So, you’ve graduated! You’ve passed your NCLEX! Guess what? You’ve still got work to do, grasshopper! Not only do you have to land an interview, you have to absolutely NAIL IT. To do so, you have to prepare just like you would for any gigantic exam in nursing school. To help you out, I’ve compiled the list of interview questions I prepared answers for when I was looking for a job straight out of school. The end result was 29 typed pages of questions/answers which I diligently memorized. Needless to say, I was ready for anything! So, without further ado…here are 20 interview questions you absolutely must be prepared to answer:

  1. Tell me about yourself.
    With this question, don’t go back to “I was born in a small town…” Start with the most recent relevant information like where you went to school, what you discovered to be your passion in regards to nursing (and hopefully that’s the position you are applying for), plus a few key attributes that tie in to the job.
  2. Why do you want to work in this department?
    Explain why you want to work in the ICU, ER, pediatrics, etc…. and then talk about how your strengths make you the perfect match for the job.
  3. What would your preceptor/clinical instructor say are your strengths? Weaknesses?
    Be honest here, but be humble. You may think you are all that with a bag of chips…but you will quickly find out you basically know nothing. Sell yourself on your ability to learn and adapt. Fess up to your shortcomings but present them as opportunities to learn and grow.
  4. You are driving home from work and had the very best day…what happened?
    Describe what a great day on the job would mean to you. Connecting with a family member, seeing a patient improve, helping a co-worker. Whatever it is, don’t say it’s the donuts in the break room.
  5. You are driving home from work and had the very worst day…what happened?
    Same scenario, different perspective. This is an opportunity to show how you would deal with challenges or adversity.
  6. What is the best criticism you have ever received?
    Choose something that you took to heart and improved upon.
  7. What gives you anxiety?
    This demonstrates how you would function in a high-stress environment
  8. How has your background prepare you for nursing?
    Draw from your varied past jobs, education and skills to paint the picture of someone who is adaptable, quick-thinking, courageous, assertive, caring, etc… Examples that showcase communication skills and critical thinking are also key.
  9. What do you do if the MD asks you to do something and you aren’t sure it’s in your scope of practice?
    The answer to this is to ALWAYS clarify the order and to ALWAYS clarify the protocol on your unit.
  10. Tell me about a time someone disregarded your opinion. How did that make you feel and what did you do about it?
    As a nurse, you will find that people often disregard your opinion. You must show that you are confident yet also open to seeing other points of view.
  11. How have your other clinical experiences prepared you for this unit?
    This is where you can get more detailed with the types of patients you’ve cared for and any special skills  you’ve been able to practice.
  12. How do you work with people from other cultures?
    This is a no-brainer. You LOVE working with a wide variety of people from ALL backgrounds. You just LOVE IT!
  13. Can you tell me about a time when you saw a small problem and acted to prevent it from becoming a big problem
    Catching small boo-boos before they become HUGE disasters is key in nursing.
  14. Can you tell me about a time when your care plan had to be changed due to a shift in priorities?
    This shows you can assimilate data and re-prioritize based on new information. Remember the key component of the nursing process? ASSESS ASSESS ASSESS!
  15. Can you tell em about a time when you had to work in a group and there was a problem…what did you do to fix the problem and what was the outcome?
    Nursing is ALL about teamwork. You MUST be a team player or you will die a slow and miserable death. So to speak.
  16. Tell me about a time when you had to prioritize patient care.
    This is a good time to talk about juggling multiple patients with competing needs/demands.
  17. Can you tell me about a time when you had a different point of view than your patient, and what you did to see your patient’s point of view?
    This shows you subscribe to the whole “patient-centered-care” thing. And that you are open-minded and not a total jerk.
  18. How do you feel about shift work?
    This could come up since you will most likely be doing night shift. And let me tell y’all, shift work is hard. Weekends, holidays…your social life will suffer even if you do only work 3 days a week. I guarantee it.
  19. What have you done that shows initiative?
    This is a great place to tell a clinical-related tale. A real one. No creative writing, please!
  20. How could you contribute to this hospital?
    Hospitals like people who join committees, seek to improve patient care, love research and embrace change.

In addition to these types of ‘getting-to-know-you’ questions, your interviewer will likely ask scenario style questions as well…so be prepared to put your clinical knowledge to the test. In many cases, especially for a new grad, these questions will be aimed at determining if you know how to recognize a serious change in condition and what to do. That could be to call a code, start chest compressions, get help, etc…

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