General Interview Questions

The following is a list of real interview questions that nurses were asked, compiled by Glassdoor, along with tips for how to respond.

A scenario question is when an employer asks what you would do in a given situation. If you’ve had a similar experience to the scenario they present, reference how you handled it. If you need additional information to answer, request it, but be prepared for them not to offer additional information. It is appropriate to give multiple responses and when you would respond in each way.

» If you are overwhelmed during the day with multiple discharges and admissions, how you would prioritize your day?

Focus on your prioritization skills. Use the discharges and admissions as reference points but focus on how you organize or prioritize yourself.

» The _____ environment can be very stressful. How do you think you will handle that stress?

Burnout is a major concern. Being able to relay what you personally do to alleviate stress shows that you have stress management coping strategies that should reduce burnout.

» Tell me what you would do if you heard a rumor about someone and then had to work with them. Would you assume it to be true or get to know the person first?

This question focuses on two issues: the ability to work in a team and your biases. Address both aspects in your response. If you are referencing a time when you experienced something similar, be sure to avoid discussion of the rumor itself.

» How would you work with a patient or staff person you don’t necessarily like?

Think about the type of people who annoy you and how you maintain your professionalism when faced with these people. Put your focus on how you would ensure that you continue to be productive around people who bother you, rather than why those people bother you.

» How do you deal with a patient who discovered that they’re dying?

» What would you do if a patient asked where their significant other was, but his or her significant other is deceased?

» We take care of patients for lengthy stays, and it is difficult not to get attached to them. How do you think you would handle losing a patient?

Regardless of whether you’ve previously encountered scenarios dealing with death professionally, you will be expected to answer. Employers look to see that you have coping strategies for dealing with a reality of their work situation.

» What would you do first if a patient is aggressive or abusive?

Being able to deal with difficult individuals is mandatory; however, employers don’t want their staff in dangerous or abusive situations. Focus on what the line is between a difficult patient and an aggressive or abusive one, as well as how you would seek support when that line is crossed.

» What would you do if you saw a CNA was not keeping up with his or her workload?

Focus on trying to work with that CNA to make him or her better, but also demonstrate when a situation needs higher intervention.

» Having just graduated from nursing school, would you have a problem taking direction from a nurse without a bachelor’s degree?

» Would you feel confident enough to handle a procedure the way you were taught in school?

Though these questions are asked as yes/no questions, employers rarely expect a one-word answer. Be prepared to elaborate. If asked if you can or have done something, offer examples.

» A committee you were on that dealt with change included doctors not jumping on board right away. How did you get the team to work together? If you didn’t, how did you report it? If you did report it, how did you report it to upper management?

There are two issues embedded in this question. The first deals with how you address workplace conflicts. If possible, reference a similar conflict you had. If you cannot identify one, think about how you would want someone to address you if you were the doctor, if you were a part of the team, and if you were a part of upper management. Form your response from this perspective. The second issue deals specifically with conflicts with people who have greater authority than you do. It’s important to address how you will confront the doctor, yet preserve your working relationship with him or her.
This a small sample of the technical questions you may experience, but the specifics will depend upon the interviewer and job. Respond to these questions concisely and completely. If you need clarification, ask for it. If you could proceed in multiple ways, indicate that and demonstrate when you would use each approach. If you’ve had direct experience with the issue, include examples. Keep in mind that at times the appropriate answer is to call for help or the situation may be guided by organizational policy. Address what you believe to be the right way, but acknowledge the need to adhere to those policies.

» A patient comes in with low blood pressure and fast heart rate a week after abdominal surgery. What do you think is wrong? What tests would you do? What drugs would you give?

» Can you use a hoyer lift?

» Tell us the steps for a laparoscopic cholecystectomy (or any other procedure in your area of specialty) from the patient being prepped to draped (from start to finish).

» Describe the nursing process and how it affects a patient’s care.

» What is your experience like working with patients with disabilities and assistive devices?

» What would you do if your patient fainted while ambulating?

» A patient has weakness all day but is not aphasic. What do you think is wrong with him or her? What heart rhythm would you expect them to be in as a result of this condition?

» What do you monitor for post op?

» Interpret this EKG (VTach). What would your immediate course of action be?

» Interpret this EKG (2nd degree heart block) with a heart rate of 40. What would your course of action be?

» Tell me about shared governance and what you know about it.

» What would you do if you entered a patient room and found them unconscious.

» If you had a suicidal patient, a code, and a short staffed, what would take priority?

» How would you manage pain medication-seeking behavior?

» How would you advocate for a patient who is in pain when the physician is refusing to order pain medication?

» If a patient states that they are being abused by a CNA, what would you do?

» The interviewer describes two patients and asks you to determine what is happening and the appropriate interventions for each.
» What do you think are the qualities of the ideal candidate?

