The Résumé Rx

Top Tips for Answering Nursing Interview Questions

Amanda Guarniere

Gorgeous résumé? Check. Dazzling cover letter? Bingo. 

After perfecting your résumé and cover letter, you will likely have a flood of interview requests. But to seal the deal, you’ll need to wow recruiters during the nursing interview.

This article will explain how nursing interviews differ from other types of job interviews. It will also walk you through a technique for answering tricky questions and provide tips for both in-person and virtual interviews.

Don’t let nursing interview questions stress you out. With a little preparation (and a great outfit), you’ll be ready to ace your next nursing interview with ease.


Nurse interview basics – What is a behavioral interview?

Nursing interviews are unlike many other types of job interviews. That’s because most nursing recruiters utilize
behavioral interview questions to gauge how well you will fit into their organizations.

The key to answering behavioral interview questions is to come prepared with examples that clearly demonstrate your skills.

Most behavioral questions fall into one of three categories:

  • Background and motivation
  • Professionalism and experience
  • Teamwork and leadership

When you think of nurse interview questions this way, it’s much easier to prepare. But in order to confidently answer nursing interview questions, you’ll need to take a few steps.

First, develop a core list of 3-5 examples from your professional and educational background. Make sure you have (at least!) one example that speaks to each of the three areas listed above.

Then, you will need to practice potential interview questions out loud using a proven method to organize your response.

Finally, research the most common nurse interview questions to prepare you for anything the recruiter might ask.

Are you preparing for an interview as a Nurse Practitioner? Check out my tips especially for NPs.


How to answer nursing interview questions – the STAR method

To confidently respond to nurse interview questions, you need to organize your response in a clear, cohesive manner. 

The STAR interview method is a technique that helps candidates answer behavioral interview questions in a streamlined way. Similar to SBAR in nursing, the STAR method enables you to communicate essential information without missing important details.

Here’s how it works:

  • Situation: what is the essential background or situational information?
  • Task: what was the problem that needed to be resolved?
  • Action: what steps did you take to fix the problem?
  • Result: what was the final outcome based on your actions?

In order to nail the STAR interview method, it’s essential to practice possible answers in advance. This will help you focus your answers and eliminate rambly or confusing responses.

Do you have questions about the STAR interview method? Check out this podcast where I walk you through the STAR method, step by step.


The STAR method in action

It’s impossible to predict exactly what you’ll be asked during your next nursing interview. However, you can expect to hear questions about your background, professional experience, and teamwork and leadership skills. 

Practice responding to questions from these three categories, and you’ll be ready to tweak your prepared examples, no matter what questions come up.

Here’s how this might look in practice:

Why did you choose nursing? (Background and motivation)

S: I’ve worked for nonprofits in the public health sphere for the last six years. 

T: I realized I wanted to be on the other side of public health work with more opportunities for hands-on patient care. 

A: I started taking nursing classes at night in addition to my full-time work managing vaccination programs for our overseas programs. I also volunteered as an EMT with our local fire department to gain hands-on skills.

R: As soon as I started working with patients during my clinical rotations, I knew I was in the right place. I’m also grateful for my public health background because this work gave me hands-on experience with the value of evidence-based care and customized patient education.

I have a list of the most common nurse interview questions to help you prepare for your next nursing interview. Click [here] to get the inside scoop!


Interview Prep

Are you ready to excel during your next
nursing interview? Here’s your quick list to make sure you’re fully prepared:

  1. Review the job description and highlight keywords or required job skills. It can help to write down the most important keywords on a separate paper.
  2. Come up with 3-6 examples. Consider your past work and educational experience and think of several examples you could easily discuss during an interview. Try to cover the three most common interview categories.
  3. Practice answers to the most common questions. When you craft your answers, include some of the keywords or job skills you identified in step 1.
  4. Research the organization. It’s particularly helpful to note common patient populations and conditions that you may work with, as well as indicators of the corporate culture. Does the hospital value community outreach? Teaching the next generation of providers? Accessible care?
  5. Write down 3-5 questions to ask the interviewer. Remember that the job interview works both ways: you want to ensure that the position and team are a good fit for your schedule, values, and professional goals. Always ask at least one or two questions at the end of the interview!
  6. Think about your bottom line for salary negotiations. While you don’t want to commit to a salary during the interview, make sure you are clear on your minimum required salary based on financial needs and your background. It’s better to communicate your salary expectations, if asked, than risk wasting everyone’s time because the organization doesn’t have the budget to hire someone as fabulous as you are.


