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40 TOP Nursing Behavioral Interview Questions and Answers – 2022


Written By: Brittney Bertagna, BSN, RN

Behavioral interview questions could be an important part of the hiring process. When you are asked behavioral interview questions it normally means your interviewee is interested in you and wants to learn a little bit more about how you think. You may be wondering, what are the top nursing behavioral interview questions and answers? Luckily, we have compiled the 40 top nursing behavioral interview questions and answers in 2022 to help you feel confident going in and “wowing” the interview panel. All you need to do is remember to sell yourself and leave them feeling like they would be crazy to not hire you! Let’s dive in!


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FIRST OFF, What Exactly Is A Nursing Behavioral Interview Question?


Quite a few nursing behavioral interview questions are often asked throughout the interview process. But what exactly is a nursing behavioral interview question? A nursing behavioral interview question will ask a question about a situation in the past through which the interviewer can get an understanding of your leadership style and background. These questions allow for more open-ended responses that give you a chance to paint a nice picture of how you handle a particular circumstance and what you take from each experience. These are often asked by starting with “tell me about a time…” or “describe an experience where…”. Some interviewers might also ask for an example of a time when you demonstrated or saw something in the workplace that made an impression on you.


Reasons Why Interviewers Ask Behavioral Questions In A Nursing Interview


1. To determine your soft skills.

Soft skills are skills that are indirectly related to your job title. They can include communication skills and other intangible attributes that demonstrate how you work with others which can be an important factor in how you are chosen for a position.

2. To gain an understanding of your past experiences.

Nursing behavioral interview questions often ask you to give a specific time when you found yourself in a situation that you had to find your own way out of. Interviewers want to know about specific times that you overcame an obstacle and they want to know the lessons you learned from each experience.

3. To understand your communication style.

By answering open-ended questions, you not only give an applicable response, but you also show how you can communicate effectively. You are allowed to be a storyteller, keeping the listener engaged, and putting together a story to answer the question.

4. To see your personality.

When answering behavior questions, yes you will give a response that would answer directly what was asked, but you will also give more than that. As stated above, they will see how you can critically think on the job and can also see more of your personality come out with specific examples.

5. To evaluate your delegation skills.

As a nurse, it is important to delegate tasks when appropriate, and behavioral style interview questions can be a great opportunity to express this within a response. This allows interviewers to learn as much as possible about your working style, without having to directly observe you interacting with co-workers and patients.


What Are The Main Types Of Nursing Behavioral Interview Questions?


Nursing behavioral interview questions are typically broken down into different types depending on what the interviewer wants to find out. You will have some that look at your communication and teamwork and others that evaluate adaptability and ethics. The main types of behavioral interview questions for nursing positions will be regarding time management, communication, and adaptability.



WHAT ARE THE TOP NURSING BEHAVIORAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS?

(The following are the 10 top behavioral nursing interview questions and answers in 2022.)

1. Question: When was a time you were overwhelmed and how did you overcome it?


What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know:

This is one of the most-common nursing behavioral interview questions where the interviewer wants to know what happened to make you overwhelmed. They then are looking for what you did that was in your control to correct the situation.

Sample Answer:

A time when I felt extremely overwhelmed was my first few months as a new graduate nurse. I hadn’t yet figured out how to appropriately delegate tasks and I felt like I was always behind. To add to that we had only one CNA for my unit and all of the nurses worked together to decide the best use of our one CNA resource for the shift. I overcame it by better prioritizing my tasks and asking for help when I needed it. Over the years I have also learned to delegate a lot more and use this as a tool to not only relieve some of the pressure off my shoulders but to best care for my patients. I also learned that when I was behind, I wasn’t able to provide quality care for my patient and they were really the ones suffering most. Now I have been able to balance my work and complete it in a more timely manner.


2. Question: Tell me about a time you were the sole educator in a given situation. How did you ensure everyone understood?


What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know:

This question can give insight into how you are able to communicate effectively which is a key nursing skill. Educating others not only demonstrates your understanding of the material but it also demonstrates how you can use this understanding to share with others.

