Preparing for a nursing interview can be tough, and we want you to feel confident and calm when you walk through that door! This series explores common questions that employers ask and gives you concrete ways of approaching them. In Part 1, we explored how every question you might be asked will fit into one of four categories:
1. Do we like you?
2. Are you a risk?
3. Can you do the job?
4. Can we work the money out?
In Part 2, we took an in-depth look at questions which, at their heart, ask “Do we like you?” In this post, Part 3 of the series, we’ll look at practical examples of the second category of questions:
Are You a Risk?
These questions are often probing questions that seek to avoid hiring the type of employee who will quit soon after being hired, who will embarrass the hiring manager or even the hospital for lack of qualifications or experience, or who will be an ill fit with the rest of the team.They want to know you’re a safe bet, and it is your job to prove that in your interview. Here are five examples of “Are You a Risk?” Questions and how to answer them.
1. Where do you see yourself in five years?
- DO show that you want to grow as a nurse and as an individual.
- DON'T mention goals that will require you to leave the job you're interviewing for. For example, if you’re applying for a med-surg job, don’t say you see yourself in the ICU in five years. You'll want to reconcile your biggest ambitions with the reality of your potential job.
*Bonus Points: Rehearse an answer for this challenging question. Here’s an example of an answer that straddles the line between giving the interviewer enough information that they know you’re committed without giving so many details that they’ll think you might leave the job prematurely: “I’m not sure of exactly what kind of position I'll have in five years, but my goal is to be performing in a challenging position where my company feels like I’m contributing to its success. I’m a firm believer in the saying “the harder I work, the luckier I get,” so I have come to the conclusion that if I do the very best I can every day, push myself to the limit, grow personally and professionally, tomorrow, as well as five years from now, will take care of itself.”
2. What’s your biggest weakness?
- DO be honest and talk about a real weakness. And do go on to mention the exact things you are doing to mitigate the risk of that weakness.
- DON'T use a weakness that is core to nursing. For instance, don’t say: “I’m really bad at drug calcs” or “My assessment skills are weak.” That’s not going to inspire a ton of confidence with the hiring manager.
*Bonus Points: B-level level candidates will be able to answer this question with a real weakness and the tools they are using to improve. An A+ interview candidate will be able to answer in a way that the hiring manager will forget what the original question was and will be happy about the situation to boot! Here’s an example:You: “My biggest weakness is having difficult conversations that involve aggressive people. My instincts have told me to run in these situations, and only recently have I learned how unhealthy that behavior is. So, I work on it constantly and obsessively. I’ve been reading every book I can get my hands on when it comes to critical communication. My favorite book on the subject is called Never Split The Difference. Have you heard of it?” Them: “No.” You: “Oh it’s this incredible book written by the former FBI Lead Hostage Negotiator. He’s the one they call anytime there’s a bank robbery, or terrorist hostage taker, all over the world.” (Then, transition into a story about how you used the techniques you learned in the book to befriend a notorious bully in the operating room.) This sort of answer works because, by the end of the story, all they will remember is the book written by the FBI hostage negotiator and the story about the bully instead of your weaknesses surrounding communication. Have one strong story in your back pocket for when you need to bail yourself out of a difficult question.
3. Why this department? Why this hospital?
- DO your research. What makes this hospital unique? This is a chance to flatter the hospital a little bit, while at the same time prove that you’re prepared and have made a thoughtful decision about where to apply.
- DON'T say generic things that could be applied to any hospital. Also, don’t mention using this hospital as a stepping stone to bigger or better opportunities.
This question has two purposes for the hiring manager:1) They are testing to see if you are a culture fit 2) They are testing to see if you did ANY research about their organization. *Bonus Points: Show that you did more research than reading the About Us page on the hospital’s main website. One example of meaningful research might include reaching out to other nurses to ask them what it’s like working in the department or hospital in which you’re interviewing. Additionally, you can mention reading hospital workplace reviews that mention qualities about the workplace that you admire.
4. Describe how you feel when you notice an error on an important record or patient chart. What do you do?
- DO say that you feel badly and that you want to make it right, regardless of if it’s your fault or not. This question is very direct, the hiring manager is asking about something that every nurse will experience at one point and that many handle poorly. It also assumes a position that presents a risk to the organization. They want to know how you’ll handle this type of situation.
- DON'T go straight to a confrontation or speak negatively about anyone else. Also, don’t minimize the situation or act like it’s no big deal.
* Bonus Points: With any question that involves patient care, always, always, always start with the patient. For example, “Whenever I see an error in the chart, the first thing I always do is assess the patient. Was this a clerical error? Or did the person charting actually do something to the patient in error and charted it correctly. Those are important distinctions. Once I determine that the patient is safe, I will notify the person who charted the error directly, and then I will involve all the parties that need to be notified, including the Doctor, Charge Nurse, Managers, and Risk Management, if needed. Most importantly, I try to do everything in my power to make it right for the patient and their family, and to make sure that this kind of error never happens again.”
5. What was a traumatic patient experience you had that left a mark?
- DO share a good story. What were the lessons learned?
- DON'T forget about them. Every nurse has had patients pass away under their care, or shortly after they’ve handed them off to the next nurse or transferred them to the ICU. Most nurses remember them all. They have a way of carving their way into our psyches. But self-doubt and insecurities can start creeping in. We ask ourselves: Did I miss something that a better nurse would have caught? Did I get distracted by my other tasks? If I was bigger, better, stronger, faster, smarter...It’s a strange feeling being the last person someone talked to before they left this world. That’s something we shouldn’t take lightly or forget. These experiences define our careers as nurses, they help us grow, they help us appreciate the little victories along the way. The key to it all is learning how to remember the lessons you learned while not letting the fear of making a critical mistake cloud your judgment and prevent you from making decisions in the future.
* Bonus Points: Talk about ways you cope with the self-doubt associated with patient loss. Many nurses write about these experiences in journal or blog form. Others lean on prayer or meditation. Any indication you can give about how you handle the difficult emotions that come along with trauma will not only show the interviewer that you are an empathetic person, but you’ll ease any doubts about whether or not you care about the difficult work nurses do every day.Remember to check out Part 1 of this series, which defines each category and click on the links below for example questions and tips on how to answer them!Do we like you?Can you do the job?Can we work the money out?