Nursing Interviews: Difficult Questions and How to Answer Them
You’ve filled out what feels like a thousand application forms and you’ve finally received an email telling you that you’ve made it to the interview stage. At first you experience a sense of euphoric joy, but as you’re doing your happy dance around the room it quickly dawns on you that you now have an interview to prepare for… And the nerves begin to take over.
Whether you’re applying for your first role as a registered nurse or you’re an experienced nurse looking to take the next step in your career, interviews remain a daunting process. As experts in recruiting for nursing and healthcare positions across the UK, we’ve put together this little guide to answering a few of the most difficult questions you may be asked during your nursing interview. Read on to help calm your nerves.
Why do you want this job?
We see this question spring up a lot and while it’s very simple, it regularly leaves people struggling to come up with a great answer on the spot.
The first piece of guidance we’d give is: don’t generalise. “I’ve always wanted to become a nurse and I would love to work here as I feel I’ll be a great fit,” is the cliché answer most interviewers are tired of hearing. Take a moment to think back to what it was exactly that brought you into nursing in the first place. You may want to talk about what motivated you to choose the specific branch of nursing you’ve applied for. Don’t forget to mention any previous experience you may have. If you know the medical facility you’re interviewing for, or have done some background research, this is a good time to talk about that too.
This question is usually very broad and while you don’t need to go into a scrutinising amount of detail, a successful answer shouldn’t be short either.
What’s your greatest weakness?
The question that has the ability to scare even the most experienced of candidates. Many people feel this one may be pointless, but there’s a reason why interviewers still continue to ask it. From our experience in healthcare recruitment, we’ve found that this is frequently asked in order to determine what kind of an employee a person will be, but how do you go about answering it?
While you may have read the best way to answer this is by “turning a negative into a positive,” we would advise you to steer clear of this route. Think more about a ‘developmental need’ to address instead. Talk about a weakness which is acceptable for a role in nursing and discuss your proactive efforts to improve. For example, you may lack experience with a particular skill such as time management, touch upon this point and then go into further detail of how you plan on rectifying this by attending a short course to help you sharpen your ability in this area and learn how to plan and prioritise your tasks better. This shows that you’re self-aware and are striving to be your best regardless of your weakness. Remember that sincerity is always key to making a good impression!
Why do you feel you’re a good nurse and what evidence do you have to support this?
Don’t let this question throw you. It’s actually easier to answer than you may think. We receive numerous applications throughout the year and the one thing that stands out to us the most is the passion every applicant has for the field of nursing. Use this question as an opportunity to demonstrate how passionate you are about your career choice.
Talk about how you carry out your role according to the values of the six Cs – care, compassion, competence, communication, courage and commitment. You should also use examples from your past experience to show evidence of your capabilities as a nurse.
What does compassionate care mean to you?
When processing application forms, the one thing we look for in a candidate is compassion as we understand how important this requirement is in order for someone to become a successful nurse. While anyone can learn a skill, caring and compassion is inherent and interviewers want to see this present in all successful candidates.
When answering this question, it’s important to include ways in which you have used kindness, empathy and understanding in your past experience to handle tough patient situations. Interviewers are looking for applicants who have the ability to treat a patient the same way as they would like to be treated themselves. This is a good chance for you to recall and share a story of how you’ve made a difference to a patient using these softer skills.
Name a work situation where you made a mistake or things didn’t go to plan.
This one sounds scarier than it actually is. While it may feel like the interviewer is searching for faults, they really want to see that you’re able to demonstrate that you have an aptitude to take control of a difficult situation and learn from your mistakes – remember not to talk about someone else’s mistakes here, the interviewer wants to know about you.
Don’t be afraid to use past examples from your previous experience which display how you handled a mistake you made. Make sure you explain how, if you were to end up in that situation again, you would do things differently.
What would others say about you in three words?
This is usually a final question and it’s a great opportunity for you to express how you think other people perceive you. In our experience we’ve found that interviewers are impressed with individuals who are able to answer this question. Some good examples of answers here include, ‘loyal, compassionate and fair; genuine, caring and professional or even equitable, passionate and reliable.’
Interviewers are looking for candidates who show they have the insight and maturity to seek opinions from other people. They want to see that you can take feedback on board in a positive way.
Do you have any questions for us?
As the interview draws to a close, it’s highly likely that the interviewer will ask you this question. As this is common, we recommend that you plan for it in advance. Prepare a list of questions that you would like answered prior to attending your interview.
One of the best questions to ask at this point could be about whether they can offer any further learning or development opportunities with the job role. This will display the ambition you have to further your knowledge of the field in order to help you progress in your career.
Nursing interviews can be challenging as they’re mostly competency based and conducted in front of a panel, naturally making them quite daunting. However preparation is the key to successfully walking away with a job at the end!
We hope these interview tips have helped. If you’re interested in changing or advancing your career in nursing and healthcare, contact the Job Medic team and let us help find the perfect role to suit you.