You’ve just earned your BSN degree and are eager to advance your nursing career. A surgical nurse position has opened up, and your experience matches the job requirements. After submitting your application, the hiring manager calls: Can you come for an interview on Tuesday? You have a week to get ready to “wow” your interviewers with your professionalism and polish. You can do that. All it takes is a little preparation.
As you prepare, take time to consider your career since becoming a nurse to find examples of situations that might help during your interview. Consider a time when you demonstrated leadership, for instance, or managed conflict with a patient or their family. In some cases, you may be able to draw on your experiences in nursing school, or in your current nursing job. Most employers use some form of the behavioral interview, which you may already have encountered in building your nursing career. This interview technique uses questions that begin with phrases like “Tell me about a time when…” or “Give me an example of when ...” This lets hiring managers glean insights into how you may handle future situations based on your past experiences and actions.
Employers also may sprinkle in questions that have a more personal feel: What nursing position have you found most rewarding? And they may ask other questions that are more practical: What certifications do you hold, and what are your future educational plans?
Interviews can seem daunting, but they don’t have to be. This is your time to shine. Polish up your interview technique by preparing answers to these 10 great questions that allow you to share your successes, interests, and goals:
What professional accomplishment are you most proud of and why?
You’ll have lots to choose from here, so select an example that demonstrates how your achievement contributed to the greater good of the patient, team, or organization.
Why are you interested in this position?
This is a standard but essential question. Pull tasks from the posted job description to highlight what interests and motivates you about this nursing position. Is it a leadership opportunity, expanded job duties, or working with a particular patient group? While it might also be the salary or the schedule, keep your answers focused on the actual work at hand.
Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a co-worker. How did you address the issue and manage the situation?
For behavior-based questions like this one, use the time-tested STAR method to frame your answers:
- Situation: Lay out the facts for the case you’re sharing. Be specific and succinct.
- Task: Explain what the task was, and what your role and responsibilities were.
- Action: Share the steps you took to complete the work.
- Result: Outline the results and be sure to accentuate the positive.
When asked behavior-based questions, you may feel the experience you have to share is inconsequential. Don’t inflate or create. Though you may have experienced a minor conflict with a co-worker—perhaps involving scheduling or job duties—the prospective employer wants to see how you resolve disagreements. Focus on your ability to navigate conflict and effect change.
Give me an example of a time when your workload, or the workload of your team, was too heavy. What steps did you take to resolve the issue?
Be constructive. Explain your concerns about the workload, and what problems—or potential problems—it presented. Share how you communicated your concerns to your nursing supervisor and any action that was taken.
How do you manage stress?
Keep the focus on “manage,” not “stress.” Nurses have many stress management techniques: yoga, a walk along the beach, time with friends, cooking, running, or an evening at a comedy club, to name a few. You can use a little humor and personality to share the ones that work for you.
Tell me about a time when you had a disagreement with your supervisor. What did you disagree about and how did you resolve it?
The interviewer will be looking to see how you handle personal conflict. Did you act quickly to bring an issue to your supervisor’s attention, or did you let concerns fester? Did you work constructively and collaboratively to solve problems? And if matters weren’t resolved to your satisfaction, what happened next?
What do you like about nursing?
Before the interview, identify two to three of the most meaningful rewards, and don’t worry if they don’t feel original. Personalize your answers. Making a difference in patients’ lives is a good response, but if you work in the neonatal unit, talk about the meaning you get from caring for infants and supporting their families.
Share a time when you made a mistake at work. What happened and how did you remedy the situation?
Mistakes happen. Focus on how you dealt with the error, what you learned, and what policies were put in place to prevent it from happening again.
How do you handle patient concerns?
Your thoughts may race in different directions upon hearing this question, as patients are diverse in their needs and concerns, and you’ve likely fielded hundreds of them. Come prepared with a couple of examples that showcase your versatility in working with patients. Select one and use the STAR method to present it most effectively.
Where would you like your nursing career to take you in five years?
Share your vision of a career distinguished by continuous learning, professional growth, and experience. Show how the position you’re seeking is a clear stepping-stone to that future.
Nursing offers a growing diversity of jobs and paths to advancement, and with an online RN to BSN program you can earn a degree that leads you to new opportunities. Walden University’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN) Completion Program features innovative virtual learning tools, 10 nursing courses, and a practice learning experience with little or no travel. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN) – Tempo Learning® degree program, designed for working professionals, lets you pursue your degree anywhere, on any device, at any time. Tempo Learning’s competency-based approach allows you to learn and advance at your own pace, with help from faculty when you need it.
RNs are in demand, with employment expected to increase by 15% through 2026. With this much-faster-than-average growth rate,1 now is an opportune time to advance your career. Let an RN to BSN online take you there.
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Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.