The nursing school interview question “tell me about yourself” is just one of many possible questions you will be asked, so, it’s recommended that you prepare your response ahead of time! are designed to showcase your ability to construct a genuine, thoughtful response to even the vaguest questions. Your interviewer wants to learn about you, and hear what qualities you have that could make you a great candidate for their program.
The "tell me about yourself" interview question is one of the most common and important that you'll be asked during your nursing school interview. And although it may sound like a simple question, many students feel that it also can be one of the hardest to answer. But, if you’re prepared with the right information, it doesn’t have to be! Understanding why interviews ask prospective students this question, and how to best structure your answer will help ensure you highlight your strengths, provide a concise and practical answer, and stand out among other candidates.
Congratulations, you’ve made it to your nursing interview! You’re likely both excited and nervous, but you’re prepared because you’ve practiced your responses to potential questions.
Although they may ask you any initial question, oftentimes the first thing the interviewer may say to you is: "Tell me about yourself!"
First, it’s important that you do not mistake the vagueness of this question for being casual. Your interview has begun, and this open-ended question requires a unique and well thought out response. However, don’t stress—your response requires authenticity, and, there is essentially no wrong answer. But, there are ways to respond to this prompt that are far better than others!
When interviews ask you to tell them about yourself, they are hoping to gain insight into some of your values, passions, beliefs, to learn a bit about your unique story and path, and to see how well you can construct an answer to a truly limitless question within 2-3 minutes.
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The question "tell me about yourself" is a popular one in nursing interviews, and it usually precedes the question, “ It's an important question, requiring a thoughtful response, that is intended to help the interviews gain an authentic sense of who the candidate is, and who they will be as a nursing professional.
Nursing is a profession that requires excellent communication skills, patience, dedication, passion, and empathy. While this may sound obvious, it’s important to realize just how many patients and difficult situations nurses work with daily, and how they must carry themselves with strength and professionalism, and act with empathy, no matter what the situation is. Your interviewer isn’t looking to hear a list of your academic accomplishments or the details of every summer job you’ve had thus far, so don’t recite your nursing school application resume or CV, and they also aren’t looking to hear your life’s history in chronological order. Instead, they are hoping to hear a genuine story about how you came to be in an interview for nursing. They want to hear a bit of your personal background—perhaps some information about your family, if relevant. They want to know a bit about a fascinating hobby or interest of yours and a bit of detail about something you’ve done academically. And, they want to know about the values, qualities and traits you have that will one day make you a fantastic nurse. All this you must combine into a captivating story of who you are and why you are at this interview.
As we noted, this question is vague and open-ended. It may catch people off guard, and it is meant to, so it elicits a genuine response. If candidates aren't prepared, provide limited information, have nothing to say, or overshare about irrelevant information, it may seem as though they are unsure or not confident with who they truly are, and that they may not be able to exhibit the traits that are required/recommended for nurses to have, such as resiliency, compassion and empathy. Additionally, this answering this question well is a way for you to take control of the conversation! The information you provide, and how you tell your story may become the roadmap of the rest of your interview.
It may feel a bit intimidating to have to structure such a personal question in a professional way, but it doesn’t have to. Knowing what narrative(s) you want to share, why they are relevant, and how you want to share them, is the best way to structure your response ahead of time.
Begin with a few details about who you are
Start with the most important information. Don’t overthink it, but don’t be too vague! Share your name, where you’re from and an important fact or two about what makes you, uniquely you.
For example, instead of saying, “My name is Jane Doe, I’m from New York, I live with my dad. I’m a good student and I’m excited to be a nurse one day.” You should consider saying something like, “My name is Jane Doe. I’m from New York City! I grew up on the west side and was raised by my dad, who is a dedicated pediatric nurse at one of Manhattan’s biggest hospitals. It is because of him, and other members of my amazing community, that I am the motivated and compassionate woman I am today.”
