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  • 20 October 2023
  • 14 min read

The Complete Guide To Answering Nursing Interview Questions

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Interview tips by a qualified nurse

This complete guide to answering nursing interview questions is designed to help all nurses - experienced and newly qualified. We researched the most common interview questions and asked panel of experts to feedback on how they should be dealt with.

Topics covered in this guide

What Nursing interview questions can I expect to be asked?

How to specifically prepare for a Nursing interview

How to prepare for an interview for any job

Is now a good time to be searching for a new Nursing job?

Three job interview case studies by Nurses

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What Nursing interview questions can I expect to be asked?

Why do you want this job?

A very common question early on in your interview. Don’t go into too much detail, but give an answer that reflects your passion and enthusiasm for Nursing.

Talk about why you got into Nursing, why this role excites you, and why you’re the perfect fit.

What does compassionate care mean to you?

The concept of compassionate care is a pillar of Nursing, so this question is bound to come up in some interviews. Brush up on your ‘six Cs’, and try to use a scenario from your own Nursing experience that exemplifies compassionate care.

How have you dealt with conflict in the past?

This is another example of a question that requires a specific example from your own experience. Your goal is to show that you have some basic, logical conflict resolution strategies, that you’re calm under pressure, and that you recognise the signs of when you need to escalate a situation.

What makes a good shift?

This is a common and interesting question. Yes, your interviewers will want to hear about delivering safe, effective patient care – but they might be looking for more. Interviewers are well aware that Nursing can be stressful so they’re also interested in your honesty.

If a good shift for you also means a balanced shift – one where you get proper breaks and lots of chances to refresh yourself – then that’s fine too. The NHS has a huge focus on work-life balance currently, so don’t be afraid to reference it.

Interview tips by a qualified nurse

What is your proudest Nursing achievement?

Clearly, this is about sharing a story that matters to you and that reflects whatever you love about Nursing. This is a great chance to show passion, to show how caring you are, and to show your enthusiasm for your career.

Don’t try to overthink it either – this is about your proudest achievement, not what you think your interviewers will be impressed by.

Have you ever had to deal with a mistake?

This question is common, and answers can be about your mistakes or others’ mistakes. Either approach is fine, and either can work in your favour. Talk about what you learned, what you would do differently, and how you worked with others to rectify the situation. Interviewers don’t expect you to have never made mistakes, but they do expect you to have learnt from them.

Why did you decide to specialise in your specific field?

Again, this is about demonstrating your passion. And that passion is best explained with some real-life examples of why you love it.

Consider what made you study your chosen field in the first place, but also what motivated you in practice too. And try to demonstrate how your specific skills are perfectly aligned to your chosen area of Nursing.

What do equality and diversity mean to you?

Increasingly, interviewers are keen to ensure you have a clear understanding of the importance of equality and diversity. They may also want to test your understanding of how that can play out within your role.

What issues are currently faced by UK healthcare providers?

For interviewers, this question is an opportunity to get a sense of how seriously you take your career. If you’re in it for the long term and committed to your craft, chances are you’ll be interested in the issues your industry faces. So you’ll need to show that you care by showing your knowledge (and make sure you brush up before your interview).

How do you deal with sensitive or confidentiality issues?

This question may be scenario-based (i.e. someone phones up and asks for information about a patient, so what do you need to check before giving information). However the question is framed, you just need to show that you understand the processes clearly.

…and something concerning Clinical Governance tends to always crop up!

Clinical Governance… Re-read it. Know it. Here are two links for a quick bit of pre-interview revision!

RCN Clinical Governance


…Oh, OK, one more. I love this video from the Harvard Business School about preparing for interview.

Good luck, from

Nursing is currently the UK’s most employable degree, with 94% of graduates getting a job within the first six months of finishing their course.

This bodes well for every Nurse, at every level of their career. Whether you’re looking to change specialism or location, get a pay rise or a promotion, you’re in high demand – and you hold the power.

How to specifically prepare for a Nursing interview

Getting the basics right will ensure you avoid some of the more obvious pitfalls. After that, your success comes down to showing your interviewer why you’re a great Nurse, and why you’re perfect for this position.

So here are some more detailed, Nursing-focused interview tips:

Research the organisation inside-out

Whether you’re interviewing with an NHS trust or a private organisation, you need to spend lots of time getting to know them. 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.

It might seem like all these organisations are very similar, but typically they’re not. Their values, for example, will almost always differ and will reflect their own unique strengths and challenges. Grace talks about this in her video when she says “the core values of each NHS Trust are very important to them and if you know them in the interview this will definitely go in our favour”.

So, yes, knowing your potential employers' key values and being able to show how your skills align with them will be a massive tick for you.

Read their website and follow their social media channels. Try to get a sense of their biggest challenges, what they do – but also what matters most to them. Trusts are often a reflection of the values that matter to their local communities too, so getting an understanding of that will also help.

Brush up on what’s happening in the NHS

Nursing and the NHS is a topic that’s constantly on the national agenda, and your knowledge of those issues is important. It shows how serious you are about Nursing – that you’re invested for the long-term.

And it also allows you to explain how and why you’re passionate about making a difference. A good start of course is our own news and insights. Access 100s of articles by our experts and follow us on Facebook so that our latest posts appear on your feed. (OK, plug over!).

