Certified Nursing Assistant Interview Questions

When hiring a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), look for a candidate who is passionate about providing care to patients in hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, or in-home. The role requires patience and an aggressive attention to detail while working under the supervision of nurses and doctors. 

As a non-medical professional, a CNA will assist patients with daily activities such as taking vital signs, cleaning patient areas, turning or repositioning bedridden patients, examining for wounds or bruises, and the like. A CNA in a healthcare facility will typically be responsible for multiple patients at one time so look for a candidate with a calm and comforting demeanor who can work efficiently under high pressure conditions.  

General interview questions (such as “Can you tell me about yourself?” and “Why are you looking for another job?”) are a great way to get to know your candidate’s personal history, interests and goals. However, be sure to add inquiries specific to the role they’re interviewing for, so you can gain valuable insights into their likelihood of success in that position. 

Below are Certified Nursing Assistant interview questions to help you get started: 

Why did you choose to become a CNA?  

What you want to hear: First and foremost, an excellent CNA will possess a high level of compassion for helping those in need. Listen for a CNA candidate who can share a personal story or other unique motivation for why they have chosen this physically and emotionally demanding profession in the medical field. 

Red Flag IconRed flag: A candidate who appears to view being a CNA as “just a job” lacks the work ethic needed for the role. Without an underlying passion for the work, the CNA will often lack the patience, good nature, and attention to detail required for quality patient care.

How would you handle a patient who refuses care?   

What you want to hear: Situational questions like this help you assess how your candidate will act under high-stress circumstances. Listen for a candidate who can share experiences with difficult patients who refused care. Specifically, probe the facts of a few such stories to learn about the type of care that was refused, the candidate’s listening skills to understand why the care was being refused, the techniques used to try and persuade the patient to comply, the candidate’s maintaining of a soft spoken demeanor, and the protocols followed to recruit supervisory assistance. 

Red Flag IconRed flag: A candidate who does not have the CNA training to handle difficult patients, or cannot communicate a process they would undertake if faced with such a situation, is a risk for becoming flustered under fire and further aggravating a situation.  

What is the first thing you do when entering a patient’s room?

What you want to hear: People skills are essential to the role of CNA. A candidate with years of experience will explain the importance of putting a patient at ease the moment the CNA enters the room. At a minimum you want to hear a candidate speak of wearing a smiling face and offering a warm greeting to set the proper tone before tending to care needs.

Red Flag IconRed flag: A candidate who does not recognize the value of putting a patient (and even family members) at ease when entering the room fails to understand that quality patient care is a combination of both interpersonal and clinical skills. This failure can reduce the trust the patient has in the CNA, and therefore increase the risk of patient resistance or refusal of care.  

What would you do if you saw a co-worker yelling at a patient?  

What you want to hear: Quality patient care demands remaining calm and respectful at all times, even when challenged. It is the responsibility of each CNA to ensure not only that they follow this protocol, but that their colleagues do as well. Listen for a candidate who will have the courage to step into a situation where a colleague is behaving inappropriately. They should be able to explain how they would diffuse and take control of the situation, including calmly asking the colleague to tend to something away from the patient, comforting the patient with listening skills and a pleasant demeanor, and resolving the cause of conflict or seeking a supervisor’s assistance. 

Red Flag IconRed flag: A candidate who is not prepared to take aggressive and appropriate action when a co-worker is being combative with a patient is failing to be a productive team player and is putting the patient’s health at risk. 

What moment as a CNA are you most proud of?  

What you want to hear: A strong candidate will speak of an accomplishment with pride and enthusiasm. Was it a specific outcome they helped achieve for a patient? Was it an academic achievement such as obtaining CNA certification? A special accomplishment as a member of a team? There is no right or wrong answer, but you want to see an energetic response from the candidate. 

Red Flag IconRed flag: A candidate who doesn’t appear to take pride in past accomplishments is very likely to bring a lackadaisical attitude patient care in your facility. 

What would you do if you notice new or disturbing symptoms in a patient?  

What you want to hear: The best CNA knows how to carefully observe a patient and either provide care or report in a timely manner to the appropriate medical professionals. Your candidate should be able to readily outline their process for observation, treatment, notification, and documentation, and provide examples from a previous employer. They should also clearly explain their protocol if emergency care is required. 

Red Flag IconRed flag: A CNA who cannot provide a clear and thorough response to this question is a serious risk to the patient. As well, a candidate must have absolute clarity on what treatments they are trained and authorized to provide as a non-medical assistant, and those that require professional medical attention. Not being able to explain this information clearly should be a serious concern for a potential employer.  

Every interview question can help get you closer to the right fit for your Certified Nursing Assistant position.

Be sure to keep an eye out for candidates who:

  • Who possess a current CNA certification 
  • Have excellent interpersonal and clinical skills
  • Have a strong grasp on HIPAA and other healthcare regulations