New Nurse Graduates / Interview Tips
You’ve graduated from nursing school, passed your NCLEX, and landed your first interview – congratulations!
Now it’s time for the next challenge on your path to becoming a full-fledged nurse: acing your first interview.
It might sound daunting, but don’t worry! This guide will answer all your questions about how to succeed in your first interview as a new graduate nurse, including:
- What are some common interview questions?
- What are some unusual questions?
- What are questions to ask your interviewer?
- What are some other steps for interview prep?
Whether this is your first-ever job interview or simply the first time you’re interviewing as a second-career nurse, Incredible Health has expert insight. You’ll see answers for questions you might encounter, how to answer them, and how to put your best foot forward.
Most common interview questions
1. Can you tell me about yourself? (How can you sell yourself?)
This question is your chance to shine. Prepare a short summary of who you are, your background, and why you are interested in this position. Be sure to include a few keywords from the job description as well.
Before nursing school, I worked in public health supporting community-wide vaccination efforts. I realized I wanted to work more closely with patients, so I went back to school for nursing. I fell in love with the fast pace and variety of ER work during my senior practicum. I hope to find a unit where I can join a team of nurses dedicated to evidence-based patient care and professional growth.
This is a great answer because it includes your background and why you are applying for this job. It also includes keywords from the job description to highlight why you are a good fit for the position.
2. Why did you decide to become a nurse?
This question is an opportunity to show your values align with the organization’s mission.
In high school, I frequently volunteered at our local soup kitchen. I saw first-hand that good health was only possible if other basic needs were met. This included quality nutrition and stable housing. As a nurse, I hope to connect my patients with community resources to ensure holistic and comprehensive care.
This answer uses phrases from the organization’s values statement to highlight how your personal values sync with the mission of the organization.
3. Do you have any certifications or specialties?
If you’re a new nurse, you may not have many certifications. Don’t worry! You can use this question to discuss your long-term goals and explain how you will be an excellent investment for the unit.
I am currently BLS and ACLS-certified. As an L&D nurse, I look forward to supporting my patients in their breastfeeding goals, and I plan to obtain my IBCLC within the next three years.
Nailed it! Not only have you included your long-term goals, but you’ve also explained how you’ll be a long-term asset to the team.
4. How do you handle stressful situations?
Nursing can be stressful. Hiring managers want to know you have the skills to manage difficult situations. When answering this question, choose examples that show your ability to prioritize, work as a team, and protect patient safety.
I worked as a nursing tech before nursing school. It was a busy unit with high turnover. I created my own patient care checklist to help me prioritize my tasks. This helped ensure that everyone was cared for in a timely manner. After work, I love to go for long runs with my dog to clear my head after a particularly stressful day.
This answer shows your organizational skills and ability to prioritize. It also demonstrates how you cope with stress outside of work, which is a crucial way to avoid burnout.
5. How do you like working with a team?
Nursing is a team sport. Show the interviewer that you are a team player who can effectively communicate with other members of the team.
I love working with a team because it makes me a better nurse. Everyone has to support each other to make sure all patients are cared for effectively, especially on busy days. I also feel like each nurse has their own unique skills and talents on the unit. For example, I love working with older populations, and I’m always happy to take assignments that cater to this group.
This is a great answer because it shows that you’re a team player. It also helps the interviewer picture you actually working on the unit.
6. How do you handle problematic patients?
This is a tricky question because you need to show you understand how to set boundaries but also that you can show compassion to patients in distress.
On my med-surg rotation, I worked with a patient who told the doctor that she wanted to leave against medical advice. After the doctor left, I spent some extra time with her. We got to chatting, and before long, she opened up and admitted that she was afraid her hospital stay wouldn’t be covered by insurance. I offered to fax the paperwork she needed to submit right then. I also told her that the hospital had a patient advocate who could help her with paperwork. The patient said she’d love to stay if she could talk to someone about her financial situation.
This is a fantastic example because it shows that you provide compassionate, patient-centered care. In addition, it highlights your willingness to utilize hospital resources to ensure comprehensive care.
Top nurse jobs on Incredible Health
Philadelphia, PA | $68,000 to $104,000 /year
North Richland Hills, TX | $55,000 to $111,000 /year
Salinas, CA | $90,000 to $180,000 /year
Denver, CO | $46,000 to $72,000 /year
San Francisco, CA | $126,000 to $190,000 /year
What are some unusual questions?
The hiring manager is sure to ask a few questions that surprise you. Use this opportunity to distinguish yourself from the competition.
1. How do you deal with cultural differences?
Hiring managers are looking for nurses who can provide culturally competent care.
