Graduating from nursing school is not the only hurdle a fresh nurse graduate would have to face in their journey to becoming a professional nurse.
Job interviews are an inescapable aspect of the job application process and can be a dealbreaker when it comes to securing a nursing job. So, how can you ace that nursing interview?
In this article, find out what are the 10 commonly asked nursing interview questions, how you can answer them, as well as some tips for acing the interview and writing a good resume.
10 commonly asked interview questions and suggested answers
1. “Tell me about yourself.”
This question seems simple but can be notoriously tricky to answer. When interviewers ask you to tell them about yourself, this is a chance to give an “elevator pitch” style overview of your professional strengths. Respond to this question by describing yourself in a way that gives interviewers a summary of your experience, skills and positive traits.
”I recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the Alice Lee Centre of Nursing Studies in NUS. After graduation I worked part-time with the Cerebral Palsy Alliance assisting doctors in various specialist clinics like the dental and orthopedic clinics to treat students and clients. This job made me interested in developing my skills in caring for patients with movement disorders, which I know your organisation specialises in.”
2. “Why did you choose nursing?”
Interviewers want to see nurses who are passionate about what they do. Try to avoid generic answers and link your answers to personal motivations on why you wanted to pursue nursing as a career.
Personal anecdotes about how you were inspired by nurses you saw around you or reasons that touch on a desire to help others will strike a chord with interviewers.
“Nursing is a career that will allow me to help people from all walks of life. No matter what language people may speak or nationality they may belong to, the need for healthcare is universal. Being a nurse lets me connect with others no matter their background.”
“As a child, I would fall sick often and was frequently in and out of hospital. I was touched by the nurses who cared tirelessly for me and helped to encourage me during my stays in the hospital. I decided I wanted to be a nurse when I grew older so that I could also be a source of healing and encouragement to others.”
3. “Did you have experience working in healthcare before you became a nurse?”
If you are someone who has decided to make a mid-career switch to nursing, prospective employers might want to know about your work experience before you decided to become a nurse.
Even if you have not had much work experience as a nurse yet, having healthcare-related work experience can reassure interviewers that you have background knowledge which will help you in your nursing career.
If you are a fresh nurse graduate, you can talk about volunteering or co-curricular activities you have participated in which have involved healthcare-related work. Some examples include volunteering at a nursing home or being involved with the St John’s Brigade or Red Cross group in your school.
“Before I became a nurse, I was working as a care worker. As a care worker, I assisted patients at a senior day care centre with feeding, toileting, changing clothes and organised simple activities to keep them engaged. I believe that my prior experience can help me perform routine care for patients and care for their physical and mental well-being.”
“I worked for 10 years in management at a shipping company before deciding to quit my job to pursue a career in nursing. Nursing has been a dream career that I wanted to pursue, but I was discouraged from doing so by my family who thought that nursing is an unglamorous career. However I decided to make this mid-career switch to fulfil this ambition that I have held all these years. I am keen to learn as much as I can and eager to grow in my skills and knowledge.”
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4. “What was the most memorable encounter you have had with a patient?”
Interviewers want to see applicants who have a genuine heart of service for their patients. This will come across in the stories and traits you remember about your patients. If you have had an encounter with a patient that you have found particularly meaningful, this question gives you a good chance to talk about the ways in which you have been inspired or encouraged by the impact you’ve seen your care have on patients.
“I had an experience caring for a terminally ill patient with stage 4 lung cancer. One day, with tears in her eyes, she asked to hold my hand. As she did so, she told me how much my care had helped her during her fight with cancer and how she would never forget what I had done for her. It has been five months since she passed away, but I will never forget that personal gesture. Precious moments where you get to see the impact you have had on a patient motivate me in my work everyday to support other patients in their battles with illness.”
5. “Tell us about a time where you had to deal with a difficult patient.”
