Registered Nurse Interview: Nursing Interview Questions and Answers
Whether you’ve been a registered nurse for years or are still completing your RN program, it’s crucial to prepare in advance for a nursing interview. Even after writing a great resume and cover letter, you still have to ace the job interview to successfully secure a position.
Job interviews can be stressful for even the most competent candidates, and nursing interviews are no exception. In addition to determining if you’d fit well with the company and its culture, hiring managers also have to assess your clinical skills and whether you’re capable of doing everything the position requires.
Taking the time to go over popular interview questions is key to overcoming any fears you might have. When you feel confident about your knowledge and your ability to respond to these questions, you can focus on demonstrating your expertise and making a great first impression. To put your best foot forward, here are some common nursing interview questions you should know how to answer in order to impress the hiring manager:
1. Why Did You Become a Nurse?
Hiring managers often ask this question to determine how passionate you are about nursing. There are countless benefits of being an RN, but it can also be difficult and demanding. Interviewers likely want to know if you’ve chosen such a stressful career because of the high salary or because you truly care about helping other people.
How to Answer
When answering this question, be honest and specific about what first got you interested in nursing. Did something happen in your childhood that made you want to get into the medical field? Were you inspired by a family member who works as a nurse? Did you discover your love of nursing in science classes? Be personal in your answer to give the interviewer insight into who you are and why you are pursuing a career in this profession.
Sample Answer: I’ve been interested in the medical field since I was a child. My aunt worked as a nurse and I was always amazed by how she was able to help heal and care for other people. After taking biology and anatomy classes during my first year of college, I ended up switching my major to pursue nursing.
2. Why Should We Hire You?
This popular interview question can feel intimidating, especially if the hiring manager asks it early on. Interviewers don’t want to put you on the spot; they just want to know what makes you unique. It’s a great opportunity to explain, precisely, what makes you the right person for this specific job.
How to Answer
Answering this question requires self-awareness, honesty, and confidence. There’s no need to list off all your qualifications that are already on your resume or application. Instead, describe the experiences you’ve had or qualities you possess — and how they complement the job listing — to illustrate why you’re the best candidate for this position.
Sample Answer: Based on the job listing, it sounds like you need someone who is both committed to patient care and to professional development. Having worked as an RN in a variety of healthcare settings, I believe I have the professional passion necessary to provide care to my patients, as well as the personal drive needed to continually learn and improve myself. I love working with my patients and fellow staff members, but I am also excited about overcoming new challenges and diversifying my skill set as a nurse.
3. What Are Your Biggest Strengths & Weaknesses as a Nurse?
This is another classic interview question that you may have encountered before, both in and out of the healthcare industry. By asking this question, the hiring manager wants to assess your self-awareness, see if your opinion of yourself aligns with theirs, and learn more about your nursing skills or experiences that you haven’t discussed yet.
How to Answer: Strengths
Answering this question can be tricky. It’s important to take pride in what you do well, but you don’t want to come across as overly confident or arrogant. This is a great opportunity to discuss something that your interviewer can’t learn from your resume or application. Do your best to tailor your response to suit the position you’re applying for.
Sample Answer: I’m proud of my ability to provide the best possible care to my patients even when I feel overwhelmed. Difficult patients and stressful situations can still upset or bother me, but it’s easier to stay calm when I focus on their needs, rather than my own feelings.
How to Answer: Weaknesses
Similarly, it can be difficult to answer this question without coming across as unsure or insecure. Avoid generic or cliche answers, such as being a perfectionist or working too hard. Instead, be open and acknowledge where you have some room to grow. You can also discuss how you’re working to improve upon your weaknesses or how they won’t hold you back from performing well in this role.
Sample Answer: I don’t love doing paperwork, and I tend to procrastinate on writing patient notes or filling out forms. I do my best to keep up with paperwork throughout my shift so I don’t impede anyone else’s workflow, but sometimes things still slip through the cracks. That’s why I always take time at the end of my shift to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything.
4. Tell Me About Yourself.
This common interview question is purposefully broad and vague. The interview isn’t just looking to learn more about your qualifications; they want to know what you think is important to discuss in an interview and how you believe that matches up to the job listing.
How to Answer
Refrain from giving the interviewer your life story or discussing personal facts and interests. Instead, consider what the job requires, how your experiences would help you excel in that role, and how that would be beneficial for your employers. Go over the highlights, such as your proudest accomplishments or most recent achievements, that are relevant to the position.
