Be Your Best Self: How to Nail Your Nursing School Admissions Interview

Whether you’re preparing for your first nursing school admissions interview or you’re sharpening your skills for the second, learn how to impress the panel from start to finish with expert insight and valuable resources.

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Allison Spain
Allison Spain

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Allison Spain is a Registered Nurse with over 10 years of nursing experience; she holds a BA in psychology and a BSN and MSN in nursing. Beside her nursing experience her other experience includes oncology and med-surg patient care. She has filled administrative positions, care coordination roles, and has authored health care policies impacting patient care, reimbursement, and Medicaid expansion.

You’re destined to become a nurse, and you’ve worked hard to get to this point. You took all the right classes, studied tirelessly to ace each course, and now you’ve come to the final obstacle on your road to nursing school: the admissions interview. Each year, thousands of students apply to nursing programs across the country, and much like you, they look great on paper. But even the most qualified applicants with impressive CVs can’t make up for a less-than-stellar interview. So with hundreds of students rejected every year, how do you put your best foot forward for success? Learn what you need to know about nursing school admissions interviews, from understanding the basics to gaining expert insight on how to answer every type of question with success.

Nursing School Interview 101: Understanding the Basics

There are a few foundational aspects of the interview process that should be among the first things you consider as you prepare. The most beneficial way to spend your time in preparation of your interview is organizing your expectations, getting to know the unique characteristics of the program, and learning expected interview etiquette. Let’s take a closer look.

Your Interviewers

Each interview process is a little different, and it’s impossible to predict exactly what’s awaiting you inside the interview room. Depending on the specific school, your interviewer, or interviewers, will hold different positions in the school. They might be faculty members, current students, alumni, or admissions counselors. The interview may be a one-on-one format or in front of a panel of multiple interviewers. Additionally, be aware that some interviewers will have access to your application materials and know a bit about you while others may not. With this in mind, it’s best to come prepared for all possible scenarios.

Etiquette

There are some things that go for all types of professional and academic interviews. First, be sure to arrive early. You’ll want to give yourself some leeway to account for traffic or public transportation hold-ups. Second, dress professionally. When in doubt, avoid wearing jeans, clothes with holes or signs of wear, outdoor workwear, workout clothes, and tennis shoes. Third, be sure to make good eye contact and act respectfully toward everyone you meet as soon as you enter the building. You’ll also be expected to turn off your cell phone and arrive with printed copies of your transcripts and resume.

Know Your Program

Every program takes pride in the unique things it can offer its students. It’s important to thoroughly research each specific nursing program you’re interviewing for. Your interviewer may ask you questions that apply specifically to their particular program and you want to be prepared to answer them thoughtfully and accurately. Before your interview, be sure to research important faculty members, program highlights, and course curriculum. If it comes off as though you know nothing about the program you’re interviewing for, the interviewers may think that the spot in their class would be better filled by someone more eager and passionate about their school.

What to Expect: The 5 Question Categories

As you’re preparing for your nursing school interview, there are five main types of interview questions that you should expect to be asked. Think through each category of question ahead of time and prepare loose, general talking points for each based on your experience and professional characteristics. Let’s take a closer look at some of these likely questions.

Traditional, open-ended questions

General description: Traditional, open-ended questions are questions that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. In fact, there is no set right or wrong answer to these questions, but that doesn’t mean some answers aren’t better than others. It’s smart to have answers prepared and rehearsed beforehand for the common, open-ended questions such as, “tell me about yourself.”

Question examples

The interviewer is trying to determine the following

How to answer

“Tell me a little bit about yourself.”

Sample answer:

I’m a motivated self-starter who really enjoys the hands-on and human aspect of our industry. To me, there’s nothing more satisfying than helping people out when they need it the most. Having spent the past five years in the medical field working directly with patients has shown me just how far actively listening to a patient can go in helping make someone comfortable. My most recent position included working with patients directly in admissions which meant I was often the first face they’d see when they came in and the last on their way out as well as everything in-between. In that time, I learned that addressing their concerns and making sure they felt their voices were being heard was just as important to them as receiving quality care. As a result, I helped to establish a patient advocacy program to help teach other nurses those same skills.

Source: The Interview Guys, Nursing Interview Questions

Personality questions

General description: Your answers to personality questions really give the interviewers more colorful, personal details to add to any academic information they already know about you from your application. Even if they don’t know anything about you, this is an excellent moment to tell them in-person something concrete about your strengths while highlighting traits that make a good nursing professional.

Question examples

The interviewer is trying to determine the following

How to answer

“Do you see yourself as a team player or a lone wolf?”

Sample answer:

I find I work well under a variety of conditions and circumstances and I take pride in my flexibility. I really enjoy working in a team because I often find that different viewpoints can help me find solutions to a problem I might not think of on my own. I also enjoy self-motivating and am equally comfortable working alone.

Source: The Interview Guys, Nursing Interview Questions

Behavioral questions

General description: These types of questions give you the chance to showcase your relevant qualities and how they relate to nursing. You’ll often be asked to give examples or tell stories that illustrate the ways you handled certain scenarios in your past. The questions might seem directly related to nursing or seem to come out of nowhere, depending on how they’re phrased.

Question examples

The interviewer is trying to determine the following

How to answer

“How do you handle stressful situations?”