Research scenarios

You are likely to be asked some scenario-based questions at some point. So it’s important to prepare by practicing some scenarios yourself – perhaps with friends or family. Typically, these questions are around violent family members or friends, safeguarding or emergency situations. Try to consider as many as possible, and role play through them.

Know your medications

Know your medication and rehearse care situations. 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.

Match your skills to the role – prove, don’t claim

Reading and re-reading the job description is a no-brainer. But even more importantly, you need to really think about how your skills and experiences match the job criteria.

The way to do this is about proving, rather than claiming. Simply stating that you have a certain skill is easy – indeed, anyone can do that. What will set you apart is if you can put your skills in context and talk about situations in which your skills have been applied.

Before your interview, just refresh yourself on the some of the best examples you have of applying your skills in real-life situations. If you can do this in a clear and concise manner, you will definitely make an impression.

But be sure to use the most accurate experiences. You want to demonstrate you’re a good match for the job description (and the NHS Trust, care home, private hospital in question). Don’t just assume they’ll know you’re a good match because you’ve got this far, explain how your Nursing skills and experience meet the needs of the job. So read, and then re-read the job description and person specification AND THEN think about the real-life situations you’ve been in that illustrate your suitability.

They may have a job description (the outline of the role ) AND a person specification (the job description put into human terms, defining the kind of person that will be required). If so use both when you’re thinking about how you satisfy the needs of the job.

Don’t forget to listen!

Interviews aren’t merely a test of your ability to speak; you’re also being assessed for how you communicate and interact. So while preparation is vital, don’t fall into the trap of reciting an endless monologue. Take your time and listen to the interviewers.

Ask questions if you’re not completely clear about questions you’ve been asked. And do everything you can to show off your social skills – after all, the best Nurses tend also to be the best listeners.

Prepare some questions to ask

As you may or may not know, interviewers will typically ask if you have any questions of your own – normally towards the end of the interview. So to ensure you’re confident and ready, prepare a couple in advance. A good example is to ask about learning and development opportunities, which is a great way of showing your ambition and eagerness to progress.

You could also ask more in-depth questions about the organisation, maybe referencing something you’ve already learnt about them. Your question is an opportunity to show how seriously you take this role, and therefore a good chance to score some extra brownie points.

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How to prepare for an interview for any job

Some aspects of Nursing interviews are similar to any other. You can consider these to be timeless truths – common sense tips that will always help you to get the job. So here are our timeless tips:

Don’t just be punctual – be early

It goes without saying that punctuality is a great place to start. This is the one time in your life where you really should arrive early. Overestimate potential delays and carefully check your route. Better still, practice your route beforehand.

Being late means starting from behind – and it’s always avoidable with proper planning.

Dress smartly

The world of work is changing, and yes, the average employee dresses far more informally than they used to.

But dressing smartly never does your chances any harm. You’ll feel more confident, and you’ll look more professional – like you’re taking the interview seriously. It’s a tried and tested way of making a good first impression, so don’t overcomplicate it.

Be charming to everyone you meet

You’d be surprised how often interviewers talk to everyone you’ve come into contact with. You need to be switched on the second you enter.

Be your best, most polite self from the second you arrive and avoid the potential of any negativity coming your way. Receptionists are friends with everyone!

Eat, drink and sleep properly

Our habits are often disrupted when we’re nervous, but ensuring you’ve slept and eaten well before your interview is incredibly important. Interviews require a great deal of sustained energy and concentration, so get a good night’s sleep and fill yourself with nutritious food on the day.

Every detail makes a difference.

Revisit your CV and job description

Knowing the finer details of your CV and the job description allows you to answer nursing interview questions confidently and fluently. At the same time, not knowing those details adds nerves and tension to proceedings unnecessarily.

What do 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!

An interview is your chance to show why you’re perfect for this job – so don’t allow your memory to slip. Do the homework and it will pay off.

Is now a good time to be searching for a new Nursing job?

Short answer, yes! The NHS has a terrible staffing problem. In 2018, the BBC was describing it as a national emergency. 11.8% of Nurse posts were not filled. That’s a shortage of nearly 42,000 positions.

While that presents extreme challenges for hospital and community care, it means there are abundant Nursing opportunities throughout the UK. That’s the upside of some of the downsides currently faced by the NHS.

To give you more of an idea:

- 33,000 Nurses left their posts in 2017

- There were 3,000 more leavers than joiners

- There are more than 40,000 unfilled Nursing posts in the UK

Meanwhile, patient demand continues to rise. Our population is ageing, and as you’ll well know, older patients require more care with greater regularity. The best illustration of growing patient demand is that A&E admissions have risen by 40% over the last 13 years.

The bottom line for Nurses is that you’re in demand too. Jobs are numerous and varied in every corner of the UK, and you can build your career with a sense of job security that fewer other careers can match.


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Three job interview case studies by Nurses

Whether you’re preparing for your first job interview as a newly qualified Nurse or you’re an experienced interviewee, landing the job is never straightforward.

Interviews are stressful, even for seasoned pros. They’re pressurised situations that often stifle us – making us less fluent, and ultimately less ourselves. But actually, the issue isn’t about what you do at interview; it’s all about what you do before. Put simply, the difference between those who succeed and those who don’t is preparation.

We asked three Nurses, Grace, Chloe and Laura, to share their Nursing interview experience.

Here’s what they had to say.

Interview tips by a qualified nurse.

What I learned from my three nursing interviews.

I just had my first nursing job interview and here's what I learned.

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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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