Let’s be honest, job interviews have earned a pretty bad reputation. We yearn for the outcome, but wince at the thought of rapid-fire interview questions coming our way.
Not unlike a trip to the dentist, you know that looming job interview will ultimately be a beneficial experience for you. But you will have to suffer for it; unless you take the time to prepare properly.
A big part of what makes them so scary are the unknowns. What will they ask? Will I have an answer for it?
You can’t predict the future, but you can prepare for it as much as possible by having an answer ready for the more common nursing interview questions. So here are 25 questions you might get asked. It won’t hurt your chances if you’ve put a bit of thought into them first!
Try jotting down some ideas for each one a few days before your interview and avoid memorising responses as you probably won’t get these exact questions, but they are likely to be similar.
What do interviewers want to know?
Nursing interviewers aren’t there to fluster you. They don’t enjoy watching you squirm. They just want to find the best person for the role, and to do that they need to get to know you a little better.
So don’t think of an interview as an interrogation. Think of it as a chance to show who you are, and to find out more about your prospective workplace. Remember, your interviewers want you to succeed! It doesn’t help them or you if the interview ends and they still don’t know enough about you to know if you are right for the job.
25 nursing interview questions to prepare for
1. What attracted you to nursing in the first place?
Be honest, why you got into nursing is your personal story, and big indicator about who you are. Who knows, your interviewers may even relate and like you more after you answer!
2. Why are you interested in this particular role?
Once again, be honest. They are trying to gauge your motivations for applying, but you are also trying to find out if the job is for you. If you tell them you are interested in career development opportunities, and they say the role doesn’t have any, you might just find you’ve saved each other some time.
3. Why are you leaving your previous role?
No matter the real reason, do not insult your previous employer. Your interviewers are trying to assess your self awareness and maturity. If you launch into a rant about how much you hated your boss, that isn’t a good look. Not to mention, it will make your interviewer wonder if that’s how you would talk about them in the future.
4. What was your favourite/least favourite thing about your last role?
As long as you don’t say something like, “I had to work too hard!”, tell the truth. If they are picturing you in their role, this information might become important later. For example, if you say your least favourite thing was too much admin, they may try to fit you into a more active role. If instead, they don’t offer you the position because it requires a lot of admin, it might be for the best, since it isn’t something you enjoy doing anyway.
5. What do you know about (Employer’s organisation name) already?
They want to see if you’ve done your research, plain and simple. Before any interview, you should always research your employer. At the very least, visit their website and read their services and about pages. These should be enough to give you a rough idea of what they do and what they stand for, but it will also give you an idea of any questions you might want to ask.
You’d be surprised how impressive an answer to this question sounds, versus how relatively easy it is to prepare for it.
6. Can you tell us about a time you have had to deal with an angry patient/resident? What did you learn?
This is assessing your conflict resolution skills. You can afford to show some vulnerability here. If the first time didn’t go well, say that! Just make sure you end your answer with how you learnt to de-escalate situation based on that experience. Admitting to making mistakes, but showing that you can learn from them, is a very valuable trait.
7. What’s one thing about nursing that is guaranteed to make you smile?
This is another simple one where is pays to be honest. The interviewers are just trying to connect with you. Expect this question later in the interview as a way to keep you relaxed in between some tougher questions.
8. Tell us one technique you use to manage conflicting priorities at work
Make sure you give an overview of what the priorities are, to establish the scale or seriousness of them. It will make your technique sound much more impressive.
9. If you weren’t a nurse, what would you be doing?
Be honest, this is another ‘getting to know you’ type of question. Bonus points if you had a ridiculous or uncommon dream job when you were younger that might make your interviewers laugh.
10. What is the biggest achievement in your professional life to date?
This should never be an off the cuff answer. You need to know this going in and have planned how to best explain and contextualise it. In fact, you might even want to have several, just in case you are asked for more, or if you think a different one would suit the personalities of your interviewers better.
11. Can you give us an example of how you have furthered your nursing knowledge outside of the job itself?
Conferences, seminars, optional courses, monthly subscriptions to newsletters… The list goes on. All of these are perfect answers to this question, and they are all things you probably want to be doing anyway if you are a nurse. Besides, they are even tax deductible!
