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10 Hardest Nurse Interview Questions Answered!

June 26, 2020

Gearing up for your RN job search? The interview may be the make-it-or-break-it moment in your nursing job search. 

Luckily, with a little preparation, you can be ready to face the toughest nurse interview questions out there. 

To help prepare you to answer the most difficult nursing interview questions, we spoke with Summer Bryant, MSN CMSRN, who serves on the board of directors for Academy of Medical Surgical Nurses. 

In addition, Bryant serves as a nurse manager at an academic medical center in the Midwest, where she manages a staff that includes 40-45 nurses and typically interviews around 10-20 nurse candidates each year. 

Bryant spoke with us about the hardest nurse interview questions she asks in an interview and what she’s looking for in a great answer.    

10 Toughest Nursing Interview Questions and Answers

 1. Why do you want to work for this hospital/organization?

In this nurse interview question, which is often her first, Bryant is looking to find out not only that nurses have taken the time to learn about the organization, but what is particularly attractive to them.  

“Sometimes people won’t have an answer to this question and if other parts of the interview are great, I will still hire them.  But I am looking for people who particularly want to work at this hospital.”

2. What are your values?

“This is one of my newest favorites [among nurse interview questions],” she explained. 

“While there aren’t exactly right and wrong answers to this question, I am looking for someone with values that are either shared by our current team or which will augment our current team. If their values are really different, they wouldn’t enjoy the team any more than we would enjoy working with them.”

Bryant reflected that if the candidate answered this nurse interview question by only mentioning superficial things, it could sway her opinion.  

She also noted that candidates should have the same concerns about what values are promoted and upheld in the workplace of their potential employer.

“I would suggest that candidates ask this question of the people interviewing them, to find out if they think the team is a good fit for them,” she added.  

3. What drew you to the nursing profession?

Some nurse managers might ask this common nursing interview question in place of the one about values, or as a follow-up question. It also gives the candidate the opportunity to tell more of their personal story.

The hardest part about answering this nurse interview question is that you want to be honest, without sounding trite.  “I just want to help people” is a phrase that has been heard too often in nurse job interviews.  

So think about the real motivators in your own life, practice what you want to say, and keep it relatively short. 

4. Tell me about a time when you inadvertently caused conflict?  

These types of nursing interview questions and answers may make some candidates uncomfortable, but they are asked for a purpose.

“I follow this question up with, ‘What would you do differently if you had to do it over?’” Bryant remarked. “A great answer to this question shows self-reflection and a willingness to improve.” 

5. What can you bring to our team?

“I ask this question because it provides them with an opportunity to share their unique strengths that may not have already come up in the interview,” she explained.  

Nurses might want to provide specific examples of how they contributed to their current or previous team as part of their answer.

6. What are your weaknesses?/What is your area of greatest opportunity?

“I actually don’t like this question all that much and only use it when necessary.  It might actually signal to the interviewee that the interview isn’t going that well,” Bryant commented.

But how should you respond if you are asked this question? 

“Of course you want to spin your weakness into a positive and/or show that you are willing to invest in your own self-improvement.”

7. If I called your previous supervisor, what would they tell me about you?

“I get all kinds of good stuff out of this question because applicants know that I can verify their response,” she noted.  “To answer this appropriately you need to be very honest. Hopefully there are positive things and the supervisor will substantiate that.” 

“But they may have also had a difficult relationship with a prior supervisor and this gives them a chance to speak to that and to explain what steps they did to try to improve the relationship,” Bryant continued. 

8. How would you define a leader?

“This is an important question because all nurses are leaders. Even if they aren’t formally leading their peers, they are advocating for their patients and looking for ways to improve the practice,” she said. “I want to know how a nurse thinks about leadership.”

The worst answers to this nurse interview question, in Bryant’s opinion, would be those that show an attitude that the manager should be fixing all their problems.   

9. What are your career goals? 

“For many nurses, working in med-surg is a starting point—and that is fine.  But I want to know where it is that they want to go. Is there another specialty they are hoping to move to? Are they interested in getting certified, or being involved with the unit or joining professional organizations?” Bryant explained.  

You don’t have to have your entire nursing career goals planned out, but a little thought and self-reflection can help you be ready for these types of nursing interview questions and answers.

10. What questions would you like to ask me/us?

Bryant offered this tip: be prepared to be interviewed not just by the nurse manager, but by other members of the unit. 

“When you meet with other staff nurses, this is a great time to ask questions like how they work together as a team or how many patients they have each shift,” she stated. “You will spend more time with the other staff nurses than the nurse manager so you want to make sure it is a good fit for you.”

Nurse managers and staff will expect that you have done some research, so be prepared with a few relevant questions about the facility, unit and/or job.

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