Congratulations: you have the opportunity to interview! Maybe you’re preparing for your dream job, or maybe you’ve been applying and not getting anywhere! No matter if this is your first interview or one of many, we’re ready to help you feel prepared with our list of fifteen dietitian interview questions. Practice these questions to walk into your next interview with new skills and fresh optimism!
While you can never predict exactly which questions you’ll be asked during an interview, having practice answering some of the most common questions will boost your confidence and help you to be able to answer the interviewer smoothly and in a way that best demonstrates your skills and expertise.
In addition, this article includes questions that you can ask during the interview to get to know if this next opportunity is truly a good fit for you. Remember, an interview is a two-way street!
Let’s dive in!
Disclosure: contains affiliate links. As an affiliate, RD2RD earns a commission on qualifying purchases at no cost to you.
Before the interview begins
While you can never predict exactly which questions you’ll be asked during an interview, what can you do to increase your confidence and feel more prepared for interviews?
Interview tips from a dietitian expert
Stacey Dunn-Emke, dietitian and expert behind the Nutrition Jobs website, helps dietitians shine when it comes to job hunting and interviewing resources. We asked Stacey to share her top interviewing tips with us. Here are her gems:
- Prepare and practice for virtual job interviews just as you would for in-person interviews. You likely will have more virtual interviews in the future.
- Practice aloud before the interview. Read your resume, or your cover letter, or the newspaper out loud ahead of your interview. It will sharpen your mind and your voice.
- Remember that the interview is a chance for you to also see if the job will be a good fit for your goals. Do you like the job duties? Will you be successful? Do you like the work environment?
- Get ready for compensation negotiation AFTER you get the job offer, when you have more leverage.
There’s plenty more where that came from. Stacey has a wealth of course offerings to get you hired! Her “Dietetic Career Guides and Courses to Get Hired” will build your confidence. Peruse her step-by-step guides, coaching opportunities and worksheets to build a professional portfolio that will make you stand out from others interviewing for the role!
Dietitian Interview Tips
Ultimately you’re likely not going to be selected because you brought in a binder with examples of presentations and charting. You’re going to stand out when you demonstrate how your strengths and talents are the best fit.
Interviewers are not just looking for the most qualified candidate in terms of skills, experience or training. They’re also looking for the best candidate who will mesh well with the established team.
This is often referred to as assessing soft skills. Soft skills can include your ability to interact well with others, problem-solve, handle conflict and even perform under pressure, display empathy and treat others with respect and dignity. The behavioral interview questions help the interviewer to assess your soft skills.
Before we tackle which questions to prepare for, let’s address a common mistake: we tend to speak more quickly when we’re nervous.
As you speak, think about slowing your pace a bit in case your nerves are causing you to rush your answers. Whenever a question is asked, take a slow breath and think before you speak. This small deliberate pause gives your brain the space to cultivate your best answer. It also helps to calm your nerves a bit and makes you less likely to have a nervous twitch.
Keep your eye on the prize: your answers should be purposeful and connected to the institution you’re applying to. Keep the fluff out.
General Interview Questions
Just like meeting a new friend or colleague, interviews typically start with a few questions designed to get to know one another. The first few questions will probably be ice-breakers, but keep in mind that they’re more than just fluff: you still have the chance to share relevant information about your skills and experience.
As you’re answering these general questions, try not to tell your entire life story. Be friendly, but also concise. There are more meaty questions coming soon!
You don’t want to go on a long tangent or seem to be bragging about irrelevant things. The best candidates are savvy here and show they’ve done their homework and use every answer to show how they are the absolute best fit for the job.
Tell me about yourself
A broad, open-ended question is a common dietitian interview ice-breaker question. Remember that ultimately the purpose of this question isn’t really to learn about you. It’s their opportunity to see if you’re a fit for the position.
This is not your open door to tell your entire life story; instead, keep your answer focused on the qualities of yourself that make you the best match for the position you’re interviewing for.
