15+ Helpful Behavioral Interview Questions for Nurses

Apr 6

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The behavioral interview questions below are great for nurses interviewing for healthcare jobs (to learn more about what it takes to land a new opportunity, check out our complete guide to finding healthcare jobs). Asking these questions may revolutionize your interviews of nurses, especially if you seek to better implement a behavioral interviewing process.

15+ Helpful behavioral interview questions for nurses

All of these questions are categorized by type, including:

  • Clinical skills
  • Teamwork
  • Future-oriented questions
  • Industry-specific questions

Each of these are designed to look at how a nurse responds when interacting with patients, their families, and other members of the team.

Clinical skills questions

  1. Share a time you were going to administer medicine to a patient. What did you do when you realized the dosage was incorrect?
  2. Describe a time you had to take immediate action with a patient. How did you determine the type of care required and what was the decision process like?
  3. How would you handle a patient who is constantly complaining of pain?
  4. Tell me about what your day-to-day schedule looks like. Which of your duties made you feel the most confident? What about the least confident?

Teamwork questions

  1. Who was your favorite physician and why were they your favorite?
  2. What did you do when you had disagreements with a physician?
  3. What methods of communication did you use when getting in touch with physicians?
  4. Describe a difficult situation you’ve encountered with a coworker. How did you resolve the situation?
  5. Have you ever disagreed with your manager? How did you resolve the situation?

Future questions: Education and certification

  1. Share with us which certifications you have, and which ones you want to obtain.
  2. What are your plans for continuing education?
  3. How do you stay updated on the latest trends in your industry?

General questions

  1. Share a time you made a critical mistake at work? How did you handle the situation and how was it resolved?
  2. Tell us about a time when you had to deal with a patient’s difficult family. What issues did you have and how did you resolve them?
  3. What is your favorite part of your job? Your least favorite?
  4. What do you find most difficult about being a nurse?

Industry-specific questions

Since Yee recruits for Valley Children’s Hospital, he asks questions specific to children’s health. Whatever your industry, ask questions like these specific to your patient-base:

  1. Share with us a time when you had a stressful situation working with a child patient.
  2. What did you do to relieve that child’s stress?
  3. What successful outcomes came from that?
  4. Share a situation when you had to work with that child’s parents. What issues did you have?
  5. How did you overcome the parent’s concerns over the child’s health?
  6. Describe a situation with a family where you had issues with poor communication. How did you resolve the situation?

With nearly 15 years experience in healthcare recruitment, Dennis Yee has honed the art of behavioral interviewing. His goal is to find the most qualified candidates for Valley Children’s Hospital.

To give a little context, Yee has served as the president and board member for the National Association for Healthcare Recruitment (NAHCR), among other healthcare leadership positions in California. That’s in addition to his ground-level experience for over a decade and half in healthcare. He's not only had experience in general interviewing for nursing jobs, but has also interviewed professionals specifically for pediatric nursing jobs.

Yee seeks “to recruit the most qualified individual for any specific healthcare jobs that we’re recruiting for at any given time.”

His litmus test for “qualified” individuals is simple: When interviewing, he and his hiring managers ask themselves, “Would I feel comfortable allowing this person to care for my children?” If the answer is no, they don’t make the hire.

We dug deeper to find out what questions Yee asks during behavioral interviews. Learning how to ask these questions could make or break your next hire. But first, the challenges of the interview process.

What is a behavioral interview?

A behavioral interview is one that aims to understand how you behave at work, and assesses your responses to certain situations. It helps employers understand your decision making processes and get and idea for how you might react in similar situations in the future. Rather than simple “yes” or “no” questions, behavioral interview questions ask candidates to share stories and experiences. In fact, studies have shown that candidates who are hired using behavioral interview questions are more effective at their jobs than those hired through traditional interview processes.

The idea behind a behavioral interview is that past performance indicates future performance. It’s a good way for employers to better understand their candidates, and it’s a chance for candidates to show off their experiences.

As a nurse or physician or other professional in a healthcare job, you’re likely interacting with patients on a daily basis, so it’s critical that your future employers understand your how you make decisions so they can decide if you’re a good fit for their facility.

Download or stream Yee's words of advice:

Embedded content: https://soundcloud.com/relodetools/recruitment-advice-dennis-yee

What does this mean if you’re searching for nursing jobs?

If you're actively job searching for nursing jobs, that means that being prepared for behavioral interview questions is incredibly important, whether you're looking at pediatric nursing jobs, hospice nursing jobs, or even nurse manager jobs.

Related post: Negotiating salary for nurses

If you’re looking for candidates for nursing jobs

From an employer standpoint, these questions give insight into what a candidate will be like and how he or she will react in specific circumstances. Since many nurses have the technical skills they might need in a job, but they might not be a culture fit. For example, for pediatric nursing jobs, it's essential that a nurse has good skills with not just children, but is also able to communicate well with the patients' family.

Additionally, Yee says that one of the greatest pain points in healthcare recruitment today is that nurses are so used to interviewing that their skills are very polished. This means he has to peel back a few more layers to really get to know the candidate.

So how does one break through the fluff? Asking good questions and watching the candidate closely during the interview. How he or she behaves and responds to questions can also give insight into the kind of fit the person might be for the organization.

About behavioral interviews

Yee adds, “It’s [behavioral interviews] probably the best methodology to compare candidates for positions. If you are applying to work with us and we had two or three others applying to that exact same position, if we consistently ask—which we do—the same set of behavioral questions to the candidates, based on those candidates’ responses, we can then determine and make our decision based on who we feel is the best candidate for the position.”

He adds, “Versus, let’s say we were asking close-ended questions (asking for just a yes or a no). All the other candidates responses were yes or no, so it would be very difficult to assess who’s going to be the most qualified person based on those responses. There’s nothing to justify the decision on.”

Yee sees infinite value in behavioral interview questions for candidates, but cautions employers to keep it consistent. “There’s so many questions out there (and many of them are better than others) and you try to ask some of the questions on their clinical skills, their ability to handle stress, teamwork, communication. Ask a question or two under each of those categories. The key is being consistent by asking those same exact questions to every candidate for that position.”

Takeaways for nurses

Before you head to your interview, it's essential to think about your answers before you actually interview. While having a lot of nursing experience to bring to a healthcare job is great, you’ll want to show the employer that you’re a good fit for the organization.

As a candidate, knowing that some of these behavioral interview questions may be asked during the hiring process can give you the opportunity to examine your own behavior. Think about how you react in situations. In what kind of environment do you thrive? Getting a sense of yourself, how you work, and thoughtfully considering your interactions with coworkers will help you answer these questions with confidence and will help you to feel more prepared overall in your interview.

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Closing thoughts

If you’re looking to find a new job, we can help! Browse new opportunities and find the best fit for you here.

Related post: How to get a promotion at your nursing job

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Chad Harrington