When preparing for an available nursing position, a resume and experience only go so far. An applicant needs to fit the personality profile a hospital, doctor’s office or medical facility is looking for. For first time nursing job applications, it is important to not go into interviews blind and not prepared. That is why understanding possible nursing interview questions and practicing for these questions not only helps calm interview nerves, but it helps increase the chance of a successful interview.

1) Why Do You Want to Work In The Industry?

The issue most interviewers fall into with this question is they say the same thing as everyone else. They might say ever since they were a kid they wanted to be a nurse, or how much they enjoyed looking through medical journals growing up. These are answers interviewers have heard countless times, over and over again. The entire purpose of the interviewing process is to not only find someone qualified for the position but to find someone who stands out (in a positive way).

There’s nothing wrong with starting the answer off saying there has always been a love for nursing, but it needs to go in deeper, focusing on when volunteering at a senior citizen center in high school, or when helping an ailing parent. This puts a more personal stamp on it and it shows compassion at the same time. Being a nurse is not just about the job, but also showing compassion to patients. Demonstrating this within the interview process and with common nursing interview questions is beneficial.

2) Tell Us About Yourself.

In terms of common nursing interview questions and answers, this is as basic as they come. What’s important is not giving a basic answer back. It’s necessary to not just give a bullet-point rundown of work history. That’s information those interviewing can already see on the resume. Instead, focus on strengths. Talk about strong communication skills and how working in a certain position has helped build confidence and worth ethic. Touching on a solid track record of success or working multiple jobs at the same time is helpful. The interviewers already know what school an applicant graduated from. However, they may not realize the applicant worked three jobs while at school. This shows perseverance, determination, and dedication.

3) Why Are You Leaving Your Current Position?

When considering nursing interview questions and answers, this is another one that is almost assuredly going to come up. Future employers want to make sure a potential employee isn’t going to simply abandon ship and move onto the next job quickly. They want someone who will grow into the position. This is a crucial question that many applicants tell the interviewers they are leaving because they don’t like their current boss or what they are doing for work. Instead, it is far better for the applicant to say they have learned a great deal from their job, but they want to push forward and bring on new challenges. Going into detail about how an applicant wants to learn new skills while finely tuning their current skills is a great way to answer this question.

4) What Do You Think of Your Last Job/Boss?

When looking at general nursing interview questions, this is a bit of a bait and hook question (but it almost always is asked). The interviewer doesn’t want to know dirt about the other job. They don’t want to hear gossip or anything else for that matter. In fact, when asked about the current/former boss, if the applicant badmouths the individual it instantly looks bad. After all, the person conducting the interview will also, more than likely, become the previous boss, and they don’t want to be badmouthed later on. Instead, it is very important to focus on the positives from the previous boss, even if they were terrible. Perhaps they helped teach being punctual (because they would become overtly angry when clocking in 30 seconds late) and that the boss was a no-nonsense individual who required extremely hard work. An applicant doesn’t need to sugar coat it or paint them in a glowing light. That just comes off as fake. Simply pointing out how they helped make an applicant a better job candidate should suffice with this answer.

5) If I Contacted Your Previous Boss, What Would They Tell Me About You?

This is similar to the “what would your friends say about you” line of questions, only it typically brings out a much more accurate and trustworthy response. Due to this, it is important to answer the question truthfully. It is one of the questions an interviewer can double-check on with a simple phone call. It’s also the kind of question where it’s important, to be honest, yet not negative with the previous questions regarding the last job and boss.

It is very possible an individual is leaving their current position because they did not have a great relationship with their boss. The boss very well might say as much, should the interviewer contact the former employer. Should this be the case, it is important for the applicant to cover this, yet to go into examples as to how they tried to bridge the gap or improve communication. Demonstrating problem-solving skills is always a beneficial trait. After all, not everyone will get along together, which is why problem-solving and co-existing is so important.

6) What Did You Not Like (or Like Least) About Your Position?

This is another one of those trap questions. The interviewers are not looking for disgruntle employee talk, gossip or negativity (even though the question in itself is a negative one). It doesn’t matter if other nurses talked about politics or if the company teetered on financial collapse, these should not be talking points for a response. It is also important to know what functions the new position may cover, as talking about the negative aspects of tasks that will be carried on with the new job will only hinder the chances of receiving a callback.