It’s important to respect cultural differences because these are an important part of the patient’s identity. It’s also vital not to make assumptions based on a patient’s accent, style of dress, or country of origin because every patient is an individual. For this reason, I make sure to ask the patient directly if they have any special needs, like a special diet or preference for a translator.
This is a great answer because it shows that you understand the need to be sensitive to cultural issues while also respecting each patient on a personal level.
2. How do you handle your emotions at work?
Hiring managers want to make sure their staff can handle difficult patients or challenging casework. These types of questions are an opportunity to show your coping skills and ability to compartmentalize when needed.
When I’m in nurse mode, I only focus on the work. On my last day of clinicals, I assisted with a pediatric patient who had swallowed half a bottle of her grandfather’s blood pressure medication. She was the same age as my own toddler, and they even looked alike. I sang her silly songs to distract her. I also mixed her charcoal medication with chocolate ice cream to make it taste better. But when she was transported to another facility for higher-level care, I had to excuse myself to the nurse’s lounge to take some deep breaths before coming back on the floor. Then I was okay for the rest of the shift. Afterward, I reached out to my preceptor to talk about the case a bit more, and she helped me process things. I also spent some time researching pediatric overdoses, and now I feel more confident that I can better serve my patients the next time I see a case like this.
This answer shows that you can work effectively, even during emotionally challenging situations. You’re mature enough to seek help after a difficult case.
3. How do you deal with a supervisor that asks you to do something you’re uncomfortable with?
It’s always okay to admit that you aren’t sure how to do something. In fact, nursing managers are looking to make sure new nurses will ask for help when they need it. It’s a key part of patient safety!
Patient safety is my #1 priority. If a supervisor asks me to do something I don’t know how to do, I’m not afraid to ask for help. During my practicum, I also made a habit of writing down any new medications or procedures I encountered so that I could research them on my own time.
This answer shows that you will put patient safety above ego. It also demonstrates that you’re eager to learn and take responsibility for your own professional education.
What are questions to ask your interviewer?
After you’ve answered the questions from the hiring manager, you might think your work is over.
However, one of the best ways to show your professionalism and preparation is to ask a few well-chosen questions.
It’s important to remember that a job interview is as much for the you as the hiring manager. This is your opportunity to see if the job is a good fit for your skills and professional goals.
Try writing these questions down on a notepad so you don’t forget them during the interview. Then, choose 2-4 questions to ask the interviewer at the end of the meeting.
Jump to a question
1. What training is available to new graduate nurses? How long is the preceptorship or mentorship period?
2. What opportunities are there for educational and professional growth within the organization?
3. What are some expectations you have for the staff under your leadership?
4. How would you describe your style of leadership?
5. What kind of culture do you facilitate on your unit?
6. What resources are available to me if I have questions about policies and procedures?
7. Are there opportunities for participation in unit-based organizations (e.g., unit council or spirit council)?
8. How is employee morale prioritized?
9. How do you and your leadership help incentivize the staff to do their best work during these challenging times?
What are some other steps for interview prep?
Are you wondering how to make a great first impression during your interview? Follow these tips to ensure you’re prepared on interview day.
Jump to a tip
1. Dress to impress
Ensure that your clothing is neat, clean, and professional. It’s worthwhile to invest in a good suit for the interview process.
Avoid heavy make-up and brush your teeth beforehand to prevent bad breath or anything stuck in your teeth.
2. Do a dry run
Practice driving to the interview site ahead of time so that you know exactly how long it takes to arrive and where to find parking. Research how to find the unit or the hiring manager’s office and come prepared with a contact number in case you get lost.
3. Arrive early
It’s helpful to arrive 20-30 minutes early to allow for unexpected traffic or delays. This can also give you a chance to grab a snack in the cafeteria while you review your notes.
4. Learn about the hiring manager (if possible)
Research the hiring manager ahead of time. Make sure you understand their role within the organization and their job title.
5. Review the job description
Review the job description and focus on keywords like “time management” or “team player.” When possible, include these keywords in your responses.
6. Review the company’s mission and vision statements
Research the organization’s mission and vision. These are usually clearly posted on the hospital or company website.
Is the organization committed to health equity or culturally sensitive care? These values will help you answer the interview questions more specifically. They can also help you determine if the job is a good fit for your own values as well.
If you’re ready to take the next step in your nursing career, then we can help you land an interview for your dream job.
We’re not just another job board. Our team of experts will reach out to you personally to learn more about your goals and ensure that you’re putting your best foot forward during the interview process.
Questions from the Incredible Health Nurse Community
- Interview Question Advice: "Do you prefer to work alone or as part of a team?"
- How do I prepare for a panel interview?
- Interview Question Advice: " Why are you the best person for this position?"
- Interview Question Advice: "Tell me about a time you had to communicate with a difficult patient. How did you handle it?"
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