One of the most common (and dreaded) interview questions that nurses will face in their interview will be about their nursing strengths and weaknesses. But how are you supposed to answer?
We’re going to share some tips on how to use the STAR method to answer tough interview questions and provide real examples of how you can answer these questions in your upcoming interview.
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How to Use the STAR Method to Answer Interview Questions
The STAR method is a simple framework that you can use as a template to answer any behavioral interview question by highlighting the situation, task, action, and result. This helps you to describe the situation you found yourself in, detail the result, and to keep the answer succinct and without any extra fluff.
- Situation: What was the situation you’re referring to? Who was involved, when and where did it happen, and why did it happen?
- Task: What role were you supposed to play in the situation? What tasks were you assigned to do?
- Action: What did you do in the situation?
- Result: What was the end result of the action? What concrete details were accomplished?
How to Answer Greatest Strength in a Nursing Interview
What the Interviewer Wants to Know
The interviewer wants to know that you have strengths that match the role. Their goal is to find the candidate who will excel in the position and work well with the team. Chances are, you already know that you have specific strengths related to this position. So identify them!
Make sure that each strength is relevant to the job. The interviewer should be able to connect how this skill or accomplishment will transfer to the new role.
Narrow down a few strengths ahead of time.
Keep a few specific strengths in mind right from the get go and practice answering them ahead of the interview. That way, you can organically choose whichever is best based on the flow of conversation.
There are transferable skills like communication or problem solving, knowledge-based strengths like technical knowhow or other languages, and personal traits like trustworthiness and keeping calm under pressure.
When discussing strengths, utilize how you’ve applied them in past roles using the STAR method.
It’s good to have a clear and specific example of your strengths. But even better is to explain how you’ve demonstrated those strengths in the workplace. Prepare a few anecdotes that illustrate what you’ve accomplished in past roles, and how those accomplishments impact your readiness for this current position.
Examples of Strengths in a Nursing Interview
I tend to do my best work as part of a team. It’s important to me to communicate with my teammates and make sure we’re all making the most of our strengths.
During my last job, I worked with chronically ill and elderly patients. They often have multiple practitioners and specialists all working together.
I was able to create a method of notating medication and other therapies that would be immediately clear to other team members. In one instance, I coordinated between a patient’s rheumatologist and neurologist to help determine the best treatment.
During a clinical rotation while in nursing school, I noticed that a classmate felt overwhelmed with their assigned patient. The patient I was assigned did not require much from me, so I was able to multitask and assist my classmate with some patient care.
Why This Works: This shows that you understand the importance of working together and streamlining communication. It also shows that you had a proactive role in your patients’ care.
Good time management begins with punctuality. Being punctual. Below are examples of time management answers and why they work in an interview:
I do my best to put every second of my time to good use. I’m on my feet for most of my shift, and there’s never any shortage of things to do.
At one point, my boss needed to digitize a huge number of paper-based client files. These had to be handled carefully for HIPAA compliance, and we didn’t have a data entry technician.
I managed to type the files up during the brief downtime between appointments over about six weeks. Without that, we would never have been able to preserve those files properly.
While in nursing school, I would always arrive the hospital 15 minutes prior to the scheduled shift. This would allow me time to gather all of my patient data, write down my plan for the day, and be better prepared for when the shift began.
Why This Works: This shows that you have a good understanding of the most productive ways to use your time. It also shows that you can work steadily on long projects without tiring.
Empathetic Patient Care
I care a lot about showing compassion to my patients and preserving their dignity. My grandmother was in and out of the hospital often before her death, and she’d talk about how uncomfortable it was when her legs got cold.
I think of her with each patient. So I’ll ask them whether they want a warm blanket, a cup of water, or the lights to be dimmed. I’ll let them know that they can use their call button whenever they’re uncomfortable, and that I’m here to support them as they get better.
Why This Works: This shows that you have a personal investment in the wellbeing of your patients. It also gives concrete examples of ways that you improve their quality of life.
Good communication also involves communicating if you are unsure of something. Not always will you know the answer to questions that are asked, or even new advances in medicine; however, communicating the need to be educated will help to limit errors and prioritize patient safety.
