Critical Thinking In Nursing Interview Questions

the questions i struggle with are the ones like:
what did you like least about your last job?

do interviewers really want to hear you sit and complain about the job?
complain? no.
however, they know that whatever position they are looking to fill is going to include some non-trivial amount of work that is something less than fun. they are hoping that by gaining insight into what sorts of activities you don't like, they'll know whether or not such dislikes will affect your ability to adapt to the open position.

how do you answer these without sounding like a problem-employee?
by being truthful about the answer and showing how you dealt with the issue in a positive way.

as an example, say your last job required you to order supplies. the process they used was especially byzantine and prone to error.

"problem employee" would say something like: in my last job, i was asked to order supplies and i really hated it. their purchasing system was so old and inefficient that an order was never filled correctly. i got so frustrated that i usually just bypassed the system. even though it sometimes got me in hot water with the bean counters, it was worth it to have the task out of the way.

"quality employee" might respond: part of my duties in my last job included ordering and restocking supplies. the purchasing system there was very complicated and other people in the group were often caught off guard when their order came in short. while this type of work takes me away from the "fun" part of my job, i realized it's importance to the success of our group. so to help ensure that we got what we needed without having to spend excessive amounts of time to get the supplies delivered correctly, i made up a check list. it included important phone numbers and points of contact for each step. this made it so i didn't forget a step and provided a way to quickly assess progress or chase down a problem. having the list enabled me to spend less time doing the types of things i enjoyed less and freed up time available to spend on the things i really liked. it also made it easier to train new people on how to do the job.

both examples are really saying the same thing. that is, "i don't like having to get supplies."

the first example tells the interviewer that you'll likely break rules for personal convenience. it might also suggest that if the open position requires a lot of ordering, you'd be particularly bad at it.

the second example tells the interviewer that while you weren't fond of the task, you found a workable solution that got the job done, met organizational requirements, and benefited the team as a whole.

which would you prefer to hire?

it's disingenuous to suggest that you just loved everything in your previous job. the fact that you are making a change indicates that some aspect of it was not to your liking. better to have an understanding of those factors and prepare a good response than to avoid the subject by throwing out some platitude that everyone within earshot will know is bull.

when talking about areas of a job outside of the core competencies, it's not so much that you didn't enjoy those parts that is important. it's how you dealt with those areas.

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Mastering Behavioral Interviews in Nursing

Does your heart race, palms sweat, or your stomach feel queasy just thinking about going on an interview? Interviews can be extremely intimidating to the unprepared. It may seem as if you are in court and about to be cross examined by the prosecuting attorney. Competition is fierce for many positions. Your preparation prior to the interview is vital to your success during the interview.

An interview is a screening process used to determine a “right fit”. The interviewer represents the interests of the organization and is charged with securing potentially successful candidates. Your role is to present yourself effectively, while simultaneously considering your career objectives.

Whether you are interviewing for nursing school, your first job as a nurse or a new position within your organization; understanding behavioral interviewing techniques will assist you toward achieving your goals.

About behavioral interviews

Behavioral interviews are the most common form of interview utilized in healthcare. Candidates are presented scenarios or hypothetical situations and evaluated based on their responses. Research has shown this to be eight times more accurate in predicting future performance than simply asking; “Tell me about yourself”.

The situation may be presented as a question or begin with one of the following statements: tell me about a time, describe how you handled, or give an example.

Some specific examples are: Why did you choose nursing as a profession? Describe what you think a typical workday for a nurse is like? Tell me about a time that you had gotten in over your head during a project. How did you handle a problem with a difficult coworker? Give an example of when you went above and beyond what was required. If you witnessed an employee stealing from the organization, what would you do?

Key skills and traits being evaluated are communication, teamwork, initiative, critical thinking, conflict resolution, flexibility, stability and ethics. How you conduct yourself during the interview process is equally important as what you say. Short answers, being unable to think of an example, blaming others, grandstanding, or canned responses are red flags for interviewers.

Do interviewers expect a “perfect” track record? No, they are looking for high levels of self awareness, acceptance of responsibility, and the ability to learn from past experience.

Next: Before the Interview >>


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Laura Wisniewski, RN

Laura Wisniewski RN is an educator, speaker and writer with 25 years of front line nursing experience. Her company, Nursing Voice Communications, provides empowering, solution-oriented presentations on nursing workforce issues. Her articles encourage and challenge nurses to improve healthcare.

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