Instead, an applicant should say there wasn’t anything they truly hated about the last job, but then point out non-medical related work, such as traveling a good deal of the time. Basically, it’s important for this answer to avoid any possible roles of the new job. As long as that is done (and bashing the previous job is avoided) most answers will suffice.

7) When Did You Feel Most Satisfied With Your Job?

It is important to not give a general, vague answer here. If interviewers wanted a vague answer they wouldn’t even, ask the question. Instead, it is an opportunity to highlight a true accomplishment or joy. It may be as simple as spending time and interacting with patients and making the patients feel comfortable. It might be helping a family member through a difficult time in the hospital or assisting a child, so they are not as afraid of a particular operation. This question opens up the human element. Of course, there may be other satisfactory aspects to the job, depending on the exact nursing position. It is important to be truthful here but to also avoid generalization and offer in-depth answers. Whether prepping for nursing school interview questions or a real job opening, this is one of the most common questions the HR department (or boss, depending on the medical facility) will ask.

8) What is Your Greatest Weakness?

This is not only one of the more common nursing school interview questions, but it is a general interview question staple. The only real bad answer here is, “I work too hard.” They’ve heard this answer a million times. Here it is very important to be honest, just not too honest. An applicant can say they are not great at public speaking, and then go into how they are trying to work on this weakness. It’s always a good idea to demonstrate how someone is working on his or her greatest weakness.

9) What is Your Greatest Failure And What (If Anything) Did You Learn From It?

This is another question where it’s best, to be honest, but not too honest. It is important to not outline a major failure or regret. Dropping out of a Master’s program and regretting this for the last decade is not something to mention. Instead, it should be a smaller failure. The smaller issue can be not taking a non-curriculum class seriously, or maybe how not making the high school soccer team helped motivate the person’s worth ethic. It needs to be an important failure, but not a catastrophic one.

10) Where Do You See Yourself Within The Next Five Years?

There is no real right answer to this question, but there certainly are wrong answers. Saying a person wants to retire within five years likely isn’t realistic. It also shows a lack of motivation to work within the nursing industry. Additionally, there have been many movies to come out, showing applicants saying they want the interviewer’s job when this question comes up. Again, this is a bad answer. Yes, those conducting the interview want to move up as well, but openly telling the person that their job is desired is not the best way to go about the interview process (not to mention other applicants have likely already used this line). It isn’t always necessary to have a specific job title in mind. Instead, it is better to state an increased understanding of the industry with more knowledge and skills to pull from is a better answer. Perhaps pointing out additional certifications or degrees an applicant desire is the best way to go about it as well. It shows a continued drive within the industry without specifically pointing out a particular job.

11) What Kind of Salary Are You Looking For?

When it comes to nursing questions and answers, this is another one that applicants trip over. Tossing out a random number is never a good idea. Besides, they are not going to pay what someone asks. Also, telling the interviewer, “Satisfaction in the work is the greatest payment” is a bit cliché. However, it is possible to say something along those lines, and then follow it up by saying they would expect to be paid the appropriate amount for the job, based on experience and living expenses. After all, if someone is living in Springfield, Illinois and is applying for a job in Los Angeles, living expenses are substantially higher, so saying an arbitrary number wouldn’t work out.

12) Why Should We Hire You?

Along the interview process, far too many applicants are going to say, “I’m the best candidate.” The fact of the matter is there is no way to know that. They don’t know who else is applying for the job, so this kind of a comment comes off as pretentious. Instead, this is where pointing out past experience and education is a plus. It’s also helpful to point out how an applicant has gone outside of the box to improve himself or herself within the industry (such as obtaining certifications outside of work). This allows the applicant to basically say they are willing to go the extra mile over what other candidates might offer (without actually saying other candidates won’t do it).

13) Why is There a Gap In Your Employment History? Can You Explain?

Employment gaps happen. There is no shortage of reasons behind why there may be a time in between jobs. An applicant shouldn’t just come out and say they were tired of working. That’s a terrible answer. It demonstrates laziness and the last thing someone hiring a new nurse wants is a lazy employee. Perhaps the applicant decided to travel. Gaining worldly knowledge and experience has its own benefits, and pointing out important life lessons obtained through travel can benefit the interviewee.