Here are some examples you can use for good communication:
Communication is one of the most important things to me. I want to make sure that I’m on the same page as my colleagues, supervisors, and patients.
At one point, one of my patients said that the sheets were causing discomfort. After about forty-five minutes went by, he was still itching. So I asked for details about what the discomfort felt like.
That turned out to be a good call – he was having a minor but worsening reaction to his IV medication. I needed to call the doctor in right away, and I might never have discovered the cause if I hadn’t asked him questions.
Why This Works: This shows that you understand how important it is to pay attention to your patients. It also demonstrates how you used questions to communicate when the patient didn’t have the vocabulary to explain.
Eagerness to Learn
I love to learn more while I’m on the job. I’m fascinated by the different medical equipment, protocols, and patient histories. But I find that I learn the most from my patients instead of from books.
Once I had a patient who was almost entirely nonverbal, but he could use sign language. He was under my care for about two weeks. During that time, he taught me enough sign language to have a basic conversation, and I kept learning after that! I love how different patient experiences can totally change my whole worldview.
Why This Works: This demonstrates that you enjoy learning for the sake of learning. Though you initially learned sign language for your patient, you kept up your studies simply because of your curiosity and enjoyment.
How to Give a Weakness for Nursing Interview
Choose a weakness that doesn’t stop you from being a great nurse.
The weakness shouldn’t be something that increases liability, decreases the quality of patient care, or actively harms your ability to take on this role. Make sure that whatever weakness you choose, it’s something that you can improve upon. You can browse this list of weaknesses examples from Indeed for additional inspiration.
Be honest with your weakness and avoid cliches.
Oftentimes, people will advise you to use weaknesses that are secret strengths. Things like, “I care too much,” or, “I’m too good at paying attention.” But that’s not a good way to ‘hack’ the question.
It’s better to honestly present a weakness that you’re working on. Don’t self-flagellate, but have a realistic idea of where you can improve.
Explain how you are working to improve this weakness.
Give concrete examples of what you’re doing to improve. For example, a lack of clinical experience can be solved with extra clinical experience and study. If you procrastinate, talk about setting time management schedules and breaking down your work into manageable pieces.
Demonstrate how you have relied on others or resources you’ve used to improve.
This is a key opportunity to show that you’re both resourceful and a team player. Talk about how you’ve reached out for help or done extra work in the past.
Maybe you’ve used organizational resources. Maybe you have study cheat sheets to remember things quickly. Maybe you’ve asked other team members to hold you accountable when trying to break a bad habit.
All of these things show that you’re willing to accept assistance when you need it, and you’re not too stubborn to fix your mistakes.
Possible Nursing Weaknesses Example Options:
- Having trouble prioritizing
- Getting bogged down in the details
- Being too self-critical
- Lack of clinical experience
- Procrastination with paperwork
Examples of Weaknesses in a Nursing Interview
1. It’s Hard to Say No
I think my biggest weakness is probably that it can be hard for me to say no. I love to be as helpful as I can and to take care of those around me, whether they’re colleagues or friends. Sometimes this causes me to overcommit myself.
I’ve been practicing setting limits and being aware of my own energy levels. When I’m too swamped with work, I try to respond to requests with, “I can’t do that right now, but I can find you someone else to help.”
Why This Works: This shows that you are hardworking and willing to take on more than a role specifically requires. At the same time, you’re demonstrating self-awareness and a concrete solution to the problem.
2. I Sometimes Get Disorganized
I think my biggest weakness is that I can sometimes be disorganized. I’m very focused on the here and now, and I don’t always think about organizing for later. Plus it’s hard to put everything away neatly when I’m studying it.
I’ve been combating this by giving everything a specific space in my bags, shelves, desk, and so on. On the digital side, I’ve gotten into the habit of naming every file descriptively with the date it was created.
Why This Works: Lack of organization is a common weakness, and it can make it difficult to find things or to work efficiently. But your solutions show that you’ve identified the root of the issue and are working on fixing it.
If you find yourself disorganized, consider our digital nursing student planner that will help you to keep track of your goals, habits, and classes.
3. I’m Too Self-Critical
My biggest weakness is probably that I’m too critical of myself.
