As the nationwide nursing shortage persists, it’s likely you’ll be regularly interviewing nurses over the next few months and years. As an experienced recruiter, you’ll of course reach for standard, tried-and-true questions to ask them during the interview.
In addition to these usual questions, it may be helpful to expand your inquiry and discuss different topics during a nursing interview. Because nurses have more options than ever, it’s important to get the right person in the right role the first time around. Let’s explore some critical nursing interview questions you may not be asking.
Why do you want to work here?
Although this question may take some people off guard a bit, their answers can offer insight as why they chose your facility and the position they are interviewing for. Not only does the response allow you to learn what is important to the candidate, it can also help you understand the perception of your facility by people in the community.
How would you describe a good nurse leader?
Although they may not be applying for a nurse leadership position, they likely know exactly what they want to see in a nurse leader. This may be helpful to make sure that what they value in leadership meshes well with the position they applied for. The answer to this question can also give you a sense of what kind of employee they may be. Negative, blaming answers may indicate that the person providing them is not the best fit for your position.
How do you handle a difficult patient?
Questions about direct patient care are always important to ask. Although the candidate is likely already a registered nurse who has experience in patient care, getting a sense of understanding how they deal with patient conflict is important. Every nurse has dealt with difficult patients, and they all have stories to share.
Often, questions revolve around someone’s history in handling a difficult coworker or manager. Getting information on care-specific information can be helpful.
What do you find to be the biggest challenge of working in health care?
Although this is another question about the challenges a nurse has faced, it’s different from the standard boss/coworker conflict question. Nurses, especially those who have been working for a while, have likely seen healthcare through many changes. This nursing interview question offers an opportunity for the nurse to show that they are able to look at their roles holistically and take a bird’s eye view of the healthcare industry at large.
What is your biggest accomplishment as a nurse?
This question allows the candidate to promote themselves. There can be so many “wins” that nurses may have — from successfully dealing with a difficult patient or family member, to going back to school and obtaining an additional degree. The answer to this can give the recruiter a sense of what is important to the candidate and learn more about their values.
Tell me something that you liked about your previous job.
It’s important to remember that there are many reasons a nurse may be seeking employment with your company, and not all of them are because they hated their previous job. Even if they did, this question can be important — it shows the recruiter that the candidate is able to recognize how previous employment, even if not ideal, had a positive impact on their healthcare experience.
What are some of the attributes you admire in a previous coworker? What made them a good coworker?
This question offers a chance for the candidate to reflect on previous positive experiences, giving them the ability to showcase what is valuable to them. This can be helpful, as you will be able to tell how their values are compatible with the culture of the unit they are applying to.
During a team project, what does your role tend to be?
A somewhat obvious question about teamwork but nonetheless important. The answer to this question can show how determined the candidate can be and to see if they are more of a take-charge kind of person or someone who goes with the flow. It can also show you if they are the type who doesn’t like to participate in team projects, which may be a problem, as nurses often work as part of a team.
How do you handle stress when you’re working?
Nursing is a stressful profession. With so many critical things they need to balance, learning how a candidate handles that stress is helpful to know. This question doesn’t have to reference only how they handle stress while on the clock. A candidate who knows how to care for themselves after work as well may be less likely to experience burnout, which puts them at risk for leaving the role.
What are some things you’d like to know about the company/position/team that we haven’t discussed already?
This is a good way to end the interview. When a candidate spends time preparing on how to have a successful interview, they may forget to ask the questions they have about the role or facility they are applying to. The questions they ask here can again provide a glimpse into what the candidate values.
Nursing interview questions and insights
Leaders and recruiters who understand what nurses value most will have more successful recruitment efforts. To learn more about what matters to nurses in their careers (including perspectives on nursing specialization), you can review the findings within the 2022 Nurse Salary Research Report.