Nursing Interview Questions: What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses (Guide with Examples!) | Berxi (2024)

Nursing Interview Questions: What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses (Guide with Examples!) | Berxi (1)

Call it cliché, but interviewers love to ask the “strengths and weaknesses” question. It’s among the most common interview questions that job applicants in all fields are asked, nursing included. Why? Because it’s a direct way to get insight into how you view yourself, and it shows how well you handle some particular challenges (because everyone has challenges). Your answer to this question will be telling, so the way you respond is important.

Here are some suggested guidelines for discussing your strengths and weaknesses in a nursing interview. We'll also provide examples of nursing strengths and weaknesses to help you better prepare.

How to Discuss Your Strengths in a Nursing Interview

There are any number of personality traits you may choose to highlight as strengths. suggests getting very specific and breaks the “strengths” answer into three possible categories:

  1. Knowledge-Based Strengths: Computer skills, languages, training others, technical abilities
  2. Transferable Skills: Organization, problem-solving, communication style
  3. Personal Traits: Hard-working, team player, trustworthy, calm under pressure

For nursing applicants, specifically, our experts said they’re typically looking for strengths like flexibility, a team player, extremely organized, multitasking, leadership abilities, creative problem-solving, an excellent communicator, or curiosity about learning new things.

Once you’ve identified your particular strengths, you’ll want to give an example of how you’ve used each at work. If you’re new to nursing, you might discuss lessons you learned from a previous experience during clinicals, as a patient care tech, or as a nursing assistant.

If you’ve worked in your field for a while, give a more specific response. For example, here’s the type of response you could give if you wanted to call out a knowledge-based strength: “I provide family-centered care in a variety of low- and high-stress situations.”

You could also say that one of your strengths is the value you place on the patient experience within the organization, and then provide more details with an example.

Example Response for Nursing Strengths

I’d list my top three strengths as:

•Organization: I take meticulous notes and feel proper communication and detailed checklists are the best ways to keep ahead of tasks and be as prepared as possible for potential curveballs throughout the day.

•Calm under pressure: I’ve been known to handle crisis very well. One time I was faced with a very difficult patient who was being verbally abusive and refusing to take any pain medication. He refused to let me inspect where he was saying he was feeling pain.

I decided that the best way to handle this was to be assertive and informative. I told him that we were going to do everything possible to make him comfortable, and to help determine the problem. I told him he was in excellent hands, and I explained that in order for us to help him, I was going to need to examine his pelvic region, that I was experienced and had done five of them that day. I also told him I would walk him through each step of my exam, so he could feel more comfortable along the way. I feel it was my calm, assertive demeaner, as well as respecting his nervous apprehension that helped get both of us through his exam.

•And blood draws: I’ve been told I’m a master. I can always find a vein and have a nice way of putting patients at ease, so they barely feel a thing.

(Scroll down to see how to answer the “Strengths and Weaknesses” question when asked together)

What NOT to Do When Discussing Your Nursing Strengths in an Interview

Tip #1: Don't brag.

You’ll want to come across as confident and proud, but not as though you’re bragging. Declaring your strengths can often be tricky, especially if you’re modest. But a job interview is the time to be assertive while maintaining a level of humility and relatability.

For example, this is proud:

Today, I was able to provide family-centered care to my patient, his wife, and their children by teaching them about dietary choices they can make as a family that will best support my patient with his new diabetes diagnosis.

But this is boastful:

I’m the leader in family-centered care. This is the only way nurses should be practicing, especially in high-stress situations. If your teams aren’t doing this, I’d be happy to teach them.

Tip #2: Don't use personal experiences as qualifying factors.

Having once had a grandmother in the ICU doesn’t make you a top candidate for a role as an ICU nurse. Nor does having children make you a great school nurse. This kind of declaration will turn off your interviewer because parenting a child and caring for patients are two very different responsibilities, and one doesn’t prepare you for the other.

How to Discuss Your Weaknesses in a Nursing Interview

Most people you meet won’t ask you to point out your shortcomings in everyday conversation, but on job interviews, it’s a standard topic. Fortunately, your interviewer won’t expect you to be too hard on yourself. Everyone has something they’re great at and something they’re trying to improve upon, and these areas of improvement are the types of “weaknesses” you can mention in your interview. suggests you state the professional weakness but emphasize the positive and add your solution for overcoming this shortcoming — because all weaknesses are opportunities for growth.

