Nursing and midwifery interviews
Going for an interview is usually a nerve racking experience and it is normal to feel anxious. With preparation you can increase your chances of success and cope better with the nerves.
Newly qualified nurses can increase their chances of being successful at job interviews by demonstrating they have the qualities sought and are committed and up to date with clinical research and issues affecting nursing
We want to give you the tools to prepare, feel confident and to realise and demonstrate your full potential to the employer.
Preparation for a job interview can be the difference between success and failure.
Go back to your application and remind yourself of your skills and experience by reviewing:
- Your CV and application form
- The person specification/job description and essential and desirable criteria
- The organisation’s mission statement and values
- Recent healthcare initiatives
- Try to arrange an informal visit to the trust/organisation, where you can talk to staff, get some answers to your questions and assess whether the post and environment is right for you
- Check and update your portfolio
Researching the trust/organisation is fundamental in showing the employer you are interested in them.
It shows your awareness and will give you an edge in answering any questions. An employer will be impressed by your enthusiasm and passion, and you will feel more confident in the process.
An example personal specification
Typical interview questions
You have done the research you need to do and focused on your skills and attributes, now you need to focus on the different types of questions and how you are going to answer them.
Prepare by thinking of examples you can use confidently from experiences with patients and scenarios that you have worked in; think about your unique selling point; what will make you stand out from the crowd?
Here are some examples of the types of question you are likely to face.
- General/motivational - what do you see as the main challenges of this post?
- Specific post - why have you chosen this particular specialism?
- Scenario/hypothetical - you are caring for an elderly patient with the capacity to stay at home but her family wants her to go into a care home. What would you do?
- Issues/trends - can you tell me about current national nursing initiatives?
- Clinically based - the ward is severely understaffed and you have a lot of IV antibiotics to give. The nurse in charge is too busy to help you and you only have a senior health care assistant available to help you. What do you do?
- Behavioural/competency based -learning new ways of doing things is important for development. Can you think of an example where you have taken on board some good practice that you observed?
You can find examples of all these types of interview questions on Moodle. These are real questions which nursing candidates have been asked in recent years.
In preparation it may be worth thinking about your strengths and weaknesses and having answers to questions such as:
- why did you decide to train as a nurse or midwife?
- how do you see your career developing?
Also, have some pertinent questions to ask your interviewers. For example, ask about the induction, training opportunities and preceptorship?
How to answer questions
It is now time to practise. It is beneficial before you attend the interview to practise out loud to yourself or with a friend, colleague or careers professional. This process allows you to hear how your answers are going to sound.
You can also play with your tone, speed and sound and a good way to do this is to record or video yourself on a mobile phone.
Tips for behavioural or competency-based questions
A useful tool to help you structure your answers for the type of question which asks you to reflect on past experiences is the STAR technique. STAR is a simple strategy that will help you focus your answers.
- Situation: briefly describe the context for your example. When was this? Where was this?
- Task: briefly describe what you do. What were you hoping to achieve?
- Action: briefly describe what you did to achieve the task, how you did it and what skills you used.
- Result: briefly describe the outcome. What did you learn? Would you do anything differently?
When relevant use reflective practice in your answers as your employer will expect you to be a reflective practitioner at all times. You will have many examples from experience, course work and reports you will have written.
The Guardian - How to use the STAR technique
When using the STAR technique, think about examples from your placements, work experience and volunteering to provide real examples of how you can do the job.
Rather than just saying “I am a good team player” give an example of a team you have been part of, describe your role and contribution within that team and explain what you achieved by working together.
Tips for scenario or hypothetical questions
Hypothetical or scenario questions are posed to gain insight into your approach to work situations and people. This requires you to explain the rationale for your actions rather than give a right/wrong answer.
The interview panel will want to know that you have common sense, and that patient safety and well-being is your priority. A good format to follow for many scenarios questions is a follows:
- Assessment of the situation
- Taking appropriate action
- Following procedures and guidelines
- Appropriate communication
- Record keeping
- Evaluating and learning from the situation
Going back to your portfolio and reading through it will help you prepare for these types of questions.
General tips for all question types
Think about how you are going to incorporate and show awareness of the 'six Cs' in your questions, showing strong examples of how you would implement these in your everyday practice.
Showing your awareness of values and behaviours are also important. Familiarising yourself with how your values and behaviours fit with the NHS or organisation demonstrates your commitment.
The interview including video on interview nerves
You have done all the hard work in preparing and it is now the day of the interview. Make sure you have got your route planned out and give yourself enough time to get there.
Have all the information that you need to take ready, such as your updated portfolio or any other specific information you have been asked to take.
In the NHS you will usually be interviewed by a panel of three people typically over 30 minutes.
Some NHS trusts and other organisations may use other recruitment methods such as assessment centres. Typically these are half a day and include some combination of group interviews, group exercises, tests and role play.
- In the interview if you have a mental block at any point ask for a moment or to go back to a particular question
- Do not be worried about asking for clarification or for a question to be repeated
- Take your time answering, do not rush through your answers, remember the STAR technique
- If given the opportunity, remember to ask the interviewers a question. You can always write this down and take it in with you if you feel you may forget.
Remember that your application form has got you to the interview stage in the recruitment process and the employer wants to meet you, so this is the perfect opportunity to showcase all your hard work, experience and commitment to the nursing profession.
Coping with the nerves
Everyone has interview nerves but what can you do to let the real you shine through?
Watch this interview and listen to Kirstin Barnard, Senior Careers Adviser, talk you through the various ways you can overcome your nerves before and during the interview.
Techniques to calm your nerves
It is completely natural to feel nervous before and during your interview. Here are a number of techniques you could consider using to calm your nerves and enable you to focus.
Listen to music before your interview
- A 50-minute blast of dance music has been shown to lower levels of the stress hormone Cortisol.
- Classical music can help us to focus and complete a task.
Yoga or meditation
- Taking slow, deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth.
- Taking time out to sit in peace and clear your mind.
- With a friend, in front of a mirror
- Film yourself and just keep practising
After the interview
It is always useful to review your interview.
- Reflect on your performance
- Write down any questions you were asked
- Write down what worked and what didn’t in terms of your technique in answering questions
- Think about how you would respond next time.
If you are not offered the role for which you were interviewed
- You can contact the organisation/trust for constructive feedback
- You can also contact a careers adviser to talk through your experience, or gain support for a future interview.
Book an appointment
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Our top ten interview tips
- Research, research, research - the company and role
- Prepare for questions you may be asked; go back to the job specification and description.
- Try to arrange an informal visit to the ward or organisation
- Re-read through your application, make notes to take to your interview
- Make sure you are up to date on national initiatives in healthcare
- Use reflective practice in your examples
- Practise, practise, practise. In front of a mirror, with friends, a colleague or careers adviser
- Plan your route and outfit as you do not want to turn up late or feel uncomfortable
- If you are on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook contact other nursing professionals for hints and tips on the recruitment process
- Demonstrate your passion and enthusiasm for the role.
One last point - remember to smile and adopt the mantra “I can do this”