By Mike Simpson
When you’re sitting across from a hiring manager trying to land one of the top nursing jobs, you’re going to need to do more than just answer questions. As your interview draws to a close, an important moment happens where you get to flip the script and put the hiring manager on the spot with a few questions of your own.
But figuring out what questions to ask in a nursing interview can be surprisingly tricky. If you don’t come with a few great options in your back pocket, you might draw a blank. If that happens, you might actually risk losing the job.
Luckily, you’re here, and we have your back. If you’re looking for excellent questions to ask during a nursing interview, here’s what you need to know.
What Is a Nursing Interview?
Alright, before we dig into the questions you should ask at the end of your nursing interview, let’s talk about what a nursing interview even is. In the simplest sense, it’s a chance to show a hiring manager why you’d be outstanding in the role they want to fill. Sounds easy, right?
The thing is, that can be surprisingly challenging to pull off. For one, you might face a decent amount of competition.
If you’re looking for a registered nurse (RN) job, you’re certainly not alone. Overall, there are over 3.8 million RNs in the United States. Holy cow, right?
What about certified nursing assistants (CNAs)? Well, there are around 1.45 million people working in that specialty. What does that mean for you? That the odds are high that other candidates will have skill sets similar to yours.
Does all of that mean you should panic? Of course not. Instead, you just need to approach your interview the right way.
One of the biggest parts of the equation is learning to handle the nursing interview questions, as well as the traditional job interview questions. During an interview, you’re usually going to see a mix of job-specific and classic interview questions, so preparing for both is a smart move.
By having the right strategy and practicing your answers, you can set yourself up for success. Essentially, you’ll create a strong foundation that can help you navigate questions you expect, as well as stand a better chance against ones you don’t.
However, you want to do more than just practice answers; you want to practice the best answers possible. How do you do that? By embracing the Tailoring Method.
The Tailoring Method is all about customizing your answers based on a hiring manager’s unique priorities. For example, you’ll adjust your responses to account for the kind of facility you’d work at. After all, massive hospitals and small clinics don’t have the same needs, so it’s crucial to keep that in mind when you start formulating answers.
Tailoring your answers to the facility or job may seem tricky, but it really isn’t. There are a ton of clues that can fill you in on the hiring manager’s priorities; you just need to find them.
One good place to start is the job description itself. There, you’ll get an introduction to the role’s duties, any must-have skills or traits the hiring manager wants to find, and even some insight into the organization’s culture.
Want to learn more? Then head to the facility’s website. Read the mission and values statements, review the accreditations, find out about recent awards, and check out the organizational structure.
If the facility has social media profiles, check them out, too. You may also want to review the profiles of members of the leadership team (if they are set to public) to learn more about their perspectives.
All of that can give you tons of insights into the facility’s needs and priorities. Then, you can really put the Tailoring Method to work.
If you’re dealing with behavioral interview questions, then it’s smart to sprinkle the STAR Method in there, too. That helps you turn a humdrum answer into a captivating story. Your responses will be far more compelling and, when you’re trying to stand out, that really matters.
But what about questions to ask in a nursing interview? When it’s your turn, what do you do then?
Just like with other interview questions, practice is your friend. It helps you get comfortable with what you’re going to ask, making it easier to keep the conversation going once that moment arrives.
We also wanted to let you know that we created an amazing free cheat sheet that will give you word-for-word answers for some of the toughest interview questions you are going to face in your upcoming interview. After all, hiring managers will often ask you more generalized interview questions!
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Top 20 Questions to Ask in a Nursing Interview
When that magical moment arrives, and you get to ask the hiring manager some questions, having a few ready and raring to go is a smart move. By asking thoughtful questions, you look more interested in the job, and that works in your favor.
Hiring managers want to find passionate candidates who are genuinely excited about the opportunity. After all, those are the job seekers who are most likely to flourish, as they really care about the role.
Alright, there’s a good chance you’re thinking, “Whoa. If you’re about to list 20 questions to ask in a nursing interview, does that mean I need to learn them all?” Thankfully, the answer to that is “no.”
This list of questions to ask in a nursing interview is here to give you a range of options. In most cases, you’ll only have a chance to ask a few during your interview, so there’s no need to memorize all 20.
So why list 20? Why not just include the five must-use questions for nursing interviews?
Well, the thing is, you need to ask the right questions for the situation. What you’ll learn from reading the job description, while conducting pre-interview research, and during the interview itself varies.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when choosing which questions to ask during a nursing interview is to ask about information you should already know. It doesn’t look good if you ask the hiring manager to provide you with details they already shared.