Taking time off to travel isn’t always an answer though (and it shouldn’t be made up). If a person didn’t have work because they were searching for a job, a quality answer would be nursing is very important and they take their career seriously, so they didn’t want to rush and take a job that would leave their desire to work in the industry unfulfilled. This shows determination and motivation to find the right job. It also shows just how important the applied for the job is.

14) Explain a Time You Did Not Get Along With Other Nurses

When an applicant responds with the, “I’m really easy to get along with and never have problems with other staff members,” they know the applicant is not only pandering but more than likely lying. Even if a person is incredibly happy, upbeat and does get along with everyone, it is important to provide a real answer. An answer can include not getting along with an employee, such as personalities not meshing, despite working in close quarters. It is then necessary to point out how an applicant went on to correct the problem. Perhaps the applicant asked the other nurse to go out to lunch where they discussed their differences. Answers to this question should include a problem and a solution.

15) What Drives You? What Motivates You?

This is one of those questions that don’t have bad answers, but there are better answers. It’s important to again not provide a general, basic answer. That’s leaving a chance to impress on the table. When interviewers ask this question they basically want the applicant to point out their positive traits. Working with patients who are difficult to be around might drive someone. Going the extra mile to see someone smile at work might be another. Maybe getting children in the cancer ward to laugh is what motivates someone. Highlighting positive attributes needs to happen with these student nursing interview questions and answers.

16) How Would Your Friends Describe You?

An applicant needs to dig deeper into this one. Yes, it may come off as a question better suited for a dating profile, but it is also a common question. Friends who have been around someone for years know an individual far more intimately, so giving the, “They’d say I’m a good listener” line really isn’t something they’d say. While it might be true, they’d go into much further detail. This answer needs to be detailed. While it doesn’t need to get personal, it allows an applicant to provide some insights into themselves. Maybe someone is extremely persistent. A bit stubborn headed and will continue to try and try and try until they succeed. An example of this might help illustrate the idea as well. If this answer is just a sentence or two long, it likely means it isn’t a quality answer. The best way to prepare for this question is to actually ask friends what they might think. Especially trustworthy friends who won’t sugarcoat the answers.

17) What Are Your Values?

With this question, it’s important to steer away from superficial answers. The interviewer is attempting to discover whether the applicant has values that coincide with that of the job or at least values that will augment what the medical facility stands for. This is also a question the applicant can ask of the interviewer. It demonstrates interest and also helps identify whether or not the two parties are compatible with one another.

18) What Can You Bring Out of Our Current Staff/Team?

This question allows an applicant to talk about their unique strengths. It essentially is a time to brag about personal strengths, although it shouldn’t come across as bragging or boastful. It’s best if the applicant can go into detail and specifics regarding how they will work as part of the team and what exactly they will do that may improve the productivity or work ethic of the rest of those working around them.

19) In Your Opinion, What Makes a Good Leader?

In many ways, nurses are leaders. Nurses in a medical facility, whether it is a doctor’s office or a hospital, are looked to by patients for help and assistance. Often times nurses are more accessible than the doctors, which is why they turn to the nursing staff. An interviewer may ask this question because they want to know what the applicant views of leadership. They also want to know the applicant doesn’t simply expect the manager to fix all of his or her problems. Because nurses are seen as leaders, it is necessary to know how a nurse views leadership. The specifics of the answer can vary wildly, just as long as the applicant doesn’t have an attitude of expecting the manager to magically correct everything.

20) Do You Have Any Questions For Us?

This question typically closes out most interviews. It also offers a major stumbling block for applicants who do not ask questions. It is important to ask the interviewer(s) questions about the company. It demonstrates interest and shows the applicant researched the position. Here any number of questions will do. Some of the most important and relevant questions include how the nursing staff works together, how many patients are seen during a shift and realistically any other question specific to the position and company/medical facility. The worst possible answer here is not asking a question.

In Conclusion

Every interview is different. From the location to the qualifications and personalizes desired, no two nursing positions are the same. However, preparing for the open position’s interview process is a must. Beyond conducting research into the medical facility, it’s background, the services it provides and the kind of patients it typically sees, preparing for these 20 common nursing interview questions will help any applicant improve their performance. A quality nursing position may receive dozens, if not hundreds of applicants. This is why taking every step and precaution possible is an absolute must, and educating oneself on these questions helps.

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