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6 Interviewing Skills That Nurses Should Know

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Key Takeaways

  • In interviews, nurses are often asked behavioral-based questions about reactions to on-the-job scenarios.
  • Themes of questions may revolve around patient care, time management, and communication style.
  • Responses to all questions should tell a story from work experience that demonstrates.

When going on an interview, most candidates prepare in advance to answer questions about their careers, and the same can be said for healthcare professionals (HCPs). Specifically, registered nurses (RNs) should familiarize themselves with the following behavioral themes, as these most often appear in nursing interviews:1

  • Patient care 
  • Time management 
  • Teamwork 
  • Adaptability
  • Motivation and core values
  • Communication style

These common nursing interview questions assess how the applicant would react to specific circumstances during patient care. Below are the themes outlined and the tools nurses can use to ace their interview. 

Patient care

Providing patient care is of the utmost importance in nursing, almost as important as treating the patient, and the individual should answer questions about patient care by providing examples of successful patient care scenarios. 

Questions may include: 

  • Tell me about a time when the patient’s family was dissatisfied with care and how you handled that situation. 
  • How do you approach patients and/or families who do not understand medical terminology? 
  • Describe a time when a patient and/or family did not want to disclose personal information and what the outcome was.
  • Talk about a time when a patient/family was pleased with the care you provided.

For nursing interview questions about patient care, examples that outline exceptional patient care are the best course of action while also mentioning scenarios in which the individual handled difficult patients and families with professionalism and grace.  

Time management

During an interview, a nurse must prove that he/she is a master multitasker. Nurses must be able to effectively communicate with all patients while also managing their symptoms, administering medications on time, and taking detailed notes. 

Interview questions may ask: 

  • How do you prioritize tasks while managing multiple patients? 
  • Describe your experience with a sick patient who took up a lot of your time and how you managed your workload. 
  • Give an example of an important goal you set for yourself and how you reached your goal.

Provide answers that highlight punctuality, ability to meet deadlines, and organizational skills.


Interviewers need to assess how the candidate would fit in with the current hospital team; therefore, questions about teamwork skills are often asked. Sample teamwork questions include examples such as: 

  • How would you handle working with a difficult coworker? 
  • Talk about a conflict with your healthcare team.  
  • Describe a time when you were proud of your healthcare team, and explain how you were involved in their accomplishment.
  • Tell me about a time you stepped into a leadership role within your healthcare team.

An appropriate way to answer teamwork questions involves explaining what the individual learned from working with other colleagues. Personal stories that identify the problem/accomplishment, the outcome, and what the individual learned from the experience and can bring to the new role is the best course of response. 


Adaptability in nursing gauges how quickly a nurse can adapt to a crisis situation or attend to urgent patient situations. Sample nursing interview questions about adaptability in the workplace include the following:

  • How did you get through a situation in which you were under immense pressure?
  • How do you handle change within your hospital unit or healthcare team?
  • Describe a time when personal problems interfered with your ability to do your job. 
  • How would you react to handling a patient with a condition that is unfamiliar to you? 
  • How do you recover from failure?

To answer questions about adaptability, “applicants should draw on past clinical experiences to show employers they are able to handle the constant urgency, crisis, and uncertainty associated with the nursing profession.”2

Motivation and core values

With these types of questions, interviewers want to know the root of the applicant’s motivation and personal values. Answering these questions involves telling life stories that motivated the interviewee to be where he/she is today. 

Examples of these questions include:

  • What is one personal accomplishment you achieved, and how did you go about accomplishing it?  
  • Have you ever felt dissatisfied with your role as a nurse? How did you go about fixing it? 
  • Describe a time when you went above and beyond your typical job requirements. What motivated you to do it?

The best way to discuss inner motivation and core values is to share in detail situations where taking initiative is essential to completing a task. Perfect responses would highlight any intrinsic motivation behind such actions. 

Communication style

Questions about communication style may ask the interviewee about using persuasive language, relying on written communication as opposed to verbal, and communicating directly with a manager. Specifically, some interview questions would ask: 

  • Describe a time when you were the resident medical expert. What did you do to make sure everyone was able to understand you?
  • How did you persuade a patient into trying a new course of therapy when he/she was hesitant?
  • How did you correct a time where you did not communicate well with your manager? 

To respond to common interview questions about communication style, tell a story about a communication back-and-forth  and the words used to effectively get the message across.  When answering questions about the ways in which you communicate with patients and their family, nurses should go through the step-by-step process of communication breakdown.

  1. Gaines K. 31 sample nursing interview questions with answer guide. Published online June 12, 2020. Accessed December 31, 2020.  
  2. Bean M. 31 interview questions for nurses — and how to answer them. Becker’s Hospital Review. Published February 16, 2018. Accessed December 31, 2020.

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