7 Essential RN Interview Questions to Ask

After asking a long string of RN interview questions, a nurse manager shakes the hand of her new hire.

Finding a qualified, reliable, and top-performing registered nurse (RN) is vital to your organization. As a part of the nurse management team, knowing which RN interview questions to ask is just as important as writing a great nurse job description. These questions will help you narrow your applicant pool down to your best candidates.

Like nursing, developing a successful interview strategy takes time and practice. Thankfully, there are ways to make this process less arduous. In this article, we’ll discuss seven essential interview questions to ask a nurse to help you confidently find the best fit for your facility in record time.

RN Interview Questions: Strategy and Style

As a nurse leader, you’ll need to be strategic in the questions you ask your candidates. You only get a short time to obtain and evaluate information from your RN interview questions and answers. Identifying red flags that impact patient safety or disrupt your nursing team while you work to uncover a nurse’s best qualities is crucial.

There’s a delicate balance between asking challenging questions to assess safe and high-quality nursing practice and cultivating a good experience for your potential new hires. So, before we head to the interview questions, we’ll do a brief warm-up with some tips to make the interview process a positive journey.

Interview Tips

  • Tone: Start and end the interview on a positive note. The nurse will get a sense of your organization’s culture and leadership style through your meeting. Create an environment they hope to return to.
  • Non-Verbal Cues: Be mindful of what your nonverbal cues are expressing. For example, frowning while concentrating may come across as anger and disapproval to the candidate, whereas a relaxed face and occasional smiling can help them feel welcomed and encouraged.
  • Support: When possible, help the candidate if they’re struggling with difficult questions. For example, you can break down a behavioral question into smaller components of the Situation-Task-Action-Results (STAR) method. They’ll still answer the question, and you may discover the nurse has excellent clinical skills that more than make up for lackluster interviewing skills.

Essential Interview Questions to Ask an RN

Now that you have the tools to ensure a positive and fruitful interview, here are some of the top questions to ask your RN candidates.

1. What about our facility and this position inspired you to apply?

The reply to this question provides insight into the nurse’s interest in joining your organization. It demonstrates how well they researched your residence or facility and whether their values complement yours. This RN interview question also sheds light on how well the nurse understands the role and its responsibilities.

Tip: Someone who can describe your mission and values and explain how they can fulfill the role is engaged and invested in your organization.

2. What are your nursing strengths and weaknesses?

Their response helps you determine how this nurse will enhance your team and if your department has the resources to assist in their professional development. It’ll also likely reveal the nurse’s levels of confidence and accountability.

Tip: Someone personable and honest about needing extra training is better for your patient outcomes and team dynamic than someone with an overly strident demeanor that denies any weaknesses.

3. Describe a time your current facility implemented changes. How were you affected and how did you adjust?

A nurse’s adaptability is essential to remain current in their practice and keep up with a fluctuating work environment. The applicant’s reply renders helpful information. You’ll examine whether the nurse is resilient and able to positively adapt to difficulty or change-averse and likely to struggle with inevitable fluctuations in their routine.

Tip: Consider whether the nurse is open to improving their adaptability and resilience. If they’re interested, training and a supportive environment can help improve these important capabilities. If not, they may not be well suited for the position.

4. How do you decide which tasks to delegate to licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and certified nurse assistants (CNAs)?

This will likely be one of the more straightforward RN interview questions for your candidate to answer. Delegation occurs when a RN transfers task responsibility but retains accountability for the outcome.

Tip: This is an excellent opportunity to evaluate the nurse’s knowledge and application of the 5 Rights of Nursing Delegation, leadership and communication skills, and the scope and standards of practice.

Also, take stock of how the nurse discusses delegating to LPNs and CNAs. If the RN only wants to transfer the least desirable tasks or demonstrates disrespect toward these roles, it can quickly sow discord among your staff.

5. Tell me about a time when you advocated for a patient or resident but received push-back from the medical team. How did you handle the situation, and what was the outcome?

Being a patient advocate is an essential nursing role. The American Nurses Association (ANA) Code of Ethics explains that the nurse promotes, advocates for, and protects the patient’s rights, health, and safety. Often, the nurse’s intervention on behalf of their patient prevents serious harm or poor outcomes.

Tip: Some RN interview questions can provide excellent insight into who they are as a nurse. It demonstrates how well they follow the nursing process, safeguard their patients, deal with conflict, communicate with team members, and utilize their resources.

6. Have you ever made a medication or nursing error? Please explain what happened, how you handled the situation, and what the outcome was.

More than 100,000 suspected medication errors are reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) each year. The impact of a medication error can range from no harm to severe injury or even death to a patient or resident. Nurses are human, and they make mistakes. Unfortunately, when they do, they can have detrimental consequences.

Tip: This is one of the more difficult interview questions to ask a nurse. Please don’t automatically hold the error against the nurse. First, factor in why the nurse made the error, what did they do to ensure the patient’s safety, and whether they learned from the mistake. The nurse’s response will reflect their integrity, accountability, and professionalism.

7. What has been your proudest achievement as an RN?

This is the RN’s time to shine as they share their greatest career moment with you. It’s an excellent opportunity to end your questioning on a positive note.

Tip: Even if the nurse is shy or introverted, their nonverbal communication should signal increased enthusiasm or excitement as they recall this special event. A lackluster response may warrant a follow-up question of why they became a nurse to assess their intrinsic motivation.

Need Help With Your RN Interview Questions?

Finding, hiring, and onboarding reliable and professional RNs can be a long and painstaking process. If you’re looking to ease this burden and save your resources, partner with IntelyCare so we can take care of your staffing needs for you.