Sample Answer:

At the last hospital I worked at there were smaller committees of employees that were trained to use new devices and equipment. It was then that committee's job to ensure all employees on the unit were efficiently trained and able to safely handle the new device or equipment. I was on the committee that focused on safe patient handling and ergonomics on the floor. One training we had was for a lifting device that hoisted a patient up and allowed staff to not have to lift too much weight by themselves. I then reported back to each member of my own department and provided the training for this new tool that they could use. After I explained and demonstrated the use, I had each employee take the lead and had them use the lift to ensure they understood all the parts and mechanisms within it.


3. Question: When was a time you were able to be creative in the workplace? What was challenging and what did you enjoy about this experience?


What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know:

Often nursing behavioral interview questions will ask something open-ended like this. You are free to interpret as you see fit and your answer could give the interviewer a lot of unique information about your personality.

Sample Answer:

A time when I had to be creative in the workplace was when I floated to the Emergency Department for the first time. I was helping with tasks and was helping a tech with placing a splint for a broken radius. There are standards with regards to the placement, but some creativity comes in when you are performing the task. It became almost an art form when we were asked to do a plaster splint because of the varying techniques. To make it smooth and functional we had to be creative in the placement and cuts we made for the best results.


4. Question: When was a time when you didn’t meet a patient’s expectations? What happened, and how did you resolve the situation?


What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know:

The interviewer wants to better understand how the nurse will represent her teammates and employer when met with a disgruntled patient. Behavioral interview questions for nurses like this will also show how you overcame a difficult time to deliver the best patient care possible.

Sample Answer:

As a nurse, it is always important to put a patient’s needs first. In a busy emergency department, the highest priority goes to those that are most critical. Not every patient understands this. I was working in an ER at a level 1 trauma center when 3 critical patients came in within the same hour. They required immediate attention and therefore other patients were not getting their results as quickly and the radiology department was also getting backed up. One of my patients got upset because we had told her she would be going for an x-ray soon, but things had changed. She complained about her wait time and pain and was displeased with the “service”. Because this was not a new experience for me, I simply sat down with her and explained the circumstances. She was seen by the doctor shortly after who also explained the same thing. We both took the time to inform her of the problem and this seemed to help. She was reasonably annoyed but did not speak up about it again once we put things into perspective.


5. Question: When was a time that you felt that you had failed? What was your interpretation of the situation and what happened after?


What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know:

Interviewers want to get down to the resilience and adaptability of the nurse to see what types of “silver linings” she can come up with in any given situation. Nursing behavioral interview questions like this will give you the chance to share a time you have struggled, but the focus should be on how you overcame it and what they can expect from you.

Sample Answer:

I think most nurses have felt this way at some point during the nursing program. A time when I felt like I had failed was during nursing school. I had a hard time working through a skills lab and felt like I was failing as a nursing student. I had limited experience going in and it seemed like everyone else was easily grasping the skills. My instructors reassured me that I would catch on, but I was not satisfied with my performance and knew I needed extra help. I then set up a time outside of the program to get extra practice. This helped me feel more confident going into the skills checks and I was more prepared for my first job because of it.


6. Question: Describe a time when your initial plan was altered. What were the results?


What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know:

Healthcare is ever-changing and employers want to make sure you are going to be able to handle the flexibility and time management that comes along with the job. By getting an answer to this behavioral style interview question, the interviewer will be able to determine how well you adapt to a situation when there is a change of plan.

Sample Answer:

My initial plan going into my undergraduate degree was that I wanted to major in Child Development. I then switched to a degree in Business and minored in Nutrition, but that still didn’t lead me to where I wanted to be. My initial plan to complete my undergraduate degree in four years was now out of reach, but I gained so much more by sticking with something I enjoyed. Because of my dedication to my education, I was able to work through college and save enough to put myself through nursing school as my second degree. Though it was not as initially planned, rather than just having 1 degree, I was able to get 2 and gain a lot of life experience along the way.