I want to do the best I can, but sometimes that falls short of perfect. I’m really hard on myself when I’m not perfect and can be too critical, especially with my conversations with patients. Sometimes when a conversation with a patient does not go as planned, I rack my brain on how I should have responded. It can have a big effect on my mood and confidence.
But I’m learning to take mistakes in stride and consider better ways to respond to patients and be there for them when they are anxious or concerned. I think of them as an opportunity to learn and grow and be the supportive nurse I’ve always wanted to be.
Why This Works: You’re showing that you care about the quality of your work, and you can recognize when you’re not perfect. From there, you’re explaining how you use your mistakes to improve your performance instead of freezing up or getting upset.
4. It’s Hard to Delegate
My biggest weakness is that it’s hard for me to delegate.
Sometimes I have such a clear idea of exactly what needs to happen and how it should be done. It’s not always easy for me to trust that other people will do those things correctly. So I end up doing far more of the project than I should, and I get stressed because I’m overtaxed.
But I know that I need to trust in my team members. They all got their jobs by being competent and skilled. I’ve been working on giving other people more of the time-consuming tasks that destroy my schedule. So far, they’ve all done very well!
Why This Works: You’re demonstrating that you care about doing your work well, and that you have a good sense of project management. At the same time, you’re showing that you trust your colleagues and can recognize your own control issues.
5. Difficulty multitasking
I often times find it difficult to juggle multiple tasks at once. I find myself becoming overwhelmed with all that is required at one time. What I have found is that when I plan and write down each task that is to be accomplished, that serves as my checklist of things to do and it is very helpful.
Why this works: This shows that you are willing to learn how to manage different task, which is essential to time management and effective nursing care.
6. I lack some clinical experience
While in nursing school, we did not have much exposure at IV insertions. When the opportunity was presented during a laboratory experience, I would take advantage of it due to the lack of exposure in the clinical setting.
Why this works: This shows that although you did not have exposure, you were willing to learn to becoming more competent in your skill set.
7. I’m a former procrastinator
I have been known to be a procrastinator. I attempted to continue to procrastinate while in nursing school, and I learned that I would always be behind if I waited until the last minute to complete tasks.
Why this works: This shows that although proscratination was a weakness, that you have learned from your mistakes, which will be necessary for successful nursing practice.
8. I’m sometimes doubtful
Sometimes, I overthink what is clearly evident. I have learned to pay attention to detail, but do not overthink, because it becomes a form of second-guessing the situation.
Why this works: It shows that you care about detail, but you also do not want to make a mistake in second-guessing your actions and/or thoughts.
Nurse Interviewing Tips Key Takeaways
Your Attitude Matters Most
Your attitude is more important than your actual strengths and weaknesses. You want to show that you’re competent, open to criticism, and able to grow. Both your strengths and weaknesses should demonstrate how well you can adapt to this position. Get inspired and challenge any negative thought patterns with these 20 positive nurse affirmations.
Don’t make up an answer! You don’t want to use irrelevant strengths or dealbreaker weaknesses, but there should be truth in your response. It’s good to have a realistic sense of where you excel and where you can improve.
Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
It’s easy to beat yourself up or to over exaggerate your weaknesses. Similarly, you might be tempted to downplay your strengths. Don’t! Practice confidently owning your accomplishments and realistically addressing your weak points.
Don’t let lack of clinical experience hold you back from applying for the job
Often times, students feel as though they are not qualified for certain nursing roles because they have not been employed in the clinical area. They may not include their in-school clinical experience on their resume because they feel like the experience did not qualify as work experience.
Danielle Baker, Assistant Director of Nursing-ADN Program, says that when she is interviewing nursing students, “I try to get them to realize that they have been exposed to various clinical experiences and they need to use those to support what they know! It may help them to get the job!”
Practice Makes Perfect
You should prepare answers before the interview. It helps to do mock interviews beforehand. The more you run through your answers, the smoother they’ll be.
Interviewers ask about nursing strengths and weaknesses to get a sense of how well you fit the role. You can use both sides of the nursing interview questions and answers to illustrate your adaptability. Good luck on your upcoming nursing interview!