On the other hand, interviewers also want to know how you will deal with challenging patients whom you will meet on the job. Your response can be a way for them to gauge if you are adaptable and capable of maintaining a patient-centric attitude even under pressure.
If you felt that you did not deal with a difficult patient in the best way, you can be honest about it to the interviewers and reflect on the ways that you would improve when handling similar situations in the future. Reflecting on your mistakes and striving to improve shows interviewers that you have an attitude of self-initiative and continuous growth.
“I recall an elderly patient who was very resistant to being attended to by nurses and doctors. He would often use abusive language on the nurses, struggle when we tried to administer medication and even flung his cup of water at me when I came to check on him! I realised that he must be feeling afraid being hospitalised alone. I tried to control my body language and speak to him calmly and patiently to show him that we are not trying to hurt him. It took several weeks, but eventually he stopped resisting and became more receptive to nursing care.”
6. “How would you explain medical terms to a patient’s family in a way that’s easy to understand?”
Being able to communicate complicated medical information to patients and their families is an essential skill that a nurse needs to have to demonstrate good communication skills and empathy.
If you are a registered or enrolled nurse who has had first-hand experience with breaking down complex information, talk about an incident when you had to make medical terms easy to understand in the course of your work.
As a fresh nurse graduate, you can use examples from internships or think about how you would provide such an explanation in a hypothetical situation.
”I would explain the situation honestly without trying to minimise the risks of the patient’s condition. I would also try to use metaphors or use visual imagery that makes medical conditions appear more concrete and easy to understand.”
7. “How would you handle a situation where you were under a lot of pressure?”
Resilience is an essential quality to handle the high stresses nurses can face with a large patient load and critically ill patients. Interviewers want to see that you are capable of handling stress effectively in high-pressure situations and manage stress throughout your work.
One approach to this question is to talk about what are some of the ways you approach your work to manage stress and motivate yourself. You can talk about the hobbies you take part in to destress outside of work.
“When I feel stressed and overwhelmed, I will give myself some time to be alone to take deep breaths and calm myself down. I think it’s important to give myself time to disengage before I lose my cool and break down in front of patients and colleagues. I will also take some time to understand why I felt overwhelmed. It might have been because I was facing an unfamiliar situation or a challenging patient. Once I am aware of this I will analyse the situation and see what I can do to tackle the primary issues. I will actively communicate with my colleagues and supervisors to see how we can work to tackle high-pressure situations effectively.”
8. “Do you have a preferred shift?”
For nursing jobs which require shift work, interviewers will want to know when you are available so they can decide your working schedule or what jobs they can assign you. Do not commit more than you know you can realistically take on!
If there are events that may change your working schedule, like having to move to a new house or starting a part-time degree, you should also inform the interviewers.
“I would prefer to work shifts during office hours from 9am to 5pm as I have to take care of my children after they come home from school in the evening. However, if there is an emergency, I will try to make myself available to cover any urgent healthcare needs.”
9. “If you are hired, will you have other jobs?”
Some freelance nursing jobs allow applicants to take on other jobs at the same time. Prior to answering this question, it is good to check the job requirements before the interview to confirm if you are able to work multiple jobs if you are hired for the position.
If you are going to be holding multiple jobs, you should tell the interviewer how you plan to manage your time so that you can work for the position you’re applying to.
“I have a part-time freelance nursing job that I do on the weekends. I decided to take this job as I wanted to experience caring for patients in a home care setting. However, I don’t believe that this part-time job will affect my ability to perform in this position as I can adjust my schedule to prevent shift conflicts.”
10. “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
This is a question that is especially important for fresh nurse graduates who still have a long path of career development ahead of them. You can talk about the specialisation you aim to pursue and the settings that you intend to work in. Try to avoid mentioning your ideal salary figures and raising specific company names that you want to work for in the future.
“Within the next 5 years, I see myself becoming a nurse manager at your organisation. I want to utilise the expertise I have gained in caring for terminally ill patients as well as develop new skills in leadership and people management. I have benefited greatly from the mentorship of managers in my previous roles and want to grow to provide the same kind of mentorship to other aspiring nurses.”
