Career advice

How to shine at interviews

Preparation is key to a successful interview. Plan well, do your research and the job could be yours, says RCN careers adviser Julie Watkins 

Remember to reflect on your experience and training during interviews. Picture: StockByte

An interview's success depends on careful preparation and practice. A key aspect of this is researching your future employer and making yourself familiar with the values of the trust or organisation where you want to work.  

Values can include embracing change, respect and dignity, improving lives and being open and honest. It is important that you demonstrate how your own values link in with these, why you want to work for that employer and what skills and experience you can bring to the role. 

You may be asked a separate question about values, or you can include this in the interview when you are asked to tell the panel a bit about yourself or why are you interested in applying for the job. 

It is also a good idea to arrange an informal visit to the organisation. You need to make sure it's the right job for you, so what better way than to spend some time on the ward or unit at the trust. 

STAR technique 

An employer will be impressed by this as it demonstrates your enthusiasm for the role, as well as giving you an insight into the environment, team and culture and helping you to develop networks. It is also a good talking point at interview.  

The next step is to focus on the role and the interview. Go through the job description and your application and, crucially, the person specification for the job. This describes the qualifications, skills, experience, knowledge and other attributes a candidate must possess to perform the role, and the criteria a panel may wish to discuss at interview.  

Reflect on your experience and training and look for examples that show how you meet these. Write them down using the STAR technique – Situation, Target, Action, Result – and practise by rehearsing out loud on your own, or with a colleague or careers adviser.  

Coaching exercises that explore 'who am I?' can help identify your strengths and talents. Exercises include identifying work values, interests, skills and situations when you felt you were working at your best.  

When you talk about a task or project that you felt energised by, this will naturally come across in tone and body language. As well as helping with interview preparation, the exercises can identify key factors and skills that can guide you with career decision-making.  

Negative to positive

During an interview you may encounter some challenging questions. You may be asked, for example, to describe a situation that didn't work out as planned. What employers are looking for is your reflection and what you learned from the situation.

In this instance, it is about turning a negative into a positive. How would you change your practice in future? What would you do differently, if faced with a similar situation? 

Finally, get a good night's sleep before your interview, and try and relax on the day. First impressions are important, so look smart, smile, shake hands and make eye contact. 

For more information on careers advice go to The RCN also offers one-to-one career coaching for members who need additional support. 

Jobs Fairs in 2017 

Julie Watkins will be presenting talks on how to prepare for and succeed at interviews at the RCN Bulletin Jobs Fair at the Novotel, London West, on 21 April.

For more information, including the seminar programme and a full list of exhibitors at the event, visit the jobs fair website here.

Jobs fairs will be held on the following dates this year:

  • 20-21 April – London, West
  • 8 June – Glasgow
  • 5 September – Liverpool
  • 3-4 October – London


About the author


Julie Watkins is RCN careers adviser