But that isn’t the only reason for some variety. Your priorities may differ from other candidates, so what you feel like you need to ask may vary from other job seekers.
If you want to make sure you’re focusing on the right questions, you need to consider what you still need to learn about the job. Do you need more insights into the duties? Is finding out more about the culture a priority? What about the position supervisor’s management style or the composition of the team?
It takes different questions to learn all of that stuff. To make that easier, we created a well-rounded list of questions to ask during a nursing interview that taps on all of that. So, without further ado, here are the top 20 questions to ask in a nursing interview:
- What is the biggest challenge this nursing team faces? How can this position help solve it?
- How does this facility manage overtime? Are there formal policies in place and, if so, what do they entail?
- Which shifts are available for nursing team members?
- Are nurses required to be on-call? If so, how often and under what conditions?
- Is there a regular weekend rotation, or do only select nurses work weekends?
- What do your most successful nurses have in common?
- Which medical record systems does the facility use?
- Does the facility have a program for continuing education for nurses?
- Is there a mentorship program in this nursing unit?
- Can you describe the relationship between the nurses and the other staff members?
- What percentage of the nurses on the team have specialty certifications?
- How would the nurses on your team describe your management style?
- What is your approach to feedback, both in general and following a misstep by a team member?
- What steps does the facility take to ensure patient safety?
- How would you describe the turnover in regards to the nursing staff? What is the most common reason exiting nurses give for leaving?
- Once you began working here, did anything about the facility surprise you?
- What is the most common type of error in this nursing unit? What steps are being taken to prevent it?
- What does a typical day or shift in this role look like?
- Does this hospital have sister units that nurses have to float to when needed?
- If you could give a new nurse in this position one piece of advice, what would it be and why?
It’s important to note that the questions above are simply ideas. There is no rule that says you have to stick with just those.
If there’s something else you need to learn about the role – and the answer isn’t available anywhere else – ask it. As long as it’s thoughtful and appropriate, it is probably a find question add to the mix.
What would an inappropriate question look like? Well, it can take a lot of forms. Keep reading to find out more about the questions you shouldn’t ask at the end of a nursing interview.
5 Questions to Avoid Asking in a Nursing Interview
While asking smart questions can work in your favor, asking the wrong ones can hurt your chances of landing the job. However, exactly how they can harm you depends on the nature of the question.
As mentioned above, you don’t want to request information that you should already have. That’s a biggie, as it makes it look like you didn’t do your homework or haven’t been paying attention.
However, those aren’t the only questions you want to make off-limits. Some questions won’t leave a good impression, for one reason or another. They may seem presumptuous, like you’re trying to move faster through the process than it allows.
Others may be rude, inappropriate, or unprofessional. In some cases, a question may look like a red flag, giving the hiring manager doubts about your suitability or leaving them wondering if you’re hiding something.
In most cases, the questions in this list should be avoided at all costs. That way, you don’t accidentally make a poor impression during your interview.
With that in mind, here are five examples of what you don’t want to ask during your nursing interview:
- How much does this position pay? How quickly can I move into a higher position?
- Do you have to pass a drug test to get the job? If so, how often are nurses drug tested once they are in the position, and how much warning do you give for those?
- What is the process for firing someone? How many warnings do they get?
- Do you monitor computer and email use?
- How long do I have to work here before I can use sick leave or vacation leave?
MIKE'S TIP: Does this mean you can never ask about pay? No, it doesn’t. If you’re getting a job offer or the hiring manager broaches the topic, such as by asking about your salary requirements, it’s perfectly fine to discuss pay. You just don’t want to be the one to initiate that conversation. If you do, it looks like you only care about the money, and that’s never a good thing.
Putting It All Together
Now, you should have a solid idea about questions to ask in a nursing interview. Consider which ones may help you discover the details you need, allowing you to determine if the job is really right for you.
But don’t be afraid to deviate from the list either. If you have some really smart questions to ask during your nursing interview, go ahead and ask them. Just make sure you stay away from the no-go questions above (and any like them). That way, you’ll make the best impression possible, increasing the odds that you’ll land the job.
Download our "Job Interview Questions & Answers PDF Cheat Sheet" that gives you word-for-word sample answers to some of the most common interview questions including:
- What Is Your Greatest Weakness?
- What Is Your Greatest Strength?
- Tell Me About Yourself
- Why Should We Hire You?
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Mike Simpson( Co-Founder and CEO )
Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com.
His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others.
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