We want you to feel absolutely prepared for your next nursing interview! In Part 1 of this series, we explored how every question you might be asked fits 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 this post, Part 2 of the series, we'll look at practical examples of the first category:
Do we like you?
This type of question seeks to get to know you as an individual, as a potential member of a healthcare team, as an employee and a coworker. Interviewers are looking for honest answers, stories, and a little bit of your personality. They want to see how well you might fit into the existing culture.In general, steer clear of short or trite responses. Instead, offer stories that showcase your skills, your values, and your demeanor. It’s the best way to help them (and you!) gauge whether the new position will be a good fit.Here are five common “Do We Like You” questions and tips for how to approach them:
#1 Why did you become a nurse?
This is one of the most-asked questions in a nursing interview and for good reason!
- DO share an honest story that exemplifies both your unique characteristics and characteristics that are universally associated with being a good nurse.
- DON'T say “I’ve always wanted to help people.” Yes, we know you like to help people, otherwise, you wouldn’t have made it out of your first med-surg clinical rotation when you were elbow-deep in the c.diff infected feces of a 350 lbs. total-care patient who waits until you leave the room and wash your hands before summoning you back with the call light. Any easy platitudes should be avoided.
*Bonus Points: Tell a two-part story. Start with why you wanted to become a nurse, and then finish with an example of a patient care situation where you shined and say something like: “At the beginning of my program, I thought I’d enjoy being a nurse; but it wasn’t until that moment that I KNEW that this life was meant for me”.
#2 Tell me about a recent success you helped a team achieve.
- DO craft a story that mentions how the team did the hard work. You were just the facilitator. This shows the interviewer you are humble and that you value the input of a team.
For example, I coached a new grad that worked as a night supervisor at a hotel to pay for nursing school. On one of her first nights, a young boy started to drown in the pool. She called 911 and started CPR. She quickly realized that the lifeguards on staff were capable of continuing CPR, but the parents and staff were at a loss of what to do. So she stepped back, let her people do their thing, comforted the parents, and helped arrange transportation to the hospital after the boy was helicoptered out of the area. The local newspaper published a story about her heroics, and she brought that to the interview to add a statement to the story. THAT’s the best success story I’ve ever heard in an interview.
Even if your story isn’t quite as dramatic as the aforementioned, it will help interviewers develop a picture of you as a team player. If you don’t have a good story about a success that involved being part of a team, either you are forgetting something that could work or you may need to find a more solitary profession.
- DON'T say “Umm...a recent success I had is passing nursing school.” Also, don’t brag, or throw anyone else under the bus. No one likes hearing a story about how someone else screwed up and you saved the day. It seems petty, and the culture of a nursing unit is fragile enough without throwing in an arrogant new grad.
*Bonus Points: Have a story that shows that you were proactive and driven by a need to improve.
#3 How would others describe your daily attitude at work?
- DO exemplify your ability to stay positive, even in the face of extreme stress.
- DON'T use this as a platform to talk about the beef you’ve had with other nurses in the past, or about complaints regarding other working environments you’ve been a part of.
*Bonus Points: Toxic work environments are a huge problem in nursing. You can see this in the data and in online workplace reviews. Mention research studies around happiness, positivity, and workplace productivity. There is well-documented research that shows positive nurses → better teamwork → better patient outcomes → saved lives, reduced turnover, and saved money. It’s a no-brainer.
#4 Tell me about a time you’ve failed at something.
- DO share what you’ve learned from your failure, and what steps you’ve taken to ensure that the failure never gets repeated.
- DON'T pretend you’ve never failed at something, or pick a small and insignificant failure like, “I didn’t study and failed a quiz in nursing school.” That’s missing the point of the question entirely, and it makes you sound either arrogant or dishonest.
*Bonus Points: Don’t shy away from sharing a story about failure or weakness. The point of this question is to see how a candidate responds to setbacks. This is critically important because as a nurse you WILL make a mistake that negatively impacts a patient. Your job as a candidate is to convince the hiring manager that you have the grit and determination necessary to bounce back after a hard failure.
#5 What makes a good nurse?
- DO answer this question with a story that highlights unique characteristics about yourself that also show what you think makes a good nurse.
- DON'T use generic platitudes like “empathy” or “compassion.” Those answers, while true, are obvious and not memorable enough to land you a job.
*Bonus Points: Go for specifics. When I get asked this question, I say, “Good nursing is all about the details. I say details because I'm a detail-oriented person." It’s then easy to follow-up with a patient-care story that exemplifies this trait. Here’s an example:
In the operating room, we had a trauma patient--a young man--who was riding a motorcycle early in the morning when he got hit and then run over by a semi-truck. It was bad. He needed surgery every single day for weeks. I was his nurse for the first surgery and many surgeries after that, so I got to know him and his family a bit. I learned from his wife that he sang Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” to his baby when she was upset. As we were preparing the OR for his surgery, we purchased the song on iTunes, and we played the song on the speakers when we rolled him into the room. The patient was conscious but still intubated, covered in surgical dressings, both lower extremities in traction. He couldn’t move anything except his face. He heard the song when we rolled him in, and he smiled and started crying. Then we went to work doing what we do best. I still get choked up every time I hear that song on the radio. Being a good nurse, to me, is all about the details: from the differential diagnosis to the labs, equipment, the family, and even a song purchased for $.99 that can instantly show a patient that he is safe and cared for.That’s what good nursing is all about.
Remember to check out Part 1 of this series and click on the links below for example questions from each category and tips on how to answer them!Are you a risk?Can you do the job?Can we work the money out?