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Answers to 5 of The Toughest Nursing Interview Questions

19th November 21

Becoming a nurse is incredibly rewarding, you help people in every day of your professional life get back to health and a better form of wellness. Though that’s not to say the road towards a nursing career isn’t without its challenges.  

Your studies and training will put you through your paces, preparing you for life on the other side of professional registration. What it doesn’t prepare you for though is crossing the interview hurdle. By the time you apply for your first job as a nurse, you have little experience under your belt. Though, the nursing hiring manager will want you to answer nursing interview questions with detailed relevancy.  

If you’re training to become a nurse, it’s wise to get prepared for tough nursing interview questions ahead of the interview. This will make sure you’re ready for whatever the interviewer throws your way and have answers prepared that will show you are the perfect fit for the position on offer.  

Read on for our top 5 tough nursing interview questions and answers. 

1. What is Your Greatest Weakness? 

Our Tip: 

Your nursing interview questions are likely to contain this one, which can catch aspiring nurses off guard if they aren’t prepared. Discussing your weaknesses can seem counter-intuitive in an interview. This is surely the time you’re meant to talk about your skills and why you are a natural fit for the company.  

This is exactly why ‘what is your weakness?’ nursing interview questions are thrown in the mix. Your answer proves whether you have self-awareness and allows the nursing interviewer to get an idea of your developmental needs.  

You may think hiding your weaknesses is the way forward, when in fact, it can lead to a toxic work environment. The main thing to remember is not to be afraid of admitting your faults because no one is perfect, instead, highlight the weakness and what you are doing to rectify it.  

Example Answer: 

“I’m certainly guilty of taking my work home with me. I often fail to switch off and continue to think about what I could have done better in the day, or how I can approach things better tomorrow. It’s not always a bad thing as it tends to give me a fresh perspective on meeting patient needs, but I am having talking therapy sessions so I can have a more healthy balance of life and work.” 

 2. Tell Us About a Time at Work Where You Made a Mistake 

Our Tip: 

This nursing interview question is another one seemingly focusing on the negative, but it’s actually a perfect opportunity to show humility and your capacity to learn. By spinning this into a positive, you can show the nurse hiring manager the great attitude and approach you have to work-based challenges.  

In your answer, you need to highlight the mistake but place more emphasis on the lesson you learned. If you can also throw in examples of where you did the same thing right later on, that will evidence you are practising what you preach.  

The NHS nurse interview question aims to determine your willingness to learn. This is because nurses need to learn from their mistakes as well as constantly learn new processes on the job. This answer is your opportunity to show you have the flexible, adaptable attitude they are looking for, and you won’t buckle under pressure in stressful situations.  

Example Answer: 

“I definitely learnt not to rush or cut corners to get things done, no matter how busy you are. There was a particularly busy day on the ward in my training where I had to set up procedural supplies. I thought I could get things done faster by carrying everything over at once and instead, dropped a number of sterile items on the floor. This disrupted the entire ward operation as there were numerous trip hazards and it delayed the procedure as I had to find new sterilised supplies to use.” 


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3. Discuss a National Healthcare Initiative You’re Passionate About 

Our Tip: 

While these practice nurse interview questions want to discover areas of healthcare you are passionate about, they are more aimed at demonstrating how committed you are to your career. 

If nothing springs to mind then spend some time researching different healthcare initiatives. You should also be fully aware of the 6Cs initiative that is championed by the Chief Nursing Officer.  

As the recruitment policy for the NHS is value-based, they place high importance on cultural fit. This is why this answer is an ideal opportunity to demonstrate that your values genuinely align with those of the NHS. 

Example Answer: 

“I really resonated with the #hellomynameis campaign. Many healthcare staff often fail to introduce themselves to patients because they are busy and simply forget. They don’t realise how important that human connection is to a patient who is in pain, vulnerable and worried for their future health. When you think about that, it’s really heartbreaking. Imagine being in that terrifying position and not knowing who the person was who was probing and treating you? This is not only directly related to the 6Cs and providing compassionate care, taking a moment to introduce yourself and put someone at ease with what you are doing is human decency. Now I make a point of ensuring everyone I come into contact with knows who I am.” 

4. What Does the Term ‘Diversity at Work’ Mean to You? 

Our Tip: 

This is another tricky nursing interview question that wants you to go deeper into the layers of diversity, rather than a high level view of simply ‘treating everybody the same’. 

You need to show the nursing interviewer that you understand the different issues facing various groups in society, in addition to equality of access to services. 

Also, the nursing interviewer will want to know that you will treat colleagues in a multicultural workplace with dignity and respect. Therefore, provide an example of how you have demonstrated an awareness of diversity in your response. 

Example Answer: 

“Diversity at work to me is understanding that each person can potentially perceive situations differently. There may be varying social or cultural beliefs, biases or prejudices, values or traditions that can affect the way a patient views something, or how they interpret information. This is so important to realise in this line of work because if they misinterpret, reinterpret or fail to understand important information we tell them, it could lead to dire outcomes.  

On the flip side, as nurses ourselves we also need to be aware of our own perceptions. If we incorrectly assume something about our patients, it could greatly offend them, never mind result in us improperly meeting their needs. The best way to avoid this and build a better patient-nurse relationship I believe is to state and find facts early on. I would clarify my role and my intended actions right away, to avoid misperceptions about the importance of my work or my authority.” 


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5. Can You Explain Your Gap in Employment?  

Our Tip: 

If your CV is light on details, this nursing interview question may catch you out. Like the weakness nursing interview questions, you may think the best thing to do is avoid mentioning gaps in employment. However, the best thing to do here is be open and honest. 

You need to remember that nurse hiring managers will regularly scrutinise CVs and will be looking for any red flags. They are, however, reasonable people and are mainly looking to make sure that gaps in your employment aren’t due to dismissal for gross misconduct.  

So, if you took time out to travel, care for a relative or write a novel, that’s fine. Plus, if you are currently studying to become a qualified nurse, that is also a completely acceptable reason to be out of work. Putting this on your CV will evidence the level of commitment you are giving to your education.  

Example Answer: 

“I took a year out before enrolling on my nursing degree as I wanted to take a break and explore the world. I did this because I worked really hard to achieve my A Level results to make sure I got a spot on my nursing degree course, and I felt like I deserved a break and to let my hair down before starting the next round of study. It was a great experience and gave me the mental space I needed before getting stuck into my degree.” 

Start Your Nursing Career! 

If you’re thinking of becoming a nurse, we can help you take the next step towards this highly rewarding career. Our online Access to Higher Education Diploma (Nursing) will help you meet nursing degree entry requirements without the need for A Levels.  

This is because it provides you with a Level 3 qualification, and not only that, it is studied entirely online. As an online course, you get the freedom of moving through the course materials at your pace. So long as you submit your assignments in line with your Individual Learning Plan, you can progress through the modules quickly and get qualified within a year! 

learndirect is the leading UK online course provider, with hundreds of courses to help you achieve your goals. Find out more about our Access to nursing course by speaking with our Course Executives, they will run through the different modules you will study and help you get enrolled. 

Call them now on 01202 006 464, contact them online or click below to view the Access to nursing course in more detail. 


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