Interview Questions for Nurses: 6 Most Common Questions (& How to Nail Them)
Let’s talk about interview questions for nurses. Don’t feel like reading? Listen here!
Shaking in your scrubs at the thought of your next job interview?
The interview process can strike fear into the heart of any applicant. And when you work in a high-stakes, fast-paced field like nursing, the pressure feels especially intense. You need to be ready to answer any question thrown your way.
The good news? No matter where you are on your nursing journey, we have the information you need to walk into your next job interview with confidence. In this article, we’ll cover six common interview questions for nurses—and even better? We’ll share the insider tips you need to nail your answers.
We’ll also touch on what to expect from a nursing interview—and how it may differ from other interviews. Let’s dive in!
Interview Questions for Nurses: What to Expect
In some ways, your nursing job interview will be similar to other interviews you’ve experienced. For instance, nurse managers desire the same qualities any supervisor wants in a job applicant: professionalism, time management, good communication skills, and attention to detail. They’re also looking for superb critical thinking and problem-solving abilities—and a willingness to learn.
Additionally, you can expect some traditional questions that apply to any role—especially at the start of your interview. For example, your interviewer will ask about your strengths and weaknesses and why you’re applying for the job. And never count out the age-old question, ‘Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your background?’
However, your interview will also include many behavioral and situational questions. After all, nursing is a skills-based profession—and your hiring manager needs to know how you’ll respond in various situations.
How to Approach Nursing Interview Questions
When answering nursing interview questions, the STAR method is the way to go. It can help you format your answer—and tell your story—in a focused, digestible, and compelling way.
This well-known technique consists of four components:
- Situation: Set the stage and provide context for the situation.
- Task: Explain your role or responsibility in that situation.
- Action: Describe specific actions you took to address the situation.
- Result: Share the results of your efforts, focusing on what you accomplished.
With the STAR method as your roadmap, you’re bound to feel ready for any question that comes your way.
6 Most Common Interview Questions for Nurses
Now, you know what to expect from your interview and how to build your answers. It’s time to sink our teeth into six of the most common interview questions for nurses!
1. What drew you to a career in nursing?
When a nurse manager asks why you joined the profession, they want evidence of your passion for the job. Because nursing is a physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding career, any potential supervisor needs to know what keeps you going on the hardest days.
How to Nail It
This question offers the chance to show some personality and prove you’re up to the task. To prepare your answer, think through what motivated you to become a nurse in the first place—or what keeps you coming back to work day after day (or night after night!).
Be honest—and, by all means, get personal with your answer.
Were you inspired by nurses who cared for a hospitalized family member? Are you a natural-born nurturer who’s had your eye on nursing since childhood? Don’t shy away from sharing your nursing origin story.
This is also a great time to show some enthusiasm. Do you love educating your patients and making them feel comfortable in scary situations? Or does the knowledge that every day is different keep you coming back for more?
Share what you love most about nursing—and do it with a smile on your face. Because as long as you keep it positive and keep it real? You’ll knock it out of the park.
2. How do you practice self-care outside of work?
Nursing is not a career for the faint of heart. So when a hiring manager asks about self-care, they want to know that you have healthy ways of coping with stress—and a work-life balance that keeps you resilient.
How to Nail It
First, know that this isn’t a loaded question. And there’s no wrong answer—except perhaps sharing that your self-care regimen consists of hitting the bar after every shift. So prepare yourself by identifying a few ways you’ve learned to cope with stress—whether after a hard day at the hospital or during long nights of studying in nursing school.
Are you someone who has to move your body or get outdoors to reset? If so, you can share that exercise keeps you grounded or weekend hikes help you reconnect with yourself. On the other hand, maybe you’ve learned that baking calms your nerves and helps you relax—or that movie night with your family is all you need to recharge. The examples and options are endless!
Pro Tip: For a slam-dunk, consider offering an example of a tough day at work—and share how you handled it like a boss.