I am an Ohio native and have been interested in nutrition since I was a child; I was a vegetarian for a long time and learned about nutrition as a pre-teen to ensure that I was providing my growing body with what I needed. While I am no longer a vegetarian, that experience sparked my interest in nutrition as well as gave me exposure to different ways of eating, recipes and challenged me to meal plan with my mom. I’m a proud graduate of Ohio University and excited to empower people from my home state with better nutrition.
Why do you want to work here?
This question is a great opportunity to demonstrate what you’ve learned about the institution, the specific department you’re applying to, and the work that they do.
As a registered dietitian, my mission is to empower clients to achieve their best health and wellness. At this institution, I was impressed to see your approach to diabetes management not only included nutrition education but also cooking lessons, exercise classes, and meetings with a social worker to make sure that the clients had the education that they needed to be successful as well as access to their medications and testing supplies. This comprehensive approach provides the best tools and support for clients to better manage their diabetes.
What is your greatest strength?
Your future manager wants to know what your unique strengths are…and if you know what they are. Steer clear of non-descriptive answers like being a hard worker or quick learner; while they’re probably true, they don’t help you to stand out as a unique candidate.
My greatest strength is that my diverse background has granted me the experience of working with, living with, and interacting with people from many different backgrounds. I find that food can be a great connector and my familiarity with many different cultural foods allows me to counsel clients to achieve their nutrition goals within the context of their preferred cultural foods.
What is your greatest weakness?
With this question, it is important to tell the truth – no one is without weaknesses or opportunities to improve. The best answer that you can offer is honestly disclosing a weakness that doesn’t interfere with your ability to perform the role that you’re interviewing for well. Then, include how you’re working to improve yourself to grow from this experience.
My greatest weakness is that I tend to feel shy and unable to speak up in meetings. While most of the time for this institution would be working individually with clients, I know that there will be department meetings as well as clinical rounds. To prepare for those, I’ve been making specific notes of any questions that I have or important information to review so I have less pressure to think on my feet, and that has been a great confidence booster.
What would you like to accomplish in the first 30 days of working here?
This question is a great opening for you to describe the ways in which you’ll take initiative and work to learn your role while integrating within your new department. Make sure that you’ve addressed known responsibilities that have been discussed so far in the interview or were posted in the job description.
In my first 30 days here, my goal is to master the charting system. In my previous role, I took great notes as the RDs were showing me how they charted and that helped me to master the technology, as well as use some helpful shortcuts, as quickly as possible. As I learn this new system, I plan to follow the same strategy.
In addition, I’ll be attending rounds and getting to know the other healthcare providers. I’ll be sure to check in with you to set up our first review so that we can both be confident that we’re on the same page and I’m on track and getting acclimated well.
Prior experience questions
Prior experience questions helps your interviewer to assess what kinds of clients you’ve helps and what your thought process has been as you work through your clinical recommendations.
These questions are an opportunity to show that you also understand relevant industry standards or stay up to date on the latest practice guidelines. Whether it’s critical care, diabetes, weight loss surgery or tactical nutrition this is when you can show both experience and knowledge.
How do you evaluate the carbohydrate needs of a patient?
There are several different formulas for many of the recommendations we make as registered dietitians. For this question, your interviewer might be looking for your specific thought process as you work to establish your baseline estimates for a patient’s specific needs.
To establish carbohydrate needs for a woman with gestational diabetes, I would use the Mifflin-St Jeor Equation to estimate calorie needs and then calculate carbs as 30-40% of their total calorie needs. As women typically tolerate carbs the least in the morning, I’d recommend two carb equivalents for breakfast and distribute the remaining carbs for lunch, dinner, and snack.
Upon follow-up, we’d review her blood sugar records to see if this plan is helping her to adequately stabilize her blood sugars, or if something should be adjusted.
Tell me about how you guide a patient who is newly diagnosed with celiac disease
For this question, guide your interviewer through your process to provide both concrete guidance for this client as well as emotional support.
Before diving into specific recommendations, I would first check in with the patient’s readiness to learn. Anyone who has just received a new diagnosis needs time and space to process the news. The news might be a welcome answer for someone struggling with symptoms for a long time, as is common with Celiac, but even so, it can still feel emotional to have this diagnosis.
