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How to use your nursing course and placement experience in your first nursing job interview

How to use your nursing course and placement experience in your first nursing job interview

We take a look at how to answer 10 of the key questions a nursing recruiter could ask you at interview, and how best to use your student nurse placement experience to back up your answers.

There are four key areas that an interviewer needs to asses you on; your clinical skills, your knowledge and understanding, your work ethic and commitment, and your personality and attitude. Academic achievement can be ascertained from your application form, but that doesn’t mean that for a newly qualified nursing position you won’t be asked about your time as a student nurse, because it’s highly likely that you will. Placement experience is crucial to a newly qualified nurse, so be prepared to reference key placement experiences.

1. Tell us what your experience can bring to this position?

This is a great question to be asked in a nursing interview because it allows you to direct your response in any way you choose, and to reference some great experiences to back up your answers. Obviously, in order to score full points on this one you need to know the person specification that was advertised with the role and how well you fit the essential and desirable criteria. Don’t worry about highlighting your academic experience too much, what you need to highlight are all the nursing competencies or placement experiences you’ve had that fulfill as many of the criteria as possible. Be concise with your answers but ensure you have a practical example to back up any skills you claim.

2. What was the most rewarding part of training to become a nurse?

Again, a really open question that allows you to direct your answer however you choose. Try to draw on an occasion where you showed your professionalism, dedication or how you contributed to an overall team achievement. Any of these examples would show the interviewer how well you could fit into their vacancy. The answers you give to this question are often used by the interviewer to understand more about you as a person and how well you can communicate with others.

3. How did your management placement influence your decision to apply for this role?

Many nurses choose their management placement according to where they hope to work when they qualify, so if you’re lucky enough to have an interview for a nursing job that is similar to your management placement, you’re in luck. Draw on all the positives and the learning experiences you've had, and try to show how you have used that placement experience to make the transition from student nurse to qualified professional.

4. Which current healthcare policies / issues are you aware of that could be relevant to this role?

Most interviewers will ask this question, particularly of newly qualified nurses and it’s as simple as it sounds. You need to do your research before hand to pick out key local issues or recent trust wide policies that will affect you in the job you’re going for. Mention any relevant information you picked up when you visited the ward / unit prior to your interview and explain how your role would be influenced by any of these issues. You could reference a particular policy and give some details of how you could ensure policy is adhered to in your nursing role.

5. Explain the importance of infection control and how you would be involved in implementing it within this role?

This is a common question for ward nursing roles in particular, but may also apply to some community nurse vacancies. You could reference the NICE clinical guidelines on Infection Control of June 2003 or refer to the trust’s individual policies on infection control - such as this these from The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. The interviewer isn’t looking for you to have learnt every single aspect of their own policies, but they want to see that you have an understanding of how infection control is implemented throughout a department and how your role will contribute towards the overall aim.

6. Can you give details a stressful situation in which you were involved and tell us how you managed it?

Potential employers want to find out several key aspects of your personality, knowledge and understanding with this question. They want to find out if you can analyse your own performance to recognise the signs of stress, and employ techniques to cope with it. Give an example from one of your student nurse placements that shows how you have developed as a nurse in your ability to assess a stressful situation and avoided a negative outcome for either patient or staff member. You could draw attention to how you contributed to the resolution of a stressful situation both as an individual and as a team member.

7. What would be your priorities during your first 6 months in this role?

There are no right or wrong answers to this question. You can mention your initial visit to the department and give feedback on your impression of how the job fits into the team, and then give details of the professional development / preceptorship goals you have. The interviewer wants to see that you are motivated, dedicated to nursing and have a clear idea of the role and the skills you will need to develop or acquire.

8. What would you consider are your needs for support during your first year in this post, both during your preceptorship period and beyond?

This questions is similar to the previous one, but purposefully aimed at newly qualified nurses. They want to hear that you understand what will be covered in your preceptorship and how that will develop your competencies to perform the job. You should acknowledge that you have limitations and will require support in some areas, while giving details of your commitment to study and achievement. Bring up any areas that you think may need to be covered in addition to your preceptorship.

9. Give us an example of both good team working and poor team working, and the differences you observed between them.

This question assess two different aspects of your skill base - your ability to accurately recall two different situation and to effectively analyse the difference between them. If you can’t think of examples that you have observed, create two scenarios that demonstrate your understanding of both positive and negative team working. You should make clear observations about both scenarios and give details of how you would analyse your own working practice to ensure good team working at all times. This may involve ensuring accurate communication between all team members, managing work load efficiently or simply assisting colleagues where appropriate. All of these qualities show you are aware of your own performance as an individual and more importantly part of a wider organisation.

10. How to organise your work and prepare to ensure deadlines are met?

This question assesses your personality but also your ability to prioritise tasks and ensure deadlines are met. The interviewer is looking for examples of how you have managed your work, and any particularly difficult times when accurate scheduling and precise organisation have really paid off for you. A meticulous approach and attention to detail are crucial in any nursing role, and showing that you have those abilities is an essential part of any nursing interview.

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