So you’ve landed an interview (yay!), read through our epic interview tips, and now you want to know which questions you’ll have a good chance of hearing when you sit down with your interviewer! Well, we’ve got you covered! Read on to begin familiarizing yourself with some common nursing interview questions and ideas for how to answer them.
What are your strengths/weaknesses?
With only 30-45 min for the actual interview, it is very important that the interviewer quickly assess what you bring to the table and a fast way to do this is by having you identify your greatest strength and weakness. This question showcases how well you know yourself. For your greatest strength, reflect on what things you do well. What do other people consistently say about you? What have your patients said? Identifying and speaking about your weakness must be approached with caution. You certainly want to be honest, but you also want to make sure that your weakness has a positive spin on it. For example: As a new grad, I don’t have much experience, but I am committed to learning everything that I can and I look forward to beginning my career as a nurse here at XYZ Hospital.
Where do you see yourself 1 year from now; 5 years from now?
Your future employer wants to know your short and long-term goals, and more importantly for them, what your timeline is for going back to school to know when they’ll have to hire again. If you plan to go back to school quickly, express your desire to continue your education in the near future. As far as a 1 year plan, a very realistic goal is to be comfortable in your role as an RN on the unit. Your 5 year plan could include aspects such as: a desire to obtain a MSN or DNP/PhD, serve as a clinical instructor or mentor for a nursing school, obtain a professional certification, be an active member of a specialty organization, advance the clinical ladder, or orient new hires.
Tell me about yourself.
I dreaded this question the most because I never knew what exactly the future employer was looking for. What they aren’t looking for is your life story over a 5 minute tale. You’ll definitely want to be brief with your response! If you are stumped about how to answer this question, you can voice the basics regarding your qualifications. For example: “I’m a new grad from ABC University, and I’ve passed the NCLEX (or am waiting to take the NCLEX). I completed my senior practicum on X unit at Y Hospital, and I am passionate about Z nursing. I am excited to deliver innovative, patient-centered care here at ABC Medical Center.”
Why should we hire you?
Your future employer is likely interviewing multiple candidates for the position, and this question allows them to hear directly from you as to why you should be the top consideration to fill the vacancy. Just like with the “tell me about yourself” question, you can answer this one by stressing the qualifications that you have for the job along with something that is unique to you and will leave a lasting impression. Maybe it’s your ability to empathize with even the most difficult patients that you care for. Maybe you are a fast learner. Or, maybe you are the opposite and although it takes you longer to learn skills, perhaps you really take the time to perfect what you’re doing and you seek out opportunities relentlessly until you’ve mastered a skill. Maybe you are a natural leader and whenever you were in clinicals, you were the one that your peers would always go to for help. Perhaps you are a team player and never let a clinical day go by without checking on your peers or nurses other than those you were assigned to and assisted them with tasks instead of sitting idly by. Demonstrate to the employer that you have both the qualifications and the characteristics to be successful on the unit and it will be no surprise when you are offered the position!
Why are you interested in this hospital?
When an employer asks you this question, they want to reveal whether or not you are truly interested in working at the institution, and what your perception of the institution is. Make sure that you actually know something about the hospital you are applying to. Take the time to research the mission statement and values of the hospital and let the employer know that they resonate with you. Maybe the hospital has been the site of several groundbreaking studies and you’ve been inspired. Perhaps you’ve heard repeatedly that the hospital is a great place to be. Its’ Magnet status appeals to you. You had clinicals there and admired the work ethic of the nurses and other members of the health care team. Those would all be great answers to this question.
Tell me about a time when…
We hope that you’ve put your clinical journal to use because the bulk of your interview could be behavioral interview questions such as: “tell me about a time when you had a difficult patient, worked with a lazy team member, had to call the doctor about a patient, had to work under pressure, faced a lot of stress, etc”. When you are presented with a behavioral interview question, you’ll want to answer following the PAR method. P is for problem. You’ll want to briefly explain the problem that you faced. A is for action. Next, describe the specific action that you took. R is for result. You’ll then explain the result of your action(s). You could also include whether or not you were satisfied with that result, and what you would do differently when you are faced with that situation again.
Seriously, we cannot stress enough how important it is to be prepared for these behavioral questions. Never rehearse for an interview without throwing a few of these questions into the mix because these are the questions that your potential employer is going to use to differentiate you between the other candidates for the position.
Do you have any questions for me?
You certainly do! Never let an interview conclude without asking questions! If you don’t, you risk seeming uninterested in the position. You should ask at least 3 questions. Here are a few powerful questions that you should not leave the interview without asking:
Why is this position vacant? If you could only remember one question to ask your interviewer, it should be this one, hands down! There could be a multitude of reasons why your potential employer is hiring. Perhaps there have been many nurses leaving on maternity leave or heading back to school. Or maybe this unit characteristically has a high turnover rate (and you would certainly want to know that, because that could have a lot of implications if you are hired). Trust us, this is a question that you’ll definitely want answered!
What is your policy for scheduling? This question will give you insight into whether nurses on the unit can choose their own work schedules or if it is assigned. You’ll also find out if there are any scheduling patterns that must be followed. Your potential employer may even go into more detail and explain how holidays are scheduled, and if they don’t, please ask! You don’t want to have any surprises around the holidays!
What quality improvement measures is the unit currently working on? This question will reveal to you the challenges that the unit is facing and how they are handling them. It’s a great idea to ask this question because if you are hired onto that unit, you will be a part of those QI projects immediately!
What is an example of a recent patient complaint you’ve received? This is such an important one to ask! Not only does this question give you a sneak peek into what problems/situations you may face with patients on the unit if you’re hired, you’ll also learn how effectively your potential manager handles these difficult situations. You could also ask the flip side of this question: What is an example of a recent patient praise you’ve received, so that you can hear what nurses on the unit are doing well!
How will I be evaluated and supported during my orientation? If the interviewer hasn’t already told you this, definitely ask! You’ll want to know an estimate of how many preceptors you’ll be learning from, who are your additional support persons on the unit such as the unit educator, and what to do in case any problems arise.
Hopefully you now have a better idea of which questions you can begin rehearsing for your upcoming interview, and how to answer them. These are questions that both of us were asked during our interviews and Kleneice had the fortune of being asked entirely behavioral interview questions! As always, feel free to comment below and let us know which questions you’ve been asked!