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Nursing Interview Questions

Standard Nursing Interview Questions:

  • How would you describe your skills as a team player?
  • How will you deal with difficult doctors?
  • How will you deal with difficult patients and/or their families?
  • How will you handle unexpected circumstances, such as being short staffed and having to perform a treatment you have not done before?

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You should also practice answering the tough nursing interview questions ahead of time:

  • If you are a recent nursing graduate, you should be prepared to explain to your interviewer what qualities you possess that will help you get up to speed quickly with the demands of your new unit.
  • You should be prepared to answer questions regarding any negative experiences you've had in the work place, what you learned from them, and how you would use those experiences in a positive way in your new position.
  1. What type of nursing experience do you have?
  2. Where did you get your training and what certifications do you have?
  3. How long has it been since you worked in (ER, OR, ICU, or particular specialty area)?
  4. What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
  5. Why did you choose (ER, OR, ICU, LTC, FNP, or other specialty area of nursing)?
  6. Why do you want to work in our hospital and/or community?
  7. Tell me about a time in which you had to handle an irate physician, co-worker, or patient. How did you handle it and what were the results?
  8. Describe a difficult decision you've made and the process you went through to reach that decision.
  9. Why makes you right for this job?
  10. What nursing organizations do you belong to?

Nursing Behavioral Questions:

You're sure the instructions you've received from management are a mistake, not in the company's best interests. What do you do to warn management of the your concerns, and how do you deal with your instructions, until you can get them modified?

ANSWER-You contact your immediate manager, and inform that person of your concerns, with whatever information you have to best support your case. Otherwise, you're obliged to carry out your instructions, and should do so.

Your supervisor has told you to drop everything, and concentrate on something you don’t think is important, or even necessary. Do you put up with it, or try to get your more important work done, and deal with this matter afterwards?

ANSWER-This is an instruction, like it or not. It's best to deal with the matter immediately, get it finished, and try to minimize disruption to the more important things. Even in theory, and even if you're right, you're making a mistake by re-prioritizing management's instructions.

You're getting distracted by extra work and meetings, and it's generating a backlog of work for you. How do you cope with it?

ANSWER-You may not be able to avoid these things, so it's safest to establish a separate chain of processes for dealing with your normal work, where you can make time and space to ensure that work is done. You can either delegate, or ask to have delegated, some of the work, but it has to be kept moving. Backlogs are destructive, and should be prevented at all costs.

You get two difficult clients at the same time, both demanding your attention. What do you do?

ANSWER-You get briefings from both clients. You set times for dealing with their matters, then you prioritize one or the other. You make sure that each client is attended to as quickly as possible, and reschedule other work as required.

Your database crashes, and you have to work on some sort of improvised system for receipts, while also collecting the data. What do you do?

ANSWER-You set up a paper receipt system and get your data into a paper form which can be easily used for data entry when the system comes back online. You take copies of all paper issued and received. You create a reference system for each document, preferably numerical, associating each receipt with its related document.

Your Own Interview Questions to Ask Your Interviewer

Below are some examples of nursing interview questions you should ask a potential employer.

  • What is the nurse-to-patient ratio?
  • Is there support staff on the unit to assist nurses?
  • In what ways are nurses held accountable for high qualities of practice?
  • How much input do nurses have regarding systems, equipment and the care environment?
  • What professional development opportunities are available to nurses?

Nursing Interview Questions You Can Ask and Not Ask:

*By Jennifer LeClaire, Monster Contributing Writer 

If you're a trained nursing professional, you can afford to be a discriminating job seeker, thanks to the nursing shortage. But you still need to prepare thoroughly for every job interview.

Part of the process of getting ready for an interview is knowing the questions you want to ask a potential employer. These questions should demonstrate your interest in the opportunity while helping you gauge whether the position is the right match for your skills, goals, personality and lifestyle.

Your inquiries should cover three main areas: orientation and training, the working environment, and the employer's management and administration. 

Orientation and Training:

  • What is the level and depth of orientation?
  • Will more orientation time be granted if I feel I need it?
  • Will my orientation take place during the shift I will be working?
  • Is there a mentorship program?
  • What are your expectations of new hires during their first six months on the job?
  • Describe typical first-year assignments.
  • What qualities do your most successful nurses possess?