7. Question: Tell me about a time when you were required to use a form of written communication to express your ideas. How did you do so effectively?


What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know:

Interviewers want to know that you can efficiently communicate in any situation and use different forms of communication. By giving them an example, you are demonstrating a time when verbal communication was not an option or not the preferred form of communication.

Sample Answer:

Throughout a given shift we are using both verbal and written communication with each other, patients, staff, as well as in our charting. But one time that really stuck out to me was with a patient who was deaf. We did not have a sign language interpreter at the facility and everyone was wearing masks at the time so lip reading (their preferred aid in communication) was altered. We began writing messages to each other to best suit the patient’s needs until we could get a sign language interpreter set up by video chat. The time it took to write everything down and explain certain results was nothing compared to the gratitude this patient had for our staff that day. She had said it was the first time she had felt anyone cared to try to communicate with her without an interpreter and she was given an opportunity to ask questions with ease.


8. Question: When was the last time you received constructive criticism? How did you respond?


What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know:

Interviewers ask this nursing behavioral interview question to see how well you receive feedback. One way is to ask about constructive criticism.

Sample Answer:

The last time that I received constructive criticism was from a patient. The patient was extremely nervous about the medication he was about to receive and had many questions. He was upset that more information wasn’t reviewed ahead of time for his first appointment. After I apologized, I explained that I was just about to do so. But in hindsight, many of his worries I easily could have addressed over the phone the day prior when I had called to confirm his appointment. I now make sure to help patients anticipate their next appointment by being available for any questions and explaining as much as I can to them over the phone prior to their appointments.


9. Question: How do you prioritize your patient’s needs when you are given a full assignment and have numerous tasks to complete?


What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know:

Interviewers are asking about your time management skills and how you adapt to unpredictable situations. This is inevitable in the nursing field, so they want to know you won’t become overwhelmed and possibly cause an unsafe situation.

Sample Answer:

It is important for me to prioritize things based on how critical it is and how time-sensitive any given situation may be. By doing this I am able to fully assess what needs to get done and when. With a full assignment, I have also learned to ask for help when I am struggling and delegate tasks throughout the shift when appropriate. Sometimes this is not possible and there is no one around to help so I am left to critically think about what needs to get done first and what can wait.


10. Question: How do you ensure you meet the goals you set for yourself?


What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know:

Interviewers are asking about your commitment to completing something once you started it. They also want to look at your thought process for breaking down large goals into smaller ones to accomplish what you want. This is a common nursing behavioral interview question because it can give the interviewer a lot of insight into the type of nurse you are as well as who you will be in the future.

Sample Answer:

To ensure I meet a goal once I set it for myself is to start by making it realistic and attainable. Setting expectations for myself is important and holding myself to those is how I like to continue to improve as an individual. By setting smaller goals or objectives for myself both professionally and personally I am able to meet smaller milestones and continue to work toward the larger goals. An example of this was when I got into nursing school. Rather than just setting a goal to maintain straight A’s, I set smaller goals semester by semester to ensure I would keep up this standard for myself. This process has carried over to my professional goals and I am now more likely to follow through with something I have started.



WHAT ARE THE OTHER TOP NURSING BEHAVIORAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS?

(The following is a list of the other top 30 behavioral style interview questions for nurses in 2022.)

1. Question:

Tell me about a time you had to think on your toes?

2. Question:

Give me an example of when your workplace has undergone change. How did you adapt?

3. Question:

When tackling a long-term project, what keeps you motivated and how do you achieve the best outcome?

4. Question:

Provide an example of a time you successfully persuade someone at work to agree with you.

5. Question:

Tell me about a time you were required to teach a new grad nurse something and what was the outcome of your teaching?

6. Question:

When was the last time you had to have a difficult conversation with a frustrated patient or coworker? How did this conversation go?

7. Question:

What is your proudest professional accomplishment? Why?

8. Question:

When was a time you worked under a lot of supervision? How did you like or (dislike) this?

