Do you feel fully prepared for your next nursing interview? We want to help! In this 5-part series, we explore how every question you're asked in interviews fits into one of four categories. We also offer concrete examples of how to approach them In Part 1 of this series, we explore the four categories of questions:
1. Do we like you?
2. Are you a risk?
3. Can you do the job?
4. Can we work the money out?
Part 2 of the series looks more closely at the category "Do We Like You?" Part 3 explores the category "Are You a Risk?"In this post, Part 4 of the series, we’ll examine the third category of questions:
Can you do the job?
Interviewers need to know you have what it takes to be an effective nurse, so questions under this umbrella cover the gamut: they’ll be both theoretical (What do you believe good care consists of?) and highly practical (What would you do in ________ situation?). This type of question, perhaps more than any other, requires lots of examples and good storytelling. The best way to prepare for these questions is to come up with stories you might tell the interviewers in order to illustrate who you are as a nurse and an employee. If you have prior experience, this should be fairly straightforward. Write out a list of scenarios you’ve experienced and practice telling them so you won’t feel blindsided when you’re asked to recount them. If you haven’t had a great deal of experience in nursing, you’ll have to get more creative. Think about stories from school, other jobs, or nurses you know that you can use to talk about the kind of nurse you want to be.
1. What is the key to providing extraordinary patient or customer service?
- DO show that you value the patient’s thoughts and feelings, that you enjoy helping and supporting others, and that you always underpromise and overdeliver.
- DON'T forget to tell a story. Even if your examples are not from the nursing field, interviewers want an illustration to help them envision what customer care means to you.
*Bonus Points: Part of this question is asked in order to see if you understand--and have examples of--great customer service. However, this question also has a lot to do with HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) and the fact that hospital reimbursement is now tied to patient satisfaction surveys. Keep that in mind as you consider your answer.
2. Are you a leader or a follower?
- DO mention that you have leadership capabilities.
- DON'T say you’re a follower, but don’t discount the value of being able to follow.
*Bonus Points: Share a story that shows you are capable of being both a leader and a follower. This question is interesting because the optimal answer is not obvious. On one hand, nurses need to have leadership capabilities because they often must pass tasks to others. At the same time, nurses have to follow in a lot of situations. For example, the MDs have a lot of decision authority over what happens with the patient. Additionally, there are emergency situations when relinquishing the decision-making to a nurse with more experience than you is the best course of action. Showing your humility is not a liability.
3. Describe a time in your career when you were asked to take on increased levels of responsibility. Why were you asked instead of someone else?
- DO talk about your reliability, your work ethic, and dedication to evidence-based practice.
- DON'T disparage anyone else.
*Bonus Points: Questions like this do more than one thing at once: they ask about how you think of yourself and they ask about how you view others. Whenever you get asked about someone else in questions, deflect by saying something like: “I can’t speak for why my managers didn’t ask someone else, but I can tell you that they chose me because of X, Y, Z. Additionally, the manager is on my reference lists so you can follow-up with them for more details if you’d like.”
4. How do you deal with a difficult co-worker, patient, or family member of a patient?
- DO stay positive.
- DON'T speak negatively about any other party in the story. There is ALWAYS a way to spin something in a positive light. Also, it’s important to demonstrate empathy and perspective by noting that you can see where the other side is coming from.
*Bonus Points: You are guaranteed to get a question addressing conflict in your interview because managing conflict is such a huge part of our job as nurses. Describe a system for de-escalating tension and managing conflict. In the book Never Split The Difference, author Chirs Voss suggests first de-escalating the emotion: “You can’t negotiate in the middle of a firefight.” Once you de-escalate, you can utilize mirroring and open-ended questions to help the other party come to the conclusion you want them to while still feeling in control.
5. You have five minutes to teach us something. It can be about anything, as long as it’s unrelated to nursing.
- DO talk about something you’re passionate about. This question helps interviewers get a sense of what drives the candidate. What are their passions? What do they do to de-stress? And most importantly, can they take a complex topic, distill it into simple points, and teach a novice quickly? This skill is very useful for nurses who spend a lot of time educating patients.
- DON'T teach them something that may offend someone on the panel. Always play to your audience.
*Bonus Points: Teach something novel (so you’ll be remembered), appeals to a broad audience, and something that you can connect to nursing. For example, one interviewee was very passionate about martial arts. She’d been training in different styles for her entire life, and she taught the panel how to throw a perfect punch. “A perfect punch,” she said, “is built on a foundation of discipline and training. You can spend your entire life trying to master the basics, but the fundamentals can be utilized at every level, from beginner to professional.” She then went on to equate it to nursing by comparing that essential skill to the head-to-toe assessment, which is a foundational skill built on repetition, experience, coaching, and mastering it can be helpful at every level of nursing. While that alone was a great comparison, this candidate went on to explain that the other thread that ties throwing a perfect punch to nursing is luck. Sometimes you can perform to the best of your ability, and you still lose. Whether your arena is a gym or a hospital, the ability to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and getting back into the ring after a loss is the key to your success. Her explanation was concise, focused, and memorable.If you haven't already, click on the links below for example questions in each category and tips on how to answer them! Do we like you?Are you a risk?Can we work the money out?