10 questions you’re likely to be asked in an interview and how to answer them
We train for years to provide the best possible care for patients; we’re experts in our field and we’re confident of our clinical ability. But when it comes to interviews so many of us are filled with dread with the impending 3 person panel staring dispassionately as we search our brains to find a smart answer to their questions.
Fear no more, we have compiled a list of the 10 most common interview questions and possible ways to answer them.
1. Tell us about yourself
Believe it or not, this question is designed to make us feel more comfortable; it’s normally asked at the beginning of the interview to allow us to brag a little about ourselves. So use this opportunity to highlight your strengths and why you feel you’re the perfect candidate for the role. Always try and back up your answers with real life examples if possible.
Answer: I’m an energetic conscientious professional who has dedicated their whole life to the nursing profession. In previous roles I was always being complimented on my ability to remain calm under pressure and the ability to clearly communicate with both patients and other staff members.
2. Why do you want to work in healthcare?
Typically this is a question for professionals that have recently joined the nursing profession. This question gives you the opportunity to highlight your desire to help and care for people.
Possible Answer: I think that I am a naturally caring person with a high level of empathy. I have always wanted to be a nurse but the trigger that finally made me apply was when [use this opportunity to find a suitable example: maybe when a relative was injured or when you saw so much suffering and felt helpless to assist].
3. Why are you leaving your current role?
This is not an opportunity to start criticising your job/boss. Instead focus on the positives and the skills that you will be able to bring to the role.
Possible Answer: My current role taught me the ability to stay calm whilst working under extreme pressure; I was also given the opportunity to mentor more junior members of the team which has taught me leadership skills. However, I feel like I have reached my full potential in my current role and am now looking for a fresh challenge in a facility that I can add immediate value to and allow me to develop into a more rounded professional.
4. What do you find difficult about being a nurse?
There is no right or wrong answer for this type of question. The purpose of the question is to understand how you manage adversity and difficult situations. Your answer should focus on solutions to challenging situations that you have had to handle.
Possible Answer: One of the most difficult aspects of the job for me is when a patient is in pain or unhappy and I am unable to comfort/support them to the degree that I would like. I’ve learned that one of the best ways to manage this is to keep an open dialogue with the doctor so that I am able to keep the patient updated with as much information as possible. In these circumstances, I see my role as the bridge between the doctor and the patient.
5. Do you prefer to work alone or as part of a team?
This question can be a bit of a banana skin because a nurse’s role encompasses working as part of a clinical care team and also being able to work autonomously with minimum supervision
Possible Answer: It depends on the circumstances; I see nursing within hospitals as a team effort where I see myself as a highly effective member of the treatment and support team. But I enjoy the autonomy of being able to decide what’s best for my patients.
6. Describe a situation at work where you made a mistake.
The purpose of this question is to explore your critical thinking, problem-solving skills and your ability to learn from mistakes. The key here is to focus on the positives and learnings as opposed to the problem itself.
Possible Answer: I remember a time when a junior doctor was struggling to find a vein when taking blood from a patient. I could see that he needed to use a pillow to support the patient’s arm, which would have made it easier for him. The learning from this was that I should have put a stop to the procedure and taken the doctor to one side and given him the benefit of my experience and training. It would have reduced the distress that the patient was already feeling.
7. Tell me what you know about our Institution
The purpose of this question is to explore how serious you are about joining their institution or whether you’re just throwing out your CV in the hope that you get a job. It doesn’t really matter whether you’re super keen to join this institution or you desperately need a job. The key here is preparation. If you have spent some time reading up about the hospital/care home, you’ll be well prepared to answer this question.
Possible Answer: You should already have visited their website and perhaps even visited their institution. But if, for whatever reason you weren’t able to do as much research as you would have liked, then the best thing to do is be honest and let them know that you weren’t able spend too much time researching their facility. You should then focus on your clinical ability and your relationship with patients. An interviewer will forgive your lack of knowledge about their hospital if your clinical knowledge is exemplary.
8. Why should we hire you?
The interviewer wants to understand your strengths and what value you will add. For many of us this is quite a troubling question because we find it difficult to speak about ourselves in such glowing terms. You should use this opportunity to highlight your best skills and explain what value it will add to their institution.
Possible Answer: I am a committed, professional nurse with years of experience. This means your institution will benefit from my vast experience of managing patients, my clinical and leadership skills. This means that the whole ward can spend less time micro managing and more time caring for our patients. I’m not afraid to ask questions if I don’t know the answer but because I constantly update my skills through reading the latest publications, I feel that I have a good grasp of best practice and can implement these with minimal supervision.
9. What are the routine procedures that a practice nurse regularly performs?
This question aims to explore your understanding of your potential day to day duties. The key to successfully answering this question is provide a coherent description of the routine procedures that you will perform as a practice nurse. It’s not a trick question but this question can be difficult to answer if you don’t have a thorough understanding of your role.
Possible Answer: In my current role as a practice nurse I regularly treat and dress wounds, take blood and urine samples, check blood pressure, temperature and pulses. I have regular contact with patients and will advise and consult them as well as liaise with the wider healthcare team including GPs, other healthcare professionals and hospitals. There is often a need to run well woman and well man clinics and/or specific clinics for aliments such as diabetes or asthma.
10. Do you have any questions for us?
It still amazes me the number of times people attend interviews and don’t have any questions for the hiring manager!
Always prepare at least three questions, ideally five before the interview.
You may not get the chance to ask all of them but asking questions demonstrates that you care about the role and about how you fit into their institution.
Example questions to ask
What is the level and depth of orientation?
Will more orientation time be granted if I feel I need it?
Will my orientation take place during the shift I will be working?
- What are your expectations of new hires during their first six months on the job?
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What qualities do your most successful nurses possess?
What is the nurse-to-patient ratio?
How long are your shifts — 8, 10 or 12 hours?
How do you go about scheduling?
Is self-scheduling an option, or does someone else dictate the schedule?
How long have most nurses been on the unit?
Why did the last person in this position leave?
How long has this position been vacant?
Will I be on call if I accept this position? If so, what are the conditions/requirements of on-call duty?
Management and Administration
How would you describe your management style?
How do you motivate employees?
How do you demonstrate that you value your nursing staff?
How much autonomy do you give your nurses to make decisions regarding patient care?
How often do you conduct performance reviews?
Is the administration open to suggestions that would improve patient care?
What challenges is this facility facing?
What have been this unit’s most notable successes and failures over the year?
What are nurses’ biggest challenges at this facility?
What makes this facility unique among others in this region?
What steps do you take to ensure safe working conditions?
What are your plans for future growth?
We hope that these questions provide some guidance and prepare you for that all important interview.
The key to a good interview is practice and preparation. The more interviews you conduct the better you’ll get but before every interview ensure that you spend some time preparing and researching the institution and your interviewers.