Nursing Interview Questions and Answers: What to Expect

Once you’ve completed your nursing program of choice and passed the state licensing exam, there’s one last hurdle to jump before entering the world of professional nursing: the interview. 

Every step in your nursing education and development has been a test, and the interview is no different. Whether you’re going out for a job at your top hospital, a volunteer position or to work in nursing education, the interview will be designed to test your knowledge and wherewithal.

Nursing interview questions are designed to suss out how you think and whether or not you’d be a good fit for the organization where you’ve applied to work. Even questions that seem simple are important to the interview, even if there’s no right or wrong answer to them. Interviewers want to see who you are, how you’ll fit in with their team and if you’ll be an asset to their team. All of that is reflected in their questions. 

While that may seem like a lot of pressure, don’t panic! If you prepare ahead of time, your interview will be a chance for you to highlight your successes and areas of competence. We’ll go through some sample interview questions here so that you can get a feel for what to expect from your interview and start preparing the best responses. 

Sample Nursing Interview Questions and Answers

The following are some of the more common questions you’ll see in nursing interviews. We go over each question and give advice for how to answer. After reading through, take the time to think about and write out your answer to each one. Before your interview, look back at what you’ve written, tighten it up and practice your polished responses until you’ve got them down perfectly.

1. What drew you to the nursing profession?

This is a question you’ll almost certainly hear in a nursing interview. It’s easy to take the easy route when confronted with this question and offer up an answer like, “I love to help people.” That probably is why you got into nursing, but you can convey that sentiment a little more impactfully by relating a personal story here. “When my little brother fell off his bike, I cleaned up his skinned knee and bandaged it myself. That’s when I knew I wanted to do this,” would be an answer that gives more insight into who you are as a person than something more cookie-cutter.

2. Tell me about a time you caused a conflict without meaning to?

This is a bit like the “What’s your greatest weakness” question. Take it as an opportunity to be honest with the interviewer; they know you aren’t perfect, and they don’t expect you to be. They do, however, expect you to be able to own up to and learn from your mistakes. Use this question to share a time when you did.

3. Talk about a time when you stepped into a leadership role?

This is an excellent opportunity to show what you’re capable of. Relate a time when you stepped up, took the initiative and took charge of a situation. What happened? What did you do that resolved the situation? Make sure when giving your answer that you give proper credit to anyone else involved. Just like your interviewer knows no one is perfect, they also know no one is an island, and they’ll be looking for someone who can work well with a team.

4. How do you communicate with people who don’t know medical jargon? What’s an example of a time you explained medical terminology to someone?

Questions like these look at how you interact with people outside the medical system, whom you’ll regularly come in contact with. Your patients, their families and an assortment of others will need medical conditions explained to them in plain English. Do you take the time to make sure they understand what’s going on? Explain a time where you had to do this and what steps you took to make sure you were understood.

5. What can you bring to our team?

This question gives you the chance to highlight your strengths you might not have gotten the chance to discuss earlier in the interview. Again, concrete examples of how you’ve contributed to a team in the past will do a lot to help you here. Make sure they’re relevant, to the point and give the interviewer some insight into why you’re a good choice for their team now.

6. Tell me about a time when a patient or their family was dissatisfied with your care? How did you handle that?

Make sure you break down the situation in detail when explaining it, including what happened on both sides. Do not disparage the patient or their family; simply lay out the facts, how you handled the situation and what the outcome was. If it was a misunderstanding, state that and own the blame if the mistake was yours.

7. Describe a time where you were effective at educating a patient and their family?

A good way to break this down would be to relate a time you know the patient retained what you told them. What does that look like? How did you explain the patient’s situation to them so that it stuck?

8. Tell me about a time when you were able to anticipate potential problems with a patient and prevent a problem?

Explain step-by-step what you did in this situation. How did you realize the potential problem? What steps did you take to solve it, and what was the outcome?

9. Give an example of when you persuaded a patient to agree to something? How did you do that?

Use a story from your experience to describe when you had a hard time getting a patient to agree to something at your job or internship. What was the situation, and what steps did you take to get that patient to agree with you in the end? Was the result positive?

10. How would you handle an awkward situation with a work colleague, like working closely with someone you found difficult?

You can draw on any past professional experience here, but if you can draw from past nursing experience, that would be ideal. Lay out what the situation was, what may have made you uncomfortable and what you did to solve the problem. Again, avoid bad-mouthing anyone and stick to the facts. 

You may have noticed a pattern in the advice we’ve given you for each of these questions. The key to acing a nursing interview – or any interview, really – is to connect with the interviewer. Telling personal stories both reinforces your point and makes your responses more memorable. When formulating your anecdotes, there’s a certain format that usually works best. It’s called the STAR method, where STAR stands for: 

  • Situation: Describe the specific instance where you used the skill in question.
  • Tasks: What did you have to do? What were you responsible for in this situation?
  • Action steps: What steps did you take to carry out that responsibility?
  • Results: What happened afterward, and how did you handle that?

Hanging your stories on that outline will relay all the relevant information while leaving you room to tell what makes you unique. 

“Do You Have Any Questions for Me?”

Knowing what to say during the interview is half the battle, but an interviewer also wants to see if you’re curious about the place where you’re applying to work. Always have at least a couple of your own pertinent questions to ask at the end and keep an ear out for anything you might be curious about during the interview itself. A few good sample questions could be:

  1. How would you describe the culture here?
  2. What would a successful first year in this position look like to you?
  3. How will my performance be evaluated?
  4. How will a new person in this role be trained?
  5. Are there any reservations you still have about whether I’m fit for this role that I could sort out now?

Arm yourself with these questions and you’ll be going into your interview much better prepared to advance your career. You can open a world of new career options by continuing your education and earning an advanced degree. If you’ve been meaning to finish your BSN or want to improve your skills while maintaining your current position, consider earning an RN to BSN online. When you graduate, you’ll have the skills to deliver high-quality patient care, making you an asset to any medical facility.

The online RN to BSN degree at Emmanuel College is designed to fit your busy lifestyle. With multiple start dates per year, a generous transfer policy and accelerated courses, you’ll be ready to take the next step in your career in as little as 16 months.