Nurse Interview Tips: How to Prepare & Common Questions
Whether you're a veteran nurse seeking a job change or advancement, or a new graduate pursuing your first nursing job, interviews can be intimidating — but they don't have to be. The key to standing out and making an excellent first impression is understanding how to prepare for a nursing interview.
Use Your Nursing Skills to Nail the Interview
When preparing for your dream nursing job, put your best foot forward by applying the critical skills health care administrators seek. Quality nursing skills include attention to detail, communication skills, critical thinking, and a willingness to learn. Show prospective employers you possess these traits and have what it takes to get the job done.
Nursing Interview Tips to Get You Ready
• Research the organization's mission and history. To better understand their culture and values, review their social media presence, patient ratings, comments from patients and employees, and how they respond and interact. Speak to colleagues who have worked at the organization or visit online nursing forums for information.
• Read the job description. Compare it to your nursing qualifications and achievements. Nursing interviews often use situational questions, so this evaluation helps you prepare to show you have a sound grasp of the role and necessary skills.
• Prepare potential questions. Employers prefer candidates who are engaged in the conversation. Ask about the nurse-to-patient ratio, onboarding, performance evaluations, nurse retention, flexibility with schedules, why the organization is an excellent place to work, and the potential for advancement.
• Dress for success and act professionally. That is true whether you're interviewing in person, virtually, or by phone.
o Be aware of your body language, and the body language of your interviewer.
o Virtual interviews have grown in popularity, so make sure your camera is on and turn off or silence your phone.
o Phone interviews are often conducted to narrow down potential candidates, so ask about the next steps before hanging up.
• Practice nursing interview questions. Be sure to take notes as you think of possible scenarios or responses. There are also countless resources available to assist you with mock interviews.
• Develop a professional resume and a well-written cover letter. Print an extra copy (or two) with references from prior nurse managers or nursing instructors to leave behind. Find tips from ANA on how to craft your nursing resume ahead of your interview.
• Clean up your social media. Check your online content and photos for unprofessional material. It's wise to make all accounts private except for your LinkedIn account, which should include a professional photo and current work information.
• Be on time. Virtual interviews may have technical delays, and you could hit traffic on the way to an in-person interview. Plan to arrive at least ten minutes before your interview to show you're prompt and reliable.
• Send a follow-up email. These emails can be brief, but they're crucial to solidifying an excellent first impression. Use this opportunity to thank them for their time and provide a short statement on why you're the best candidate for the position. Pro tip: Wait twenty-four hours after your interview to send a follow-up note.
How to Answer Nursing Interview Questions
Solid communication is the cornerstone of admirable nursing skills, so draw upon your interactive abilities to shine during your interview.
• Apply your communication skills to respond to nursing interview questions. Incorporate vital nursing characteristics into your responses. These may include reflecting on your ability to prioritize patient care, being an effective part of a team, and adapting to stressful situations.
• Use hypothetical true to life nursing situations in your responses to avoid sounding robotic or insincere.
• Remember to utilize your active listening skills and observe nonverbal cues such as the interviewer's body language and your own.
• Incorporate storytelling tactics to answer questions. Use a STAR format (Situation, Task, Action, Result) by addressing a specific situation, the task involved, your actions, and the outcome. Always include what you learned from the experience.
Prepare for Common Nursing Interview Questions
Most health care organizations lean on behavior-based interview questions for nurses to determine how candidates might respond in certain situations or with various personality types.
Typical Interview Questions for Nurses
1. What are your nursing strengths and weaknesses?
2. Tell us about a time you had a conflict with a colleague. How did you handle it? Pro tip: Discuss how you worked with difficult patients and colleagues or coped in a stressful health care environment.
3. Share a time you disagreed with a decision made by a provider. How did you respond, and what was the result?
4. Explain a situation where a patient or family member was unhappy with your care. How was the situation handled?
5. Describe a circumstance where you were asked to disclose personal, private information by a patient's loved one. How did you respond? Pro tip: Summarize how you maintained patient confidentiality and HIPPA laws while supporting the family member.
6. How do you manage stress in the workplace?
7. Explain a specific incident where you failed.
8. Tell us about an occasion when you were involved in a miscommunication with a coworker. How was the situation handled? Pro tip: Provide an example of how you took ownership and uncovered the source of the issue.
9. Describe when you felt a patient declined, and a provider wouldn't listen to your concerns.
10. Why do you want to work for us? Pro tip: Discuss how the organization's culture, mission, and goals fit yours.
Determine if the Position Is the Right Fit
Remember that the interview isn't just for the organization to decide if they want to hire you. You should also evaluate them to determine if they're the correct fit for your career and long-term goals. Whether you're just starting out or looking to make a change, don't let the interview process intimidate you. When you're properly prepared and confident, it will show in your interaction with prospective employers.
In the market for a new job? Visit the ANA Career Center to find open nursing positions from thousands of employers.