The second response not only tells the interviewer your most basic information, but gives them a bit of a glimpse into your family life and values, how you perceive your community, and what/who has motivated you to pursue nursing.
Mention any relevant passions, jobs and hobbies that speak to your values and character
These should be current interests, hobbies, passions or jobs, or, ones that you have had throughout your life that have been impactful on you!
It’s best to ensure that you incorporate some information that showcases your character, qualities and traits throughout your response. For example, instead of saying, “I’ve played soccer for ten years and I’ll be a coach this summer”, consider, “Starting soccer ten years ago really brought me out of my shell and showed me all that a team can accomplish when they work together, utilize each individual’s strength to balance out any weakness, and support one another. Last year, I was co-captain of my team, and this summer I’ll be coaching little league. I’m excited to inspire all of the younger players!” With the second response, your interview will not only know that you love to play and coach soccer, but that it helped you evolve into the leader you are today, and showed you the value of teamwork…which is important is nursing!
Tell an important story
Use a personal story or two about a time when you demonstrated the qualities that would make you a good nurse. These could be experiences where you were able to exhibit your work ethic, personality traits, passion for health care, or compassion for others.
Your answer has the potential to cover many bases if it’s structured well; remember, this is a story! For example, if one important experience you had as a teen changed you as a person, tested your empathy and resiliency for the first time, encouraged you to be the leader you are today, and motivated you to exceed expectations at your current academic institution, then it should definitely be included.
Because this is a narrative, it should have a clear beginning, middle (climax) and conclusion. That is why starting out with an introduction that gives a bit of background information about you, followed by a climax, that is, the details of some events, problems or major moments in your life, and finally, some details about how the experiences led you to be where you are today and what your goal is (resolution and conclusion).
Consider the STAR method to stay on track
If you’re still unsure how to structure your response and are worried you may trail off or include irrelevant details, you can use the STAR method.
The STAR method is: Specific Situation, Task, Action, Result.
Less is more, and your response should be detailed, but brief, so be sure to practice your answer keeping the STAR method in mind if you’re worried you’ll talk too much or skip relevant details. It’s important that your response flows well and that you don’t jump back and forth throughout your timeline. This can be hard to follow and may feel confusing to the interviewer.
When giving a response to this question, it is important that you don’t reiterate too much information that is already available to the admissions team. For example, your grades that are visible on your transcript, or other information found on your , , or your . It’s definitely okay to reference this information if it’s relevant to the points you’ll bring up in your response, but don’t make it the sole focus!
Your response should include a few details of your education, personal development and history, or work experience, and you should also talk about your hobbies and interests. You might want to mention any volunteer work you have done in the recent past. For example, if one of your favorite hobbies outside of work and school is helping out at an animal shelter, or reading to children at a hospital, be sure not to gloss over that point! Emphasize your passions, strengths, and good qualities by providing examples of them.
You should also consider including some details about yourself that are unique and special in order to set yourself apart from other candidates. While you don’t want to boast, it’s imperative that you show that you’re confident in your own abilities and traits. This will show the interviewer what makes you stand out as someone who would make a good nursing candidate.
Finally, make sure that everything in your response shows why you are right for nursing school as opposed to any other applicant! If you truly had a ground-breaking moment, or an epiphany, as the result of an experience, share this with your interviewer.
You should not mention any stories that are negative and do not have a positive twist. For example, if your grandmother’s battle with cancer, or even your own experience with illness, prompted you to pursue nursing and motivated you to become a dedicated volunteer in your community, that is a perfectly acceptable experience to detail, as long as you make the resolution the key portion and point of the story. However, if you find you are listing off grim details or life stories that are triggering, don’t have a clear resolution or connection to your program, it’s best to leave them out.
In addition to this, any other details (even if positive) that aren’t relevant to nursing should be left out. Your interviewer does not care to know what your favorite food is, that you can do a backflip, or that you won a drama award in high school. Unless there are details of each point that directly tie into nursing, or contribute to your traits and abilities, leave it out!