9. Question:

When was a time you worked under very little supervision? How did you like or (dislike) this?

10. Question:

When was a time you were given a task that you did not have the resources to complete? How did you handle the situation?

11. Question:

Describe a time when you were underwhelmed in a role. What did you do to make it better?

12. Question:

When was the last time you had to get information from someone who wasn’t very responsive? How did you go about this?

13. Question:

Describe a time when it was more important to make a good impression on a patient. What did you do?

14. Question:

Have you made a mistake at work? Tell me about it.

15. Question:

Tell me about a time you had to make a decision that was not what others wanted. What was the impact and how did you handle the backlash?

16. Question:

When was the last time you received negative feedback from a coworker? How did you respond?

17. Question:

Give me an example of a time you needed to encourage others to get a job done.

18. Question:

Describe a time when you found it difficult to communicate with a doctor. How did you overcome this challenge?

19. Question:

Describe your ideal work environment. How do you respond when conditions are not ideal?

20. Question:

When was a time you were required to multi-task? Describe in detail the situation and how you completed each individual task.

21. Question:

Tell me about a time you disagreed with your boss. What actions did you take?

22. Question:

Describe a time when you were placed in an ethical situation. What was the circumstance and what was the outcome?

23. Question:

When was the last time you were forced to compromise at work? How did you come to the agreement?

24. Question:

Tell me about a time you have given constructive criticism. How did the other person respond?

25. Question:

Tell me about a time when you found the need to escalate up the chain of command. What was the situation?

26. Question:

How do you manage the stress of the job on your days off?

27. Question:

Describe a time when you witnessed a safety concern and how did you resolve the situation?

28. Question:

When was the last time you had a gut feeling and how did you react to it?

29. Question:

Tell me about a time when you had to prioritize your own needs and what was the outcome?

30. Question:

Tell me about a time when you did not know the answer to a patient’s questions, what did you do and what could you have done differently?


LAST OFF, 8 Tips To Help You Prepare For Nursing Behavioral Interview Questions

The best way to nail nursing behavioral interview questions is to do the following.

1. Have a mock interview.

There is no better practice than to hand a list of some most common nursing behavioral interview questions over to someone else and have them rapid-fire questions at you for you to answer on the spot.

2. Have “go-to” stories

that you can easily modify to answer the question. Brainstorm a story or two that encompasses multiple aspects of the style of behavioral interview questions outlined above so that you can just tweak one aspect of it to answer the question.

3. Practice the STAR method.

This method helps to ensure you are addressing the question, adding important factors, and circling back around for a full representation of who you are.

4. Say your stories aloud.

If you are not having a full mock interview where you are expected to answer nursing behavioral interview questions with a listener on the other side, at least practice telling the stories aloud. There is a difference between the story in your head to the one you say under nerve-racking circumstances.

5. Review your resume and previous experiences.

This can be crucial with nursing behavioral interview questions because they dive into past situations and want to know all about how you have handled it. By reviewing your resume and previous experiences, you will have a fresh memory of what you can give as an example.

6. Be open and honest.

If you feel the response is not what they are looking for, demonstrate what you learned from that situation and expand on that. You can’t change what has happened in the past and these questions really focus on previous experiences.

7. Study the job description.

Knowing your role within the specific department can be a great way to pull ideas to answer nursing behavioral interview questions. This will help you know what interviewers will be looking for in a candidate for this position.

8. Highlight your strengths.

We all have strengths and weaknesses. This is your time to play on your strengths. Tell a story that you are proud of and relate it to the question at hand. If you are a great communicator or problem solver, relate that to any question you see fit.


My Final Thoughts


I hope I have answered, “what are the top nursing behavioral interview questions and answers?” Behavioral questions might seem intimidating, but with sample questions and answers I hope I have alleviated some of your concerns with these questions. In this article, I have presented you with the 40 top nursing behavioral interview questions and answers in 2022 but many more examples can be found online. Recall that these questions ask that you reflect back on a time that you have personally experienced these situations. An interview panel loves to ask behavioral interview questions to get the most out of their interviewee. It helps them get a better idea of who you are and what you will bring to the position, so expect them in any nursing interview you have. Good luck!