Any time you mention a weakness, it’s wise to mention what you’re actively doing to overcome the hurdle. This shows that you’re eager to grow professionally and you’re solutions-oriented, which should make you an attractive candidate. This also will show your interviewer that you have the mindset to be willing to learn and change.

Examples of common nursing weaknesses our experts say they hear include:

  • Paying too much attention to detail
  • Wanting to do everything at once
  • Spending too long on paperwork
  • Having a lack of clinical experience (for new grads)

Example Response for Nursing Weaknesses

I’d say I’ve been known to spend too long writing patient notes. On the one hand, my notes are thorough. However, I’m working on ways to better manage my time. In fact, I’ve recently started using a digital transcription program that allows me to be more efficient.

What NOT to Do When Discussing Your Nursing Weaknesses in an Interview

Tip #1: Don't speak poorly of yourself.

Although your interviewer may ask you to share some of your weaknesses, she isn’t asking you to ruin your chances of getting the job. You shouldn’t admit to being late to your shift regularly or spending time gossiping instead of looking after patients. You also shouldn’t admit to fears that would flag you as someone who wouldn’t be a good addition to the team.

For example, you'll want to avoid saying that:

  • You're scared to work with certain types of patients.
  • You dislike handling bodily fluids.
  • You try to avoid confrontation or stressful situations at all costs.

Tip #2: Don't blame others.

Once you identify a weakness, own up to it. It only makes you look bad if you blame someone on your team or management.

Tip #3: Don't skip your plan of action.

You’ll want to focus on the positive and how you’re working on growing to address the shortcoming.

Finally, it’s important that you play along when answering this question. Some people may not want to point out their faults, so they may describe their strengths and then say, “I have no weaknesses.” But if you do this, you’ll risk sounding pompous or, at the very least, not too self-aware. So, take this prep time to consider what career skills you’d like to improve and form a positive, professional response to this classic question.

Other Examples of Common Nursing Interview Questions and Answers

Let's quickly cover some extra topics that you might be asked in a nursing interview. We’ve pulled together some example questions and answers you can use to plan your own responses.

Getting-to-know-you questions

Your potential employer wants to hear details about you to get a sense of your background and personality. Focus on just you. There’s no need to mention kids, family, or relationship status.

Sample question: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your goals as a nurse.

Sample answer:

I've worked for two years as an RN at XYZ Medical Facility, specializing in neurology. During clinicals I developed a strong interest in neurology because I found the science challenging and found the patients and their families inspiring. I'd like to expand my knowledge of neuro, perhaps by pursuing a master's degree or attending specialized conferences where I can learn more about handling stroke and dementia complications. My ability to stay calm fits well with this specialization, too, especially with dementia patients. In fact, my supervisor recently gave me a shout-out during our shift huddle by mentioning how I showed patience while feeding a difficult dementia patient who was experiencing visual hallucinations.

Click here for more tips on how to answer this question.

Experience & background questions

You'll also be asked about your applicable experience, so think about your previous work including your clinicals or previous nursing jobs.

Sample question: What kind of nursing experience do you have?

Sample answer:

Once I graduated from nursing school I became a pediatric nurse in both the neonatal and oncology departments. Our patient/nurse ratio is small on these units so it’s been a great learning experience to focus deeply on each patient. And, I can confidently draw blood from the infants and children as well as administer IV meds through their central lines. I also round with the doctors so we can provide a team-based approach to any palliative issues. The pediatric world is especially great because it deepens my level of communication with the team, the adult family members, and the child.

Strengths & weaknesses question

As mentioned above, the infamous strengths-and-weaknesses question can be tricky. Remember that the interviewer wants to hear a genuine self-appraisal. Take your time answering this question. Yes, they are asking for you to summarize one strength and one weakness into one answer, but you can still be thorough and make sure you hit the points you want to make.

Sample question: What are your strengths and weaknesses as a nurse?

Sample answer:

My strengths revolve around staying organized, which helps me be the best nurse possible in a number of ways. It helps me effectively communicate with other providers because I can easily find information when asked. I keep detailed notes on my patients' medications, for example, so I can relay that information when needed. I follow a checklist I created to track each patient's status during the day so I can pass that along when the shift changes. I regularly update my list of resources for patients who want more information about their illnesses or need additional referrals.

One weakness that I see in myself is my tendency to stay in patients' rooms too long, especially when I sense they are feeling lonely or stressed. Patients occasionally want to engage in long conversations once someone comes in. I need to practice exiting a room as soon as I’m finished with a task. I can then try to come back during a few minutes of downtime if I feel like the patient needs extra attention.