From there, I’d talk through which of their usual favorite foods and snacks are already gluten-free. So much of a typical diet education around celiac can be focused on what is being taken out, so it can be helpful to point out the foods that don’t have to change.
Once we’ve talked about what foods are still approved, then I’d begin walking them through the foods that need to be modified. While I’ll be sure to acknowledge that this process can feel like a big change, I’d also let the clients know which products I love in particular so that they can feel more excited about trying new things.
Have you and a physician ever disagreed about the nutrition recommendations for a patient?
Feel free to share genuine emotions. Of course, you’ve disagreed with physicians and other healthcare team members! Use this as an opportunity to focus on collaboration and keeping the patient’s needs front and center, not your ego.
Oh yes – I’ve had disagreements with physicians about recommendations; haven’t we all? For me, it is most important to keep my patients’ needs at the top of my mind and assume that the physician also has the same goals: to optimize the patient’s care.
When a physician and I don’t see eye to eye, maybe one of us knows something about the patient that the other does not. I’ll contact the physician and chat through the issue and ask for any insight as to how we can work together to best support this patient’s nutritional needs.
What is your experience working with teen athletes?
Different age groups have different needs, including teenagers! The interviewer wants to know that your nutrition advice is adaptable to the population that you’re working with.
I’ve enjoyed working with teens so far. I’ve found that while they’re still living with their parents and not in charge of much of the food decisions in their house, they still need autonomy about their food and eating. Most are highly motivated to eat well to fuel their performance. Their lives are very busy with their school responsibilities, extracurricular activities, and sports practices, so food recommendations need to be portable and easy for them to follow.
Have you ever collaborated with a speech-language pathologist?
For this question, the interviewer would like to know how well you can collaborate with other professionals in your role. Answer with a specific example of how you and the other professional have had constructive time together that improved patient outcomes.
In my previous role at the Sunnyside long term care facility, I had a concern about a specific patient no longer being able to safely eat a regularly textured diet; she was coughing and her family had brought their concerns to my attention. I consulted with the SLP and was able to do an evaluation. She agreed with our concerns and together, we were able to modify her diet order. Working with the patient and her family, they understood the new recommendations and we were able to find safe menu items that she liked.
How would you advise a client who is interested in trying new supplements?
For this question, focus on individual needs and how supplements may or may not fit into the larger context of this client’s health history, medications, and goals.
Supplements have the potential to benefit clients if used appropriately. I would ensure that I had complete information about any medication or supplement that the client is currently taking to ensure that I am not recommending something that could have an adverse effect. I would ask what their goals are for the supplement and if there is peer-reviewed evidence to support any supplements for those goals; I’d share the guidance with the client. I’d also help with 3rd party brand recommendations to ensure high-quality products.
Behavioral and Situational Questions
Prior experience questions helps your interviewer to assess what kinds of clients you’ve helps and what your thought process has been as you work through your clinical recommendations.
This section of example questions is for your interviewer to see how you provide guidance, even under situations that are more stressful or difficult.
Behavioral questions are much more common in interviews these days. Not only are they harder to predict and prepare for, as some of the earlier questions might be, there may or may not be a “right” answer to them. Your interviewer is looking for how you might respond in a situation that relates to the job that you’re applying for (1).
Remember those soft skills we talked about earlier? Behavioral questions help guide your interviewer on your ability to interact with the rest of the team and your clients. 75% of interviewers use behavioral questions, such as the ones curated below, to assess your soft skills (2).
If you have never been in a particular situation that your interviewer is asking about, feel free to disclose that, but offer an answer of how you would react in the situation asked about.
What do you do when you are struggling with a new software program (or other technology)?
This question is aimed to see how you cope when you’re stuck. There are bound to be technologies that are new to you in any new role. Your interviewer wants to know how you’ll deal with it. The best answer? Show that you’re a self-starter and will work to solve your own issues before asking for help.