12. What words would your colleagues use to describe you?
Don’t go for the cliches, like hard working, caring or friendly. That’s what most people will say, and you want to set yourself apart. Instead, think of some of the more overlooked soft skills, like leadership, being a good listener, thinking critically etc. These show you have a good awareness of all the things that make a good nurse, not just the obvious ones.
13. Can you provide an example of a time you had to say ‘no’ when your manager asked you to do something? How did you handle it?
Many people go blank when they are asked this question, and scramble trying to think of some huge, controversial moment. In truth, the answer could be as simple as saying no to an extra shift because you had commitments. Emphasise that you said no professionally, and that you are an honest person who takes their words and their commitments seriously.
14. A senior staff member asks you to drop everything and help them with something you aren’t qualified to do? How would you react in this situation?
Say no! This is a personal integrity evaluation. It’s assessing how well your own personal values and knowledge of what is right and wrong stand up to authority.
15. What is the most difficult decision you’ve faced in your career so far?
Answer this question truthfully. This is a great question to think about beforehand because it is a chance to show your self awareness. Rather than answering about a time you had to say yes to a shift or not, discuss things like balancing work with family, going for a promotion, choosing to study again to add to your qualifications. Think big picture.
16. If you could invent one piece of technology to help nurses in the future, what would it be?
This answer can be funny, insightful or practical. Show your personality, and for bonus points, make the invention relevant to something topical in the healthcare industry.
17. Can you provide an example of a time you disagreed with what your supervisor was doing? How did you handle it?
This is another question that pits your personal convictions against a person in power. You want to emphasise that you handled it professionally, and that you stuck to your values.
18. In your experience and studies, what is the biggest issue facing the healthcare sector at the moment? How could this be improved?
Do some research into this and make your answer topical. You want to showcase your industry knowledge, but also your ability to think critically and be a problem solver.
19. Tell us a bit about your previous manager
Like one of the earlier question about your previous employment, do not be disparaging here. Even if you hated you last boss, be civil.
20. What training do you wish you had received more of in your last position/studies?
This question might feel like the interviewers are trying to catch you out on a lack of knowledge. But flip it and make it an opportunity instead. Be honest about what further training you would like to receive, and then ask if they provide it. This will show you are constantly looking to learn, and it will be informative for you as well.
21. A health facility is understaffed and you’ve just clocked off a double shift a few hours earlier. They call you and ask you do another shift immediately, but you haven’t had the stipulated amount of rest time. What do you do?
You say no! Employers want employees with integrity. If they didn’t they wouldn’t be asking you this question. The patient’s care always comes first, which means you should never agree to a shift if you aren’t in a condition to provide that care. Show your interviewers that you know that.
22. A patient is constantly asking for pain medication, but they don’t have the right prescription. You can see they are suffering, but the doctor assures you they are fine. What do you do?
This is a tough question to answer, as there is no right answer based on that little context. Say that you would have another, more firm conversation with the doctor during which you would explain your concerns. This answer shows you would still behave professionally, and continue to advocate for the patient without giving up on teamwork.
23. You witness a team member make a small mistake when caring for a patient. They ask you to ignore it as it isn’t big deal, but the patient seems bothered by it. What do you do?
The patient comes first, and the team member has put you in an unfair position by asking you not to say anything. Correct the mistake, make sure the patient is comfortable, and then have a frank discussion with the team member about their conduct. If they respond negatively, consider telling your superior.
24. What advice would you give to a young person thinking about becoming a nurse?
Let your personality shine through. This question provides insight into lessons you have learned on your nursing journey, and also shows what you find important as a person.
25. What is more important to you – A good relationship with your patients/residents or a good relationship with your workmates?
Say both, and if your interviewer tells you have to choose…still pick both. Explain that good relationships are essential for patient outcomes, and that good relationships with colleagues are also essential for providing effective care. Both are intrinsic to each other.
Are you ready for your interview?
Nurses Now a leading nursing agency that has an award winning team that is always looking for new members. If you, or someone you know, is looking to become a nurse, contact us today to apply and join the Nurses Now family.
What do you have to lose? You already know which questions we are going to ask!