10 Nursing Interview Questions and How to Answer

Interviews are a conversation. They should never be a one-sided exchange. It’s a chance for you to see if this medical institution is right for you and for your potential employer to see if you’re a good fit for the facility.

Traditionally, interviews were geared at gauging your skill set, compatibility with the facility and work-habits. While those priorities haven’t changed, increasingly, employers have started incorporating a new style of question within interviews to better glean this information: behavioral questions.

In this article we’ll discuss the different types of questions you may encounter in your nursing interviews and how best to answer them.

Traditional Nursing Interview Questions

Standard nursing interview questions tend to fall into three different categories:

  • Learning more about you: “Tell me about yourself”, “Why did you decide to become a nurse?”, and “What do you find rewarding about being a nurse?” are standard questions used to see who you are as a person and a nurse.
  • Seeing if you can do the work: “Describe your experience and skills” and “How will you apply your skills here?” help employers learn if you will be able to handle the work you’ll be responsible for in the facility.
  • Figuring out if you’re a good fit: “How do your qualifications and work experience make you a good candidate for this job?”, “What is your interest in working at this particular facility?” and “What are your goals and objectives?” are questions that help determine if your goals as a nurse align with the goals of the facility.

These questions tend to be very one-dimensional. While they help the interviewer glean the information they’re interested in, they don’t go deep enough to truly determine a good fit. That’s where behavioral questions in.

What is a Behavioral Question?

Behavioral questions usually ask for a story. They are questions that ask about your past performance to help inform how your future performance may be. They focus on how you handled various past work situations and how your skills, abilities and personality contributed to the solution you reached.

That means, your answer to each question should be framed around describing your problem solving skills and provide a clear message on how you’ll handle situations in your next position. Behavioral questions are also said to be 55% predictable of future on-the-job behavior. Compared to the 10% predictability of traditional interviewing, that’s a big step up.

These types of questions also make a lot of sense in nursing interviews as a great deal of the work that nurses like you do has to do with patient and family care - this is work that requires a great deal of interpersonal skills. Asking behavioral questions allows interviewers to truly get a sense for how you make decisions and interact with people on a daily basis.

How to Answer Behavioral Questions

One clear best practice we’ve noticed when it comes to answering behavioral questions is to use a formula that clearly structures your answers.

While the jury is still out on which acronym you should use to remember this formula - we’ve seen a few iterations including BAR, SAR, PAR - they all break down to a similar thought process:

  • Background (B) / Situation (S) / Problem (P): Explain the background of the situation and what problem you were working to solve.
  • Action (A): What action you took.
  • Result (R): What was the result of the actions you took and how did the situation resolve.

Whether you decide to use BAR, SAR or PAR, keeping this formula in mind will take you far. 😉

But knowing this formula isn’t the only key to acing behavioral interview questions - you need to tailor your answers to every medical employer’s values. Do your research on the organization’s values and align your responses where appropriate.

Examples of Behavioral Questions

There are a variety of behavioral questions you may be asked, but they’re often trying to answer one of three types of questions:

  • How do you work?
  • How do you work with others?
  • How do you work with patients?

As you think about how best to approach your response, first identify the root of the question and use that to help you decide what to focus on in your answer.

Let’s talk through each type of question:

Question Type: How Do You Work?

These questions are focused around how you as a nurse deal with situations in your everyday work. They look into how you make choices and overcome problems that affect your work.

These questions are looking for your internal thought process when dealing with situations. They want to see what you value as a nurse and what factors come into play when ultimately deciding what actions to take. Answer by walking through your thought process and what decisions ultimately led to your actions.

Common questions that fall into this category include:

  • Tell me about a time where you were under a lot of pressure. How did you get through it?
  • Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.
  • Talk about a time where you felt overwhelmed by your work or patient-load. How did you get through it? What did you do to create a more manageable environment?
  • Tell me about a time where you faced a challenging situation or problem and took the lead to correct it.

Question Type: How Do You Work With Others?

These questions have more to do with your outward performance within the medical institution. Whether it’s in relation to interacting with other nurses, techs, doctors, or the medical institution itself, your performance is directly influenced by, and directly impacts those around you.

Answer these questions by keeping everything in a positive light. Even if you disagreed with a policy or coworker, potential employers want to see that you remained professional and found a way to work around your differences to a mutually agreeable solution.

Common questions that fall into this category include:

  • Tell me about a time there was a conflict within your team. How did you handle it?
  • Describe a time when you received negative feedback. How did you respond and turn it into something positive?
  • Talk about a time where you had to deal with a difficult coworker. How did you conduct yourself and build a relationship?

Question Type: How Do You Work With Patients?

Unsurprisingly, patient-focused questions determine how you interact with patients and their families. Your patients are your most important interaction, so the medical institution will often want to know how your bedside manner translates in difficult situations.

When approaching these questions, focus on how elements of the situation you’re describing affected how you decided to conduct yourself. Every situation is different and showing that you remained cognisant of important factors even in difficult situations will emphasize how you pay attention to every case.

Common questions that fall into this category include:

  • Give an example of a time when you had to deal with a difficult patient or a patient who chose not to disclose important information. How did you handle the situation and what was the outcome?
  • Tell me how you approach communicating important instructions or information with people who do not know medical jargon. What type of language do you use to convey this information?
  • Talk about a time a patient or patient’s family was dissatisfied with your care. How did you handle the situation?

Before going into an interview, take some time to think of a few situations that can be used to answer these questions. Think over how you might frame the situation to each of these questions to highlight the actions you took to reach to desirable result.

Doing a bit of practice in how to frame each answer will help you avoid one common mistake interviewees run into when answering behavioral questions - their answers get too long. It’s easy to want to tell the entire story of each situation, but interviews should be a discussion - not a monologue.

Pause at appropriate times to allow for questions and create a chance for you to discuss your story rather than tell it. It’ll create a more engaging response for the interviewer and build a better rapport.

We hope this helped you feel more prepared for tackling nursing interview questions! If you have questions about how to prepare for an upcoming interview, feel free to reach out to our team of Nomad Navigators for help!

Happy job hunting!

The Nomad Team

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Last Updated:
May 1, 2018

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