Newly qualified nurses

A nurse’s guide to winning at job interviews

Tips and techniques for conquering your nerves and impressing the panel
woman talking in an interview situation – thorough preparation helps nurses impress prospective employers at interview

Tips and techniques for conquering your nerves and impressing the panel

A job interview is a nerve-wracking experience; no matter how many you attend, you always get that heart-in-mouth feeling.

I wouldnt call myself an interview connoisseur, but I have had enough interviews over the years to be able to offer some practical advice to help you through.

So, youve got the good news that youve been invited for interview, meaning you're one step closer to your first job as a nurse. But what do you do next?

From pre-interview preparation to questions to ask afterwards, here are my top tips for getting the most out of your interview.

Your interview preparation Check your portfolio

Remove anything that is no longer relevant and make sure it is easy

...

Tips and techniques for conquering your nerves and impressing the panel


Thorough preparation will help you project your best qualities Picture: iStock

A job interview is a nerve-wracking experience; no matter how many you attend, you always get that heart-in-mouth feeling.

I wouldn’t call myself an interview connoisseur, but I have had enough interviews over the years to be able to offer some practical advice to help you through.

So, you’ve got the good news that you’ve been invited for interview, meaning you're one step closer to your first job as a nurse. But what do you do next?

From pre-interview preparation to questions to ask afterwards, here are my top tips for getting the most out of your interview.

Your interview preparation

Check your portfolio

Remove anything that is no longer relevant and make sure it is easy to read and in chronological order.

The day you don’t bring it with you will be the day it is asked for, so don’t get caught out. If you don’t get asked for your portfolio, you could ask the interviewer if there is time to show it to them.

Know the content: if the interviewer is short on time, you can direct them to the sections you feel are most relevant. Portfolios can be a great medium for showing your achievements, particularly if you get nervous during interviews.

‘For many employers, drug calculations will be part of the interview process so make sure that you practise these in advance’

Do your research

Demonstrating further self-directed reading about your profession and the issues affecting nursing is key, so read a current piece of research or literature and formulate an opinion and understanding of it. Whether it’s an article, a study, or something in the news, it is highly likely that you will be asked a question about something you have recently read.


It's good to show you've done your research, whether that is by discussing an article you
have read, or showing knowledge of the organisation Picture: iStock

Practise interview questions

There is a wealth of nursing-style interview questions that you can access. Even though they won’t be the exact ones that you are asked, they will give you some insight into the sort of topics that may come up.

Asking a friend or family member to practise with you can help calm your nerves on the day.

Reflect on your time at university

What difficulties have you faced and overcome? What are your strengths and weaknesses?

A lot of nursing interview questions involve scenarios and situations. Drawing on your experience will help you answer this type of question and demonstrate what you have learned.

Know your maths

For many employers, drug calculations will be part of the interview process so make sure that you practise these in advance.

Know the organisation

I’m sure you will have done some research on your potential future employer when you applied for the role. Re-read this to ensure your knowledge is up to date.

What has the organisation achieved that appeals to you? What are their values and how do they match yours?

Make sure you know how to get to the interview venue 

Interview nerves are stressful enough without the added pressures of not knowing where you are going.

Know what route you are taking, and, if possible, do a practice run if you are unfamiliar with the area.

Being late is never a good look, so give yourself lots of time to get there.

Dress appropriately

It is important to make a good first impression on the interviewers, so dress in a smart and professional manner.


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During the interview

Sounds obvious… but remember to breathe

Nerves can easily take over in an interview. Controlling your breathing can help ease your anxiety, and don’t forget to maintain eye contact.

Speak confidently, slowly and clearly.

Pause before you answer

This will give you a moment to think about what you are being asked and should stop you rambling off on a tangent.

Ask the interviewer to repeat the question if necessary, there is no rush.

Don’t forget to smile

Smiling helps indicate an open and friendly nature, but don’t be alarmed if the interviewer doesn’t smile back. This is not an indication of how well you are doing.

Be honest

If you do not know the answer to a question, say you are unsure. Attempt to answer the question if you feel you can but it is better to be honest than try to bluff.


A positive, confident and professional demeanour will get you noticed – in a good way  Picture: iStock

Be enthusiastic

This is your chance to sell yourself and showcase your skills, values and experiences. Employers want people who are keen to work for the organisation so show the interviewer why they should select you.

The interviewer may spend a lot of time writing during the interview. This can make it look like they are not listening, but I promise you they are. It is common for interviewers to use a grading system form to assess your answers, which can require a lot of writing.

Although it is tempting to run out of the door as soon as the interview is over, it is always advisable to ask questions. This helps show your enthusiasm for the role you have applied for and your interest in the organisation.

Good employers should welcome questions

Here are some ideas:

  • What support is in place for newly qualified nurses. Is there a preceptorship programme?
  • What are the opportunities for role progression and career development?
  • Do you have any support in place to promote nurses’ well-being, such as a flexible working policy and stress management?
  • What will be expected of me in my role? Are there any timeframes I will be expected to meet?
  • What CPD opportunities are available? What courses can I take and how soon can I expect to begin these?
  • Can I visit the ward or unit I where I would be working if my application were successful?

And finally, don’t worry if you are not successful on this occasion. It can be disheartening but ask for feedback where possible and use any constructive criticism to improve and push on.

Good luck.


Nicola Wiafe is a staff nurse in a neonatal intensive care unit 

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