Part of being a nurse means being able to stay cool under pressure, but that doesn’t mean that job interviews are a walk in the proverbial park for nurses, both new and old. As you prepare for your big day, use this guide to the most common CNA interview questions to get focused, get prepared, and get ready to ace your interview.

General Questions

Usually, the first questions you’ll field at your interview are all about you. Employers want to get a feel for your background, your interests, and why you’re sitting across from them in the first place. Here are 10 of the most common general interview questions:

Tell Us About Yourself.

chalk board

Ah, this old chestnut. Use this as an opportunity to quickly tell your backstory. You’ll definitely want to keep things brief — remember, you’re not on The Tonight Show here — but you might mention things like where you grew up, where you went to school, and your family.

Why Did You Decide To Become A CNA?

Do you have a good, personal story about your inspiration for jumping into this fast-paced, demanding field? Now’s the time to drop it. Show off your strength of character.

nurse in scrubs

Why Do You Want To Work At This Facility?

Now’s your chance to show that you’ve done your homework about your potential employer. While you don’t want to regurgitate the “About” section of the facility’s website back to your interviewer, you do want to show that you’ve put serious consideration into this prospective position. Consider adding in a specific fact or statistic that you found interesting about the facility, its mission, or its workforce.

nurse report and laptop

What Do You Think Are The Three Most Important Personality Traits For A CNA To Have?

doctor's shirt and pens

There are many traits that are fantastic for a CNA to have. Attention to detail, calmness under pressure, patience, good communication skills, and both physical and emotional strength are all near the top of the list. Ditto for being a team player and working well with others.

Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years?

nurse smiling

The best answers to this question show your commitment to the health industry, as well as to continuing to grow your knowledge and experience as a nurse as you advance your career in the medical field. The worst answers involve uncertainty, winning the Grammy for Best New Artist, or competing on TV’s Big Brother. Even if you truly don’t know where you’ll be, be clear that you don’t plan to take this job and abandon it 18 months later when something better comes along.

What Motivates You?

caregiver and patient

You already know that nursing is a stressful position. Show off your physical and emotional strength here by relaying specific factors that keep your head in the game. If a specific incident or experience inspired your career decision, such as a medical event that touched your life or that of a loved one, you might explain how that continues to motivate you 24/7.

What Are Your Strengths? How About Your Weaknesses? What Will You Bring To Our Team?

doctor's desk

Generally speaking, most nurses need a mix of the following traits to succeed: emotional and physical strength, great attention to detail, patience, solid communication skills, a strong work ethic, and the ability to stay cool, calm, and collected under pressure. As far as what you will bring, you might mention things like your specific experience, passion, enthusiasm, a team player mentality, and the occasional tray of homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Yes, that last one is optional.

Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

in the meeting room

If you’ve held a previous position as a CNA, you can expect to be answer this question. Keep your response brief and focused on the future. Maybe you left because you were looking for more opportunities for growth (and not because the pay was abysmal, and you had a 90-minute commute).

How Did You Feel About Your Previous Employer?

No matter what your relationship was like with your last boss, remember that the person with whom you’re currently speaking may be your new boss if you’re hired. If your previous employer was great, say so, and be specific about why you enjoyed collaborating with him or her. If he or she was not wonderful, be honest, but diplomatic — and keep it brief.

What’s Been Your Proudest Moment As A CNA So Far?

Now’s your chance to brag about yourself for a moment and show your passion for the field. If you have a story that shows what a team player you are, that’s the perfect tale to tell. Avoid characterizing yourself as a maverick who prefers to fly solo; nursing is a team sport.

Situational Questions

A job candidate who honestly assesses his or her strengths and weaknesses is great, but employers are keen to see how you’ll handle yourself in the trenches.

Enter the situational question. Use these queries to relay specific situations where all those strengths served you and the rest of your co-workers well. Here are five of the most common situational set-ups you might meet:

Tell Me About A Time When You Had To Deal With A Difficult Patient. What Happened And How Did You Handle It?

