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44 nursing behavioral interview questions (+ answers to look for)


Recruiting nurses can be challenging. While qualifications and employment history listed on a resume can show candidates’ medical skills and knowledge, they can’t tell you whether your prospective hires have the behavioral traits needed to excel as a nurse and thrive at your organization.

Asking behavioral interview questions can be a remedy to this. These questions help you understand the potential of each of your candidates and assess their compatibility with your team. You can identify top talent more easily, make more successful hiring decisions,  and avoid mis-hires

To help get you started, we share 40 nursing behavioral interview questions and answers to look for. This way, you can ensure you hire the best nurses for your organization.

What are behavioral interview questions?

Behavioral interview questions ask candidates to provide concrete examples of how they’ve managed various workplace scenarios. They can be highly beneficial because people’s past behavior is a reliable indicator of how they’ll approach future situations.

These questions seek evidence of soft skills, such as strong problem-solving, teamwork, and prioritization capabilities. They can also reveal candidates’ work ethics, motivation levels, and personal values.

Behavioral questions are open-ended and typically elicit a STAR response, where an individual provides the Situation, Task, Action, and Results of a previous event.

Why ask behavioral questions during a nursing interview?

Behavioral questions are the best way to understand the skills and abilities that a candidate’s nursing resume can't show. Highly capable nurses rely on various personal and behavioral traits to succeed.

Why ask behavioral questions during a nursing interview graphic

Asking behavioral questions during a nursing interview can help you:

Assess candidates' capacity to provide excellent care

Behavioral questions about past experiences can help you gauge nursing candidates’ motivation, empathy, and patient interaction skills. Learning this information will help you choose candidates that deliver outstanding patient care in all circumstances.

Understand individuals' approach to teamwork

Teamwork is an essential part of nursing. The individuals within nursing teams often change from shift to shift, and many nurses also become part of interdisciplinary teams – groups of various healthcare professionals that come together to care for individual patients. 

Asking candidates about their teamwork experience can help you predict their impact on your organization and how they’ll fit into your existing team.

Evaluate candidates’ interpersonal skills

Nurses have a high level of interaction with patients and often serve as the link between patients and doctors, so interpersonal skills are essential for success. They ensure not only effective patient care but also efficient team collaboration, clear communication in high-stress situations, strong decision-making, and the ability to act with compassion and empathy in all scenarios. 

Behavioral interviews are an excellent way to understand your candidates’ interpersonal skills. They offer a window into how applicants have resolved conflicts, built rapport with coworkers and patients, shown professionalism (especially in tense moments), and helped foster a positive working environment.

Assess ability to handle stress

Nursing can be a highly stressful profession. Questioning candidates about how they've handled challenging situations can help you assess their ability to stay focused when the pressure is on. You can also get insight into candidates' coping mechanisms, which can be a strong indicator of their potential for long-term success.

Asking behavioral questions will give you a better sense of your candidates' ability to meet the varied demands of nursing. The insight they provide will help you hire nurses that fit seamlessly into your organization, stay motivated in challenging circumstances, and provide excellent care.

44 behavioral interview questions for nursing and answers to look for

Patient care behavior questions for nursing

A nurse’s job centers around patient care. The best nurses are technically skilled and have outstanding interpersonal skills.

Here are some behavioral questions you can use to assess your prospective hires’ capacity for patient care:

  1. When was the last time you provided exceptional patient care?

  2. Have you ever had to advocate for a patient? Explain what you did and the outcome.

  3. Tell me about an occasion when you went above and beyond to ensure a patient's comfort.

  4. Describe a time when you helped a patient understand their medical condition and treatment plan.

When asking patient care behavioral questions, look for answers that demonstrate a candidate’s:

  • Commitment to providing high-quality service

  • Ability to collect information about patient’s health

  • Ability to collaborate with other healthcare professionals

  • Respect for patients no matter what the circumstance

  • Keen observation skills

  • Ability to know the right time to alert a doctor or senior staff member for help

Teamwork behavior questions for nursing

Behavioral questions can shed light on candidates' attitudes to teamwork and provide powerful insights into how they'd align with your existing team.

Prioritize candidates whose answers show that they:

  • Are capable of operating in different team structures

  • Emphasize collaboration

  • Communicate openly and frequently

  • Prioritize accomplishing shared goals

  • Value contributions from all team members

  • Offer solutions

Ask the following questions to assess a nursing candidate’s teamwork skills:

  1. What do you do to ensure effective collaboration across a team?

  2. Tell me about a time when you supported a less-experienced colleague.

  3. In your experience, what’s the best way of handling conflict in a nursing team?

  4. Describe a time when your team overcame a problem to achieve a positive patient outcome. What role did you play in solving the problem?

Communication behavior questions for nursing

A nurse may be one of dozens of healthcare workers involved in a patient’s treatment, so effective communication is vital to keep everyone informed. 

Communication skills also come into play when caring for patients. Nurses must be capable of interacting with people from all walks of life, listening to and understanding their needs.

