How to Answer the Top 10 Nursing Interview Questions

How to Answer the Top 10 Nursing Interview Questions istock

Job interviews are not something that most people enjoy and they can be extremely nerve-racking as much is at stake. Your interview is the one chance you get to show that you are the best candidate for the position over all those other applicants who have the same academic qualifications and experience as you.

Interviews for nursing jobs tend to use the same questions which gives you plenty of opportunity to prepare your answers. The better prepared you are, the more confident and self-assured you will be at your interview, which is important as these are both qualities that interviewers for nursing positions will look for.

Here are some of the most common questions posed at nursing interviews, together with guidance on how to answer them.

1. Tell us what you know about nursing.

Interviewers often focus on a particular area of nursing for this question. For example, if you are applying for a position in a maternity unit, they will want to see if you have any specialist knowledge in caring for newborn or premature babies. Make sure you can demonstrate a degree of in-depth knowledge and show a passion to work in this specific area.

2. What is your motivation to be a nurse?

Interviewers look for candidates who want to enter the nursing profession because they have a genuine desire to help and care for people. In order to impress, you must show that you are motivated by these intangible ideals, not purely by job security or money.

3. Describe a difficult workplace situation and how you dealt with it.

Nursing places you at the sharp end of people’s emotions; some may be angry, some grief-stricken, others might blame you for the failings of the healthcare service you work for. Explain how you coped with a tricky situation and successfully worked out a solution that satisfied everyone.

4. What do you find most enjoyable about nursing?

Never say that you are in the profession for the money, the flexibility offered by the hours or the overall benefits package. The interviewer wants to hear that you’re passionate about helping patients, and that you are keen to learn as much as you can. Keep in mind that nursing is a vocational profession when you frame an answer to this question.

5. How do you feel about working shifts and overtime?

Be honest with your answer to this question. If you hate the idea of working nights and Bank Holidays, then you really must say so. Even if you’re desperate for a job, it’s not a good idea to accept something that’s just going to make you miserable and possibly ruin your family life too.

6. Do you like working as part of a team?

Although this is a common interview question per se, it’s particularly pertinent to nursing positions. Healthcare providers do prefer those who work well with others, get on well with visitors and patients, and can work happily as part of a team when necessary for the good of their patients.

7. Where would you like to be in five years’ time?

The answer to this question demonstrates to the interviewer that you intend to stay with them and perhaps specialise. You could mention that you’d like to study for additional professional certification in a particular field of nursing relevant to the position you’re applying for.

8. Explain how you maintain competence in the nursing profession.

The medical profession is constantly evolving and moving forward with new discoveries, drugs, and surgical techniques emerging constantly. As a nurse, you’ll be learning all the time and you’ll need to explain to the interviewer how you intend to augment this by attending courses, seminars and conferences relevant to the specialist area you are seeking to work in.

9. How do you cope under pressure?

Nursing is a notoriously stressful and pressurised environment in which to work. The interviewer will not take on someone who is emotionally fragile, and who can’t cope with the stresses and hassles of the day-to-day routine. Describe an occasion when you were under pressure in your job and how you dealt with it successfully.

10. Describe your last ward sister or nursing manager.

This can be a tricky question to answer honestly, and discretion is the way forward here. Even if you hated your last boss with a vengeance, don’t say so! Keep your response positive and professional without going overboard with flattery. You could say something like, “Jane was a very professional staff nurse who set her staff a good example by always remaining calm and composed, even under pressure.”

These are just a selection of the questions commonly put to candidates for nursing positions. There are many other more standard interview questions that you can also prepare for. Always illustrate your answers with examples and short anecdotes to show how you did or achieved something.