Nurse’s Guide to Behavioral Interviewing, Part 1 (Nursing Job Interview Skills Series)

Nurse’s Guide to Behavioral Interviewing, Part 1 (Nursing Job Interview Skills Series)

Why It’s Used and What Interviewers Are Looking For

Whether it’s been a few years or well over a decade, interviewing for a new position can be stressful. Inside the nursing world, behavioral interviewing is universally accepted as the primary way to interview. According to Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.the premise behind behavioral interviewing is that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in similar situations. Behavioral interviewing, in fact, is said to be 55 percent predictive of future on-the-job behavior, while traditional interviewing is only 10 percent predictive. As a graduate nurse you probably have dealt with behavioral interviewing at some point already, but with an advanced degree come higher expectations and a greater level of competition.


Traditional Interviewing Versus Behavioral Interviewing

Whereas traditional interviewing focused more on you selling yourself, behavioral interviewing tries to examine your past behavior as an indicator of how you will perform in the future. Traditional interviewing focuses on your strengths and weaknesses, interest in the job, and career aspirations, while behavioral interviewing usually includes those elements but focuses more time and energy on asking specific questions relating to functions of the position being applied for. For instance, if you were applying for a leadership position, questions you might be asked could be about:

  • Effective communication
  • Problem solving
  • Change management
  • Professionalism
  • Employee management
  • Conflict resolution
  • Organizational skills


Understanding the Questions

The questions being asked will likely be very general and not necessarily nursing-specific. That doesn’t mean the questions are not looking for nursing-related examples, but if you have specific examples from your nursing career, they should top your list of responses. Take this question, for example:

“Tell me about a time when you’ve experienced conflict in the work setting. How did you resolve the issue?”

From the beginning, you realize this question is focused on a particular conflict. Now the question is seeking to determine how you successfully resolved this issue. The category of this question could be something along the lines of “conflict resolution.” The categories will often be given to you during the interview so you don’t have to worry about determining them beforehand. Notice how this question is specifically in the work setting? So the question is very broad to start but gets a little more narrow.


Understanding the Answer

Now that you have really understood the question, we can better determine what type of answer the interviewers are looking for. Really, there are a few particular elements they are looking for you to address in your response. An easy way to remember these elements is through the SHARE acronym: situation, hindrances, action, results, evaluate. (More on the SHARE model later.) In one form or another, all of these elements should be addressed, likely in that particular order. You must be as specific as possible! Vague answers to behavioral questions will lead to a failed answer and make you look bad.


Be Specific

The interviewers don’t want to hear what you would have done or could have done. They want an example of what you actually did. The interviewers are operating under the assumption that your past experience will be the best indicator for your future behavior. So if you don’t give them any past experience, they have no confidence that you will be able to properly handle a situation like the one about which they asked. The question asked was directly related to the one facet of the position being interviewed for. So in short, your inability to answer their question with a specific example with the SHARE model, or another like it, tells them there is a good chance you will not do well with that part of the job.

Contrary to a vague answer that skirts around the question is a relevant, specific, hard example of how you dealt with a difficult situation that arose in your workplace. A fantastic answer is one that is pointed and clearly defines each aspect of the SHARE model. Obviously, a situation that you use should be one that led to a successful outcome or resolution. If not, you will need to turn it into a learning experience. Giving them a concrete example shows them that you have not only experienced situations similar to those that will be needed for the job and that you have properly addressed those situations but also that your actions led to successful outcomes.

Understanding what the interviewers are looking for will help you to give them exactly what they want, thus leading to an awesome interview and giving you the best chance for a job offer. Behavioral interviewing is almost universally practiced within nursing, so as a graduate nurse, you must be proficient at it. The next article will dive deep into the SHARE model and demonstrate how to prepare for a behavioral interview.