Additionally, nurses need to be able to explain medical procedures to people with non-medical backgrounds and properly advise them on how to manage their health.

Use these questions to assess nursing candidates’ communication skills:

  1. How do you ensure effective communication between you and your coworkers, especially when working across disciplines?

  2. What strategies do you use to communicate effectively with patients?

  3. Describe a time when you had to overcome a communication barrier with a patient.

  4. Tell me about a time  when a miscommunication caused a problem. How did you solve it, and what did you do to prevent it from happening again?

Ideal responses will demonstrate a candidate’s ability to communicate openly, actively listen to patients and colleagues, and adapt their communication styles based on who they’re interacting with. They’ll also show that an applicant can effectively resolve miscommunication issues and speak to others with compassion and empathy.

Problem-solving behavior questions for nursing

Behavioral interview questions are fantastic for evaluating a candidate’s ability to problem-solve. This is a valuable skill nurses rely on every day at work. When patients arrive or their health takes a turn for the worse, healthcare teams take a problem-solving approach to assess the situation and develop the best solution. 

Key steps in problem-solving within nursing include:

  • Gathering information 

  • Identifying patients’ medical problems

  • Developing solutions and assessing their pros and cons

  • Settling on a solution and implementing it 

  • Monitoring progress

Pay attention to candidates who are adept at critical thinking, able to think outside the box, can see all sides of a solution, and are confident in resolving issues.

These questions can provide insight into your candidates’ problem-solving abilities:

  1. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your nursing career so far, and what did you learn from it?

  2. Describe a common problem you face while providing patient care and how you handle it.

  3. How would you de-escalate the situation if an angry patient demanded to see a doctor immediately?

  4. Have you experienced personal conflicts within a nursing team before? If so, how did you manage the situation?

Adaptability behavior questions for nursing

Healthcare professionals often work in unpredictable environments where no two days are the same. Capable nurses can adapt to changing situations without skipping a beat.

Adaptability is also key as the field of medicine continues to evolve. Being able to learn and adopt new practices is essential to long-term success. 

Ask these questions to understand how adaptable your candidates are: 

  1. Describe a time when you have had to adapt quickly due to an unexpected event.

  2. How do you adapt the way you deliver care to accommodate the various patients you see?

  3. How has a new policy or technology changed the way you worked in the past? How did you adapt to the change?

Listen for answers that show a candidate has a positive attitude toward continuous improvement, embraces new working practices, and is open-minded to different perspectives.

Prioritization behavior questions for nursing

Prioritization is essential in all areas of nursing. Nurses must apply their knowledge and experience to the facts of a situation to identify the most urgent needs. This enables them to make reasoned decisions about the order in which patients receive care and the urgency of the problems they present.

When interviewing nursing candidates, you’ll want to hear evidence of their thought processes while they’ve previously prioritized tasks. What factors did they consider when assessing the level of urgency? Did they consider the risks associated with the decisions they made?

These questions can shed light on candidates’ prioritization skills:

  1. Give me an example of a time when you had an unusually heavy workload. How did you prioritize your tasks?

  2. What tools or frameworks have you used to prioritize patient care?

  3. Tell me about a situation where you had to adjust your priorities because of unforeseen circumstances.

Tune into candidates who don’t delay when making important decisions and have strong critical thinking skills. Candidates for positions in fast-paced environments like the emergency room must also display exceptional ability to prioritize quickly while under pressure.

Organization and time management behavior questions for nursing

Caring for multiple patients while keeping track of each individual's progress requires excellent organization and time management skills. Nurses that effectively manage their time are more capable of providing excellent care and are less likely to experience stress.

Use these questions to evaluate your candidates’ organizational skills, and look out for those that take proactive steps to stay organized and maximize their time efficiency:

  1. Can you describe your typical routine when you check in for a shift?

  2. What strategies do you use to stay organized during busy shifts?

  3. Can you tell me about a time that you fell behind on a task? What steps did you take to get back on track?

  4. What tools or techniques do you use to plan and schedule your daily tasks? How do you factor patient care into your planning?

Compassion and empathy behavior questions for nursing

Compassion and empathy are essential qualities for nurses, as they help them better understand their patients’ needs and comfort people in distress. 

These traits also facilitate connections on a personal level. Compassionate and empathetic nurses usually cultivate better relationships with their coworkers as well as patients and their families.

Ask these questions to gauge compassion and empathy:

  1. Give me an example of a time when you provided compassionate care for a patient.

  2. Can you tell me about a time when a patient was uncooperative or difficult to communicate with? How did you demonstrate compassion in that situation? 

