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How to Develop Interview Questions

Updated on April 6, 2014

As a Nurse Manager one of the most important tasks is to build a successful, dedicated team. In order to achieve this, it is important to know the right questions to ask potential candidates during the interview process and how to evaluate and compare their answers. In order for the Nurse manager to have an understanding on how a candidate would react in certain situations it is critical to find out what they have done to prior situations. It has been shown that past behavior is the best prediction for future performance (Raso, 2009).

The first task the nurse manager must accomplish is to create a list of the critical performance areas. This lays out the foundation to create open ended questions to evaluate the candidates experience in the desired area (Fernandez & Baker, 2006). A basic example would be to ask the following question: "Think of a problem with a patient, family member or colleague you had to deal with, describe the situation and tell me how you managed it." This question covers several important areas vital to successful nurses; communication and problem solving. A significant amount of a nurse's time are spent communicating with patients, families, and doctors. Professionalism and compassion are important strengths to find in candidates.

The Nurse Manager can get insight on an applicants strengths and weaknesses by asking candidates specifically how they have dealt with unanticipated and stressful situations in the past. This question gives higher quality of information than the normal question of "Tell me your strengths and weaknesses." Another important question would be "Do you have any professional affiliations?" This question helps to evaluates the candidates is motivated and committed in their profession and dedicated to stay informed.

The cost to train and orientate a nurse to a facility is high; which makes it important to find a person looking for long term employment in the facility and not just a short term job until what really want can be found. A traditional question for this would be "Where do you see yourself in the next five years?" A better question would be to put together a question about the applicant's professional interests as a nurse. Their answer should be in focus in your facilities nursing focus. Another question could be about their interest in working with the type of patients or residents that the facility serves. This questioning gauges how passionate the applicant is with working in the jobs area of specialty. Nursing requires a high level of patience, tolerance and motivation; finding out the applicants level of each is an important factor in determining job satisfaction and success.

It is just important for the nurse manager to know what questions they cannot ask potential candidates. As an employer, you cannot ask about the applicants race, gender, religion, marital status, age, disabilities, ethnic background, country of origin, sexual preferences or age due to discrimination laws. An applicant that is asked a question regarding any of these areas should try to answer to essence of the question. Such as if asked if they have a disability, the answer should be that they are able to complete the job to the required performance. The correct question to ask would be if they need any accommodations to complete the job as stated in the job description. Another example of a question you cannot ask would be to ask if you are a United States citizen. That question is discriminating against an applicants country of origin. An applicant asked that question should not answer the whether or not they are a citizen but that they are authorized to work in the United States. The correct question you may ask as an employer would be "Are you are authorized to work in the United States?"

Did you feel prepared for the questions you were asked on your last interview?

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A successful Nurse Manager is able to use interview questions to determine if the applicant is the right fit for the job. The cost for the facility in nursing turnover or legal issues involving improper questioning can be high if the Nurse Manager is not trained properly. The importance of the Nurse Manager to have the ability to create a successful team cannot be overlooked and it begins with the interviewing process.


Fernandez, C. S., & Baker, E. L. (2006, December). The Behavioral Event Interview: Avoiding Interviewing Pitfalls When Hiring. Journal of Public Health Management & Practice, 12, 590-593.

Raso, R. (2009, July). Hiring right for a healthy work environment. Nursing Management, 40(7), 53-54.


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