The interview: the pivotal event in any field that can make or break a prospective job if you’re a seeker, or sort out true talent from mediocre candidates if you’re an interviewer. Nursing interviews are unique as they will need to prove that the interviewee has a very specific skill set that is up to the task at whatever organization she or he may be applying to. This can be tough, both for the talent, and the healthcare employer.
In this article, we’ve outlined some best practices for nursing interviews, and included a list of questions crucial to any pre-hire conversation.
Best Practices for Nursing Interview Questions
It's time for the interview. You already know that the nurse you’re about to hire is qualified, has passed their NCLEX, and is ready for work.
So your job now is to figure out the human stuff: What motivates the candidate? What’s their communication style? How do they work with patients, and in a team? What are they bringing into your unique organization?
The in-person interview for open nursing positions should determine whether a candidate is the right fit for your clinic or hospital. Be sure to ask questions that will lead you into an understanding of how your candidate operates as a person. Here are some tips to help you figure it out:
- Keep the interview conversational. It helps to keep your candidate relaxed, and you’ll get to know them better as a result.
- Ask questions that are open-ended, but specific. Allow your candidate to tell you a story about real-world experiences they’ve had during their training.
- Get to know the person you’re interviewing. Create an interview that will allow you to begin to formulate an idea of who this person is at work.
- Cover essentials for on the job success. Ask questions organized around these themes:- Teamwork: What is their work style like? Do they prefer working alone, or with a group?- Patient-care: What do they love about caring for others? What are some challenges they face?- Communication: How do they communicate with patients? With doctors and other medical staff? How do they adapt to suit the needs of the person they are communicating with?- Motivation: Why do they do what they do? What helps keep them happy and productive?
Nurse Interview Questions for Identifying Top Talent
To supplement the questions you came up with using the nursing interview tips in the last section, here is our list of essential nursing interview questions to ask, complete with an explanation of why you need it. Nurses looking for work, new graduates, and nursing students still in school (we see you!) may also find this useful as a study guide to help you prep for your next big interview.
- Why did you become a nurse?It takes a special kind of person to enter into a nursing career, but you may still get wildly varying answers, depending on the candidate. This question gets straight to the heart of the matter, and gives you an idea of the candidates core values and motivations for entering into a challenging career.
- Tell me about yourself.This one may seem generic, but it’s actually trickier than it initially lets on. It’s an opportunity for nurses to tell you about their achievements, their experiences during nursing school, and what brought them here today. Here, candidates to share a little bit about themselves, while hopefully showing off their personality and skills.
- Why do you want to work for this hospital/clinic?Nurses who have done their homework will have a response for this question immediately. If they don’t, that shouldn’t be a deal breaker. But a candidate who knows what makes your organization unique before they even get there is more likely to stick around for years to come, and more likely to be aligned with your core values.
- Tell me about a time when a patient was unhappy with your work. How did you handle the situation?You need to know how your candidate reacts to criticism. There is a learning curve to any job, and an ideal candidate will be able to analyze and learn from their mistakes. Encourage a detailed response to this question. What steps did they take to alleviate the issue? What will they take away from this experience?
- What is your greatest strength as a nurse?We know we said you probably already know your candidate is qualified and skillful, but with this question you get to probe that a little deeper. What is the thing they *know* they’re good at? This is a hugely multifaceted question. Nursing can be like rubbing your stomach while patting your head and balancing spinning plates on your elbows - which of those tasks do they feel they are best at and why?
- What is the hardest thing for you about nursing?Your aim with this question is not to get at the candidates pet peeves, complaints about long shifts, or resistance to collecting stool samples. What you want to learn from their answer is how they face the difficulties of nursing and keep going. A follow up question may be: what makes you want to do this job anyway?
- Tell me about your most challenging patient experience. How did you approach the situation?This is a pretty open-ended question: it could mean anything from a difficult code, to a patient having a mental health crisis, to a grouchy in-patient refusing treatment. It allows you to learn more about a candidate’s thought process when in reaction mode, or how they strategize their behavior to address the problems of patient care.
- Do you prefer working alone, or as part of a team?You don’t really get to work alone as a nurse, however you do get the odd rockstar who thinks they can do it all on their own. An ideal candidate is going to be confident in their own abilities, yet recognize the benefits of working with others.
- Do you have any questions for me?This question will help you ascertain your candidates level of engagement. Top talent will want to know things like timeline of hiring process, company values, internal culture and community, a day in the life, etc. You want to hire people who are enthusiastic about working for you, and this question helps you find them.
You know exactly what your organization needs in a nursing candidate. With our list of essential interview questions, you’ll be hiring the perfect fit for your team in no time.
If you’re a student using this article to prep for an upcoming interview, take a look at our other article Effective Nursing Intervention for Anxiety, for more ideas about approaching patient care.