Prepare for Common and Surprising Interview Questions

By | 2023-05-31T11:39:37-04:00 April 24th, 2023|0 Comments

Content courtesy of Methodist Health System

When preparing for a nursing interview, many candidates overlook the possibility of surprising interview questions.

If you’re a nurse looking for a new job, you likely have many options to choose from. There are over 4 million nurses in the U.S., and yet over 140,000 nursing jobs are unfilled. The nursing shortage is very real and has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. After landing an interview to fill one of the many open positions out there, you’ll want to prepare for the questions you may get asked (including some that might surprise you) and how you should respond.

Common interview questions

Tell me a little bit about yourself. This question is often used as an icebreaker. It’s an opportunity for you to introduce yourself and highlight your professional experience as well as your personal interests. Be sure to focus primarily on the highlights of your experience and skills that are relevant to the job you’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 you’re good at and that you acknowledge areas where you might need to improve. Keep the focus on the strengths that relate to the nursing job you’re applying for. If they don’t match up perfectly, use examples of how your strengths will help you in this new role. It’s OK to have weaknesses, but you should be able to speak to how you’re working to improve them.

Why do you want to work here, specifically? Employers want to know that you’re interested in this specific job in their department or within the organization as a starting point. Do your research on the business and even the department that manages the role to show them that you’re interested. This is also a great time for you to ask questions.

What are your salary expectations? This can be a tough question to answer, and you must be prepared. Do your research on the standard in your area, keeping in mind whether you will be a salaried or hourly employee. The 2022 Nurse Salary Research Report is a great place to start. Your experience matters, and this is the time to speak up for yourself and show them that you know your value.

Surprising 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 interviewer to get a sense of your values and what is important to you. There’s certainly no wrong answer to this question, but your answer can really tell a lot about what is important to you.

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 employers want to know how you handle them. Be honest and specific about a time when you faced a challenge and what you learned from it. Show how you’ve grown from the experience and how you 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. Your response allows you to explain your motivation and what drove you to become a nurse. It lets the interviewer get a sense of what drives you and what you’re passionate about.

How to be prepared

Preparing for job interview questions can be somewhat like studying for the NCLEX. Put in the time to research the company and the job description and think about how your skills and experience align with what they’re looking for. Practice answering common interview questions with a friend or family member and think about how you might respond to surprising interview questions.

It’s also helpful to have a few key talking points or stories about your experience that you can draw on. Job interviews can be nerve-wracking, but with preparation and practice, you can feel confident and ready to tackle any question that comes your way.

Be honest, thoughtful, and focused on how your skills and experience can benefit the company, and you’ll be well on your way to your next nursing job!


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Methodist Health System is a faith-based, leading nonprofit healthcare organization in Dallas, Texas. Methodist includes 12 hospitals (through ownership and affiliation) and more than two-dozen clinics located throughout the region, renowned teaching programs, innovative research, and a strong commitment to the community. As an award-winning employer, Methodist strives to have a diverse workforce that reflects their communities — one that is welcoming of the skills and talents of all groups.

About the Author:

Julie Scott, DNP, ANP-BC
Julie started in the nursing workforce in 2006, and has continued to advance her education and career since that time. She obtained advanced certification in oncology, and is currently working as a nurse practitioner in a medical oncology practice. In addition to her clinical experience, she is also an adjunct faculty member for a Master's of Nursing program, and has obtained her DNP in Leadership. Additionally, she works as a freelance writer, providing content and copyediting services.

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