Sample Answer: I’m only a few weeks away from finishing my nursing degree. Throughout my education, I’ve maintained a 3.7 grade point average and been involved with a number of events on campus and in the community, like the recent blood drive at the community center. I’ve also worked as a CNA for the last three years to gain hands-on experience with patients while I complete my degree. I think my dedication to learning about nursing both in and out of the classroom makes me a great fit for your organization, since you’re looking for nurses who are committed to continuing education and professional development.
5. Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?
Interviewers ask this question to learn more about your upcoming career goals. They likely want to hire someone who plans to stay at their organization for a few years and who is excited about working for them — not someone who is only looking for another stop on the way to their dream job.
How to Answer
While you don’t need to have a step-by-step plan that details the next five years of your career, you should have a general idea of what you’d like to do in the near future. Don’t discuss your personal plans or aspirations; keep your response focused on professional goals. This is a great chance to talk about any areas you want to specialize in, certifications you hope to obtain, or advanced education you plan to pursue.
Sample Answer: In five years, I’d like to see myself as some type of clinical nursing specialist who still works as a part of your team. I’m interested in both geriatrics and oncology, and I want to learn more about both specialties before committing to one. However, either way, I want to continue my education as a nurse while still getting practical experience working with patients.
6. Why Are You the Best Person for This Job?
This question is closely related to “Why should we hire you?” and gives interviewers similar insight into how you view the position, as well as your own qualifications. It may sound like just another classic interview question, but your response will show the hiring manager how well you know the position and the organization.
How to Answer
To effectively explain why you are the best person for a job, you have to know exactly what the job itself entails. In your response, make sure you show that you’ve done your research. Connect your qualifications or previous experience to the demands of the position to emphasize why you truly are the best person for the job. Further, highlight any unique experiences you’ve had that can help set you apart from the competition.
Sample Answer: Though patient care is important, patient and family education is a major part of this position. In addition to my hands-on work with patients, I believe my time working as a community nurse has given me the experience I need to effectively educate patients about their conditions and treatment options. My willingness to spend quality time with patients to ensure their comfort will also be a useful asset as we strive to meet larger organizational goals related to patient education and empowerment.
7. How Do You Handle the Stress of Being a Nurse?
It’s no secret that nursing is a stressful job. One survey discovered that over 90% of interviewed nurses felt “moderate-to-very-high stress levels” at work, while another study found that only 3.2% of interviewed nurses felt no job stress. Because stress can have serious health consequences for you and your patients, hiring managers want to know that you’re well-equipped to deal with it.
How to Answer
Again, be honest in your response; after all, your interviewer likely doesn’t care about what you do to relieve stress. They’re probably more interested in hearing that you do have effective and healthy coping mechanisms so you’re able to successfully do your job. In detailing your stress reduction strategies, make sure you discuss steps you take in your personal life as well as what you do while at work to maintain a level head.
Sample Answer: Though it can be tricky depending on my schedule, I do try to exercise several times per week. I’ve found that working out regularly is one of the best ways I can take care of myself and regulate my moods. I have several breathing exercises that I use to get through stressful shifts. If I have time, I’ll also spend five to ten minutes meditating when I’m having a tough day.
8. Do You Work Well With Doctors, Other Nurses, and Staff Members?
RNs must be able to work closely with their patients and their loved ones, but it’s just as important that you can work alongside doctors, nurses, and other staff members. When asking this question, the interviewer wants to know that you are a team player and are willing to collaborate with others to provide great patient care. They may also want to learn more about the different types of settings you’ve worked in previously to see if you’d be a good fit on their current team.
How to Answer
You’ll want to assure the interviewer that you do work well with others, but try to show your teamwork skills. Provide an example of how you have worked with others and some of the positive outcomes of that experience. If you don’t have any professional nursing experience, you can still discuss the experiences you had at a previous job and describe how that has helped prepare you to work on a team as a nurse.
Sample Answer: I greatly enjoy working with other staff members — working and communicating with other staff members is crucial to providing proper patient care. At my last position, I was supposed to give a patient another dose of his medication. However, I didn’t realize that his doctor had changed the dosage until I happened to run into her before heading into the patient’s room. She had made note of it on his chart, but talking to her about the change helped me understand more about why she shifted the dosage and how I could give better care to the patient.
