Nursing school interview tips: putting your best foot forward

Kristen Parillo Jeremy Coppock

Kristen Parillo,

Kristen Parillo

Kristen Parillo, RN, MSN, is a nurse educator who specializes in active learning in a flipped classroom environment. She completed her Bachelor’s in Psychology in 2006 and her Bachelor’s in Nursing in 2015.

Jeremy Coppock

Jeremy Coppock

Jeremy is a content writer and editor for Degreechoices. He also has previous experience translating and teaching English. In his free time, he likes learning languages, baking bread, and spending time with his two basset hounds, Chowder and Snuffles.


Published May. 03, 2023 Updated May. 17, 2023
Nursing school interview tips: putting your best foot forward

    A unique part of the application process for a nursing program is the required interview. There are several reasons for the interview, but its main purpose is to assess if the applicant meets certain personality criteria that are desired in nursing, often referred to as emotional intelligence or “soft skills”.

    If you have applied for a nursing program, you may already have had to take an entrance exam such as the HESI or TEAS as part of your application. Besides testing basic skills such as comprehension, biology, and math, these tests also assess what type of learning style you have as well as your personality type. The school interview is an extension of these evaluations, helping colleges assess attributes that can’t easily be quantified by a standardized test. It has traditionally been held in person, although COVID-19 has led many schools to move interviews online.

    Below are some hints for acing your nursing school interview, as well as a few example questions.

    Take stock of your soft skills

    A career in nursing demands a set of skills that a referred to as soft skills. Soft skills are interpersonal attributes that help you work well with others, even in stressful environments. The nursing vocation is so much more than task-oriented skills: it requires these soft skills to give good care to our patients and their families.

    nursing soft skills

    One goal of the interview is to assess the personality of the candidate to check that they possess the desired traits needed in a good nurse. These are known as the Six Cs of Nurse Caring:

    • Compassion means empathetically viewing and communicating with others, even those who are different from yourself.
    • Conscience is honesty and integrity.
    • Commitment is not only to the patients or profession, but also to yourself and your own best interests.
    • Competence is engaging in lifelong learning and continuing to strive to be the best at what you do.
    • Comportment is the ability to work professionally with others in your field such as other nurses, doctors, and pharmacists.
    • Confidence is believing in yourself and having a good working knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses.

    During your interview, be prepared to exhibit these character traits if you want to maximize your chances of getting into nursing school.

    Come prepared

    One of the most important tasks before the actual nursing school interview is reviewing the program you applied to. An interviewer will appreciate a potential student who has a working understanding of key features of the program, such as length of studies or what the current licensure pass rate is, both of which are posted online for prospective students.

    More importantly, familiarity with the mission and vision statements of the school will better prepare you to answer questions as to why you would be a good fit for their program.

    Being prepared helps interviewers understand that you are dependable – remember that reliability is a crucial skill in nursing.

    Be professional

    Nurses are held to very high professional standards. How you address your interviewers, your tone of voice, and the general impression you make are important for making a good impression on your interviewer.

    When you arrive, be punctual, polite, and formal. Punctuality is a strong indicator that you are dependable, respectful, and organized, so plan to be on time, or better yet a few minutes early.

    You can prepare for how to address the interviewer by looking at the college or university website or even your email to know what title your interviewer carries. For example, if being interviewed by a faculty member, the term “professor” is preferred, in combination with the interviewer’s last name. Upon arriving, you may say “Good afternoon my name is – I am here for my interview with Professor Smith.”

    What to wear to a nursing interview

    Ensure your appearance is neat and clean. Clothing should be free of stains and wrinkles. Outfits that are considered business casual are appropriate for the interview, meaning that sneakers or jeans should be avoided.

    Demonstrate critical thinking

    The ability to apply critical thinking and the development of clinical judgement are key attributes in nursing. Therefore, you may be asked to give an example of a complex problem that you have faced and how you came to a solution. Honesty also applies to critical thinking. You cannot solve a problem or learn effectively if you cannot admit to making an error. As such, you may be asked to describe a mistake you made and how you corrected it.

    Questions related to critical thinking may also involve giving an example of a situation where you had to choose between several undesirable outcomes and describing how you reasoned through it to come up with the best choice. You may also be asked to describe a situation where you had to think very quickly to arrive at a solution, or how you responded when you observed a coworker acting unethically.

