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How to prepare for your nursing interview

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Whether you’re applying for a place to study nursing at university, a final year student nurse applying for your first nursing role, or a practising nurse looking for a new job, you’ll have to undergo an assessment, usually involving a range of tests and an interview, to secure your place.

I’m not an expert, but I have been successful at university interviews, job interviews and I’ve also been involved in interviewing prospective nursing students for both undergraduate and masters programmes.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to prepare, prepare, prepare! Research the role that you’re applying for, and think of examples of when – and how – you’ve demonstrated the key qualities the interviewers are looking for. Why do you want to work/study at that specific organisation? Think about key nursing values and try and incorporate them into your answers (for example, the 6Cs and the NMC nursing code of conduct).

You should arrive looking smart, so give jeans and trainers a miss. For men, a suit and tie is good, and women - if you’re wearing a smart dress or skirt, just make sure it’s an appropriate length.

Prior to the assessment day, you’ll usually be given details of what the interview process will entail. Find out what type of numeracy exam you will be sitting (if applicable); it may be simple questions from GCSE maths, or it may be a drug calculation exam.

Try to access practice papers from the organisation or have a look at potential questions online. Some interviews will also include a written assessment to ensure you can write clearly and comprehensively and use correct English.

The questions may be competency based and used to assess how you would react in a suitable way to certain situations. The occasional spelling mistake will likely be forgiven, as the main skills you need to demonstrate are that you can formulate appropriate answers and have good written English.

When it comes to the interview itself, organisations often differ in their interview style. It may be an informal chat, or you may be sat in front of a panel. Interviewers usually have a list of questions and will write notes as you answer. You’ll have a chance to ask questions after, and then the interviewers will discuss and score your answers. If you genuinely have no questions to ask, then don’t try to make one up on the spot.

One more thing to consider is the length of your answers. You don’t want to give short answers with no explanation or context, but similarly, you don’t want to chatter on and go off topic. This can make you seem unprepared and as though you are ‘winging it’.

Take a deep breath, take a few seconds (or have a quick drink of water) and think of an appropriate response. Some interview questions may be in two parts, so don’t forget to answer both parts of the question. If you need any part of the question repeating, just ask.

The interviewer may prompt you further and ask if you would like to add anything else to your answer. It’s fine to say that you’ve finished answering that question, and this is often better than trying to make up an answer that you’re unsure of. If you feel as though you have performed badly on a specific question, don’t worry! It’s only one question and there will be other opportunities to give better responses. Try to stay calm and composed as this should help you to answer the other questions.

Remember that it’s normal to be nervous beforehand, and the interviewers will expect it. Being nervous shows that you care and want the position that you are applying for.

If you prepare properly, you’ll be off to a great start. Not every position is going to be ‘the one’ for you, but there are so many opportunities in nursing that you will find the right one.

Good luck with your future interviews!

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