Healthcare Job Interview Tips

Ace the Interview: Behavioral Nurse

Written by Miranda Pennington

As in most medical fields where prior experience is required, behavioral nurse interview questions will ask you to provide specific examples from your previous positions. You want to have anecdotes at the ready to show your interviewer that you’re competent, knowledgeable, and well-prepared to join their staff.

Describe a situation in which you recently had to handle a difficult and demanding patient.

This question is designed to assess your interpersonal skills and ability to resolve conflict. Prepare an anecdote that illustrates your excellent communication skills—including verbal persuasiveness and strong listening abilities, interactions with patients and families, understanding patient needs, explaining treatments, and displaying empathy. Avoid characterizing a patient in an overly negative or in a resentful way, and be careful not to compromise confidentiality.

Describe a decision you had to make quickly regarding a patient.

For this question, the interviewer will be assessing your judgment. Talk them through your decision-making process as you evaluated a memorable situation and the criteria you used to make a decision. Be able to report back on the appropriateness of your actions in light of the outcome.

Tell us about a time where you disagreed with a colleague over the management of a patient.

This question is designed to identify your ability to work as part of a team, deal with colleagues maturely, draw on your own internal resources and department protocols for conflict resolution, practice active listening and information gathering, and then your ability to reflect and discuss what you learned from the experience. Avoid expressing anything stronger than a professional difference of opinion with the colleague in question.

What changes have you contributed to established practices to improve patient care?

If you’re asked this question in an interview, the interviewer is looking at your ability to take initiative, go beyond your routine, think critically and proactively about patient care protocols, and exercising excellent judgment about their implementation. It’s also likely you had to work closely with colleagues to get your changes implemented—be ready to highlight the valuable aspects of that process as well.

And finally, four questions that all evaluate essentially the same abilities:

  • Tell me about a challenging problem you faced in your previous job. How did you deal with it?
  • Nursing work often involves a number of daily frustrations. Tell me about some of the frustrations you have dealt with recently.
  • Take me through a typical day in your previous job.
  • How do you manage high stress situations? Give me an example.

These last questions test to see if you have an alert mind, evolved stress-management skills, the ability to reflect and assess daily responsibilities, and a degree of self-awareness. Make sure you have specific stories you can reference that showcase the best of your abilities. Practice with a friend to get low-stakes exposure to how you’ll feel on your actual interview day.

Good luck!

About the author

Miranda Pennington

Miranda K. Pennington is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared on The Toast, The American Scholar, and the Ploughshares Writing Blog. She currently teaches creative nonfiction for Uptown Stories, a Morningside Heights nonprofit organization. She has an MFA from Columbia University, where she has also taught in the University Writing program and consulted in the Writing Center.