Whether you’re a new grad nursing student or an experienced nurse looking to get a new job, interviewing as a nurse can be hard and intimidating. Oftentimes you’re interviewing against many other qualified candidates with only a few job openings offered. I believe that to stand out in a nursing interview you need to be yourself, answer questions confidently, and most importantly be prepared with questions to ask during your nursing interview. By coming with a list of questions you’ll be saying, “I’m serious about this job. I’ve done the work of learning about this job. And I want to know that I’m a good fit for you, and more importantly that you’re a good fit for me”.
For this post, I will be sharing a list of great questions to ask during your nurse interview. Whether or not you’re a new grad or an experienced nurse, these questions apply to anybody.
Questions to Ask in a Nursing Interview
“Tell me about the unit”
Before asking this question, I encourage you to do some research about the unit that you’ll be interviewing on. This way you can tailor this question specifically to where you’ll (hopefully) be working.
If I am looking to get a NICU job I might be more specific in saying, “Tell me about the unit. Specifically, I want to know how many deliveries you have per year, what kind of surgeries are performed, and whether or not you have a transport team”. You want to be as specific as possible to show that you’ve already done your research about the unit. You could say something like, “I saw that you have X amount of beds. What is the patient population like?” Again, this shows that you’ve done the research, but you’re interested in learning more than what you can learn online.
Are you looking specifically to get a job in the NICU? Read: 14 Questions to Ask if You Want to Be a New Grad NICU Nurse
“Tell me about the staff/who makes up the team?”
Here’s where you can get a feel for the team and staff dynamic. You’ll probably learn whether or not mid-level providers such as PA’s and NP’s work in the unit. If there is respiratory therapy available, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and so on. Make sure that when you ask this question you also follow up with something like, “Wow, that seems like a great team dynamic. I’m looking to work on a unit where there is good teamwork”.
“What is the culture like here?”
Whether or not the culture on the unit is good, I suspect that a good manager will spin this answer into something positive. Whatever the answer is you’ll get a good idea of what it would be like working on that unit. Let the manager know what qualities you possess that fit into the culture he/she describes.
“What do you expect from a new hire/who is your ideal candidate?”
When you ask this question you open up the floor to sell yourself. If the manager says, “We’re looking for a team player”, you would say, “That is great, I work well in a team setting. I realize that you cannot do your job as a nurse by yourself”. Or if the manager says, “We’re looking to add someone to the team that brings laughter and joy but can also be serious and gets the job done”. Then you would touch on how that could be you. Make them picture YOU doing the job that they are hiring for.
“What type of charting system do you use/what color scrubs do the nurses wear?”
I like to ask these types of questions because I believe that it shows interest in the unit. Plus, it’s best to be armed with knowledge so you can make the best decision for yourself! Remember, you’re interviewing them just as much as they’re interviewing you.
“Are there ways to advance my career?”
Whether or not you decide to get your masters or doctorate, there are still other ways to advance your career. For instance, if you work on an oncology floor you can get chemo certified. If you work in the NICU you can get your RNC-NIC. Ask if there are opportunities to achieve different types of certifications and ask if this is something that the hospital will pay for. Some hospitals also offer a pay differential depending on what certifications you have so make sure to ask about that too!
Aside from personal certifications, all nurses have to earn continuing education credits (CEU’s) to renew their licenses. Ways to earn CEU’s are by online programs or conferences. Make sure to ask if management will be flexible in your time off if you want to go to a big conference to learn more about X, Y, Z. Will the hospital pay for you to attend the conference?
“Can you tell me how much paid time off (PTO) nurses earn, what the on-call policy is, and what the call off policy is?”
All units will have different rules when it comes to PTO, sick leave, on-call requirements, and cancellation requirements. It’s important to know how much PTO you’ll be earning as a nurse – sometimes this number varies based on how much experience you have. You’ll also want to know whether or not you get sick time that is separate from your PTO bank or if it’s the same. On-call requirements are important to know because some units require you to be on call once per schedule, and some units require much more than that. Lastly, make sure to ask what the call off policy is. Is this based on a rotating schedule? Are there opportunities to float or orient to a different unit instead of being called off?
“What does a typical shift look like for nurses in this unit? Can you give me an idea of the types of responsibilities that each nurse handles each day?”
Here is when you want to find out what shift you’ll be working – day, night, or rotating – and a general sense of how the day goes. Are there usually a lot of admissions/discharges? Do assignments usually get switched during the shift? What are some things that you should expect when taking care of your patients in this unit?
“What kind of orientation do you provide?”
Whether you’re a new grad or an experienced nurse, you will be getting some sort of orientation. Ask what the process is like. How long will it take? What kind of patients will you be caring for? Do you have one specific preceptor or multiple different preceptors?
“Do you have any ‘sister’ units that nurses are required to float to?”
A lot of hospitals consider other units as “sister” units, meaning that if that unit is short-staffed you will be required to float. It’s good to know which units you’ll float too, what the floating policy is, and how they choose who is floating where. I always like to know which units I may be potentially floating to so that I can plan accordingly.
Read more: Tips for Nurses Who Have to Float
“Do you have any concerns about hiring me?”
Always, always, always end with something like this! “Do you have concerns about hiring me”? “Is there anything else that I can answer for you to help you make a decision?” “Do you need me to clarify anything for you?” This way, if the manager is on the fence about hiring you, he/she can address any concerns that they have before you leave the interview.
Remember, before leaving let them know how much you want the job and why you think that you would be a good fit for the unit. Sell yourself before walking out!
Interviewing is difficult. And making a list of questions to ask in a nursing interview is also stressful! The key to success is to be open, honest, and confident. Don’t get so hung up on answering questions the right way, and if you stumble, admit it. And lastly, don’t ever forget that you are a valuable part of the hospital. The unit that is interviewing you needs a nurse just as bad as you need a job. Be prepared, don’t forget your worth, and don’t settle for something that doesn’t feel like a perfect fit.
Are you a new grad nurse reading this post? Make sure to check out: 6 Essential Tips for New Nurses