Sample answer:

I actually work better under pressure, and I’ve found that I enjoy working in a challenging environment . . . I thrive under tight deadlines and multiple projects. I find that when I have to work to a deadline, I can produce some of my most creative work … I [use] the pressure of that deadline to harness my creativity and focus.

Source: The Balance Careers, Answering Questions About Stress

Situational & ethical questions

General description: Situational and ethical questions usually require you to place yourself in someone else’s shoes. Interviewers often present some kind of medically related dilemma where a nurse needs to consider all sides of the situation and make an informed decision.

Question examples

The interviewer is trying to determine the following

How to answer

“How would you deal with someone who isn’t satisfied with their patient care?”

Sample answer:

Nobody likes not feeling well, and it’s easy to have those feelings manifest as frustration and anger. While I constantly strive to do everything I can for a patient, there are times when even that isn’t good enough and someone takes issue with my care . . . I work hard to ensure that I answer patients’ questions and, when I can’t, I try to find the people who can. Sometimes, even with all that, you find people who aren’t happy with what you’re doing. In those situations, I do my best to accommodate them without compromising their care. If it’s a situation where I really can’t fix the problem, then I work with the other nurses and doctors on my team to find an alternative solution.

Source: The Interview Guys, Nursing Interview Questions

Current affairs questions

General description: Current affairs questions span a wide variety of topics in the nursing field because they may ask you about any number of hot topics that have been in the recent health journals or in the news. The questions will focus on clinical aspects of the issues, not the phenomenon of them being popular.

Question examples

The interviewer is trying to determine the following

How to answer

“How aware of recent developments in the field are you?”

Sample answer:

I am aware of the many developments in the field of medicine and medical treatments. For instance, I recently read an article on the current medical innovations related to prenatal care and delivery. It was an interesting piece that dealt with the complications involved in pregnancy and how to overcome them without risking the lives of either the mother or the child. (Elaborate on the article and state other articles/news you’ve read).

Source: Interview Questions for Nurses, Leadership Questions

Five Ways to Put Your Best Foot Forward

Putting your best foot forward in your nursing school admissions interview requires critical thinking and an attention to detail. Here’s a list of things to keep in mind as you begin to prepare.

1 Style & Accessories

When dressing for an interview, try to avoid clothing and accessories that might be distracting or overly formal. For example, it’s probably not a good idea to wear a tuxedo when a collared shirt and a sportscoat would suffice. As far as jewelry goes, try wearing items that are smaller in size and don’t make any noises with your movements. If you wear perfume or cologne, keep that to a bare minimum. You never know if your interviewer might be allergic.

2 The Handshake

3 Ask Your Own Questions

4 Send a Thank-You Note

5 Body Language

Expert Insight on Nursing School Admissions

allison
mic

Allison Spain is a Registered Nurse with over 10 years of nursing experience; she holds a BA in psychology and a BSN and MSN in nursing. Besides her nursing experience her other experience includes oncology and med-surg patient care. She has filled administrative positions, care coordination roles, and has authored health care policies impacting patient care, reimbursement, and Medicaid expansion.

1) What are some common mistakes among interviewees in nursing school admissions interviews? How can we avoid them?

2) Since each interview will be different, with varying questions of specificity and detail, what are some strategies that the interviewee can do ahead of time to prepare?

3) If an interviewer asks, “Why do you want to attend this school/program?”, how can an interviewee really hit that out of the park? What will make their answer stand out from other applicants?

4) Open-ended questions such as “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” are common during interviews. How can an interviewee take advantage of these moments to provide some spot-on, engaging, and stand-out ways of telling them why they’re a good candidate for this particular program?

Resources

ATI Nursing Education, “15 Interview Questions All Nursing Students Should Prepare For” This extensive blog provides practice interview questions and a variety of articles for new nurses.

BeMo Academic Consulting YouTube Channel, “10 Difficult Nursing School Interview Questions and Expert Responses”: This video walks you through some tough questions that may arise during your interview and how to handle them.

BeMo Academic Consulting, “100 Nursing School Interview Questions”: This recently published list of nursing admissions school interview questions makes sure you’re prepared to answer questions in a dozen critical categories.

Indeed.com’s “10 Nursing Interview Questions and Answers”: A popular job search engine and informative site for interviewees and job-seekers, Indeed offers a list of common interview questions with appropriate answers for your consideration. There are also additional tips on body language and etiquette that applies for most types of interviews.

InterviewSteps.com, “How to Prepare for the Nursing School Interview”: This site offers a good list of things to expect in your interview, as well as tips on how to prepare questions for interviewers and coaching on how to formulate good answers.

Linfield College, “Nursing Interview Success Packet”: This step-by-step guide walks you through the preparation for and execution of the interview process for nursing students, including a helpful section on structured behavioral interviewing techniques that you may encounter.

The Muse, “The Ultimate Interview Guide: 30 Prep Tips for Job Interview Success”: While your nursing school admissions interview is not actually a job interview, these tips can help you think about professionalism and body language that’s critical in all types of interview scenarios.

Rasmussen College, “How to Ace Your Nursing School Interview”: Rasmussen offers some quick tips on preparing for the interview, including formulating a five-year plan that you can discuss with interviewers.

Vault.com: 11 Tips for Video Interview Success: Do you need to participate in your interview remotely? Here’s some tips on the video interview format.