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Common Nursing Job Interview Questions and Answers – Plus! Learn What to Ask When Interviewing for a Nursing Job


Your nursing dream job is just around the corner. You’ve put together a solid resume highlighting your experience, you’ve been invited for an interview and now it’s time to review and prepare for those common nursing job interview questions. Depending on where you live and the nursing job you’re applying for, competition can be tough. The more prepared you are, the more relaxed you’ll be during the interview and the better your answers will be. To get you started off right, I’ve categorized the most common questions. Read through each, prepare your answers, ace your nursing interview and land your dream job.

common nursing job interview questions
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Nursing Interview Questions and Answers Scenarios

Scenario questions are questions where your interviewer poses a situation to you and asks you how you would respond. They’re often behavioral health questions and even when you’re applying for a clinical position, employers want to know how you’d respond to a variety of patient situations. The following questions, and answers, are examples of common nursing scenario interview questions.

Question – Tell me about a situation when you had to work closely with a difficult coworker. How did you handle the situation?

Answer – With this question, the interviewer is looking to see how you work with others and how you handle yourself professionally. Nurses are a team and the need to work well together.

Question – Tell me about a time you stepped into a leadership role.

Answer – Regardless of your nursing credentials, nurses are leaders both in the example they set and also in the way they handle situations. Your response should reflect your experience. If you’re a new nursing grad then your leadership role experience may come from clinical or from group classwork projects. It can also come from volunteer work or your prior non-nurse working experience.

Question – Describe a time you provided effective patient or family education.

Answer – For new grads this answer should come from your clinical experience or if you’re already working in a healthcare field, as a nurse aid, for example. This question is assessing your communication skills with patients and also if you understand the role of nursing and education.

Question – Tell me about a time you were under a lot of pressure. What was going on, and how did you get through it?

Answer – Nursing can be a high stress career. Sometimes it’s life or death. It’s important that you feel capable of managing stressful situations and providing good care.

New Grad Nursing Interview Questions and Answers

New graduates may feel like they don’t have much to talk about during an interview. Sure, you may not have much nursing experience but don’t forget that you’ve had clinical experience. You also can refer to past jobs and school projects in your answers. The following questions are common questions new nursing graduates may receive for an entry-level position.

Question – Describe a time when you didn’t know the answer to something at work. How did you find the information?

Answer – Be honest here, you’re new and you have a lot to learn. That’s good as long as you’re aware of that and you’re comfortable with it. There are so many good sources of information, from websites and books to your fellow nurses.

Question – Tell me about a time you failed. How did you deal with this situation?

Answer – With this nursing interview question, the interviewer is looking to see if you have a growth mindset. How do you experience failure and how do you define failure? There are many different ways you can approach this question. Consider focusing on how you dealt with the failure rather than the failure itself.

Question – Describe a time when you felt overwhelmed with your work load. What did you do?

Answer – This question is similar to the pressure question; however, they’re looking for a slightly different answer here. They want to know if you’re willing to ask for help and if no help is available, how do you structure your workload to get your job done.

Clinical Nurse Interview Questions

Most entry-level nursing positions don’t get into details and present actual clinical situations. However, the longer you’ve been a nurse and the more specialized your skills and knowledge, the more likely you are to be asked clinical questions. These clinical questions will likely be specific to the specialty position you’re applying for.

For example, if you’re an oncology nurse then your clinical questions will be related to cancer and cancer treatments. If you’re an ICU nurse, then you’re likely to get questions about common situations in intensive care. Here’s a quick example of some of the fundamental clinical questions a new nurse may be asked during an interview.

Question – Did your clinical experience include putting in a urinary drainage catheter or starting an intravenous line access?

Question – How comfortable are you inserting or removing a nasogastric tube, or caring for a patient with one?

Question – A patient is experiencing Cheyne-Stokes breathing, what would you do?

Answer – Be honest about your experience and skills. If you haven’t started an IV, don’t say that you have. However, when you don’t have experience and you feel it’s necessary for the job, let the interviewer know that you are a quick learner and that you’re willing to take a class or attend a training to improve your skills. This shows initiative and motivation.

Expected Nursing Interview Questions

Almost every interview includes those standard interview questions, the ones that you expect to be answered and often forget to prepare for. Don’t let these fundamental questions catch you off guard. Prepare for the nurse job interview questions and the basic job interview questions together.

Question – What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?

Answer – When answering this question don’t just list your strengths, give an example of them and how they benefit others. And when talking about your weaknesses, talk about how you’re working to improve them.

Question – Tell me about yourself

Answer – This is one of the nursing interview questions and answers, tell me about yourself, that can really get out of hand. You don’t want to get too carried away with your history and interests. You don’t want to give too much personal information either. It’s a fine balance to share the information that’s relevant to the position and also presents you as a well-rounded person and the right choice for the job. Talk about your path to nursing, your relevant experience, and when appropriate any interests or accomplishments that relate to the position.

Question – Why are you interested in this particular nursing job?

Answer – Do your research and know a bit about the company. Know what the company values are and talk about those in your answer. You can look at their website for keywords. For example, if they talk about teamwork on their website, then let them know that teamwork is important to you.

Nursing Interview Questions to Ask

It’s never a good idea to walk out of an interview without asking questions of your own. You want to make sure that the job is right for you and you want to make sure they know you’re interested and engaged. Write down what you want to know and what’s important for you to know in order to move forward if you’re offered a position.

Here’s a quick list of questions you may want to ask your interviewer.
• What does orientation entail? How long does orientation last?
• Is their ongoing training? If so, what does that look like?
• Can you describe a typical shift?
• What qualities make a nurse successful here?
• What is the nurse-to-patient ratio?
• How long are your shifts? Is there an option for longer, or shorter, shifts?
• How is scheduling handled?
• How long have most nurses been on the unit?
• How would you describe the company’s management style?
• How are employees motivated?
• What challenges is this facility facing?
• What are your plans for future growth?
• Do you provide financial support for continuing education?
• Is there room for advancement?
• How are employees recognized for accomplishments?

It’s also a good idea to keep a notepad and pen with you so that you can jot down any questions that come up during the interview. Don’t forget to get business cards from the people you interview with and follow-up with a thank you email.

Understanding common nursing job interview questions and answers and what to ask when interviewing for a nursing job is the best way for you to prepare. Practice interviewing. Get someone that you know and trust to ask you questions and prepare your answers. Get feedback on your answers.

The more comfortable you are with your answers, the more confident you’ll appear. Interviewing for a nursing job, your dream nursing job, can be a harrowing experience. Preparing yourself with practice interviews and answering potential interview questions in advance will help you appear poised, prepared, and perfect for the job.

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