Scenario-based examples for patient care, teamwork & communication

With questions that start with "What would you do if…" you want to use stories from similar past experiences or quickly plan how you feel you would react in this situation. It's important to use the STAR method here as a way to structure your answer. This is when you respond by identifying the Situation, explaining your Task, stating your Answer, and sharing the Result. We give a few samples below.

Sample qestion: Tell me about a time you displayed teamwork in front of a patient.

Sample answer:

A new nurse became flustered while setting up an IV pump for a patient who needed antibiotics. [Situation] She came out of the room to ask for help. [Task] I went in and hung the bags correctly while programming the pump. I let the nurse see what I was doing so she could learn, and I made small talk with the patient and his family the whole time because they seemed nervous about what was going on. [Action]. I felt this was a great demonstration of teamwork because I was able to communicate with the other nurse, calmly teaching her how to administer the IV, while also showing leadership and capabilities to the patient. [Result]

Sample question: What would you do if a critically ill patient isn’t responding to the treatment he’s receiving while under your care?

Sample answer:

One time my patient hit his call light in the middle of the night because he was feeling short of breath. I got a set of vitals and saw his blood oxygen was in the 70s even though he was on four liters of oxygen. I called the charge nurse to report this while running to get a non-rebreather mask, and then I called the respiratory team to evaluate him. Eventually the rapid response team was called, and the patient was rushed to ICU. Later that night the patient’s doctor contacted my charge nurse to commend me for quickly placing the patient on a non-rebreather. I learned from this experience to address a patient need within my scope while simultaneously knowing which resources to call for help.

Sample question: How would you change your communication style if a patient was not understanding you?

Sample answer:

When a patient doesn’t understand something, I make sure to speak in short sentences with easy-to-understand words. For instance, when I’m scanning the medications a patient is about to take, I use the shorter, more familiar brand name for the meds and I don’t go into details unless the patient asks. Also, when a patient doesn’t understand something that only the doctor can explain, I simply let the patient know when the doctor will next be in the room. Solving communication problems with patients helps ease their anxiety.

Sample question: How would you handle a conflict with a teammate?

Use this type of question to describe your professionalism as well as your own personality. Craft an answer that proves you are easy to work with yet assertive and calm.

Sample answer:

I get along well with my co-workers but when a conflict happens, it’s usually something like a doctor or nurse snapping at each other during a stressful situation. I was on the receiving end of a snippy remark once when several nurses, including me, were trying to hoist a large, confused man off the floor after he had fallen in the bathroom. It was easy to feel annoyed at the nurse who spoke inappropriately to me, but after the incident was over, I simply thanked her for her help. This prompted her to apologize for her behavior, and all was well. It’s important to realize that we can easily say things we don’t mean when we’re in the middle of chaos, and then the situation can be resolved by showing grace and moving on.

Interest-in-the-job questions

The interviewer really wants to know why you think you are a good fit for the role. Be honest without mentioning HR topics like compensation or benefits. Instead, focus on the type of unit you are applying to, the hours, camaraderie with teammates, and any other positive aspects that prompted you to apply in the first place.

Sample question: What interests you about this position?

Sample answer:

I'm excited to work on a Med Surg unit and learn about a variety of surgeries and illnesses. I believe this job is a great opportunity to use my nursing skills in several different ways by learning how to spot potential surgical complications and taking care of different processes like drips, drains, and mobility needs. I also prefer night shifts, so I look forward to possibly joining this team.

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Experts used for this piece:

  • Holly Kline, RN, BSN, nurse and writer
  • Laurie G. Combe, MN, RN, NCSN, president of the National Association of School Nurses
  • Stacy Doyle, PhD, RN, MBA, NEA-BC, FACHE, vice president of Ambulatory Services in the Department of Patient Care Services at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, and a member of the Society of Pediatric Nurses
  • Nancy Freeland, MS, RN-BC, CCRN-K, a senior nurse educator for Adult Critical Care Nursing at the University of Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York, and a former member of the Board of Directors of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN)
  • Elizabeth Rochin, PhD, RN, NE-BC, president of the National Perinatal Information Center
  • Sarah K. Wells, MSN, RN, CEN, CNL, Emergency Nurses Association member and president-elect of ENA’s East Bay chapter in California, an emergency department nurse in a community hospital in East Bay, and owner of New Thing Nurse, a professional and academic coaching company for the nursing community

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Nursing Interview Questions: What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses (Guide with Examples!) | Berxi (2024)
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