• 09 October 2018
  • 11 min read

What I learned from my three nursing interviews

  • Chloe Lawrence
    Registered Mental Health Nurse

"I have been quite lucky because my three interviews were all completely different. I went to a preceptorship event, I then had a typical panel interview and then I also attended an assessment day."

Play video: Chloe shares her first-hand nursing interview advice

Transcript of video

Preceptorship events... For anyone who hasn't heard about these they're kind of like job fairs for soon to qualify nurses and basically there are loads of different staff there, loads of different students and there's quite often little stands or stalls and each area or ward will have their own little space and you can wander around, chat to people and really get a feel for the place that you might be working in.

These kind of events are such a great idea if you're not 100 percent sure what area you want to work in when you qualify.

You obviously don't need to decide right then and there but they will ask you to rank your preferences so once you've done all the paperwork they'll give you a time for like a mini interview and normally you'll just go into one of the side rooms near to the preceptorship event for about 15 minutes and just have an informal one-on-one chat with and someone like a manager.

How to Answer Nursing Interview Questions

Let us help you answer nursing interview questions. Read our guide so that you're fully prepared for interview success!

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It feels a lot more like an informal chat, like a get to know you as opposed to a formal interview so it's a lot less intimidating, a lot less scary and if you're someone that normally falls apart in interviews because you really panic then one of these preceptorship events might be a great idea for you because it is a lot more informal and a lot more chilled.

I didn't feel like I was at an interview at all. Another great thing about preceptorship events is that a lot of the trusts that hold these will quite often offer to pay your first year's fees of the NMC if you get a job offer for that day.

Panel interview

I also had a panel interview and this is what I think of as a typical nursing interview. It was myself three members of staff and then a current patient was also there as well, which I thought is a really really great idea because at the end of the day they're gonna know what they want to see from a nurse - you won't find this in every trust or on every ward but some of them do it and I think it's a great idea.

In my case I was asked seven questions; I think kind of about seven to ten is typical.

You can almost guarantee that the first one is gonna be quite a personal question so normally ‘why do you want to be a nurse?’ ‘why do you want to work on this ward?’ ‘what skills do you have that makes you think you'd be good at this job?’ that kind of thing, so it's a chance for you to talk about yourself, but I know it can be quite difficult to do that sometimes however at the end of the day you're in an interview you need to toot your own horn.

I was also asked a couple of scenario-based questions; nothing ridiculously complicated and nothing that's like so far-fetched you would have never come across it before.

They are normally quite broad scenarios that are quite common in the area that you might be working in.

One question I was asked in my panel interview that really threw me is I was asked to describe equality and diversity and it's such an easy thing, I know what it is but in an interview setting I just completely panicked and I started rambling and not actually answering their question and I actually had to kind of stop myself and be like right again sometimes I think the simplest questions are the hardest to answer.

Assessment day

Most recently I attended an assessment day so this was a bit of a shock to me because as I said my first interview was like 15 minutes, the other one was about half an hour and then this literally went on from 9:30am until I think 3:30pm when I left.

We started off the date with two assessments.

The first thing was a 20-minute multiple-choice exam and the questions were a mix of drug calculations and then kind of questions that required you to have some sort of basic nursing knowledge again it was nothing too complicated you just had to think about it and not make silly mistakes.

You didn't have to get 100% pass you only needed to get 80% so there's room for some small mistakes.

After that I was given a case study and 40 minutes to write a care plan to help address some of the risk issues that were talked about in the case study so again nothing really complicated nothing that you will have never come across before.

Although we couldn't see the marking criteria on the front there was a little box for the marker to fill in and it literally just said safe or unsafe so that was the key thing for me: I needed to make sure that my care plan helped to keep the person safe.

Then our exams were taken away and quickly marked.

During that time we had a question-and-answer session with the Deputy Director of Nursing they showed us a few promotional videos.

They came in the room and they'd call out names and you'd go over and chat with someone and they'd either tell you you know you weren't successful and they'd tell you how to go about reapplying to do it again or if you were successful they gave you an interview time to come back later and have a typical panel interview.