“My name is John Doe, I’m from a small town originally, but I currently live in Toronto. I was raised on a farm where my three siblings and I worked hard everyday to learn how to complete our chores and tasks. I liked school and did well academically, I’ve always welcomed challenges and new experiences. I learned how to prioritize tasks, as well as perform basic first aid, by the age of five! This is because I was taught about the importance of efficiency and multitasking as I balanced farm duties, homework and leisure daily, and, I was exposed to minor injuries a lot. I’ve always been unphased by cuts, scrapes and fractures and understood the importance of treating them well, and comforting the injured.
In my downtime growing up, when I wasn’t outdoors, I enjoyed writing stories, particularly my own fan-fiction versiosn of shows like House and Grey’s Anatomy, where I was a part of the team! I’m definitely more left-brained, however, I always found medical content to be particularly interesting if I was able to be creative and put my own spin on the plot! That’s probably because I was used to witnessing humans and animals requiring care all around me, it was just an inevitable part of our farm life, but it was always exciting to me.
I have lived in Toronto for four years now and I love it! I’m still very close with my family and we support each other from a distance. It was actually my younger sister’s battle with a chronic condition that began when I moved here that led me to become outspoken about the patient experience. Because of her, I confidently advocate for patients and believe in improving the medical experience of others like my sister. Her journey and strength have opened my eyes and inspired me over time. I navigated a lot of her treatment plan with her recently and it piqued my interest in learning more about chronic pain management. That’s why I began volunteering at the local Pain Clinic. I have enjoyed learning from both patients and professionals during my six months of recent volunteer work, and I’m excited to learn more! When I’m not volunteering or working toward graduating with honors, I enjoy running in marathons for charity, and exploring different neighborhoods in the city…I’m still an outdoorsy farm kid at heart!
I always knew I had an interest in health care and that I wanted to work with people. I’m social and energetic by nature, but I’m also empathetic. My compassion has evolved due to watching my sister fight her illness—and persevere— and because I’ve been lucky enough to get to know several amazing patients when I volunteer weekly at the Pain Clinic.
I decided that becoming a nurse in a major city was my dream a few years ago. When I first moved to Toronto, I actually worked as a receptionist for a Veterinarian! I’m very comfortable around animals, and I was told I took direction extremely well and was very composed during tough situations…but I always found myself more driven to connect with the people at the clinic. I know that, as a future nurse, I’ll be able to provide professional care and comfort to each of my patients. I will advocate for them and respect them, and if I can, help make their difficult day a bit brighter. That would make me feel very fulfilled.”
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What makes this answer good?
John’s response is conversational and natural, yet professional. If he speaks calmly and at a reasonable pace, it will take him no longer than 3-4 minutes to tell his story. His response is brief, but detailed. Upon hearing it, the interviewer will understand that John comes from a supportive family, whom he values. It is evident that he also values hard work and is dedicated to any task he tackles. From this response, the interviewer will know that John is somebody who loves all living creatures and exhibits a lot of compassion toward them, and that John has been interested in (and exposed to) medical and health care related situations through both lived experiences and television since he was a child. It is clear that John is comfortable advocating for patients and eager to help, as he cares greatly about his sister and she inspired him to volunteer his free time to learn more and raise awareness for chronic diseases and pain. John has lived in both rural and urban settings, so it’s fair for the interviewer to assume that he’ll be able to collaborate well with a variety of different people. It is clear that John is outgoing, curious and energetic, yet also professional and compassionate. Based on what he has shared, he is interested in ongoing learning, and a good student and employee. He values and is grateful for his learning experiences, family, active lifestyle, connections made within his volunteer community and it is clear that he is an empathetic, caring person who would make an excellent candidate for nursing school.
