Top 10 Behavioral Interview Questions to Ask Nurse Candidates

America’s healthcare workforce has been in the spotlight during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has also brought increased urgency to the nursing shortage, which began in 2012 and is expected to last until 2030.


The shortage is driven by many factors, including increased demand for healthcare around the country. The growing medical needs of America’s aging baby-boom generation are already placing unprecedented strain on the healthcare system; over a million new nurses will be needed by 2030 to meet the growing demand. In addition to newly created nursing jobs, those of nurses expected to retire or leave the profession will also need to be filled. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts 175,900 new jobs for RNs will be created every year until 2029.


ZERORISK HR has conducted hundreds of performance studies in recent years, to identify the emotional intelligence competencies found among nurses that have longer tenure in the profession and consistently high ratings for patient satisfaction. The resulting data identified empathy, social awareness, and self-awareness as the emotional intelligence competencies that distinguished top-performing nurses from average or low performers.


With these competencies in mind, here are 10 Behavioral Interview questions that you can use with your next nurse candidate to identify top nursing talent and make the best hire for your organization. Additionally, remember to utilize the STAR behavioral interview approach during your interviews with nurse candidates to make sure you make the best hiring decision.


  1. Tell me about a time when a patient’s family was dissatisfied with the care you provided. How did you resolve the situation?

  2. Tell me about a time when you had to interact with a hostile patient. How did you handle the situation and what was the outcome?

  3. Describe a time when you encountered a patient who did not communicate important health information. How did you respond, and what was the outcome?

  4. Tell me about a time when a patient or their family was particularly appreciative of your care.

  5. Describe a time when you received positive feedback about detailed healthcare information that you provided to a patient or their family.

  6. Describe a time when you anticipated problems with a patient and initiated preventative measures.

  7. Give me an example of a time when you worked in a fast-paced healthcare setting. How did you prioritize tasks while maintaining excellent patient care?

  8. Describe an experience with a very ill patient who required a lot of your time. How did you balance this patient’s care against the needs of your other patients?

  9. Describe a situation where you successfully persuaded a patient to agree to something for their benefit.

  10. What do you find most difficult about being a nurse? How have you overcome this difficulty?