Are You Asking the Best Nursing Interview Questions?

When you attract the right nurse candidates and screen them based on your requirements for the role, it becomes easier to select prospects to interview.

Sharing with them the types of benefits and job perks your organization offers can help weed out nurses that may not be impressed by your organization. The interview itself, however, is the most critical yet often rushed step in the hiring process. Although nurse recruiters and hiring managers are extremely busy and under pressure to fill open positions, the time you spend on a thoughtfully planned interview, complete with the best nursing interview questions, can result in reduced turnover and saved budget dollars down the road.

As you pore through resumes, focus on which candidates would be the best to move forward into the interview phase. Look for additional factors in their resume that show they would be a good match such as prior experience, relevant areas of expertise, certifications, length of time at previous employers, promotions, community involvement, or publications they have written.

The interview is where you can dig deeper to identify things beyond what you’ve seen on paper. It is a chance to determine what else the candidate can offer about their experience and to gain a better understanding of their communication skills, both verbal and nonverbal.

Nursing interview questions using behavioral techniques

Commit to using “behavioral interviewing,” a technique developed by industrial psychologists in the 1970s based on the premise that “the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in a similar situation.”

Traditional interviews incorporate questions that are opinion-based. For example, questions like, “What attracted you to this position?” or “What is your greatest weakness?” allow a candidate to provide an opinion as a response.

Behavioral interview questions compel candidates to respond with experiences about how they handled challenges that directly relate to the skills required for the position. Crafting role-specific questions is also important since you would seek different competencies in different roles and specialties.

Here are a few examples of general behavioral interview questions:

  1. Can you talk about a time you had to make a decision with limited information? How did you determine what would be the best decision?
  2. What’s the most difficult decision you’ve made at work? How did you come up with your decision?
  3. Can you describe something that challenged you as a leader? How did the challenge change you?
  4. Can you talk about a time when you motivated your team? How effective were your efforts?
  5. Can you describe a time when you saw a problem at work and created a solution for it?

Identify nursing skills and characteristics

Interviewers have very little one-on-one time with a nurse candidate. Making the best use of this time and learning as much as possible depend on knowing which questions to ask. When interviewing nurses, you need to find the questions that map to the skills and characteristics you value at your organization.

Let’s consider behavioral interview questions to ask during that can reveal a nurse candidate’s characteristics and skills for success in today’s complex healthcare environment.

Excellent communication skills

Nurses constantly work in teams, both with other nurses and other healthcare workers, making effective communication key. And ensuring patients are informed about their care is important for many reasons. Situational interview questions helps gauge how effective the candidate is with communication. When asking questions during a nursing interview, look for a candidate who isn’t afraid to speak up or repeat their intended message in a different way.

Sample question: Tell me about a time when you had to overcome a communication barrier to make sure a patient understood what you wanted them to know.

Problem solving and critical thinking skills

For nurses, critical thinking calls for making decisions in rapidly changing, complex, and high-pressure situations. In many cases, every potential solution to a problem must be evaluated against competing ethical principles and potential negative consequences.

Some nurses are expert critical thinkers, while others struggle to comprehend and master this skill. Critical thinking interview questions for nurses help identify candidates that make sound decisions based on informed thinking when faced with complex problems.

Sample question: Tell me about a time when you faced a problem you had to solve, and no feasible solution was ideal (all solutions had some negative consequence). How did you decide, and what was the outcome of your decision? Through reflection, what did you learn?

Compassion and empathy

Nurses are often portrayed as having an abundance of compassion and empathy. However, some candidates might be lacking in this category. The right interview questions might shed light on how well a candidate understands patient and coworker feelings. Tune into responses that indicate the ability and willingness to understand how others feel, especially in an event/circumstance the nurse hasn’t personally experienced.

Sample question: Describe a time when you cared for a patient with values, beliefs, or morals that conflicted with your own. How did the situation affect your relationship with the patient?


Nurses must be equipped for long, physically and emotionally demanding shifts. Understanding how to cope with high-stress aspects of the job is key to a nurse’s success. Nursing interview questions can shed light on candidates that provide honest, real-life examples of how they’ve handled a stressful event.

Situational interview questions for nurses also help to identify candidates with avoidance tactics that might respond with a general statement (“I just didn’t let the stress get to me,” or “I didn’t let myself think about it.”).

Sample question: The nursing profession can be stressful — physically, emotionally, and mentally. Tell me about a time when you endured a stressful situation at work. How did it affect you? What characteristics about your personality have helped you manage stress?

Recruit and interview with intention

As the nationwide nursing shortage continues, recruiters are working tirelessly to fill open positions for nurses around the country. Filling a nursing position goes beyond finding someone to put into a role. It’s about finding the right nurse for the right role. The right fit helps the nurse succeed in their role and hopefully remain in the position longer.

For information on’s talent marketplace or to build your custom talent acquisition solution package, contact us today.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 2021 and has been updated with new content.