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How to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions

note: This is from notes I jotted down when I took part recently in a panel interview to hire new grad nurses. The common nurse interview questions provided  are composite examples.

Behavioral Interview Questions

Nursing interviews typically include behavioral questions. Behavioral questions are designed to test for specific characteristics required/desired for your job.

You will be asked to provide specific examples of when you demonstrated the skill they are seeking.

They generally start with “Tell me about a time…Give us an example…Describe a situation…”. They are designed to show the real you.

For example, one question  asked was “If you have a patient with a Substance Abuse Disorder, how will you manage their pain?” That definitely uncovered some biases! What was the point of the question? To see if they understand that people with substance abuse disorders also experience pain, and if they respect people despite their life choices.

An example of an answer that revealed a personal bias would be, “I would try to see if they are faking their pain, by looking at their face and body language.”

Prepare for Behavioral Interview Questions

how to answer behavioral interview questions

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To prepare for behavioral interview questions, anticipate the characteristics the employer may be looking for. Their questions will be designed to test for those characteristics. For example, you could reasonably expect that an RN employer may  want to know about your:

  • Personal ethics and insight: “Tell us about a time when you made a critical mistake at work.”
  • Customer service: “Give us an example of a time when you went above and beyond in customer service.”
  • Conflict: “Describe a conflict with a coworker, and how you resolved it.”
  • Flexibility: “Tell me about a time you had to adjust to a change at work”

Now, think back. Recall a concrete example of going above and beyond in customer service. Think of another time when you made a serious mistake, disagreed with a supervisor, faced an ethical dilemma, and so on. As you think back, more examples will come to mind.

Be sure to include an example where you benefited a former employer through your customer service skills, as patient satisfaction is high on the radar in hospitals right now.

Your examples can come from school, work or life experience, because what they all have in common is-you. You and your behavior. Behavior that illustrates the characteristics they are looking for in a candidate.

The goal here is for you to prepare at least three examples from your past.

Your prepared examples may not exactly match the question, but that’s OK. For example, if they ask you “Tell us about a time you observed a coworker doing something unethical, and what you did about it,” you can say “I haven’t really had that experience, but there was a time when I disagreed with a coworker…”

To tell your example, follow this helpful formula:

  • Describe the situation
  • Identify the challenges you encountered
  • Explain the action steps you took
  • Share the outcome
  • Summarize what you learned and will apply moving forward
how to answer behavioral nursing interview questions

Here are the candidates who WOWed us!

I really hope this helps you get ready for your next interview. Good luck!

Do you have any examples of common nurse interview questions ? I’d love to hear them! Leave me a comment.

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Until next time friend,

Nurse Beth


About Beth Hawkes (146 Articles)
Nice to meet you! I'm a Nursing Professional Development Specialist in acute care, a writer, speaker and career columnist.

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