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Set yourself apart with the help of our nursing interview checklist

06/07/2018
Posted by: Lynn Sedgwick

You’ve crafted a great CV, made a stellar application, and you’ve been selected for interview. Congratulations! You can rest assured that your personal brand is working well if you’ve made it this far. However, don’t be complacent. Preparation is key – just because nurse numbers are falling, don’t think that employers will be happy to make an offer to anyone. You still need to put in significant effort to land the job. The work to secure your ideal role is only just beginning.

Excelling at your interview is not about being a genius or knowing absolutely everything there is to know about nursing; it’s about the small practical things you can do that will give you the best chance at success. View the interview as an opportunity to enhance your personal brand further – our interview checklist will help you prepare for the challenge and to secure the best outcome.

Here’s a brief overview of what you need to know.

Practicalities

First of all, arrange time off with your current employer. Don’t just go AWOL on the day, as you want to retain good relations with whoever is currently paying your wages. Don’t be tempted to pull a sickie either – it’s a smaller world than you think and you never who you could run into. Gather all of the relevant information from the recruiter – the who, what, when, where and format of the interview. Allow plenty of time to reach the destination and factor in time to find a parking space – don’t let traffic woes stress you out ahead of the important meeting with those you’re trying to impress.

Research, research, research. The best way to ensure interview success is to be clear what the job involves, and what is being asked of the candidate. If it’s a multi-stage interview process, ensure you have plenty of examples to showcase your skills as repeating the same anecdote will risk you sounding like a one-trick pony. Senior nurses, hiring managers and recruiters will be much more impressed by your ability to respond to a range of situations and your ability to use your initiative.

The interview

There are plenty of steps you can take to enhance your interview success. If you have a phone interview speak slowly and clearly. You may well be on a speaker phone in a meeting room – not favourable acoustics at the best of times – and you want to make sure that everyone in the room hears you properly.

Whatever interview stage you’re at, bear these tips in mind:

  • Hone in on your skills and have the job spec in front of you - or at least review it before your interview. Relate your past experience to what the new employer is looking for.
  • Be specific when talking about your experience. The STAR method helps you to answer questions fully while staying focused. It stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Explain the situation you were faced with, the task that needed to be done, what action you took, and the end result.
  • Asking about development opportunities is fine, as this shows that you want to stick around, but do not ask about salary or benefits!
  • Your reasons for leaving may be a question the interviewer asks, so have a professional answer prepared. It’s OK to be honest but do frame it in a positive light – saying that you feel you’ve achieved all that you can in the role will be sufficient.
  • Don’t talk down your current employer. Following the previous point, this is absolutely vital. Any unprofessional or personal comments will not win you brownie points with the interviewer.
  • Ask the interviewer questions, for example: how they plan to improve patient care, or where they see the department in five years’ time. It’s important you show an interest in the employer you may work for.
  • Demonstrate professional awareness of a range of different issues. For example, ask about clinical trials they have been conducting or how broad issues in the NHS are affecting them. Show that you have an awareness of issues and trends that are defining the profession as you may well be quizzed on these subjects in return – so prepare!

Prepare for questions you may be asked ahead of time. Just make sure that you answer the question you’re asked on the day, and you’re not shoehorning what you want to say into the conversation. Consider these interview questions and how you might answer them. We’ve put some hints to give you a head start:

1. Tell me about one of the toughest groups you've had to work with. What made it difficult? - What did you do?

Talk about why the group was tough, without talking down other people. Was there a deadline, or a mix of abilities and experience in the group, for instance? Focus on your actions, not other people’s.

2. Tell me a situation in which you were able to turn around a negative customer? - What was the issue? - How did you accomplish the turnaround?

Again, don’t vent about the client. Explain how they came to be upset. Demonstrate that you took positive actions, like listening and being patient, to resolve the situation.

3. Give me an example of when a mistake you made provided you with a learning experience?

This isn’t a trick question – we all make mistakes, so don’t say you haven’t! Focus on how your rectifying the mistake resulted in a better way of working for you or the team.

Celebrations and learnings

So, you excelled at the interview and have been offered a position – great news! However, if you didn’t receive an offer this time, don’t panic! You can still take a lot away from the experience. Ask the interviewer or your recruitment consultant for feedback – understanding areas where your interview performance could have been better gives you insight into what you need to change next time.

Our interview checklist for nursing candidates is full of practical tips and information to help you make the best of an interview. From preparation to the big day, it has everything to help you land your dream nursing job. Visit our website or call 01772 259 121 to request your free copy.

And if you enjoyed this blog, you may also like to read our blog on ‘Top career tips for nurses’. Don’t forget to have a look at our recent job vacancies too.

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