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ANSWERED BY OUR EXPERT


1. What Is The Difference Between Situational And Behavioral Interview Questions For Nurses?

A nursing situational interview question asks you to make predictions into the future about how you might respond to a given situation. A behavioral interview question for nurses will ask for you to reflect on the past and describe a real experience to demonstrate how you have responded to a similar circumstance.


2. Commonly, How Many Behavioral Questions Do Employers Ask During A Nursing Interview?

Typically, the interviewers will ask you a variety of behavioral interview questions in a nursing interview to give you the best opportunity to demonstrate your skills, character, and personality. You should expect 2-3 behavioral questions.


3. Should I Consider Using The STAR Method To Answer Nursing Behavioral Interview Questions?

Yes! The STAR method is a great strategy that can help you organize your thoughts and bring it full circle to best answer nursing behavioral interview questions. If this method does not work for you, however, do not feel obligated to fit your stories to this style. There are other methods to help with these questions.


4. What Are Some Of The Most Difficult Nursing Behavioral Interview Questions?

Nursing behavioral interview questions can be very challenging, but the most difficult ones are typically more specific and are asking for you to speak about more personal events. There are times when you can speak to your strengths and a story that made you the hero, but the more difficult questions will ask that you speak about a time you have failed, or when you were wrong which can be more difficult to recall and still appear to be a well-rounded, competent nurse that they would want to hire.


5. What To Do If I Can’t Answer A Nursing Behavioral Interview Question?

If you do not have a direct example that demonstrates the situation interviewers are asking about, start talking about what characteristic or attribute they might be looking for and provide an example of that. Pull from different aspects of your life even if it is not nursing-related. They want to know about your character rather than your specific nursing skills.


6. What Are The Top 3 Behavioral Interview Questions For New Grad Nurses?

Nursing behavioral interview questions will always pop up for new grads because the interview panel wants to see how you will perform under stress in a similar situation. They don’t have as much personal experience to go off of. Top Behavioral Interview Questions you will see in a new grad nurse interview might be something similar to the following.

1. When was a time that you felt that you had failed? What was your interpretation of the situation and what happened after?
2. When was a time you received constructive criticism? How did you respond?
3. Tell me about a time when you were required to use a form of written communication to express your ideas. How did you do so effectively?



7. What Are The Top 3 Behavioral Interview Questions For Experienced Nurses?

Nursing behavioral interview questions for experienced nurses might be a little more specific in what examples they are looking for. Some of these questions might sound like this.

1. How do you manage your stress on your days off?
2. Tell me about a time you were the sole educator in a given situation. How did you ensure everyone understood?
3. When was the last time you had to have a difficult conversation with a frustrated patient or coworker? How did this conversation go?



8. What Are The Top 3 Behavioral Interview Questions For Nurse Practitioners?

Because this is a different position altogether you might see more questions about leadership, teamwork, and communication with staff rather than dealing directly with patients.

1. Was there a time when you had to assume a leadership role and how did you demonstrate it?
2. Describe a time when you found it difficult to communicate with a doctor. How did you overcome this challenge?
3. Tell me about a time you disagreed with your boss. What actions did you take?



9. Can I Answer My Nursing Behavioral Interview Questions Online?

If the interview process is online, you should be able to answer questions online. Just like in a face-to-face interview your answers to the questions that are asked during an online interview should be real stories that come from your past experiences. And they should be tailored to highlight yourself and your experience in the best light possible.


Brittney Bertagna, BSN, RN
Brittney Bertagna is currently a nurse and writer in Las Vegas, NV. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in business administration she completed nursing school and became a registered nurse. While working a night shift in the neonatal ICU she went back to school to get her second bachelor’s degree in nursing from Western Governors University. Now she enjoys working with children in the surgical setting as well as with her adult patients as an infusion nurse.