1. Why is “tell me about yourself” a question that is regularly asked?
It may seem vague or too open-ended, but that is the point of this question! It’s a popular question for nursing school candidates because interviewers are looking to see your honest and thoughtful response. They want to learn more about you, and they want to ensure that you know exactly who you are, and what qualities and experiences you feel are worth mentioning.
2. Is there a wrong way of answering this question?
While there is technically no wrong answer to “tell me about yourself” (after all, only you know who you truly are!), there are indeed ‘wrong’ ways to answer this question in a nursing school interview.
If you provide details that are irrelevant, or tell a story that is difficult to follow, you may lose the interest of the interview and appear unprofessional or nervous. Oversharing or rambling is not advised, nor is sharing too little. If you come across as scattered or unfocused, or, too shy and lacking the confidence to share, the interviewer may feel that you’re inadequate for nursing, which is a very patient-focused, fast paced job that requires a confident, composed person to fill the role!
3. How should I structure my response?
Firstly, think of your response as a short story about you. Start at the beginning—detail who you are and a bit about your past or family and where you’re from. This is where you can establish your identity…you are the main character of this short narrative!
Then, the middle of your story should involve a climax of some sort. Whether you detail one major event that taught you many things and led you down your current career path, or touch on a few details of your life that collectively made you who you are today, there should be a point to what you are saying. If a detail doesn’t directly relate to nursing or one of your clear values or traits, then scrap it!
A conclusion can sometimes feel difficult, as this isn’t a written story. It’s best to wrap up with where you are today (applying to nursing school) and perhaps mention why you’re excited to move forward with your education and career, or, state a goal that you’re hoping to accomplish.
4. What if I forget a detail or stumble?
If you make a mistake, or forget a detail, it’s best to keep going! Your interviewer sees plenty of nervous students.
If you can tie your missed detail into your story at a later point in a way that feels natural, go for it…but it’s best to not say something like, “Oh, I forgot to mention my experience rescuing my pet dog earlier, but, it was a big moment for me”, because that may make you look scattered!
Remember, this is your story, and it should all be true! Don’t overthink your response, this is a vague question, but it doesn’t have to be a difficult one. Practice what you are going to share several times prior to your interview, and tell your story with confidence.
5. I don’t have an interesting backstory, what should I talk about?
Nursing school requires confidence, and your interviewer wants to know what is authentic and interesting about you! They are not expecting incredible stories or a list of accomplishments, so, pick a few key moments in your life, or qualities that you possess, and use the STAR method (The STAR method is: Specific Situation, Task, Action, Result) to construct a solid response.
We highly recommend that you review your program’s website and understand their core values, mission and purpose. For example, if they value dedicated students who are innately empathetic and motivated, you should incorporate these qualities and words into your response, or, tell a story that clearly details how empathetic you naturally are.
6. Can I talk about my academic accomplishments?
You can definitely touch on your academic accomplishments, or goals, but you should not make this the base of your response! “Tell me about yourself” means that the interviewer wants to learn about what makes you, YOU. Your grades and awards are not your entire identity, and if they are, your interviewer may be concerned that you don’t know what your own personal qualities, strengths or traits are.
Rather than listing off your achievements, select one or two points that you are proud of, perhaps your 4.0 GPA or the award you won last year, and incorporate them into your story whenever you bring up your education or love of learning!
7. How long should my response be?
Your response should take you no longer than 2-3 minutes to say aloud.
Ideally, you will speak at a steady, conversational pace, pause where needed, and tell your story calmly. Time yourself when you practice at home, and ask a friend or family member to time you and listen to you as you practice! They can help provide feedback if you are speaking too quickly, for example. Alternatively, you may opt to record yourself as you practice instead.
8. What other help is available for me to prepare for nursing school?
If you’re looking for consulting to help you on your journey to nursing school, BeMo offers that can help students like you best prepare for interviews and other admissions processes that are required! You may also want to check out posts about nursing school interviews and admissions.