How to Answer Tough Nursing Interview Questions and Get Hired

Learn how to answer the most challenging nursing interview questions and ace your next job interview. This guide includes expert tips & examples.
How to Answer Tough Nursing Interview Questions and Get Hired

After working hard to complete nursing school and to pass the NCLEX-RN, you have officially become a registered nurse. With your license in hand, it's time to start looking for jobs. As exciting as it is, it also means having to sit down for nursing interviews, which can be very stressful. A great way to reduce stress in this situation is by being properly prepared.

Here are 12 of the toughest nursing interview questions along with advice about how to answer them as effectively as possible:

1. 'What is your greatest weakness?'

Believe it or not, but you can actually paint yourself in a very positive light when answering this question. The trick is to identify a weakness that you have struggled with and to show how nursing school has helped you to improve in this area. For example, you might point out how you tend to be somewhat shy. Through nursing, however, you have learned how to really connect with people on a personal level.

2. 'What is your biggest failure, and what did you learn from it?'

Whatever you do, don't call attention to a truly major mistake. Rather, focus on a relatively minor but still significant mistake. Explain how dealing with the mistake helped to strengthen your abilities as a nurse.

3. 'Why do you want to work in nursing?'

Tempting though it may be, don't just say 'I like it' or some other vague answer. Instead, highlight something from your personal history and explain how certain experiences have shown you that you have the skills and qualities necessary to be a great nurse. Whether it was caring for an elderly relative or receiving excellent care from a nurse yourself, your insights will make your answer all the more effective.

4. 'What motivates you?'

When you answer this question, you have the opportunity to point out your best attributes. Needless to say, you should avoid saying that it's mostly for the pay or something along those lines. Instead, tell a personal story about something that ties into wanting to be the best nurse that you can be.

5. 'Why did you leave your last job?'

Resist badmouthing your last position no matter how difficult it may have been. Instead, keep things positive. For example, perhaps you simply grew out of your last role and are ready for something a bit more demanding, or maybe you are looking for more experience in a slightly different specialization or setting. Again, you can point out positive traits while still answering the question.

6. 'What was your last boss like?'

Avoid being critical of your former boss. After all, the person who is interviewing you may end up being your future boss someday, and you don't want them thinking that you go around badmouthing people. Instead, highlight some of the things that you learned from your last boss. If possible, show how the two of you worked together through both positive and negative experiences.

7. 'What kind of salary are you looking for?'

Whatever you do, avoid providing a specific answer here. Before the interview, do some research to determine the typical salary range for your position in your area, and then provide a range if you are comfortable doing so. While you are at it, reiterate that you are more concerned with finding a great job than with how much your salary will be.

8. 'What did you like the least about your previous job?'

Avoid commenting on the culture, politics, or financial health of your previous employer. Instead, try to focus on something that you are unlikely to encounter in this new job. Keep things as positive as you can.

9. 'When were you the most satisfied during your last job?'

Try to tie some of your interests into this answer to give the interviewer more insight into your personality. For example, you could say how you strive to be an active person and that you enjoyed the fast-paced nature of your previous position. Come up with an example that you are really enthusiastic about, as your enthusiasm will help you to come across that much better during the interview.

10. 'Where do you see yourself in five years?'

This may be the most dreaded question in any nursing interview. You need to walk a fine line because you don't want to give the impression that this job is just a brief pit stop for you. Therefore, go ahead and share your ambitions with the interviewer, but keep things career-oriented. For example, you could state how you aspire to further your education in order to qualify for more advanced roles in the nursing field.

11. 'Tell us about yourself.'

Open-ended, somewhat vague questions like these tend to be the most difficult to tackle. Don't just rattle off a dry explanation of the jobs that you've done in the past; the interviewer can already see that information on your resume. Instead, focus on your best attributes and how they will help you to be a great nurse. Give specific examples to really drive the point home.

12. 'Why should we hire you?'

If you think that the right answer here is, 'Because I am the best person for the job,' think again. Being vague like that won't get you anywhere. Instead, reiterate again the experiences that have helped to make you a qualified candidate. Highlight your best characteristics, but make sure that they relate to nursing and to the specific position in question in some way.


Sitting down for a nursing interview can be very stressful. After all, a lot is at stake. The more prepared you are, the more natural you will be. If possible, sit down with a friend to practice a mock interview, and be sure to practice answering the questions that are highlighted above.

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