workload is possible when nurses help each other in the unit. Also, patient care begins with doctors but it doesn’t end with nurses alone. The works of other healthcare professionals are important as well.”
9. Tell us about your salary requirements
What the interviewer wants to know: If your expected salary meets the employer’s range
What you should do: If you can, avoid giving exact numbers. This question is very tricky. Usually, the first one to name a price loses the negotiation process. If the interviewer insists that you tell your salary expectation, you can give a broad range well within industry standards.
Additional tip: Before the interview, find out the salary range for nurses in your area and department. If possible, emphasize that you are more interested in the position than the pay.
Example: “I am actually more interested in the position than the salary it yields since the job fits my career goals as a nurse. However, I expect that I will be paid within the appropriate range for this position based on the years of experience I’ve had.”
10. Do you have any questions for us?
What the interviewer wants to know: Your initiative and interest
What you should do: Ask about the details of the position. You can ask about the usual nurse-patient ratios in the facility, length of orientation phase, and educational opportunities for employees.
Additional tip: Think of the questions you will have in mind once you get hired.
Example: “I would like to ask about the institution’s policies in inter-department orientations. I know that the hospital provides opportunities for staff nurses to be rotated in different areas as part of the orientation phase. I found it interesting since it can give me the chance to be familiar with the different sub-specialties of nursing.”
Last Tips: Before the Interview
As you practice your responses to the nursing interview questions above, evaluate yourself. Review your career goals and plan your future as a nurse. By understanding your own motivations, goals, and plans, you will be able to answer with sincerity and confidence. This greatly increases your chances of getting hired.
- Mao, A. T., & Woolley, A. W. (2016). Teamwork in health care: maximizing collective intelligence via inclusive collaboration and open communication. AMA journal of ethics, 18(9), 933-940.
About the Author: Je Abarra is a nurse by profession and a freelance writer by passion. She is working as a staff nurse in the pediatric ward of a private city hospital for more than two years. During her free time, she usually writes about her fascinations in health and nursing. She loves to provide tips and fun facts about nursing and healthy living.