9. Tell Me About a Time You Had to Resolve a Conflict with Another Healthcare Worker.
Your interviewer may also want to hear about less-positive experiences you’ve had while working with your colleagues. Disagreements in the workplace are fairly normal, especially when you have to collaborate with others on patient care. Rather than learning more about your negative qualities, the interviewer likely wants to hear about how you respond to difficult situations or work to resolve conflicts.
How to Answer
It’s important to remember that the hiring manager does not expect you to be perfect. Instead of glossing over this question, be open about a disagreement, conflict, or another issue you had with one of your coworkers. This could include an interpersonal workplace conflict, miscommunication about patient treatment, or confusion over a new policy. Use this as an opportunity to highlight your active listening, problem-solving, or creative thinking skills. Be sure to select an example that has a positive resolution or that you were able to learn or grow from in some way.
Sample Answer: At my previous job, I worked with another nurse who approached patient care differently than I did. It was hard to care for the same patients because we had different mindsets; she tried to be as quick as possible while I tended to take more time with patients. I used to get frustrated because it didn’t seem like she put as much effort into care as I did until I sat down and talked to her about it. I actually ended up learning useful tips about time management and efficiency from her, which helped me understand her mindset and improve my ability to care for patients.
10. Describe a Time You Had to Work With a Difficult Patient.
In addition to having trouble with coworkers, you’ll almost certainly have some difficult, rude, and unpleasant patients when working as a nurse. In one survey, researchers found that a majority of healthcare professionals have experienced disrespectful behavior from their patients, including insults, demeaning comments, and negative comments about their colleagues. Unfortunately, this is just another part of being an RN that you need to be prepared for.
How to Answer
When interviewers ask this question, they really want to know about your ability to care for your patients in difficult circumstances. Describe a specific example from your past, being sure to emphasize how you were able to resolve the situation or provide better care. Own the mistakes you made and explain how you were able to learn from them. If you don’t have any nursing experience, you can discuss a time when you worked with a difficult customer or client instead, as this can still show your ability to take care of others’ needs in a stressful situation.
Sample Answer: Most of my patients are kind and grateful to have my help, but in my first job as an RN, I had an especially rude patient. It was difficult to be around him since he had a problem with seemingly everything my coworkers and I did. I complained about it to a coworker, and she helped me understand that I could be more sympathetic to him. Obviously, we work with people who are ill or injured every day, but being sick and hurt is a unique experience for most patients. I continually remind myself that my patients are probably feeling far worse than I am when they’re upset — that way, I can focus more on caring for them to help resolve their pain and fear.
11. How Would You Handle a Crisis or Emergency Situation?
Crises, emergencies, and other urgent situations are commonplace in the medical field. Depending on where you work, crises may be a routine and regular part of your day-to-day work. Though common, these may still be literal life-or-death situations, and the hiring manager wants to know if you can handle such high-pressure work.
How to Answer
To respond to this question, you’ll want to provide another example of a time where you previously dealt with a crisis or emergency situation. If you have previous nursing experience, use an example from your last job to show how you were able to perform well under pressure. If you don’t, provide a specific example of how you responded to an urgent situation at a different job, or even in your personal life.
Sample Answer: In my work as a nurse, I’m fortunate in that I haven’t seen many patient emergencies. When I have dealt with these situations, I always take a few deep breaths or count to 10 to calm myself down, then focus on the patient or person who needs my help. Because I am not the most experienced with emergency situations, I would also ask for help or support from another nurse, doctor, or staff member who has dealt with more patient emergencies.
12. How Do You Handle a Busy Shift or Heavy Workload?
RNs have many job duties and responsibilities, which can make for long, busy, and challenging shifts. By asking this question, your interviewer isn’t promising that you’ll have a heavy workload in this position; rather, they want some insight into how you might manage a particularly busy or difficult day. In addition to normal absences and employee turnover, you could very well have to deal with the consequences of healthcare staffing shortages as an RN.
How to Answer
In your response, showcase your existing abilities and skills that can be useful in dealing with a hefty workload. Try to stress your ability to properly care for your patients despite the extra work. As always, share any relevant examples from previous jobs (whether or not you already have experience as a nurse) to further prove your point.
Sample Answer: Busy shifts are a regular part of my work as a nurse! I used to get overwhelmed when I had more to do than usual, but as I’ve gotten more experience, it’s become easier to deal with. Taking a moment to meditate or do my favorite breathing exercise helps alleviate immediate stress. I’ve also been working on getting more comfortable asking for help or delegating when I need it. I’ve worked alongside really wonderful people who are usually willing to lend a helping hand, and who I’m happy to do the same for when they’re having a busy day.
