An interviewer in the healthcare industry will often ask you to talk about an occasion when you have displayed a particular characteristic. For example, “Tell me about a time when you displayed the following [trait].” Other questions may include the following:

  • Tell me about a time when you showed high attentiveness to patient needs. 
  • Tell me about a time when you showed strong teamwork in your last job.
  • I’d be interested to know an example of when you showed calm in a high-pressure situation. 
  • Was there a time recently when you found a creative solution to an unusual work problem?

Open-ended queries like these are known as behavioral interview questions. They are meant to shed light on your past behavior and the types of situations you’d face working at the interviewer’s organization.

How Behavioral Questions Help

Behavioral questions allow the hiring manager to go beyond your resume details and better understand how you view your own experience. But they can also make the interview more revealing and valuable to you. That’s because they indicate the facility’s work culture and qualities you’d need to thrive there. With this extra insight, you can better gauge whether the job and organization are a good fit.

Brainstorm Key Traits for the Healthcare Role

Preparation is key. Create a list of the professional traits you may be asked about during your next healthcare job interview. Some of the most commonly sought-after skills and qualities in healthcare professionals are:

  • Alertness to health changes
  • Attention to detail
  • Calm in stressful situations
  • Careful documentation
  • Continuous improvement
  • Efficiency / Promptness
  • Flexibility / Adaptability
  • Focus on patient needs
  • Overall work ethic / Integrity
  • Strong medical knowledge
  • Teamwork / Collaboration
  • Verbal communication

In many cases, you can predict the traits that may come up in each interview by referring to the following:

  • The job posting. Don’t just review the duties and requirements. Also, take a close look at any included description of the healthcare facility for insight into the values it expects staff to uphold.
  • The organization’s website. Review any main “About Us” page or “Careers” portal for more background on the facility’s mission or core principles.
  • Professional associations. Some prominent healthcare groups have published standards that now influence how employers conduct job interviews. For example, the American Nurses Association’s “Scope and Standards of Practice” has become a reference for many hospitals in clarifying the traits they seek in their nurse hires.

Develop Stories from Your Experience

Once you’ve made a list of possible job traits, you can jot down some times in your career when you’ve demonstrated them. Refer to the points on your resume for help brainstorming. Think not just in terms of your work with patients but also your work on a team of other healthcare professionals. Below are two examples of how you might speak to a particular healthcare trait:

Continuous improvement

“Recently, in my role as RN case manager, I developed newly shared documents that allowed our team to find placement options for each patient more quickly.”

If you’re struggling to come up with examples for a specific trait, don’t worry. During the interview, you can always acknowledge that while your background in that area is limited, you’d love the chance to develop it further in your next job. While this answer won’t boost your qualifications for the role, it will emphasize your overall interest in it.

Always Give a Forthright Answer

As a tricky follow-up, the hiring manager may ask you about a time when you failed to show the trait in question. For example:

  • “Can you tell me about a time when you could have shown more attention to detail?” 
  • “Was there a time when the situation was so intense that you lost your composure?” 
  • “Tell me about a time when you didn’t meet your own expectations at work.” 

This follow-up behavioral question is meant to shed light on your sense of humility, self-reflection, and willingness to learn from experiences.

You’ll be able to provide the best answer by thinking it through ahead of time. For example, maybe you overlooked a documentation requirement that resulted in miscommunication or extra work for others on your team. Give a forthright account of your error but describe what you learned from the situation and how it informs your career today. Providing an honest, detailed answer won’t undermine your candidacy. On the contrary, it can boost your chances by showing you know all too well the importance of a trait that’s central to the healthcare role you’re now pursuing.

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