Surprising Nurse Interview Questions

Nurse recruiters have the opportunity to alter their interview approaches and techniques as needed. While many common interview questions are standard practice, throwing in a few surprising nurse interview questions can shed light on a nurse’s personality that might not be possible through routine questions and answers. 

To keep the candidate at ease, it may be best to begin the interview with common interview questions to allow them to relax and get to know you. Here are a few of the best common interview questions to ask during a nursing interview.

Common interview questions

Tell me a little bit about yourself. This question is often used as an icebreaker. It’s an opportunity for the candidate to provide an introduction and highlight their professional experience as well as their personal interests. Listen for the highlights of their experience and skills that are relevant to the job they’re applying for.

What are your strengths and weaknesses? This question, or a similar version of it, is very common. Employers want to know what candidates are good at and that they acknowledge areas where they might need to improve. Listen for a focus on the strengths that relate to the nursing job they’re applying for. If they don’t match up perfectly, ask for examples of how their strengths will help them in this new role. It’s OK to have weaknesses, but they should be able to speak to how they’re working to improve them.

Why do you want to work here, specifically? You want to know that candidates are interested in this specific job in your department or within the organization as a starting point. Make it a point to assess how much the candidate has researched the business and even the department that manages the role. This is also a great time for them to ask questions, so be sure to provide the opportunity for them to do so.

What are your salary expectations? This can be a tough question to answer, but candidates should be prepared. They will likely have researched the standard in their area, keeping in mind whether they will be a salaried or hourly employee. Nurses know that their experience matters and are being empowered to speak up for competitive pay.

Surprising nurse interview questions

If you were a tree, what would you be, and why? Yes, I was actually asked this question in an interview once, and it completely took me by surprise! This was a question that I had not prepared for at all, but it did allow the person who interviewed me to get a sense of how I thought on my feet and allowed me to show a bit of personality. There are other takes on this question, such as the type of flower, animal, color, etc.

If you had the opportunity to have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be, and why? This is an opportunity for the nurse to show a sense of their values and what is important to them. There’s certainly no wrong answer to this question, but the candidate’s answer can really tell a lot about what is important to them.

Tell me about a time when something didn’t go your way, and how you handled it. Failure and setbacks are an inevitable occurrence in the workplace, and candidates should be able to articulate how they handle them. Ask for a specific time when the candidate faced a challenge and what they learned from it. Thier response should show how they’ve grown from the experience and how they would apply those lessons to future situations.

What motivated you to go into the nursing field? Although it still addresses nursing, this question goes beyond standard interview questions. The candidate’s response allows them to explain their motivation and what drove them to become a nurse. It lets you get a sense of what drives them and what they’re passionate about.

Nurse interview questions and insights

Be sure to gauge the nurse candidate’s comfort level and use surprising nurse interview questions as they feel appropriate. Many candidates will welcome the change from the routine questions and appreciate the chance to add their personality or humor to the interview. Interviews are stressful and candidates will benefit from feeling understood and respected.

Leaders and recruiters who understand what nurses value most will have more successful recruitment efforts. To learn more about what matters to nurses in their careers (including perspectives on nursing specialization), you can review the findings within the 2022 Nurse Salary Research Report.

Download the report here.