Difficult patients are extremely stressful. Use this question to highlight your knack for staying calm under duress, your emotional toughness, your commitment to your patients’ wellbeing, your awesomely empathetic bedside manner, and your outstanding communication skills.

Tell Me About A Time When You Were A Team Player

By now, you’ve probably noticed that being a team player is a recurring theme here. That’s because nurses rely on each other, as well as other staff, to keep everything running smoothly. The best example here is one that shows that you’re a reliable collaborator who is someone that can be counted on, as well as someone who’s humble enough to count on others.

Tell Me About A Time When You Disagreed Or Had A Conflict With Another Nurse.

Being part of a team isn’t all sunshine, puppies, and ice cream. Here, it’s a good idea to focus on explaining how you attempted to minimize drama, how you kept things professional, and how the actions you took ultimately made the situation better. Don’t pretend you’ve never had a conflict with another nurse, either. You’re human, and so is your interviewer.

Tell Me About A Time When You Had To Prioritize Several Important Tasks.

The medical field is fast-paced and tends to lob important and/or urgent tasks your way one after another like To Do list grenades. This question is all about priorities and teamwork. First, as a general rule, tasks that are both important and urgent trump everything else. After that, important tasks come before tasks that may be urgent but aren’t important. Second, this is yet another question that lets you tout your talents for teamwork. Did you delegate tasks to your co-workers? Great. Talk about how that collaboration and cooperation you kickstarted ended up benefiting all those involved.

Tell Me About A Positive Communication Experience You’ve Had With A Patient.

Your potential employer likely wants to know if you have the skills to talk with patients from diverse ages and backgrounds. A good example here would be an anecdote that shows your ability to communicate well with older patients — despite the decades, presidents, and rising cost for a gallon of milk that separate you, you radiant young whippersnapper.

Hypothetical Questions

Interviewers don’t just want to know how you’ve responded to sticky situations in your past. They also want to know how you’d handle the unknown. While you may have actually experienced some of the theoretical situations that interviewers throw your way, others may be completely foreign to you and designed to make you think quickly on your feet. Here are three of the most common hypothetical questions posed by potential employers.

What Would You Do If You Saw A Veteran Nurse Making A Mistake?

Generally speaking, unless that grizzled nurse with 30 years of experience under his or her belt is harming the patient in some way, you can wait to speak to him or her in private. Use your response to reflect the patient’s best interests first, followed by kindness and respect for your coworker.

What Would You Do If You Saw Another Staff Member Speaking To A Patient Or Family Member In A Rude Way?

patient and nurse handshake

This is a tricky one. One way to handle it would be to let the staff member finish, then speak with him or her about it in private and follow it up with someone further up the food chain if need be. The person or persons on the receiving end of his or her rudeness need to be accommodated, too, ideally with an apology from your coworker, their supervisor, or both.

What Would The Nurses You’ve Worked With In The Past Have To Say About You?

Be honest, but — obviously — paint yourself in a positive light here. This question is a chance to show off your self-awareness. Again, be specific as you reflect on your experiences with your previous coworkers and highlight your ability to be an empathetic team player that’s a downright pleasure to work with.

Questions You Can Ask

Most interviews end with you having the opportunity to ask questions and, in general, it’s a good idea to have some. Asking questions shows you came in prepared and that you’re seriously interested in the job. When you’re wrapping things up, here are seven questions you can ask your interviewer:

  • Can you describe a typical day on the job here?
  • What’s the ratio of staff members to patients?
  • Are there any opportunities for professional development or continuing education?
  • What’s orientation like?
  • What do you think are the three most important traits for a CNA to have?
  • What do you like best about working here?
  • What are the next steps in the interview process?

Asking your interviewer questions can also provide you with one final opportunity to underline the skills, experience, and outstanding qualities that set you apart from the rest. Be careful not to make the questions all about you, though. Save the discussion of things such as your salary, benefits, and vacation time for once you’re offered the position.