Career advice

Virtual interview tips for nurses: how to present yourself and how to prepare

Social distancing has made remote interviews far more common — here’s how to excel on screen
Virtual interview

Social distancing has made online interviews far more common heres how to excel on screen

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, significant changes had to be made to nurse recruitment processes at many organisations.

At Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, when we could no longer meet candidates face-to-face we began carrying out interviews remotely using virtual platforms such as Skype.

New options for interviewing using technology

This type of technology was new to the recruitment team, but we quickly got to grips with it.

Over the past few months, we have carried out more than 100 interviews in this way.

With an increasing number of job interviews being conducted on screen and remotely at

...

Social distancing has made online interviews far more common — here’s how to excel on screen


Picture: iStock

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, significant changes had to be made to nurse recruitment processes at many organisations.

At Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, when we could no longer meet candidates face-to-face we began carrying out interviews remotely using virtual platforms such as Skype.

New options for interviewing using technology 

This type of technology was new to the recruitment team, but we quickly got to grips with it.

Over the past few months, we have carried out more than 100 interviews in this way.

With an increasing number of job interviews being conducted on screen and remotely at workplaces around the UK, here are my top tips for nurses on how to prepare for and perform well in virtual interview.

Preparing for an interview

Good preparation is vital for any interview, so make sure you prepare as thoroughly as you would for a face-to-face interview.

Do your homework

  • Study the job profile and person specification Referring to these during your interview will help show the panel that you are right for the post.
  • Know the organisation Research the trust's culture and values and make sure these align with your own. This will help ensure the organisation is a good fit for you as well as you being the right person for them. 
  • Understand the issues facing nurses and nursing today This will show the interviewers that you have a good understanding of the nursing profession, and how the wider issues may affect the role you have applied for.
  • Look up interview questions that match the type of job for which you are being interviewed Get advice and guidance from experienced staff about the content and format of similar interviews, and if it is a clinical role, prepare answers to scenarios or possible role-play questions.
  • Ask for an informal chat with the appointing managers to build a relationship ahead of your interview and to find out what they are looking for in a successful candidate. Make notes and ensure you refer to these during your interview.

Dress the part 

  • What you wear is still important, even though you will only be seen from the waist up. You need to feel your best on the day and dressing to impress will help increase your confidence.
  • Wear a smart outfit, including shoes This will help get you into the right mindset for the interview. Make sure your hair is smart and avoid wearing distracting pieces of jewellery.
  • Wear a colour that helps you stand out Try to avoid wearing black as this colour can get lost on screen.

Understand the technology

  • Know how to operate the system you will be using for the interview Before the interview, ensure you can use the technology and get help if you need it. Practising with others beforehand will help alleviate anxiety on the day – interviews are nerve-wracking enough without technological glitches.
  • Place your device on a table or desk and check that your head shows centrally on the screen Use a laptop or computer to ensure full camera access, rather than a mobile phone where the camera view is limited.
  • Check the background A plain wall behind you is best if you don’t have a professional-looking background, such as an office. Don’t show kitchen units, curtains or your bed in the background as this looks unprofessional. Think about the lighting in the room – do not sit with a window behind you and use lamps so you are not under a glare. 
  • Ensure your mobile phone is turned off and remove any distractions from the room, such as pets Warn others in your household that you are participating in a remote interview and put a sign on the door so they know not to disturb you.
  • Prepare and practise your presentation Not all interviews will involve giving a presentation, but if you have been asked to do this, make sure it is full of images rather than lots of text and bullet points, which can make people switch off. This will keep the interviewers engaged. Know your presentation well so you can stay focused on the panel rather than your slides.
  • Make sure your equipment is fully charged This is important to remember – you don’t want your computer to run out of battery halfway through the interview.

During the interview

How you present yourself is equally important in a virtual interview, so think about how you come across on screen.

If you have made it to interview stage, you have already impressed the employers with your application. The panel want you to perform well, so try and stay calm and make sure you turn up on time. 

Body language Sit on the edge of your chair and lean forward. This shows you are keen and creates an energy that will be felt by the interviewers.

Look directly at the camera Although it is tempting to look at the screen or the person you are talking to, looking at the camera will enable you to make eye contact and stop you from appearing off-centre. 

Pace your speed Nerves can make us race through what we need to say, so practice before the interview so you aren’t rushing your answers.

Pause and take a breath before answering a question If you don’t hear a question properly, ask the panel member to repeat it, and if you don’t know the answer, just say so.

Deliver your answers with high energy The interview panel are looking for someone enthusiastic who lights up the room. Attitude is everything.

Always ask a question This shows you have thought about the organisation and the role you are applying for. Perhaps ask about career development opportunities at the trust or what the expectations will be of you in your new role.

Don’t be overly worried by technical issues The panel will have experienced similar frustrations using virtual platforms, so don’t get anxious if problems occur. If the issue can’t be resolved, the panel may suggest switching to a phone call or rearranging the interview, so be guided by them. Breathe deeply and stay calm by using techniques such as counting backward in your head from five. This will help you relax if you are feeling stressed.

 

 

After the interview: feedback and next steps

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you do not succeed this time.

There are many reasons why candidates are not successful on the day, such as competition being high for the limited number of jobs available, or there may just have been someone more experienced or appropriate for the role.

Contact a member of the interview panel to ask for feedback, which you can use to improve for next time.

Everything is about timing – if this was not the right job for you, something more appropriate will come your way.


Cora McKeown is lead nurse for nurse recruitment, Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge

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