It is amazing how many things you can figure out with a quick internet search or review of a manual. While I’m not afraid to ask for help, I would first see if I can get unstuck using a quick online search or watch a tutorial. I’ve found that there are tutorials on just about anything these days and it is a way to get the information that you need, quickly and efficiently. If I am still unable to figure things out on my own, I’d ask for help.
During an outpatient consultation, a patient disagrees with you. What would you do?
This question helps to evaluate how you can stay calm under pressure and your ability to be solutions-oriented. This is also a chance for them to assess your counseling skills and how you relate to patients. Dietitians are frequently in situations where clients or patients may disagree with their assessment or recommendations. It’s important to learn how to handle these situations professionally.
I believe the client steers their own ship in their health journey. I’d validate their feelings and ask them to explain more. I’d proceed with curiosity – where are these feelings or reservations coming from – to work to understand their perspective.
I also keep in mind that food is incredibly personal, and so asking a client to make changes to their food can feel scary and overwhelming. Clients who are feeling fearful can be much more reactive and hesitant to agree. With more understanding, we could work together to come up with practical solutions that they feel confident in implementing and believe will help them.
How do you feel when you let someone down for reasons beyond your control? What do you do?
This question has a number of elements and it can be easy to overlook the primary purpose. No matter the reason or who is at fault, when you let someone down, you should feel bad. Taking steps to apologize and then resolve the situation would also be key items an interviewer would be listening for. In most work environments, complex processes and teams require empathy and an ability to navigate tricky situations.
I would feel bad. It’s difficult to let anyone down and I’d apologize and work to resolve the situation. For example, I’ve had to tell clients their insurance wouldn’t cover my nutrition counseling services. It feels bad to disappoint anyone, but when this happens, I have a resource sheet with more information and my best recommendations for what to do next. Instead of focusing on what I don’t have control over, I put effort towards providing excellent service, something I can do.
Tell me about a time you were in a challenging workplace situation? What was going on, and how did you get through it?
Not only does your interviewer want to know how you cope with pressure, but they also want to know about your ability to manage your time and tasks as well as delegate, if appropriate. This also gives them insight as to what you find challenging.
At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a lot of stress, anxiety, and confusion. Because of changes in revenue, several of my colleagues were laid off. I was one of the employees still working. My manager and I worked together to establish our top priorities because it was not reasonable to carry the full workload of the furloughed employees.
What I found helpful was to have a consistent open dialogue with my boss as things unfolded. This made it easier for us to adjust our expectations and priorities as we worked through that very difficult time.
Sample questions to ask your potential employer
Be sure to ask questions of your potential employer, too.
The right fit is more than just the salary and hours worked; you spend more time with your employer than you do with your friends and family, so having a good work environment helps your overall mental health and happiness.
Remember that interviews are a two-way street; while the potential employer has the power to decide whether or not to hire you, you also have the power to decide if this is the right next role for you.
What does a successful candidate look like in the first 90 days?
If hired, this information can be gold! Take detailed notes to have for later.
While you’re in the interview, listen carefully and then use your reply as an opportunity to address the ways in which you will be able to meet their expectations of a successful candidate, based on the metrics that the interviewer has just described.
When would my first review be and who would that be with?
This shows that you’re ready and open to receiving feedback. You want to do great work and being open to feedback is part of it.
A few other options:
- What makes you proud to work at this company?
- How does the organization support professional development and career growth?
- What kind of flexible work arrangements do people have?
- What’s one thing you would change about the company if you could?
- How are issues addressed within the department?
Key takeaways: Dietitian interview questions
It’s perfectly normal to have a mixture of feelings in advance of an interview: excitement, nerves, and hope for a job offer. By practicing these dietitian interview questions, and doing your research on the company, you get to walk into that appointment with more skills and confidence.
If you are looking for a structured approach to hone your skills, check out Job Interview Confidence. Taught by dietitian expert and founder of NutritionJobs.com, Stacey Dunn-Emke, this on-demand course outlines exactly what to do before, during and after the interview. You’ll thank yourself (or maybe let out a squeal of joy) when you stroll out of the interview knowing you nailed it!