Top tips for the interview

1. Dress smart

You would not believe the amount of people that I saw wearing trainers jeans and like jumpers instead of shirts.

For me I would rather be dressed too smart than not smart enough so I would always go to an interview wearing trousers a shirt a blazer and then proper shoes not trainers.

I spoke to a ward manager recently and she said that dressing sloppily doesn’t look good at all as it indicates that you aren’t making the effort.

How to Answer Nursing Interview Questions

Let us help you answer nursing interview questions. Read our guide so that you're fully prepared for interview success!

Click here

2. Turn up early

Turn up early and not on time early, because you never know what might happen. You might get lost if you're going somewhere that you've never been before, it's so easy to get lost and you don't want to turn up late simply because you couldn't find the place.

Plus you might get there and find that they're running early or the person in front of you hasn't shown up and it's just gonna look really really good if you're sat there ready to go.

It looks awful if you turn up late so I would rather be half an hour early and just sit there and read a book than even risk turning up late.

3. Familiarise yourself with the job description

A lot of the adverts will include quite specific information about what they're looking for in a candidate.

What you want to kind of do is answer the questions in a way that shows them you are exactly the kind of person they are looking for even if they don't specifically ask you that.

So if you read the job description and the advert really thoroughly you're going to know exactly what they're looking for and you can try and show them that you are that person.

4. Research the trust’s value

All trusts will have specific things that they identify are really important to them as a service so what you want to do is show that your values are in line with their values and that you're gonna make a great employee for that trust.

5. Talk about your experiences

Another way you can prepare for an interview is to kind of think about a few stock scenarios that you can throw out there.

I like to rehearse a couple of different scenarios that I can talk about in interviews.

Generally you want to think of two scenarios: one way you did something really well and then one where you maybe didn't do something as well, or in hindsight you would do something differently, or you really learned something from it.

It's great to use something like that because it shows that you are aware of your strengths or where are the things that you're not as good at and you're able to reflect on that and learn from it which is a really really key skill for nurses to have.

6. Don’t overthink it!

They aren't expecting you to know absolutely everything or tell them something so innovative they've never heard of it before and never thought of it before.

No matter what the scenario is, as a band five nurse the key things you need to be doing are asking for help, informing someone more senior than you, follow the appropriate procedures and policies and then document everything after the situation's finished.

You don't even need to know the ins or outs of policies just say that you would refer to them to know exactly what to do.

7. Think in the present

Another tip for scenario based questions is to stick to the right now. Don't think about the future, just what would you do immediately after that situation has happened.

They just want to know how you would immediately deal with an emergency situation.

You might get scenarios that are slightly more complicated than that and have two or three elements to them, and in that case I would always ask for either the interviewer to repeat the questions or I would rephrase it and kind of say it back to them and just check that I have understood all of the key elements of the scenario because you don't want to miss something out.

But if you do miss something they'll usually help you out - the people conducting these interviews aren't monsters, they're not trying to catch you out; they want to hire you!

Generally I find that if you haven't quite given them the answer they're looking for they'll kind of give you a bit of a helping hand to sort of understand what they're looking for.

8. Ask questions

Think of a few questions to ask the interviewers themselves because at the end of every interview I have been asked if I have any questions.

Good questions to ask are: What are the possible development paths/career opportunities?

Do you know the possibility of going on to do further studies?

This shows that you are ambitious but also that you're planning on staying in the trust which is something they want.

They don't want to hire someone that's gonna leave a year later but if you're asking about things like doing further development with them then it shows you want to stay a while.

Get more help and tips -our Complete Guide to Answering Nursing Interview Questions

About the author

  • Chloe Lawrence
    Registered Mental Health Nurse

I qualified as a Mental Health Nurse (RMN) in August of 2018 and started as a newly qualified nurse shortly after. On top of nursing I juggle creating content for both my YouTube channel and blog.

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  • Chloe Lawrence
    Registered Mental Health Nurse

About the author

  • Chloe Lawrence
    Registered Mental Health Nurse

I qualified as a Mental Health Nurse (RMN) in August of 2018 and started as a newly qualified nurse shortly after. On top of nursing I juggle creating content for both my YouTube channel and blog.