Working Environment:

  • What is the nurse-to-patient ratio?
  • How long are your shifts -- eight, 10 or 12 hours?
  • How do you go about scheduling? Is self-scheduling an option, or does someone else dictate the schedule?
  • How long have most nurses been on the unit?
  • Why did the last person in this position leave?
  • How long has this position been vacant?
  • Will I be on call if I accept this position? If so, what are the conditions/requirements of on-call duty?

Management and Administration:

  • How would you describe your management style?
  • How do you motivate employees?
  • How do you demonstrate that you value your nursing staff?
  • How much autonomy do you give your nurses to make decisions regarding patient care?
  • How often do you conduct performance reviews?
  • Is the administration open to suggestions that would improve patient care?
  • What challenges is this facility facing?
  • What have been this unit's most notable successes and failures over the year?
  • What are nurses' biggest challenges at this facility?
  • What makes this facility unique among others in this region?
  • What steps do you take to ensure safe working conditions?
  • What are your plans for future growth?
  • Why should I want to work here?

An Offer in Hand

Once you have the job offer -- and not before -- ask the standard questions about salary and benefits, such as:

  • What is the salary?
  • Is special compensation awarded for overtime? What is the differential for second-shift, third-shift and weekend work?
  • What is the benefits package?
  • Do you offer other incentives, such as paid journal subscriptions or scholarships for dependents?
  • Do you provide financial support for continuing education?
  • Are grants available for ongoing education?
  • Are there special incentives for bilingual nurses?
  • Is there room for advancement? What is the career path?
  • How do you reward employees for exceptional work?

A couple of interview caveats: Never ask about the number of ethnic employees, and never ask the interviewer any questions that could be construed as personal.

Think of the interview as a conversation, not an interrogation. While the meeting is the interviewer's chance to find out about you, it's also your chance to ask about the issues that can significantly affect your short- and long-term job satisfaction.

Fifty Standard Interview Questions for All Majors:

It is not enough to have solid answers for only the above questions. You need to be prepared for the full spectrum of questions that may be presented. For further practice, make sure you go through the required mock interview (see the Competitive Interview Prep chapter); and for further review, look at some of the following questions:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Tell me about your experience.
  • What is your most important accomplishment to date?
  • How would you describe your ideal job?
  • Why did you choose this career?
  • When did you decide on this career?
  • What goals do you have in your career?
  • How do you plan to achieve these goals?
  • How do you personally define success?
  • Describe a situation in which you were successful.
  • What do you think it takes to be successful in this career?
  • What accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction in your life?
  • If you had to live your life over again, what one thing would you change?
  • Would you rather work with information or with people?
  • Are you a team player?
  • What motivates you?
  • Why should I hire you?
  • Are you a goal-oriented person?
  • Tell me about some of your recent goals and what you did to achieve them.
  • What are your short-term goals?
  • What is your long-range objective?
  • What do you see yourself doing five years from now?
  • Where do you want to become ten years from now?
  • Do you handle conflict well?
  • Have you ever had a conflict with a boss or professor? How did you resolve it?
  • What major problem have you had to deal with recently?
  • Do you handle pressure well?
  • What is your greatest strength?
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • If I were to ask one of your professors (or a boss) to describe you, what would he or she say?
  • Why did you choose to attend your college?
  • What changes would you make at your college?
  • How has your education prepared you for your career?
  • What were your favorite classes? Why?
  • Do you enjoy doing independent research?
  • Who were your favorite professors? Why?
  • Why is your GPA not higher?
  • Do you have any plans for further education?
  • How much training do you think you’ll need to become a productive employee?
  • What qualities do you feel a successful manager should have?
  • Why do you want to work in the _____ industry?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • Why are you interested in our company?
  • Do you have any location preferences?
  • How familiar are you with the community that we’re located in?
  • Are you willing to relocate? In the future?
  • Are you willing to travel? How much?
  • Is money important to you?
  • How much money do you need to make to be happy?
  • What kind of salary are you looking for?

Don’t just read these questions—practice and rehearse the answers. Don’t let the employer interview be the first time you actually formulate an answer in spoken words. It is not enough to think about them in your head—practice! Sit down with a friend, a significant other, or your roommate (an especially effective critic, given the amount of preparation to date) and go through all of the questions. If you have not yet completed a mock interview, do it now. Make the most of every single interview opportunity by being fully prepared!

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