Two people working in healthcare field talking in hospital setting.
Graphic that shows three different types of interview questions you should be asking.

Use these questions to identify a candidate’s technical knowledge and abilities

 

Use these questions to determine how a candidate handled situations in the past

 

Use these questions to assess a candidate’s personal traits and cognitive skills

 

Why this matters:

Any nursing candidate should be able to confidently explain the standard clinical functions they perform on a daily basis. Adhering to best practices and ensuring health and safety are essential, but it’s also important for registered nurses to build trust, improve comfort, and enhance the overall healthcare experience—and that starts from the first interaction with the patient.

What to listen for:

  • Experience with routine medical procedures, such as checking vitals
  • Answers should demonstrate that the candidate both works to understand a patient’s medical history and put their mind at ease
  • Look for candidates who display close attention to detail and an organized approach

 

Why this matters:

As medical records become increasingly digitized, it’s useful to know which electronic health record (EHR) systems your candidates are familiar with and comfortable using, as this can streamline the onboarding process. Feel free to steer the conversation toward the specific systems your organization relies on, but keep in mind that candidates’ skills in this area are likely transferable.

What to listen for:

  • Proficiency with common EHR software
  • Experience using your organization’s specific EHR software is a plus—as is a willingness to learn
  • A thoughtful discussion of the pros and cons of a particular tool, with a focus on efficiency and patient care

 

Why this matters:

The medical field is governed by strict legal standards under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA for short. Registered nurses must be committed to upholding these ethical values and should possess a firm understanding of how to practice within these guidelines to protect patients’ personal and health information.

 

What to listen for:

  • Demonstrated understanding of HIPAA regulations and standards
  • Specific examples showing that the candidate uses discretion and upholds ethical principles, both at work and outside of it
  • A clear understanding of the commitment they’ve made to offer safe, compliant care

Why this matters:

Registered nurses often face demanding and high-pressure situations, especially if they work in the emergency room, intensive care unit (ICU), or other acute care setting. It’s important to know that your new hire can retain their composure and continue acting in patients’ best interests, even in unpredictable situations and times of stress.

What to listen for:

  • Examples demonstrating that the candidate can overcome stressful situations to continue assisting patients and coworkers
  • Focus and patience under pressure
  • References to stress-reduction techniques that have helped them, like deep breathing and meditation

 

Why this matters:

Whether it’s a cancer diagnosis, a surgical complication, or the death of a loved one, there are times when a registered nurse may need to deliver or discuss hard-to-swallow news with patients and their family members. The ability to do so with empathy and grace can help soothe anxieties, build trust, and provide much-needed clarity.    

What to listen for:

  • Evidence of empathy, compassion, and honesty
  • An emphasis on educating patients and their families, answering questions, and providing support throughout difficult events
  • Candidates may also discuss how they overcame the emotional burden of delivering bad news

Why this matters:

When a patient is in a precarious or even life-or-death situation, registered nurses must demonstrate quick critical thinking skills to ensure they get the care they urgently need. This question can not only tell you whether the candidate is able to creatively and collaboratively solve problems, but also whether they’re comfortable making rapid decisions when necessary.

What to listen for:

  • Evidence that the candidate can quickly evaluate situations, gather the relevant facts, and use them to find solutions
  • Mentions of collaborating with other nurses and healthcare professionals
  • Ideally, they will have steered the problem toward a successful resolution

Why this matters:

Passion is what sets great registered nurses apart from good ones, and this question can help you identify it. Whether it’s a deep desire to help others, an interest in meeting people from all backgrounds, or a love of being challenged, your candidate’s reason for joining the field can tell you a lot about what motivates them.

What to listen for:

  • An answer that’s genuine, thoughtful, and personal
  • Empathy and strong communication skills
  • Great answers may stress that the candidates finds deep personal fulfilment from their work—helping them get through the tougher moments

 

Why this matters:

In healthcare, teamwork is essential to achieving high-quality results. Your new hire will likely be working with other nurses, physicians, physician’s assistants, specialists, and other medical professionals to help deliver superior patient care. As such, they should embrace collaboration and thrive in team settings—staying accountable for their own tasks while knowing when to rely on others for support.

What to listen for:

  • A keen understanding of why teamwork is critical in healthcare settings
  • An emphasis on collaboration over competition, and on shared results over individual triumphs
  • Top answers will shed light on the value the candidate brings to their team

Why this matters:

This question allows candidates to share details that might not be on their resume, while also demonstrating their level of self-awareness and confidence in their abilities. There are many different qualities that can set a registered nurse apart and help them deliver exemplary care, so understanding the unique attributes a candidate brings can help you determine if they’re the right fit for the role.

What to listen for:

  • Signs of self-awareness and confidence, without coming across as arrogant
  • Answers should draw a direct link between the candidate’s traits and the impact they have on patients, coworkers, or the organization
  • Great responses may include on-the-job examples