Questions to Ask in a Nursing Interview

Nursing interviews can be a nerve-wracking but also exciting experience. After all, this could be the job that sets your career on a better path, or that launches your career in the first place. Good preparation is key to acing the interview and presenting yourself as the most attractive candidate possible.

professional woman talking during a nursing interview

If you’re wondering how to make a great impression at your next nursing interview, read this ultimate guide to find out everything you need to know. We’ll cover questions to ask in a nursing interview, what the steps in the interview process will be, what to wear to your nursing interview and more.

How do I prepare for a nursing interview?

To prepare for the interview, do some research on the position itself, the unit you’d be working in and the facility. Read the employer website and see if any news stories have been written about the hospital or company by outside publications. If you know anyone who currently works at the facility, reach out to them for a casual conversation to learn more about the facility and what to expect in the interview process. Brainstorm answers to common interview questions (more on these below) so you’re ready when you get the call. Update your résumé if you haven’t already and obtain copies of any necessary licenses and certifications.

How do I prepare for my first nursing interview?

If you’ve never done a nursing interview before, you’ll need to do some extra work to make sure you’re fully prepared. Consider doing a mock interview with one of your peers or mentors to run through questions and practice speaking in a calm and confident manner. You may not have a lot of experience you can talk about yet, so go back through your résumé and work history to discover what aspects you can mention in the interview. For example, you might have completed a really difficult rotation or had a meaningful volunteer experience that would be relevant to mention in the interview. If you know any nurses currently working at the facility, ask them what to expect in the interview and if they have any advice for you.

young businesswoman on her cellphone

What will the interview process be like?

No matter the type of nursing position you’re applying for, you’ll probably have at least one initial phone screen before the facility brings you in for an in-person interview. This first phone interview is usually on the shorter side, and you’ll likely be talking with a recruiter or hiring manager from HR instead of a clinician. They’ll ask you basic questions about your education, employment history, clinical experience and career goals. If you seem to be a good fit for the position, they’ll ask you to schedule an in-person interview. In face-to-face interviews, you’ll talk with at least the immediate supervisor for the position, and sometimes other people from the department as well. You might meet with several people back-to-back or even have a panel interview where several people interview you at once. Since you’ll actually be working with them, these in-person interviewers will delve deeper into your experience, trying to figure out if you’re a good match for the culture of the unit.

What do I wear to a nursing interview?

Nurses wear nursing scrubs and slip-resistant shoes while on the clock, but you’ll want to leave those at home for the interview. Instead, you should dress professionally and comfortably. A solid-colored suit is a good choice for both men and women. Dress pants, button-down shirts, ties, longer skirts and blazers are also good options if you don’t own a full suit. Women may want to wear hosiery or tights if they opt to wear a skirt. Applicants should wear comfortable dress shoes with a minimal heel in case they have to do a lot of walking or climb any stairs. Keep jewelry, makeup and perfume to a minimum so that it doesn’t distract the interviewer. If you have tattoos, cover them up. Make sure to bathe, brush your teeth, put on deodorant, etc. before the interview so you smell clean.

What should I do the day of the interview?

Lay out your outfit the night before, try it on to make sure it fits and take care of any ironing or steaming that needs to be done. In the morning, take a shower, style your hair and put on minimal makeup (if you’re wearing any). Grab your portfolio on your way out the door. It’s a good idea to bring extra copies of your résumé as well as a notepad and pen to the interview. The hiring manager should have already informed you where to park, so look it up on a map before you leave so you know where you’re going. Be sure to budget in extra travel time for potential accidents or slowdowns as well as parking and walking into the facility. Sometimes it can take an extra 15 minutes (or more) to actually find a parking space and then the interview office.

male and female shaking hands before a nursing interview

How should I act during the interview?

Be nice to everyone you interact with, even the admin at the front desk or the janitor cleaning the hallway. Greet the interviewer with a strong handshake and a friendly smile. Turn off your cell phone, sit up straight and do your best not to fidget. Your voice tends to get higher and speed up when you’re nervous or excited, which can make your answers hard to understand. If this happens to you a lot, make a deliberate effort to slow down your speech. You can even record your practice interview answers to get a sense of how fast you normally talk. Don’t be afraid to take a brief pause when the interviewer asks you a question. It will actually make you seem more thoughtful and give you a chance to collect your thoughts. If you talk with your hands a lot, be aware of that and try not to fling them around too much, as you don’t want to knock something over. Stay away from nervous tics, such as chewing on your nails or playing with your hair.