  3. Can you tell me about a time when you supported a colleague who was stressed or emotionally overwhelmed?

  4. How have you supported distressed family members in the past?

Listen for answers that show your nursing candidate is skilled in:

  • Empathizing with people who are different from them

  • Attentive listening

  • Providing emotional support to coworkers, patients, and patient's families

  • Taking the time to ensure a patient fully understands something

Motivation and values behavior questions for nursing

Nurses’ motivation and values can influence their dedication to their profession and commitment to providing high-quality patient care. The desire to care for others is a core value in nursing, so finding candidates who are passionate about this is advantageous. Behavioral questions can make it easier to identify these applicants.

Including behavioral questions also helps you see how well candidates’ values align with those of your organization so you can ensure a good fit.

Here are some questions to dig into your candidates’ motivation and values:

  1. What motivated you to pursue nursing as a career? Do you feel your motivation has changed since then? If so, how?

  2. Describe a time when you felt particularly proud to be a nurse. What made the moment so meaningful?

  3. Can you recall a time when your motivation for nursing was tested? How did you overcome this?

  4. What personal values do you have that help you provide the highest quality care?

Resilience behavior questions for nursing

Resilience enables nurses to function in high-stress situations and stay focused on the task at hand. Nursing can be physically and mentally demanding, so this is an invaluable quality to have.

People often describe resilience as the ability to "bounce back.” But this doesn't mean that resilient people aren't affected by their circumstances. Nurses who acknowledge the job's demands and can regulate the toll it takes are best equipped for long-term success.

Use these questions to assess your candidates’ resilience:

  1. How do you deal with stressful situations at work?

  2. Tell me about a time in your nursing career when you made a mistake. How did you overcome it?

  3. What do you do to ensure you stay mentally strong in challenging situations?

  4. Can you tell me about a time when being resilient helped you achieve a positive outcome?

The best answers will indicate that the nurse:

  • Shows unwavering focus in challenging situations

  • Doesn’t let setbacks discourage them

  • Copes with the stresses of the job in a healthy way

  • Practices self-care

Ethics and integrity behavior questions for nursing

Ethics and integrity are of utmost importance in healthcare. Nurses who uphold ethical guidelines and display integrity ensure excellent patient care and prevent organizations from falling into legal trouble.

These questions can shed light on candidates' ethics and integrity:

  1. Have you ever faced an ethical dilemma at work? What did you do?

  2. Describe a time when you had to make a decision that involved an ethical consideration. How did you handle the situation?

  3. How do you ensure patient confidentiality?

Prioritize nurse candidates whose answers show they respect patients' autonomy and rights, can prioritize an organization’s values, and adhere to professional codes of conduct.

Leadership behavior questions for nursing

Questions that address leadership capability are essential when hiring a head nurse or charge nurse. However, asking all candidates leadership questions is often worthwhile due to the career advancement opportunities nursing provides.

Use these questions to identify candidates with strong leadership traits:

  1. Tell me about a time when you motivated others to achieve a shared goal.

  2. Describe an occasion when you stepped into a leadership role in your nursing team.

  3. In your opinion, what are the three most important qualities of a nursing team leader? How have you demonstrated these traits?

    Questions to identify nursing candidates with strong leadership traits graphic

When you have leadership in mind, pay attention to candidates whose answers show they can make tough decisions, motivate others, and resolve conflict. Also, look out for applicants that demonstrate a forward-thinking mindset.

How to roll out behavioral interviews

Behavioral interviews can be powerful tools in the candidate evaluation process. But you should avoid using them as the only tool when hiring nurses – or any other individuals – at your organization. 

For a well-rounded, bias-free hiring approach, pair behavioral interviews with multi-measure assessments that evaluate candidates’ job-specific skills and personality traits.

TestGorilla streamlines this process with its extensive test library. You can conduct tests that evaluate candidates’ critical thinking, verbal reasoning, communication, and problem-solving skills. Our platform even offers skills tests for particular job roles, like programmers and merchandise planners. 

After conducting skills and aptitude tests, you can use TestGorilla’s range of personality tests to gather insights into your applicants’ traits and behavioral preferences. 

You can mix and match tests to create comprehensive assessments perfectly suited to your organization’s hiring needs. Then, complement these assessments with one-way video interviews, where candidates record and upload responses to predetermined questions – including behavioral interview questions.

By combining multi-measure assessments with behavioral interview questions, you get a clearer, fuller picture of each of your candidates. This helps you make more data-backed hiring decisions and ensures you always pick the perfect person for your open roles.

Use these questions with skills testing by TestGorilla

Behavioral interview questions provide valuable insights into your prospective hires. The questions you ask help you identify the behavioral traits you're seeking and help you uncover any causes for concern. Ultimately, these insights help you determine which candidates will be the biggest asset to your organization. 

Asking behavioral interview questions when hiring nurses enables you to understand how each candidate solves problems, works in a team, handles stress, practices compassion, upholds integrity and ethics, provides excellent patient care, and so much more. 

Combining more traditional interviews with skills and personality assessments gives you an even more complete picture of your candidates. With a library of more than 300 pre-employment screening tests, TestGorilla makes this easy.

Start making faster, more informed hiring decisions by signing up for a free TestGorilla plan today.


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