Nursing Job Interview Questions

How to Ace Your RN Job Interview  

One thing that travel nurses have to become experts at is the nursing job interview.  But acing those nurse interview questions is not as difficult as you think! No matter what  job you are applying for, some basic rules always apply: 

  • You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. The specific interview questions that are asked will reveal a lot about the facility and your potential employer, if you pay attention.
  • The nursing job interview should be give-and-take. Not only should you be ready to answer the interviewer’s questions, but you must also offer cogent questions and observations of your own.
  • Your answers during the interview must be precise, informative and persuasive. The questions will explore the following areas: your qualifications, your motivation, and your suitability for the nursing assignment. So, be ready!

How to Prepare for the Interview

First, prepare for your  interview by carefully go over your resume beforehand. You will be asked questions about your work experience based on this resume. Be completely familiar with the skills, abilities and knowledge you have gained in any previous travel nursing jobs.

Second, practice your answers to the most likely questions. Have some "stories" ready that illustrate specific skills and abilities and thus highlight your qualifications for the position. By preparing responses to the most common interview questions, you will be able to set yourself apart as an excellent candidate.

Third, practice your conversational skills. Keep in mind these interview tips: Talk for two minutes, maximum, for each answer. Take your time and consider your answer before speaking. Be logical. The interviewer is looking for communication skills, problem-solving, and linear thinking. Provide insight into your management philosophy or personal mission statement.

The Most Common Questions

These questions will fall into three basic categories: your qualifications for the nursing job, your motivations for being a nurse, and your suitability or "fit" with the particular facility or organization.

Your Qualifications

  1. Why are you interested in this particular nursing job? Why do you want to work here? Prepare for this by finding out as much as possible about the nursing job and the facility. Use this background research to match your qualifications to the travel nursing job. For example, say, "I am looking for a position in a facility like this because of your excellent reputation for emergency care."
  2. What do you consider the most important qualities for this job? Make your answer to this relevant to the specific nursing job. For example, common qualities required for an ER nurse include resilience, adaptability, critical thinking, organization, emotional stability and high stress tolerance.
  3. What do you consider your nursing job strengths and weaknesses as a healthcare professional? Prepare three or four key strengths that are compatible with the particular opening – and relate them back to other interview questions wherever possible. Reinforce each attribute with a concrete example – such as how you once handled a particularly stressful ER case. Do not use answers like "management" or "inter-personal skills" unless you can describe, with specific examples, the characteristics of management (planning, organizing, results, staffing, etc.) or how your relationship skills have proven critical to your success. Be honest about your weaknesses, but choose one or two tolerable ones that you are working on improving. Show that you have the maturity and personal insight to recognize your faults. Discuss how you are managing each one and the improvements you have made so far.
  4. What have been your most significant career accomplishments to date? A good answer to the question about your accomplishments can cinch the job, so prepare extensively. This would be a good place to insert a two-minute story that details achievements relating to this particular travel nursing job. Highlight personal involvement in a case or situation: Describe how things were when you arrived, how you affected change and the measurable results. Discuss hard work, long hours, pressure and any important issues that were resolved.
  5. What are your future travel nursing goals? / Where do you see yourself five years from now? Ten years? Your answer to this nurse interview question needs to show your commitment to this position and facility. State one or two reasonable, achievable long-term goals -- otherwise you will come across as immature, unrealistic, or even a dreamer. Explain how this particular assignment meets your long term-objectives by providing an opportunity to grow and develop your nursing skills.

Nursing Interview Questions about Motivation

  1. Why did you choose your specialty area of nursing? Whatever your specialty area of nursing – ER nursing jobs, Occupational Health, Community Health, ICU, etc. -- the key to answering nurse interview questions about your career track is to be very specific about why you chose it. What influenced you in your choice? How did you explore your options? Describe how your strengths are utilized in this specialty and how it suits your personal goals.
  2. How do you stay current with the nursing profession? Questions about your motivation to learn and stay updated are meant to ascertain your commitment to nursing profession and career.  Possible answers include attending conferences, obtaining certifications, subscribing to professional journals, and joining relevant forums and groups.
  3. What are the biggest challenges facing nursing today? One of the biggest challenges in nursing is the shortage of trained nurses. A good interview tip is to use your answer to demonstrate that you have thought about this issue by offering some likely reasons for the shortage of nurses to fill nursing jobs – and possible solutions. Possible reasons include low nursing-school enrollment due to poor perceptions of nursing as a rewarded career, and nurses leaving the profession due to career burnout. As for the solutions: This is a perfect time to pitch your talents and capabilities as a travel nurse! Tell the interviewer, "Travel nurses statistically have an extremely high job satisfaction, because we provide critical staffing relief in overstressed facilities such as yours. We find these nursing jobs to be particularly rewarding." 

Nursing Interview Questions about Your Suitability

  1. How do you handle pressure? This question could imply that the position is pressure-packed. If you do perform well under stress, provide an example with details, giving an overview of the stressful situation. Make the interviewer "feel" the stress by your description. And if it isn’t one of your strengths, use the opportunity to delve further into the details of what makes the nursing job so stressful.
  2. Describe your typical day. The  interviewer is looking for your organizational skills and the tasks you routinely perform to determine if you can address their specific problems. Being energetic, prepared, a goal-setter, quick-witted and flexible are all important aspects of being a successful travel nurse, so describe a "day" that requires all of these reactions. Avoid too much talk of "putting out fires," as this may indicate an inability to plan or anticipate problems.
  3. Describe your best boss. This question gets to the essence of who you are as an employee. Qualities that may appeal to you in a boss include being hands-off, being fair, being a mentor, being creative, or being supportive of your decisions.  Acknowledging which of these characteristics have worked best (or worst) for you is important in being true to yourself. Be aware that your answer will also reveal a great deal about you, as we tend to mirror the person we want for a manager.
  4. Why are you the right person for this nursing job?  Why should we hire you for this position? You are certain to be asked why you are the right person for the job, usually at the end of the interview. By now you should have identified the key challenges faced by this organization. Detail how you can help meet these challenges and be part of the solution. Using concrete examples, tell why your training and experience qualify you for this specific travel nursing job: "My 12 years of experience in pediatric nursing have prepared me to provide the quality care expected in your top-rated children's wing."  Now is the time to thoughtfully summarize what you have observed and to link your achievements to their key issues. This is the time to ask for the position.

By preparing your answers and reactions to these common nursing job interview questions, you will put yourself in the best position to land your next travel nursing job!  So, check out the great travel nursing job openings with 50 States Staffing,  and we'll get you started on your way!