5 Common Nursing ICU Interview Questions
Critical care nurses are in demand, as are nurses in many other nurse specialties.
“The pandemic has made this into a buyers’ market, with candidates aware that they have many options of where to work,” said Katie Schatz, MSN, ARNP, ACHPN, a member of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses’ (AACN) board of directors, who has served in a number of management and leadership roles in her career.
When you’re contemplating a nursing job change, however, you still need to be the best job candidate you can be. And it’s always wise to spend some time preparing for interviews. You might even persuade a colleague to video you while you practice for your interview so you can see for yourself if you’re putting your best self forward, suggested Beverly Malone, PhD, RN, president and CEO of the National League for Nursing (NLN).
To help you prepare, Schatz and Malone offer some insights and tips on answering five questions that you are likely to encounter when interviewing for an ICU nursing job.
How to Answer 5 Common ICU Nurse Interview Questions
1. What are you looking for when it comes to organizational culture?
The interviewer may be interested in the type of organizational culture that most appeals to you, as well as how you might fit into theirs. Remember: buyers’ market.
“I ask what they are looking for in a manager and unit culture,” said Schatz. “I keep in mind that the interview is a two-way street, and that they are seeing if we are a good fit for them, too. If I am impressed with a candidate, I am going to make that clear in the interview and make sure they have a way to contact me directly with any needs.”
Schatz noted that she also likes to offer scenarios for nurses to respond to in order to help her better assess the potential fit with her organization.
2. What experience do you have that makes you the right person for this job?
The manager should have a copy of your resume, which includes information about your education, credentials, and work history. But most interviewers want to hear from you and why you think you’re the right ICU nurse for the job. You should be prepared to discuss your critical care and life support skills, including your expertise with procedures such as inserting a central line and administering medications.
“One of the top things I look for in experienced nurses is to see if they are certified, such as having a progressive care certification (PCCN) or critical care certification (CCRN),” said Schatz. “This shows me a little more about their dedication to advancing their knowledge to provide the best patient care.”
3. How do you handle a high-stress environment?
The intensive care unit—or any critical care setting—is by nature a high-stress environment. And in the COVID-19 era, it’s become even more intense. So, an employer may want to know how you cope with that kind of stress and manage the impact on your mental and physical health.
“I always ask how they handle stress and what they do to ‘fill their bucket’ and have work–life balance,” said Schatz.
After answering, Malone suggested nurses might want to turn the question around to the interviewer and ask what support systems they have in place to help you survive and thrive in such an environment. “I would want to hear things like, ‘We have an employee assistance program, we have mental health supports, we take care of our people, we have some time outs for you,’” she said.
4. How do you contribute as a member of a team?
Critical care nurses are part of a team where everyone plays a crucial role in patient care. They’re advocates for patients who may not be able to advocate for themselves. Nurse managers and hiring managers will want to make sure you’re a team player, so it helps to have some real-life examples ready to speak about when asked this question.
In fact, you might get to speak to some members of the team during your interview, so be prepared for that, as well. “I have found it helpful to have staff nurses also interview a candidate after I have done the initial interview,” said Schatz. “Sometimes, interviews with a potential co-worker go very differently than they did with me.”
5. Why did you leave your last job?
You may not want to specify the exact reason that you quit a previous job—or why you’re participating in an ICU nurse interview right now—and that’s fine. If you’re worried about sounding negative or burning any bridges, you can take the opportunity posed by this question and show the interviewer that you care about this opportunity.
“I think you can say, ‘I’m ready for a new experience. I’m looking forward to another experience, a different setting,’” said Malone. “You can say, ‘I’m excited about the possibility of working here. I like what you offer.’”
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