3. Tell me about a time when you dealt with a difficult patient.
This question is often included in nursing interviews to assess your problem-solving skills and evaluate how you handle conflict. In many ways, nursing is the ultimate customer service job—and your future boss wants to know that you’re committed to giving your patients a positive experience.
How to Nail It
Prepare your answer by thinking through past patient experiences that challenged you—and made you a better nurse in the long run. If you’ve just graduated nursing school, you can draw on an experience with a difficult patient during your clinical rotations. You could also come up with a hypothetical scenario instead—and consider how you would handle it in the moment.
Emphasize that you lead with empathy and always listen to your patients’ concerns. For example, a good rule of thumb for effective communication is to ‘start with the heart.’ Express understanding of what your patient is feeling or experiencing. Next, ‘use your head’ to calmly explain how you can help. Finally, close with kindness—for instance, by thanking a patient for their understanding or patience.
The most important thing? Showing your interviewer that you can stay calm under pressure, de-escalate high-stress scenarios, and ask for help when needed.
4. How would you handle a conflict with a coworker?
Healthcare is a highly collaborative field. As a nurse, you’ll work with countless people to achieve positive outcomes for your patients: other nurses, doctors, pharmacists, dietitians, blood bank staff, clinical technicians, environmental services staff, and many more. So when a nurse manager asks this question, they want to know that you work well with others and handle disagreements in a respectful way.
How to Nail It
First things first: talking negatively about your colleagues is never a good look. You want to show your recruiter that you handle conflict in a civilized way—so keep it positive!
The best approach to your answer? Offer an example of a past disagreement with a coworker that ended well, and share how you handled it—and grew from it. Show that you stayed calm in the moment, addressed the situation out of earshot from patients and other colleagues, and used the proper chain of command.
Also key? Showing that you listened to your colleague’s perspective—and shared your point of view in a civil way.
5. Tell me about an especially rewarding experience.
When a nurse manager asks about a rewarding experience, they want to see your passion and excitement about nursing. This is also an easy way for them to learn about your strengths and any special skills you may have.
How to Nail It
This question offers a great chance to showcase your strengths and share your value without sounding arrogant. To prepare your answer, think through a few special moments you’ve had with patients. As a nurse, you should have plenty to choose from!
Was there a patient (or colleague) with whom you shared a unique bond? Or a time when a patient felt extraordinarily grateful for your care? Did a patient or coworker nominate you for an award—like the Daisy—that made you proud and reaffirmed your commitment to nursing?
Whatever your story, this is the time to let your love of nursing shine—and a little authenticity will go a long way.
6. Tell me about a time you made an error or mistake. How did you handle it?
No one enjoys reliving past mistakes. But no one trusts nurses who think they’re invincible, either—so take this chance to show some humility. And know that the interviewer’s focus will be more on how you handled the mistake—and what you learned from it—than the mistake itself.
How to Nail It
When discussing a past mistake, it’s important to be honest, show humility, and take responsibility. Don’t blame someone else or paint yourself as a victim of circumstance. Instead, own your error and focus on what you learned. This will show that you can bounce back from challenges and setbacks.
Additionally, when preparing your answer, avoid extreme examples of mistakes that caused lasting damage. You need to be honest without self-sabotaging, so think through a valuable lesson you’ve learned in your career.
For example, maybe you failed to check the emergency and safety equipment in your patient’s room at the beginning of your shift—and were then caught off guard in an emergency without the proper supplies. This experience taught you to prioritize your emergency checks and ensure they happen within the first 30 minutes of your shift. Maybe you even got certified as a CPR instructor to gain more confidence with emergency scenarios and ensure others are prepared, too.
See how we kept it positive and presented this mistake as a growth opportunity? Boom—nailed it.
Interviewing to Succeed: Final Thoughts
Job interviews for nurses can be intimidating—but the right preparation will set you up for success. We hope these insights have armed you with confidence, along with some helpful new tools for your job interview toolkit. Visit Lensa today for more curated career advice—and thousands of postings to kickstart your job search. And last but not least: good luck out there!