What questions will they ask in a nursing interview?

While each interviewer will phrase things slightly differently, there are some basic questions that you should be prepared to answer in every nursing interview, including:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why did you decide to become a nurse?
  • Tell me what your greatest strengths as a nurse are.
  • Tell me what your greatest weaknesses as a nurse are.
  • What’s the most rewarding part of being a nurse for you?
  • What’s the hardest part of being a nurse for you?
  • Tell me about a time you persuaded a patient or a family member about something.
  • How do you perform in a crisis?
  • How do you handle working with doctors, nurses and staff?
  • Tell me about a time you worked with a difficult coworker.
  • What’s a mistake you made, and how did you handle it?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • Why are you leaving your current position?
  • Why do you want this position?

How should I structure my interview answers?

It’s really easy to ramble during an interview. The interviewer asks you for an example of a time when you handled an emergency. You start talking and then five minutes later you’ve totally lost the thread of your story—and so has your interviewer. It’s critical to structure your interview answers in a clear, easy-to-follow way so neither you nor your interviewer gets lost. Start by framing the situation or problem, then explain any necessary context. Outline the action steps you took to address the problem and then explain the (hopefully positive) outcome of your actions. Brevity is key, so only include the necessary details.

Interviewer smiling at interviewee during an interview

What questions should I ask at the end of an interview?

Asking questions at the end of an interview shows that you’re invested in the position and are genuinely interested in learning more. Your questions should be about topics that you haven’t covered in the interview yet (otherwise, it will seem like you weren’t listening). Also be sure to address your questions to the right person. An HR recruiter will have more information about the medical insurance plans available than the nurse supervisor will. Here are some questions to ask in a nursing interview:

  • How do you provide feedback to your nurses when they’ve made a mistake?
  • Do you have mentorship opportunities available within the unit?
  • What’s the work environment like in your unit?
  • What does teamwork look like for your unit?
  • What opportunities exist for continued education and learning?
  • How many nurses have specialty certifications?
  • Do you host nursing grand rounds?
  • How do you think staff members might describe your management style?
  • What are some common challenges that your unit faces? How can I help you overcome those?
  • What’s your favorite thing about working here?
  • How do you evaluate performance?
  • What are the opportunities for advancement?

What questions should travel nurses ask?

Travel nurses should ask the questions listed above, but they also have special considerations they should ask about during their interviews for a new position. Some of these questions will be answered by the facility, while others are better answered by the hiring agency. Some questions that travel nurses should ask are:

  • What are your expectations for travel nurses?
  • What kind of orientation or training is available for travel nurses?
  • What’s your floating policy?
  • What’s your scheduling policy?
  • What technology and systems does your facility use?
  • How many travel nurses are part of this unit?
  • Do you ever extend contracts?
  • How many travel nurses extend or come back?
  • How many hours will I work, and are those hours guaranteed?
  • What’s the policy on picking up extra shifts?
  • Is housing included? How about benefits?
  • Do you offer a relocation stipend to help with moving expenses?

What should you not ask in an interview?

Asking smart, interesting questions will give you an edge in the interview process. However, if you ask bad or offensive questions during the interview, it can actually set you back instead. These “bad” questions usually indicate that you a) haven’t done your research, b) don’t care about the job that much or c) have something to hide. Here are some questions candidates should avoid asking at the end of interviews:

  • What are the requirements for this job?
  • What are you looking for in a candidate?
  • What does this unit or department do?
  • What other jobs are available?
  • Do you check references or conduct background checks?
  • Will I need to pass a drug test in order to be hired?
  • Can I arrive late or leave early?
  • How long can I work before I can take PTO?

On the flip side, there are also some questions that interviewers shouldn’t ask you. In fact, it’s illegal for them to do so in the United States. You don’t have to answer questions about the following topics if asked:

  • Age
  • Medical information
  • Height and weight
  • Race or ethnicity
  • Gender or sex
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Marital status
  • Pregnancy or children

Remember that you’re interviewing your potential employer just as much as they’re interviewing you. They’re looking to see if you’d be a great fit for them–and you should be doing the same. Asking questions at the end of your nursing interview will help you determine whether or not the facility offers the opportunities and benefits you’re looking for and help you make an informed decision about the future of your nursing career. Best of luck with your next nursing interview!