    Show compassion

    Compassion, caring, and empathy are key skills for nurses. Empathy is an important part of establishing trust between nurse and patient, which greatly facilitates the healing process.

    To get to know your personality better, interviewers might ask how you cope being around people who are struggling emotionally, or if you have personally experienced the death of a close friend or loved one. Such difficult experiences can have a deep impact on our growth and development as individuals; hence the life experiences of potential nurses are often explored during the interview.

    Other desired traits of a prospective nursing student

    During your nurse interview, you may be asked to prove you possess all sorts of other soft skills. This makes sense, as the problems nurses need to handle on a daily basis are incredibly diverse. Below are a few more important traits that may come up in the nursing school interview.

    Stress management

    Nursing is a difficult career. It requires long hours and can be emotionally stressful. You will deal with difficult situations, distraught patients, and worried families. How you engage in self-care may be a question asked during the interview, as this can help a nurse avoid nursing burnout later in their career.


    Being able to accept criticism is related to resilience, which is another important attribute desired in nurses. Resilience is the ability to pick yourself up and dust yourself off even after a particularly trying situation. Be prepared to give an example of a time you were disappointed or upset and how you dealt with the feelings and moved forward.

    Likewise, you may be asked to give examples of how you have dealt with difficult situations in the past, such interacting with someone who was very frustrated or upset.


    Those who appear more driven and set themselves up to succeed will be the more likely candidate chosen for the program.

    Be prepared to answer questions as to what steps you will take to help yourself succeed. If you plan on working during your studies, be prepared to answer questions about how you will combine your work and school schedules, as you will be expected to make nursing school the priority.

    Likewise, you may be asked to demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning. This could mean discussing what sort of nursing specialization you wish to pursue down the road.

    Nursing school interview questions

    Below is a short list of common nursing interview questions that you will want to prepare for. While your answers are not meant to be a novel about you and your life, you should strive to keep answers at least 2 or 3 minutes in length.

    • What personal experiences inspired you to apply for nursing school?
    • Why do you want to become a nurse?
    • What has prepared you for a career in nursing?
    • Why did you choose this program?
    • Why should we choose you over other potential candidates?
    • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
    • What are your main strengths and weaknesses?
    • How would others describe you?
    • What traits do you have that would make you a good coworker?
    • What personal qualities do you think make a good nurse?
    • Tell me about a time you had to care for someone else.
    • What do you have to offer to the field of nursing?

    The vaccination question

    Note that you may also be asked about your COVID-19 vaccination status. Previously, students were able to decline vaccinations for influenza and hepatitis B. However, the global pandemic has led some states and schools to mandate vaccinations, including the COVID-19 vaccine.

    There are many mandatory clinical requirements, from CPR training to malpractice insurance, and vaccination is now at the forefront of nursing school requirements. As a prospective student, it is incredibly important to think long and hard about your feelings on vaccination: it takes significant medical documentation to get a waiver from this potentially mandatory practice.

    Asking your own question nursing school interview questions

    During your interview, it’s also advisable for you to ask questions about the nursing program. This shows that you care and that you’re motivated to learn more about this school in particular. Some questions you could ask include:

    • What makes this program stand out from others?
    • Am I able to review recommendations/reviews from previous students?
    • What type of support do you have in place to assure student success?
    • Are there any career resources offered to help new graduates find jobs?
    • Where do your students end up working after successful completion of their boards?
    • Are you affiliated with any other schools for the pursuit of higher levels of education? Additionally, do other schools accept transfer credits from your program?

    The nursing interview essay

    You may also be asked to compose a small essay when you arrive for your interview. This essay will help assess your writing skills. Take your time and think about your answer before you start to write. Writing can demonstrate your thought processes, drives, and organizational and communication skills. Keep it simple but thoughtful and be mindful of using proper grammar and spelling. Strong communication skills and excellent documentation are key to becoming a good nurse.

    Final thoughts

    Keep in mind that interviewers are often seasoned educators with years of experience. Be prepared and confident enough in your answers to stand out in the crowd. If you simply state “I want to be a nurse to help people” you have given the same answer that makes you just one more applicant. Think deeply and truly explore what being a nurse means to you. Nursing is generally considered a higher calling – there is a reason why it has been nominated as the most trusted profession in Gallup polls for over 2 decades.

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