» When looking at other candidates, why should we choose you?

» What makes you feel you are most qualified for this job over others?

Focus on what qualities or skills a person needs to have to succeed in the role and how you are that person. Do not focus on what others may not have. If pressed, focus on your confidence that you can succeed in the role. Since you cannot know others’ skills or qualities, you can only focus on your ability to succeed.

» What do you do to balance your work with your home life?

Employers worry that good employees will burn out if they don’t have work/life balance. However, they also worry that home life can interfere with a person’s ability to succeed. It is important to address both aspects in your response.
» What can you bring to my team to enhance the organization?

» What are three ways you would promote or bring teamwork to your unit?

Think about how you have enhanced other teams or groups you have participated in. Give examples and relate those examples to the nursing setting.

» How do you practice diversity in your life?

The answer to this is personal to each of us. However, given the diversity you will work with daily, you should be able to express not only how you respond to diversity, but also how you seek to include diversity in your life. Keep in mind that while diversity can take many forms — thought, action, perspective, and relationships — diversity also includes race/ethnicity/color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and disability.

» What bothers you or makes you upset?

Self-awareness is a good thing. If the things you relay that bother you or make you upset do not reveal biases you may have or cannot be avoided in your work setting, an honest answer that includes how you respond to the things that bother or upset you is not negative.
Address your specific goals and your thought process for developing these goals. It’s important to have a plan that you can discuss.

» Where do you see yourself in five years?

» What are you looking for in the future?

» What do you hope to accomplish in your nursing career and how would this position fit into your plans?

» Where do you want to go with the company both physically and professionally?

Keep in mind that though you should be honest as to what your goals are as of now, people understand that goals evolve. If you find the question daunting, address it from one of the following two perspectives: “as of right now” or “if I take this role.”
» What do you consider the most important qualities for this nursing job?

» How much experience would you expect a new _____ employee to have?

» What do you find the most rewarding about nursing?

» What was your experience in working with (a type of patient)?

» What qualities, do you think, are needed to be a (the type of nursing you are pursuing) nurse?

» What clinical was your favorite?

» Which patient left an impression on you?

This is your opportunity to demonstrate your passion, commitment, and understanding of the profession you are entering.
» Why would you choose a career in _____?

» What do you like about our organization?

» What do you like best about home health and why do you want to do home health?

» Why this department?

» Why you want to work for _____?

In addition to addressing the specific question asked, use this as an opportunity to demonstrate your decision-making skills. Is the choice they asked you about an example of how you usually make significant life choices? If not, address how it differs from your typical approach. If so, address how it is a good example of your decision-making approach.
» Tell us about yourself.

» What are three words that describe you?

» What are your strengths (generally or as a nurse)?

» What would you bring to our staff?

» Why should we hire you?

Relay specific skills and qualities you have that will aid you in the nursing role. Give examples. It is not enough to just say that you are great, unless you can prove it to them. Finish by addressing why those skills or qualities will be advantageous to you in the role. You do not have to compare yourself to others; simply display confidence in what you offer. Bring up the items you have on the agenda you developed on the interviewing worksheet. LINK
» What is the one thing you dislike about yourself?

» What is your weakness (generally or as a nurse)?

» What are three negative qualities about yourself?

» Is there a reason we should not hire you?

» If we called one of your references, what is one not so good thing they would say about you?

Genuine responses that focus on what you are doing to overcome your shortcomings can sell you.

First, relay something you need to work on or are currently working on. Change the wording to an area for improvement. Relay briefly what that area is. For example, “One area I’ve set out to improve in myself is my time management.”

Next, move to what you are doing to overcome or work around this issue. For example, “However, I’ve recognized that I cannot reach the goals I’ve set out for myself without strong time management skills. So I attended a time management workshop and am employing techniques I learned, such as developing and adhering to a daily schedule.”

Finish by telling the employer how the weakness/quality will not be an issue to them as your employer. For example, “I anticipate utilizing time management skills in all my endeavors including in the workplace. This will enable me to stay on track and actively contribute to the workplace.”

Another approach is to take a positive quality and make it a weakness. For example, “I am too committed to my field.”

This can come off disingenuous if you do not explain how issue is truly a weakness. For example, “As a result, I leave myself open to burnout.”

In this case, you should also include how you plan to overcome the weakness. For example, “So I make a concerted effort to increase my work-life balance by making sure I interact socially with friends on a regular basis and take care of myself by working out regularly and eating well.”

Close with how you will ensure it will not be an issue to the employer. For example, “I’m confident that by doing these things I can maintain the perspective to have a balanced approach to my work that will enable me to avoid burnout.”
Answer these questions honestly. If you are going to be denied a job based on your answer, it isn’t the right job for you. If you are not honest, you might put yourself in a situation where you won’t succeed.

» Do you have reliable transportation?

» Will you work all shifts?