A Nurse's Guide to Giving a Great Interview

See also: Interview Skills

Many people are apprehensive about interviews, and nurses are no different.

They feel a lot of pressure to come across as the ideal candidate because the interviewer is looking for a qualified professional who can be trusted with the care and treatment of patients. In this article we talk about some of the ways you can come across as the ideal candidate.

Typical Interview Questions

Some interview questions might throw you off course if you haven’t prepared answers for them beforehand, so it’s important to think about the questions you are likely to be asked – and then you can consider the answers you will give to each one.

Here are a few typical questions you should prepare for:

“Why should we employ you?”

You are likely to be asked this question, or a variation of it, at some point in the interview, so it’s wise to have a good answer ready.

Simply telling the interviewer that you are a good nurse won’t be enough; you need to back everything up with evidence. For instance, if you say that you are a great team player, you should give an example of how you have demonstrated this in the past.

Try to think of past situations in which you have:

  • Worked well in a team
  • Communicated effectively with other colleagues and patients
  • Showed a thorough understanding of common treatments and their side effects
  • Been calm under pressure
  • Improved your understanding of certain medicines

“What would you do if…?”

Your interviewer may present you with a few different hypothetical situations that may occur on the job, in order to gauge what you would do if those scenarios should happen. The imagined situations are usually difficult, and it can be hard to explain how you would handle them in an interview – but that’s the idea. The interviewer wants to see that you’ve already thought about these various on-the-job challenges and how you will overcome them.

Therefore, it is important to think of a few difficult situations you’ve resolved previously – whether this is on the ward or during your studies. By recalling such scenarios, and explaining how you handled them professionally, you will show the interviewer that you are capable of remaining composed at work – which is, of course, absolutely crucial to any nursing role.

Some example scenarios that may be put to you include:

  • What would you do if a healthcare assistant disagrees with you about a course of treatment for a patient?
  • What would you do if you think a colleague has committed gross misconduct?
  • What would you do if you realise a patient has been administered an incorrect dose of insulin?
  • What would you do if a patient is attempting to discharge themselves against your advice?
  • What would you do if a patient’s family is unhappy with their relative’s care?

“Do you have any questions for us?”

This is a prime opportunity to ask all of the questions you have and to make sure that this is the position you really want. It also shows the interviewers that you are thoughtful and considered, because you have prepared questions and are clear about what you want to know.

Some great questions you can ask include:

  • Who would I be reporting to, and may I be introduced to them if I haven’t been already?
  • Is there a mentoring programme for new nurses?
  • How can I keep up to date with news and new initiatives happening within the organisation?
  • How often would my performance be evaluated and how would this be done?
  • Are there any other questions that I can answer for you about my qualifications or experience?

Body Language

An experienced interviewer will pay attention to your body language and general demeanour.

If you are able to communicate openly and pleasantly with the interviewer, they will be more likely to feel assured that you are a strong candidate who will communicate effectively with colleagues and patients.

Here are a few body language “dos and don’ts” for interviews:

  1. Don’t slouch. If you slouch you will come across as uninterested and bored, when you should in fact make every effort to appear enthusiastic and excited to take on the job. Sit comfortably so that you appear happy and composed during the interview, but always maintain a good posture by facing the interviewer and keeping your back straight.
  2. Do use your hands. By gesticulating to make simple but enthusiastic signal as you speak (moderately of course), you will come across as passionate about nursing and eager to take on the role. If you make a point of not using your hands, you may come across as less interested and less energetic – neither of which are desirable qualities in nursing.
  3. Do smile. Smile as you speak, in order to show that you are a happy person who will have a positive impact on the working environment. Of course, less is more, but if you go out of your way to remain straight-faced, you could come across as cold and stern.
  4. Don’t fidget. It is easy to feel uncomfortable in an interview, which is why you may feel tempted to move around a little. However, this can be interpreted as nervousness and implies a lack of self-confidence, so you should try to relax.


The best motto for nursing interviews is: always be prepared.

A key way of doing this is by researching the practice you will be working in if you get the job. Look for recent literature, research and reviews about the practice online. By bringing this is up in the interview, you will impress the interviewer as you will be showing your keen interest in the organisation. Talk about why the literature you read was interesting and how it shows the practice in a positive light. This will also show you to be an eager and positive candidate, traits that every medical practice would like to see in an employee.

It is also important to keep on top of recent legislation and nursing news. You are likely to be asked your opinion on developments in the medical sector during the past 12 months, so always do your research and have a good answer prepared. Reading through the Nursing Times, for example, could give you the edge.

The Skills You Need Guide to Getting a Job

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Getting a Job

Develop the skills you need to get that job.

This eBook is essential reading for potential job-seekers. Not only does it cover identifying your skills but also the mechanics of applying for a job, writing a CV or resume and attending interviews.

Key Advice

Finally, we have some top tips for you ahead of taking your interview:

  • Get a good night’s sleep.

    Make sure you’re refreshed and energised by getting an early night the evening before your interview – especially if you have an early morning interview. By doing this, you will appear bright, positive and enthusiastic.

  • Dress appropriately.

    Your interviewer will usually specify whether you are expected to dress formally or not, but if in doubt it’s always best to err on the side of caution and choose smart attire. Dressing too formally is commonly forgiven, whereas dressing too casually very rarely is.

  • Consider how you will be getting to the interview.

    Give yourself plenty of time so that you get to the interview about 15 minutes ahead of schedule. This means that you will have time to find your way through the building and compose yourself before you meet your interviewer.

  • Bring everything you need to the interview.

    Check that you have everything packed and ready the evening before the big day. If you’ve been asked to prepare a presentation, for example, make sure you have it saved on a USB stick or on your laptop. Remember to take other important things too, such as directions to where the interview will be, a smart folder containing copies of your CV in case the interviewer asks to take another look at it, and a notepad containing all of your prepared answers in case you need to remind yourself of anything on your way there.

  • Practise.

    Practise makes perfect in all walks of life, and that is especially true for interviews. Look over the answers you have prepared and replay them in your head. It is also a good idea to ask your friends and family to play the part of the interviewer – get them to ask you all of the questions you think will come up in the interview, and maybe even tell them to be as awkward as they can. Then, you can answer them with your fully prepared answers. This will help to improve your confidence and your answers will seem informed, natural and confident in the real interview.

Working as a Nurse

Working as a nurse is one of the most rewarding and exciting career paths you can take. By conveying your passion, expertise and dedication to the job, you will be far more likely to succeed in your interview and secure that dream position.

About the Author

This article is written by CRG, the UK’s leading recruiter for nurses and medical professionals.