The nursing profession offers diverse roles, from registered nurses (RNs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) to clinical nurse specialists and nurse anesthetists. Technical skills vary based on specialization but generally include patient care, administering medications, and understanding medical equipment. Soft skills are equally crucial: strong patient education communication, empathy in stressful situations, and teamwork to collaborate with interdisciplinary teams.
When interviewing, highlight both your technical proficiencies and soft skills. Demonstrating a balance ensures you’re capable of clinical tasks and compassionate care, which is crucial in the ever-evolving world of nursing.
Interview questions by category
We have categorized the interview questions into three sections. Feel free to read straight through or jump to the sections that interest you most.
Tell me about yourself.
Give a snapshot of your work history. Think about your:
Past — Previous experience and education
Present — Your current job and how it’s preparing you for this role
Future — Why you want the job you’re interviewing for
Your snapshot should show the interviewer how your experiences equip you with the skills to succeed at their organization and why you are interested in the specific role.
What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses as a healthcare professional?
Consider the job description and the required skills in the posting, and align your answer with skills you are proud of. Discuss your areas of clinical expertise and how they will benefit this setting. For weaknesses, discuss areas for improvement and what you’re actively doing to improve those skills. Do not cite necessary skills for this position as weaknesses.
Strengths could include compassionate care, technical proficiency, strong communication, adaptability, and being detail-oriented. For weaknesses, you could discuss overcommitment (not being able to say no) or self-criticism.
Why do you want this job?
Demonstrate that you’ve researched the role and organization and express what you like about it and why your skills would be a good fit for the job. What about the organization’s mission, values, or patient population do you identify with? Explain how the role will contribute to your career progression and what you can contribute.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
This question is designed to probe your career goals and vision. First, tell your interviewer about your career aspirations and ambitions. Then, express your desire to succeed and explain how this job will contribute to your progress. Use this question to show that you are goal-oriented and have a plan to achieve your goals.
What are your salary expectations?
Prepare thoroughly for this question and start by reviewing the Salary negotiation guide. Research salary ranges for this particular job, this industry, and your geographic area using websites like Payscale.com or Salary.com. The interviewer wants to know how you value yourself. To avoid leaving money on the table, ask how the interviewer values the role before stating your expectations. Aim high but within the range you’ve researched, and be prepared to provide examples of why you’re worth the salary you cite.
“Politicians use talking points all the time to handle extemporaneous, on-the-spot questions that can throw them. You can too! Consider your top five key attributes and then come up with two great examples that showcase these skills. When you’re asked a behavioral based question use one of those stories to answer the question.”
– Heather Hans, career expert at edX
Why did you choose nursing as a career? What motivates you?
Discuss personal experiences or inspirations that led you to nursing, core values that align with the profession, or aspects of the job that bring you fulfillment.
Describe a particularly challenging situation you encountered with a patient and how you handled it.
Share a situation you dealt with previously in your career. If possible, choose an example that reflects the type of institution or patient that aligns with the role you are interviewing for. Even though they are asking for a challenging situation, try to keep your narrative positive, providing enough context so that the story is clear without speaking negatively about patients or colleagues. Highlight the successful outcome and what you learned from the situation.
How do you handle stress or high-pressure situations, especially in a busy hospital environment?
This is an important question, so be sure to answer honestly. You can discuss techniques you use to maintain calm and prioritize tasks, the importance of teamwork and communication, and your methods of self-care.
How do you ensure you stay updated with the latest nursing practices and medical knowledge?
Emphasize your commitment to continuous learning, both formal and informal. Engagement in professional associations, attending workshops and seminars, or reading journals are all good ways to stay updated. You could also ask the interviewer what opportunities for professional development are available in their organization.
Teamwork is crucial in a hospital setting. Can you share an example of how you’ve effectively collaborated with an interdisciplinary team for the benefit of a patient?
Share a time you feel you were an integral part of a successful team. What was the goal of that team, what was your contribution, and what did you learn from the experience?
For each of these questions, providing tangible examples from your past experiences will be valuable. If you don’t have prior experience, we’ve provided some tips on how to answer the questions thoughtfully.
What is your leadership style, and how has it evolved over your nursing career?
Describe a leadership philosophy you’ve found to be beneficial in your career or describe the characteristics of a manager that had an impact on your career. Sharing real-life examples is very effective; reflecting on this before your interview can help you form a cohesive answer.
How do you handle conflicts between team members and ensure a harmonious work environment?
What is your personal approach to conflict resolution? Active listening? Mediation? Be sure to emphasize the importance of an open communication policy and a culture of respect. Share personal instances of how you have navigated disagreements as a nurse and how aligning on the mission of compassionate care can help resolve differences.
How would you implement a policy or procedure that was bound to be unpopular? How would you manage this?
Discuss how you would involve staff in the decision-making process to gather their input and what types of support you could provide to ease the transition. Emphasize how strong communication before, during, and after the implementation is key to a successful outcome.
With the ever-evolving nature of healthcare, how do you ensure that your nursing team stays updated with the latest practices and maintains the highest standards of patient care?
Emphasize continuous education and training for your staff’s professional development. Also, using quality metrics can help drive improvements in technical skills and result in better patient outcomes. Also, encouraging staff to pursue certifications and specializations will foster a culture of continuous learning.
Nursing can be a high-stress profession. How do you support your team’s well-being and prevent burnout?
Flexible scheduling and wellness programs are a great way to support team well-being. Regular check-ins with team members can also help to gauge well-being and reinforce the need for work-life balance. Utilizing these strategies can help leaders recognize the signs of burnout early and take appropriate interventions.