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How to ace your nursing interview
1. Be punctual
The first way to create a good impression to the interviewer is to arrive on time for the interview. If you’re unfamiliar with the interview venue, you should budget time to arrive early and familiarise yourself with the location. If there is an unexpected circumstance that will cause you to be late, try to inform the interviewers ahead of time. Cancelling right before the interview or failing to show up without giving a valid reason will leave a bad impression on the interviewers and cause you to be disqualified from the application process.
2. Speak calmly and clearly
It’s normal to be anxious during the interview. However, sometimes when we’re anxious we may tend to speak quickly and this may cause interviewers to find you difficult to understand. Even if you’re nervous, do not show it in your speech but try your best to slow down and to speak calmly and clearly.
3. Don’t be afraid to take time to think
Whenever interviewers ask you a question, you may feel pressured to have to answer right away. If you answer without thinking, you may be called out by the interviewers if your answer happens to be wrong. If you’re presented with a difficult question, you can ask your interviewers if they could give you some time to think before you give them your answer.
4. Show that you’ve done your research
Showing that you are familiar with the company’s mission, values and programmes will help interviewers see that you are a keen applicant who is genuinely interested in working with the company. When you receive questions about why you want to work for the company, you can raise examples of specific initiatives that you have heard of and explain about how that aligns with your aspirations.
5. Prepare questions to ask at the end of the interview
If you want to find out more about company policies or the working environment, you can ask the interviewers once the interview is over. Asking questions to find out more about what the company does can be a positive sign to interviewers when they see that you are curious and highly motivated. Try to avoid asking many questions related to payment as they can create a negative impression on interviewers when they think that you are only interested in the job for the money.
Tips on how to write a good resume
In order to land a job interview, you need a good resume that shows recruiters at a glance that you have the skills required for the job. Here we talk about three ways that you can write a resume which recruiters will notice.
1. Keep your resume concise
Keep your resume within 1 page and use concise sentences when you describe your work experience. Recruiters scan through many resumes a day and will be looking out for key information that lets them know if an applicant possesses the necessary skills and experience for the job. Extra information like hobbies or non-nursing related certification might be glossed over by recruiters. If you have had many years of work experience and are not sure how to fit it all into one resume, you can add your most recent jobs.
2. Include relevant work experience
Your resume should feature work experience that is related to the requirements of the job that you are applying for. For example, if you are applying to be a staff nurse in a hospital, it would be recommended to write down examples of having worked in hospital environments or care facilities. If you are a fresh nurse graduate who does not have much practical full-time work experience yet, you can include internships and leadership positions in student organisations like your school’s nursing club.
3. Link your work experience to keywords in the job description
Job descriptions will typically have a list of the traits and skills they want from prospective applicants. Phrase your work experience to appeal to the keywords and demonstrate that you possess what is required for the job. For example, if the job description asks for a team player, describe moments where you worked cooperatively with your colleagues to solve a problem.
With the tips above, we hope that you will be better prepared for your upcoming nursing interviews and have more confidence in what you have to offer to the role you are applying for.
If you are looking for a job with flexible hours, rewarding hourly rates, and a fast approval rate of 1-2 days, being a Homage Nurse will be a great fit for you.
- Aspen University. (2021, August 23). Common Nursing Interview Questions & Answers. Retrieved May 14, 2022, from https://www.aspen.edu/altitude/common-nursing-interview-questions/
- Here Are Some Tips on How to Answer Questions About Shift Work. (2020, September 17). The Balance Careers. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://www.thebalancecareers.com/how-to-answer-interview-questions-about-shift-work-2063923#:%7E:text=Examples%20of%20the%20Best%20Answers,-Here%20are%20sample&text=Absolutely.,one%20shift%20throughout%20each%20placement.