How to prepare for an in-person interview

If you are attending an in-person interview, you will need to be extra prepared to know where to go and what you should bring.

Here are some other points to keep in mind:

  • Practice the route in advance and know where to find parking. Do you need an EZpass for toll roads or cash for the parking garage?
  • Arrive early in case of traffic or other unexpected delays. Large hospitals can be complicated to navigate, so allow enough time to take the wrong elevator or wind up in the opposite wing.
  • Know the name of the interviewer and their role in the organization. Are you meeting the nurse manager of the unit or the Chief Nursing Officer at the hospital?
  • Write down your primary contact’s office number and phone number in case you get lost. If you need to stop at the information desk for help, you’ll know who to ask for.
  • Bring printed copies of your résumé, cover letter, and nursing portfolio. A nursing portfolio contains copies of your license, publications, recent CEUs, awards, and a list of references. Make sure you have extras if the recruiter wants to keep a copy to share with their team. 

Here’s why this is important: once, I made a beautiful portfolio and brought it to an interview, only to have the Chief Nursing Officer ask to keep it so she could review it later. I panicked and handed it over. I walked all the way to my car before realizing that I absolutely could not leave her with the only copy of my nursing license and original clinical awards. It was incredibly awkward to go back upstairs, track down the CNO in the middle of her next meeting, and ask for it back. (In case you’re wondering, I did not get that job.)

  • Dress professionally. Make sure to brush your teeth, avoid perfume or cologne, and dress neatly in business clothes (not scrubs). Wear sensible shoes in case you tour the unit during the interview.


Rocking the virtual interview

Many nurse positions offer
virtual interviews. While these can be very convenient, you must ensure that you have properly prepared your space to allow for a quiet, uninterrupted interview.

Here’s how to make sure your next virtual interview is flawless:

  • Set up your workspace ahead of time. Position the camera so the recruiter can’t see your dirty laundry, unmade bed, or piles of Amazon boxes in the background.
  • Elevate the camera. This will provide a more flattering view of your face.
  • Clean the camera. Gently wipe the camera with a clean, dry cloth to remove smudges or fuzzy spots.
  • Consider a headset for better sound quality. You can try a test run with a friend or family member and ask for feedback about the sound and video quality.
  • Close all extra browsers and tabs. Numerous tabs or open programs can make your computer run more slowly or risk an unexpected shutdown during the interview.
  • Do a test run of the software. Make sure you have the most recent version of the interview software (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack Huddle, or similar). Download any required software updates ahead of time.
  • Enter the virtual meeting room early. This allows you to make sure all of your software is working correctly.
  • Keep a notepad and pencil next to you. Use it to write down questions and important information about the position. This will help you compare job offers later.
  • Keep your résumé next to you. Avoid the deer-in-the-headlights sensation that sometimes happens during an interview: a quick glance at your résumé can help you remember key experiences you want to highlight.
  • Prepare all documentation to send virtually. Have copies of your résumé, cover letter, nursing license, and other certifications in a PDF document that you can send to the recruiter. Double check the file names to ensure they are organized. For example, it’s much easier to find a document labeled “Lastname-First – Virginia Nursing License – Exp. XX/XX” than a document labeled with a random string of letters.
  • Dress professionally (top and bottom!). Even in a virtual interview, you want to project professionalism. You never know when you might need to stand up to close a door or grab a pen that rolls off the table. Don’t let them see your PJ bottoms!
  • Make sure kids or pets won’t interrupt. If you have children or pets at home, this is the perfect time to ask a friend or family member to take them to the park or for a walk around the block. Put your cat in the laundry room or crate your new puppy to prevent distractions or loud interruptions. Pets and kids have a sixth sense for important zoom meetings and will inevitably try to interrupt your call unless you have a plan.


Ready to ace your next nursing interview?

Nursing interviews can feel overwhelming, but with a little preparation, you can impress your recruiter and land your next dream job.

The best way to prepare is to practice potential nursing interview questions in advance. Sign up for my complete guide to the most common nursing interview questions to help you get ready for your next big interview.

Do you have any interview tips for nurses or NPs? Share them in the comments below or our Instagram community!

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