You’re going to graduate nursing school soon and have started applying at different facilities and finally gotten some interviews. You’ve read you’re supposed to practice questions beforehand, but what questions are those exactly… and why is this necessary? You’d think you’ll be able to recall the various patient scenarios mid-interview, but it’s harder than you’d think. Eventually, your clinicals blend together and you forget some things. Now you’re in a high-pressure situation and it’s even more difficult to recall. By going over questions beforehand, you can get these scenarios fresh in your mind so you can recall them confidently and promptly.
So, let’s go over a list of sample questions for nurse job interviews.
Sample questions for nurse job interviews
Jot down some notes, think about specific patient situations, and have answers ready for the following questions.
- Why do you want to work here?
- Why are you interested in this specific unit?
- If it’s a cardiac unit, mention cardiac-specific things
- If it’s a critical care unit, talk about things specific to that unit (ventilators, vasoactive medications, complex patients)
- Why do you want to be a nurse? // What got you interested in nursing?
- Tell me about your greatest strengths // what do you bring to the team?
- Tell me about your biggest weaknesses // where do you see yourself requiring the most improvement?
- Have you ever had to have a difficult conversation (tell them they’re wrong, correct them, etc) with a colleague? How did that go?
- Tell me about a time in which you had to prioritize your time quickly, how did that go? Would you change how you handled it looking back?
- What would your nursing professors // clinical instructors // classmates say about you?
- Tell me about a time in which you had to do service recovery; how did that go?
- Tell me about a time you made a mistake; what did you do to handle it?
- Tell me about a time in which you had to advocate for a patient how did that go?
- Have you ever observed someone else do something incorrectly? How did you handle that or react?
- Tell me about the most memorable patient you’ve cared for and why they stick out in your mind.
- Have you ever had a conflict with a peer/colleague, how did you handle that?
- What are your short-term goals (within the next year)?
- What are your long-term goals (in the next 5 years)?
- Is there anything that would impend your ability to meet the job requirements?
Questions to ask them!
At the end of every interview, the interviewee will ask you if you have any questions. It is really important that you do this because you are a valuable nursing commodity – this is not a one-way interaction of auditioning for a role you desperately need. You want to see if this hospital is a good fit for you as well. This also makes you look more confident, as you are trying to see not only what you can offer them, but what they can offer you as well.
If these things are not already addressed, I encourage you to ask some of the following questions.
- What is the current nurse: patient ratio? Has that changed recently?
- What is the current turnover rate in this hospital as a whole and this specific unit? Has that changed recently?
- Do you have a clinical ladder program?
- *You should know if you’re applying to a Magnet Facility – if they already are one, ask when they’re up for redesignation and how long they’ve had this designation. If they are not, ask if they are planning on pursuing it in the future.
- What are the incentives for a specialty certification (increased pay, paying for the exam, etc.)
- What is the culture of safety like on your unit?
- Do you have a rapid response team?
- Which computer charting system do you use?
- Do you have Shared Governance set up; are people engaged with it?
- How often is overtime and/or call time required?
- The last question – always ask this! Do you have any reservations about me for this specific job?
- This gives you the opportunity to address any of them and leave on a positive note
Please don’t use the initial interview to inquire about vacation time. It doesn’t look so hot. My advice is to ask about this if you are given a second interview and are considering multiple offers. I would not start off asking about vacation because that makes people think not working is your priority.
Things to not do
Don’t make the mistake of not practicing questions. It makes the intense Q&A of an interview go much smoother, especially if you’ve had limited clinical experiences to pull from. Take some time to refresh your memory and write them down if needed.
When describing experiences, don’t cut down other nurses to make yourself look good. It doesn’t work, you just end up looking like someone who has to put down others to elevate yourself…. Not a good look.
Don’t BS. Nurses are good at reading people and can typically tell when someone is making up an answer just to get through it. If you don’t know something, admit it, but counteract that with an opportunity to learn, a similar experience, or something you observed but really spoke to you.
Don’t refer to the same scenario over and over again. This is why practicing is so helpful because it brings various situations back to the forefront of your mind.
Need help landing that first nursing job?
The Resumes & Interviews for Nurses from FreshRN® is a one-stop ultimate resource in landing your first nursing job, written by a nursing administrator who hires new graduate nurses. This self-paced online course is complete with downloads, text, advice, and video examples of a cringe-worthy interview, a forgettable interview, and a let’s offer them the job before they walk out of the room kind of interview.
- A fellow nurse blogger has written an amazing book about getting your first nursing job. Your Last Nursing Class. How to Land Your First Nursing Job.
- I also discuss landing a job in my book, Anatomy of a Super Nurse: The Ultimate Guide to Becoming Nursey (Chapter 3).
- Top Nurse Interview Questions and Answers – NurseCode.com
- The Secret that Nurse Managers Look for in an Interview – NurseCode.com
- FreshRN Podcast, Episode 19 – Tips for New Graduate Nurses on Resumes, Applications, and Interviews
- Nursing Interview Questions and Tips – The Nerdy Nurse
- Preparing for your Nursing Job Interview – NRSNG Podcast