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  • 11 October 2010
  • 7 min read

Nursing jobs interview tips

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We set out 12 simple tips to help you prepare for and approach your next nursing interview.

1. Read up on the organisation

This is possibly the most common piece of advice ahead of interview, irrespective of the industry. But it’s often ignored.

Find out about the hospital you’ll be nursing in - what kind of NHS Trust or private hospital is it, what’s the funding level, what does it specialise in, does it hit targets, how big is it, who is the Chief Executive etc etc.

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2. Prepare specific questions about job

Hopefully, as you work through your investigation about the hospital or care home you are applying to you will naturally find there are questions you would like to ask.

Asking questions about the vacancy will help you decide if it really is the right organisation for you.

Asking questions will have the associated benefit of demonstrating you are alert and interested in the job and in the organisation.

3. Know your medication and rehearse care situations

We get told time and again that nursing job interviews will more often than not ask questions based on scenarios.

This is to satisfy the interviewer that you know procedure and can adhere to it, that you are up to date on training and knowledge on medication and how to adapt to a likely situation within the environment of the job.

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4. What you offer the employer

Even in a market where skills are in high demand, you should never approach a job interview complacently.

Think carefully about what you can bring to the role without sounding like a know-it-all.

Try not to tell them that they’re currently doing something poorly, or that you do it all so much better!

This can suggest you might be a difficult new member of staff or find it hard to follow instructions.

It’s more likely that they need a skilled member of staff to help them provide quality care, not a revolutionary!

5. Match your nursing skills and experience to the job

Read, and then re-read the job description and person specification. (The job description should outline the role, while the person specification puts the job description into human terms - the kind of person that will be required.)

Now that you’re very familiar with the organisation, the job and the person they need, you need to become the perfect match for all three.

And the golden rule here is to use actual situations you’ve been in that illustrate why you are the right person.

So, for instance, if they need a team member as well as a leader, a perfect illustration will be when your line manager asked you to do something and you then got your team to help you follow due process to do it.

That way, when they say “are you a leader and a team player, can you explain how” you will be more than prepared!

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6. Ask about remuneration

We get asked a lot - “shall I ask about pay”?

Our answer is, yes.

And then move on.

Unless asked what you think about the salary, don’t comment. It’s just a simple answer to a simple question. Don’t labour it. Don’t even make a facial gesture! If, after the interview, you decide you can’t take the job at that pay, wait until you’re offered the position.

That’s the time to then plan how you should tackle the subject.

7. Be honest

Always, always be honest. If you get caught out (which you will eventually) then you’ll lose the job.

If you feel you really like the sound of the job tell them. Don’t try to impress or flatter. But be truthful if you really feel this nursing job is a good fit for your skills and experience.

8. Be on time

Very little reason not to be on time. If the interview is in a city centre then get the train that arrives 2 hours before the interview.

You can then relax over a cup of tea. If the interview is a good driving distance away, plan for traffic jams on your way there.

If you have already factored in delays, traffic jams, accidents and getting lost and still given yourself time then you’ll not be late.

Better to wait a few hours close by than white-knuckle it on the motorway!

9. Appearance

We don’t mean you need to turn up in the nurses uniform of your current job! But don’t give them any cause to question your otherwise superlative interview performance because you wore your running shoes to an interview.

As a nurse being interviewed for a job you’ll not be expected to wear a suit any more than you’ll be expected to turn up in scrubs. If in doubt, why not just ask what the dress code is. Whatever it is, follow it and be well presented

10. Body language

First up, make good eye contact (but it’s not a staring competition!)

Second, don’t waffle. Waffling is the sign of an under-prepared candidate. Stick to your homework which is your working-life examples you’ve rehearsed.

Questions about medication won’t require a thesis. You either know it or you don’t.

Procedures, again, should be drawing from training and best-practice. If you waffle through them it will sound like you don’t really know what you’re meant to be doing.

Third, smile. Of course, if you really feel like you’re face is going to crack if you smile then don’t - you’ll only look panicked.

If you’re rehearsed, confident and accepting that it’s nothing personal then it IS possible to enjoy your interview.

No, really!

11. Courtesy

Courtesy goes a long way.

Typical, cliched, little things do go a long way to create the right impression.... firm handshake, eye contact, wait to be offered before sitting down, don’t fidget, smile, be professional, let them talk.

Listen to the question being asked and answer that one (as opposed to a question you’d rather answer!)

Of course, you may have a wealth of nursing or healthcare experience. But they don’t want to hear all of it, just the part that relates to their question.

Stay positive.That means keep your comments positive - don’t criticise your current employer, or the interviewer’s company.

12. Listen and speak

Think about their job description and listen to what the interviewer says. Plan some examples around questions you’ll think they’ll ask. If you read up on them and listen well you that will help frame your own response and any questions you might have.

A good interviewer will open up the conversation to get you talking. For instance, if they want a Care Home Manager to have mental health experience, then they may ask “tell me about a time where your experience as an RMN has enabled you to carry out your job as a manager more efficiently”.

It’s all about answering questions. So be prepared to have conversations around subjects that you can predict will come up.

Single word answers (yes or no) are not good for creating a conversation or rapport.

At the other extreme there’s nothing worse for the interviewer than listening to a candidate waffle on about all the hospitals they’ve worked in, how they’d reform healthcare and this and that and this and that...

No, keep your answers informed and don’t waffle!

Good luck

Sit upright, hands under control, good eye contact, gently smiling every now and then when appropriate.... and there you are - the perfect, self-assured and experienced candidate.

Go get em!

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About the author

I believe people should be able to choose to enjoy work. That is, choose an employer who reflects their values and provides them with a sustainable career.

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