Preparing for an interview: example nursing interview questions

04 December 2019 By Michael Bowyer

Interviewing for a new role can make anyone nervous, whether just starting out or with many years’ experience. The key to avoiding a bad nursing interview and ensuring it goes smoothly lies in the preparation beforehand. This requires some research about the organisation and department you are applying to wherever possible, but also through careful consideration of what might be asked and how you might answer.

We’ve put together some typical nursing interview questions you may be asked by your interviewer. They may be worded in slightly differently ways but enough preparation should mean you are able to answer the same topic from any angle.

Hiring managers will be looking for requisite skills and aptitude that make a good nurse, so keep these in mind while considering your answers. These are likely to include: the ability to deliver care compassionately; the ability to handle stress; time and organisational management; attention to detail; the ability to work well in a team and good communication skills.

Although not an exhaustive list below are a few questions that might be asked of you in a nursing interview:

Tell us what you would do in an emergency or stressful situation

Here they want to see evidence of your ability to cope in a crisis. Are you able to remain calm, take stock of the situation and deal with it as appropriate? At what stage should you escalate the problem?

It will help here if you are able to show evidence of a particular time you have dealt with a crisis. Not only will this show them evidence of your skills, it’s also easier to answer with a tangible example over a hypothetical one, as it will keep you focused on specifics. Have a few examples ready before interview stage so you are prepared when they ask this question.

Remember the ‘best’ answers aren’t necessarily about the outcomes but about the steps you took in order to reach those outcomes, such as your ability to think calmly under pressure, to make the situation and or people as safe as possible as quickly as possible and when to include other team members.

How do you manage your own wellbeing?

They could also ask - how do you manage self-care? Or - how do you maintain work-life balance? Hiring managers aren’t looking for someone working themselves to the bone, instead they want to know you are able to break free of the stress of work and relax in your own time. Doing so means you’ll be less likely to succumb to stress or become overwhelmed by the emotional toll of a nursing career.

How do you work in a team?

They want to know how you collaborate and how you might fit in with team members. They might also ask how you would deal with another team member making a mistake, in which case they are looking to see diplomacy skills, as well as your potential reaction to difficult situations.

As before, use any anecdotal evidence to support your answer.

Why did you choose a nursing career?

Nursing can be a difficult job that requires a lot of skills and discipline while maintaining kindness and compassion. Because of this, hiring managers prefer to see candidates with demonstrable passion for the job. You might recall an instance of inspiration when you were younger, for example, and you could incorporate what still motivates you now.

What are your career goals?

Don’t be afraid to be honest, whether you want zip through to senior management or you are happy at a particular level, including the level you are now. Ambition isn’t a negative trait nor is wanting to remain in a steady position. Be honest about your goals as it will help hiring managers understand how they can support your career.

Do you think you make a good nurse? Have you got evidence of this?

Relay these to one or several of the key nursing aptitudes described above. Have you got an example of going above the call of duty with compassionate care? Evidence you work well in a team? Specific praise or feedback? Relate these instances to positive outcomes for the greatest impact.

How do you manage conflict?

This might relate to criticism from patients or their families, other team members or conflict with management. As before with dealing with a crisis, explain how you took stock of the situation calmly, addressed the problem and worked towards a resolution. Diplomacy skills, the ability to remain calm, to think logically and escalate problems as required are being looked for here.

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