13. What Are the Most Challenging and Rewarding Parts of Nursing?
Nursing is known to be a difficult but highly gratifying career. In asking this question, the interviewer wants to learn if the rewards outweigh the challenges of nursing, or if your lack of drive will leave you burnt out after just a few years. This also gives the interviewer more insight into how you view your job as a nurse and what your personal experiences in this profession have been like.
How to Answer: Challenges
Don’t try to convince your interviewer that nursing isn’t challenging for you. Every job has its ups and downs, and it’s okay to acknowledge that being a nurse can be hard on you. Pick a challenge that you have personally faced, or continue to face, during your work as a nurse. Be diplomatic in your discussion of this challenge; rather than griping, explain how you have worked to overcome that challenge.
Sample Answer: For me, it’s always hardest when I lose a patient. Dealing with the death of a patient is, unfortunately, a normal part of working in healthcare. It’s emotionally taxing to explain that a patient has passed away and to see their loved ones grieve. I deal with that by always trying to provide the best care to my patients, so that way I know I’ve done everything I can for them.
How to Answer: Rewards
Similarly, discuss something about your work as a nurse that feels genuinely rewarding to you. Avoid discussing the great salary or benefits of being an RN. Instead, use your answer to convey your passion for working as a nurse and how that passion can benefit the organization should they hire you.
Sample Answer: To me, seeing my patients improve is the most rewarding part of being a nurse. People come to us when they’re dealing with some of the worst and most painful moments of their lives. I will never get tired of seeing my patients get better and overcome those difficulties. I got into nursing so I could be of service to other people and I truly love that taking care of others is my job.
15. Why Are You Leaving Your Current Position?
Because changing jobs can be highly personal, answering this question honestly and graciously can be difficult if you aren’t prepared. The interviewer doesn’t want to delve into your personal life. They just want to make sure you’re a reliable, responsible, and professional person who left their last job on good terms.
How to Answer
No matter the reason you’re choosing to leave your job or even if you have good reason to, do not speak negatively about any of your current or former employers. Doing so will only reflect poorly on you and hurt your chances of landing this job. Instead, discuss what you stand to gain from changing positions and the positive aspects of the new job that excite you. If you haven’t worked as a nurse yet, simply express that you’re ready to finally start your career as an RN.
Sample Answer: Though I’ve greatly enjoyed my work as a pediatric nurse, I want to expand my knowledge and learn more about other specialties. It’s important to me to continually seek out new challenges and opportunities, especially in areas of nursing that I’m unfamiliar with or don’t know much about.
16. What Professional Certifications or Affiliations Do You Have?
Your interviewers may already know about your RN certification, but when they ask this question, they want to get a better idea of your hard or clinical skills. Your application materials may not have told them everything they need to know about your professional life. They may want to know if you’re involved in the larger professional community, if you’re interested in certain specialties, or if you’re looking for potential advancement opportunities.
How to Answer
While you don’t need to provide a complete list of every organization you belong to or every training program you’ve completed, give the hiring manager of your proudest or most recent accomplishments. Discuss anything that gives you a unique perspective or enhances your ability to care for patients, like your experience as a traveling nurse or your midwife certification. Additionally, explain any steps you’re currently taking to join a professional organization, get a specialty certification, or advance your career or education.
Sample Answer: I recently enrolled in a Nurse Practitioner program so I can play a larger role in deciding and implementing care plans for my patients. I also maintain certification as a nurse anesthetist and am an active member of the American Nurses Association so I have greater support in my professional development.
17. Do You Have Any Questions for Me?
This is another question you’ve likely encountered before — it’s often the final question hiring managers ask applicants in any kind of interview. It’s one of the most important questions you could be asked in an interview, as it gives you the opportunity to learn more about the position and the employer.
How to Answer
Take this opportunity to ask questions you want answered, but remember that having thoughtful questions about the position is more important than what you actually ask. Think about them ahead of time and consider writing them down so you’re prepared to end the interview on a strong note.
Sample Answer: What does the training period look like for this position? How is success in this position measured at performance reviews? How do you support nurses who seek continuing education or training? What is the culture like here? What is your favorite part about working here?
Interviews can be nerve-wracking and intimidating, which is why it’s so important to prepare for them in advance. You’ve worked hard to become an RN, and if you can impress the interviewer, you can set yourself up for success as you begin the next phase of your career.