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How do I deal with stupid interview questions?

If you’ve been in the nursing game long enough, the same lame questions will manage to show up in interview after interview. Where do you see yourself in five years? What’s your greatest weakness? You know, the small-talk questions that fill up the time between the really important questions.

But all those seemingly meaningless questions actually have a purpose — which is why most hiring managers use them. But what are interviewers really trying to find out with these asinine questions? We’ve put together a list of the seven “stupidest” interview questions to help you discover their underlying meanings.


1. Can You Tell Me a Little About Yourself?
Why It’s Stupid: The question is entirely too general. There is no way you can cover every facet of your life and personality in the allotted interview time. There is also no way for you to tell what specifically the interviewer wants to know about you without asking them to narrow their focus, which is usually the reason for the follow-up questions.

What It Really Means: The interviewer is testing your all-important ability as a nurse to interact with others. By putting you on the spot, your answer gives the interviewer an idea of how you present yourself in a social setting and a glimpse of what you think the most important facts about yourself are.


2. What Are Your Greatest Weaknesses?

Why It’s Stupid: Let’s be real — absolutely no one is going to give an honest answer to this question. Why would you openly talk about your greatest weaknesses in front of the person who is making a hiring decision? The most common answers to this question are filled with fluff and what we think the interviewer wants to hear.

What It Really Means: The interviewer is trying to see how honest you are, as well as trying to determine if you are able to overcome obstacles. If you say that your greatest weakness is ”working too hard,” that’s not an obstacle. If you give a legitimate weakness, such as not being able to keep track of all your charts, then you can provide examples of how you have overcome that weakness and are now an expert at charting.


3. Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?
Why It’s Stupid: No one can tell where they are going to be that far into the future. Life happens. Things change — especially in nursing. Which is why this question frustrates most job interviewees. But the question also seems to set a trap, making the interviewee answer in terms of where they see themselves within that particular hospital or organization, afraid that any other answer will disprove their loyalty.

What It Really Means: No hospital or clinic expects you to swear a lifetime allegiance to them during your interview. The question is a chance for you to speak to your long-term goals, and give them a better idea of your nursing career development plan and how it could progress with the organization. It also gives you a chance to speak to your strengths and highlight the areas where you believe you’ll grow the most.


4. Why Do You Want to Work for This Hospital?

Why It’s Stupid: Most interviewees get annoyed with this question because it seems redundant. You wouldn’t be interviewing if you weren’t interested in working for that hospital, right? So it shouldn’t matter why you are interested, only that you fit the job description.

What It Really Means: The interviewer isn’t trying to gauge your interest in the position, but is more interested in your motives for applying. If you’re just looking for a paycheck, that makes it easier for the interviewer to go with a more ambitious applicant who is excited about their specific nursing opportunity. If you’re applying to escape your current nursing job, what’s to say you won’t be miserable with this hospital staff? It’s a way for the interviewer to weed out those interviewing for the wrong reasons.


5. What Are Your Hobbies?

Why It’s Stupid: On the surface, it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with a nursing career. What does fly fishing have to do with pediatric care? Or running have to do with gerontology? The question seems to cross a line between work and pleasure that the interviewee doesn’t understand.

What It Really Means: The interviewer isn’t trying to pry into your personal life. They are just trying to get a more complete picture of what kind of person you are. How you spend your free time can speak to what kind of nurse you are. People who have more crowd-friendly interests outside of work might be better suited for a position that deals more with patients. It also gives them an idea of how you prioritize your life, and where your job will fit in.


6. How Would Your Co-Workers Describe You?

Why It’s Stupid: You’re obviously not privy to your fellow nurses’ inner thoughts and feelings. And even if you do know how they feel, of course you’re going to pad the truth to make yourself sound better. In most cases, the interviewer will never speak to most of your former co-workers in the first place, so what’s the harm in embellishing?

What It Really Means: The interviewer isn’t interested in your little white lies; they’re trying to see how you think others view you. Even if you are stretching the truth, your answer will give the interviewer an idea of how you view yourself and what you believe are your most important attributes. Considering you are discussing what others think about you, it can also be a modesty test, separating nurses who are embarrassed about themselves from those who won’t shut up about how great they are.


7. Why Do You Want to Leave Your Current Nursing Job?
Why It’s Stupid: It seems like a simple question. It’s obvious you want to leave your current nursing job cause you are unhappy; otherwise, you wouldn’t be looking for another job. If you’re qualified and ready to join the staff, what does it matter why you’re parting ways with your previous employer?

What It Really Means: The interviewer wants to make sure the same situation that made you want to quit your last job doesn’t happen in this one. If you don’t see eye-to-eye with your current head nurse (or whoever your boss is), they may think you’re a problem employee. Or if you felt like you weren’t progressing, they can make sure that you are constantly challenged in order to keep you around. It’s best to focus on how your previous job didn’t fulfill your career goals and explain how this new position can help you grow in the nursing field.

Heard any other stupid interview questions?

Related Reads:

How to handle medical issues in an interview

Six must-ask interview questions

Non-verbal communication: Escape the pitfalls

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One Response to How do I deal with stupid interview questions?

  1. Nic

    Most questions like that, I accept as part of the interview process, in the same way I accept that socialising with irritating relatives is part of celebrating Christmas. I’m lucky in that I’ve never had any truly moronic questions, the kind that leaves you wondering if you’ve slipped into a parallel universe where the rules on what makes sense are rather different. My sister, on the other hand, had this little beauty during her graduate jobs hunt:

    “What character from Friends would you be?”

    She had never watched Friends (still hasn’t) and could barely even tell you the premise (still can’t). However much an interviewer might try to justify that kind of question by saying that it gives an insight into the candidate’s personality, the only insight this particular interviewer got into my sister was that she doesn’t like people making assumptions about her.

    Asking which animal/vegetable/mineral someone would be is bad enough. Assuming that everyone in the world has watched a certain film or series is patronising at best and moronic at worst.