Behavioral Interview Questions

Behavioral interviews are based on the theory that prior performance is a better predictor of future performance than projected performance is. So, instead of asking how you think you’d handle a scenario in the future, employers ask for examples of how you’ve already handled the situation, or something similar, in the past.

How to Respond

Most employers won’t tell you they’re asking a behavioral question, but you can spot one if the questions begins with a phrase like “Tell me about a time when,” “Describe an experience you had,” or “How did you.” To prepare, review questions and examples you can provide.

Alternative Examples

If you can’t think of an exact example, think of a similar situation. For example, if you don’t have experience dealing with uncooperative patients or family members, describe how you’ve dealt with an uncooperative customer at a summer job or an uncooperative colleague and how your experience will help you in the nursing setting.

Step-by-Step Guide

Interviewees sometimes struggle with how much or how little to say in their responses. Follow these steps to ensure you answer the question completely but without saying too much.

  • Briefly describe your example. Since your example won’t be the same as the situation provided by the interviewer, you should include enough information for your interviewer to understand what you dealt with in your example. Don’t get caught up in detailing personalities.
  • Identify the skills or characteristics you demonstrated when you responded to that example.
  • Discuss how that example demonstrates how you typically respond in that type of situation.
  • Discuss how you feel it demonstrates how you will deal with that type of situation in the future.

Keep in mind that the goal is to demonstrate what you learned from your challenges, not to over-explain the situation.

Sample Questions

» Describe a time you couldn’t finish a project on time and how you handled it.

» Tell me about a time someone made a decision you did not agree with. What did you do about it?

» Describe something you feel you failed at. What did you learn from the situation?

» Provide an example of how you used critical thinking and the outcome.

» Tell us about a time when you helped improve morale with your teammates.

» Tell us about a time you had to provide excellent customer service. What was the result?

» Describe a time when you received constructive criticism.

» What did you do when you didn’t know how to perform a skill?

» Describe a time when you disagreed with a policy.

» Describe a time when you made an error. What did you learn from it?

» Tell us about a time when you helped someone in need.

» When have you experienced a stressful situation and how did you deal with it?

» What is one goal you haven’t accomplished and why didn’t you reach that goal?

» Tell us about a time when you persuaded others to see things your way. What was the result?
» Tell us about a time you had a disagreement with a physician and how you handled it.

» Tell us about a time you resolved a conflict between two people. What was the conflict?

» Tell us about a time you experienced something unethical or unprofessional in the workplace. How did you handle it? What was the outcome?

» How do you handle stressful situations?

» How would you describe yourself in an emergency?

» How do you handle personal and work conflicts?

» How have you dealt with miscommunication at work?

» Tell us about a time when you saw another RN take a shortcut on a procedure. What did you do?

» Tell us about a situation where you could have prioritized your patients better.

» How have you dealt with negativity on a unit?
» What was the most difficult situation you faced during your clinical rotation?

» Describe a memorable patient care experience from your clinical rotations.

» Tell us about a time when you knew you made a difference in a clinical setting or volunteer or work experience.

» Tell us about a time you made a mistake in a clinical setting.

» Tell us about a time when you did something you were proud of in a clinical.

» Tell us about a time when you made a mistake that you learned from in a clinical.
» Take us through the process of introducing yourself to a patient.

» Describe how you handled a difficult patient who demanded antibiotics unnecessarily.

» Tell us about your style of nurse-to-patient interaction.

» Provide an example of a positive patient experience and a negative patient experience. How did you handle each? If you encountered the situation a second time, what would you do?

» How do deal with an uncooperative or upset family member or patient?

» Tell us about a time when you dealt with a difficult patient or their family? What did you do to improve their experience?

» Describe a time when you had to work with a family that had a different cultural background than yours.

» Provide an example of a time you went above and beyond for a patient.

» Do you have experience with patient death?

» Describe a time you used patience and diligence in a situation with a patient. How did it pay off?