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Career Guide: Top Job Interview Tips for Nurses

We all know that nursing is still one of the most in demand jobs in the UK. We are seeing an increasing number of Filipino nurses being deployed to the country month by month. More so, we also hear success stories of Filipino UK Nurses who are thriving and being offered with higher level positions within the health care sector. These stories give us a sense of pride-- its a testament that Filipino nurses are now rightly recognised for their hard work.

On the other hand, there are still more stories of disappointment. There have been Filipino nurses who were interviewed several times for various roles but failed to get an offer, despite their nursing background/experience. Why are they not getting their desired roles? Yes there might be issues beyond our control, but let us look into where we can improve and hopefully land that dream job.

We share common mistakes applicants/candidates commit during interviews as identified by recruiters and hiring managers and tips on how to avoid these mistakes.

1. Prepare— One would think that nurses who have a good wealth of experience would not find it difficult to secure a nursing job in the UK. However, this is not the case for all. Lack of preparation can be one of the biggest reasons why they fail—some would attend interviews without preparing. One of the managers told us "We heard excuses like— I do not have the time to prepare or I am already doing the role— answering the questions should be easy for me”. You cannot be complacent—Remember, in most cases you are not the only who is being interviewed for a role. During interviews, you have to exhibit your best and stand out. Prepare well because in the end you will only reap what you sow.

Here is a list of the things you need to prepare before any interviews.

  • Look the part– Whether it is a video interview or a face-to-face discussion, you need to make sure that you look professional. Different companies have their own protocols when it comes to dress code. But the common rule is you need to wear & look professional. Make sure that your outfit is cleaned & pressed. What you wear should give you the confidence and bring out the best in you.

  • Location location location – if you are going for a face-to-face interview, make sure you plan your route and give enough time to travel. Being late for an interview is a big “turn-off” for interviewers. You are not off to a good start. Be on time—or better yet, be early! If your interview is through a video call, make sure that you download the app or visit the site beforehand. Prepare your surroundings too—eliminate potential sources of distraction, from your pets, children to unnecessary décor. Make sure your background would not distract your interviewers from focusing on you.

  • Familiarity breeds success – It’s common for interviewers to ask you why you are interested in working with them. This is a good opportunity to stand out from the rest of the candidates. Instead of answering this question with the usual answers such as "I want to develop my career OR "I want to work in the NHS.", you can show to them that they you have prepared and researched about their company. You can answer this question by sharing what you like about the company. This can be their specialism, ethos or the company values. For some health care companies including NHS, it would be highly beneficial if you know their values as most of questions are centred on these areas. Employers want to ensure that the people who they are hiring are exhibiting the same values they uphold.

  • Prepare and make sure to sell yourself the right way – Some of you may wonder—"Why do I need to prepare/think about my skills? I already know myself—this should be easy!” But no, some of us still find it difficult answering questions about themselves, especially considering the conditions of an interview. Imagine being in a Q&A portion of a beauty pageant. You are pressured to think & give the best answer in such a short time. Before your interview, find time to reflect and understand yourself more. You will find most questions are focused about your own experience, your skills, competencies & your drivers. As you reflect on these areas, read too the Job description/advertisement & match it with your current skills & experience. As an example, if the role requires someone who has clinical assessment experience. Assess if you have these skills & identify what experiences can prove that you have these skills & experience. These experiences can be handy when the interviewers ask you about your clinical assessment experience/background.

Listed below are few of the common questions in the health care sector:

  • What are key strengths & weaknesses. (This is not a trick question. Everyone has their own weaknesses. What’s important is that you recognise your weakness and you know how to improve or work on these weaknesses).

  • What is your understanding of the role?

  • Why do you want to work for/with us?

  • Tell me about a time you experienced a certain challenge in the following areas: communication barrier, teamwork, patient care. What did you do? (You will experience a lot of questions in this format/style. Some employers would call this a situational/behavioural/competency based or value-based questions. These questions are usually based from their role competencies or the values of the organisations. I will explain in Point 3 how to answer these questions)

  • Why do you think you are a good nurse? (Again, look at the job description, the values of the company and match it with your own skills & experience)

  • What motivates you?

  • Tell us about the 6 Cs? Which one of the 6Cs do you think is the most important and why? (Check out this link to understand the 6Cs of Nursing)

  • How do you ensure you provide high quality of care?

  • How do you demonstrate team work?

  • What is duty of care/ candour/ safeguarding? How do you exhibit these values? How do you ensure good infection control measures?

  • What have you done professionally to develop?

2. Be confident

Interviews can be stressful for most of us. It is normal and okay to be nervous. But do not let your nerves get the best of you. "We have seen cases where candidates can hardly speak or cannot think straight because they are too nervous." said one of the recruiters we have met. You need to get your head and heart in the right place. Here are some tips to combat these nerves:

  • Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. Please use point no. 1 as reference on what you need to prepare.

  • Practice. If you find interviews nerve-wrecking, try to practice – you can do it in front of the mirror or with someone you trust. This can help you be assured during the interview day.

  • More than words. Be aware of your body language too. How you carry yourself can also say a lot of things about you. Be aware of it and exude confidence.

  • Believe in yourself. The mere fact that you were invited for an interview only shows that they have seen a potential in your CV or profile. You need to believe & show to them what you can and able to do.

3. Be structured

"We have encountered nurses who have well-rounded Nursing experience but they were not able to properly convey their experience and skills to the interviewers. Some of their answers lack the structure or the substance."

As mentioned in Point 1 (preparation), for most companies, you will encounter value-based, situational, or competency-based questions. Examples of this type of questions are:

  • Tell me about a time when you have to manage a conflict within the team.

  • Tell me about a time when someone asked you to do something that went against your values.

  • Describe a time when something did not go to plan. What did you do?

Aside from having the answers, it is also beneficial for us to know how we answer these questions. One way for us to do this is through using the STAR technique.

The STAR Technique is widely used by companies in the UK, not just in the healthcare sector but also in other areas too. STAR stands for:

  • S-ituation (Set the scene. What is the background of the situation?)

  • T-ask (What is your exact role and responsibility relating to the situation?)

  • A-ction (What did you do?)

  • R-esult (What was the result? Ideally, your action should have positive outcomes. However, if you convey an action that resulted to a negative outcome, make sure that you explain what you have learned from the situation and how were you able to apply these learning to other situations.)

Aside from the STAR Technique, please bear in mind few additional tips:

  • Showcase yourself. Refrain from using “We” statements. Example – “We were in-charge of caring for a patient. We reported the issue to our line manager.” The “We” statements would not help the interviewers in understanding what you specifically did. Be specific on what you did, make sure to highlight your actions.

  • Focus on the situation. There are candidates who tend to get too excited sharing their stories– that they tend to digress from the original topic/situation given. This may confuse or turn off interviewers.

  • Use real examples. It is common for interviewers to ask you some follow-up questions or probe what you just said. Honesty and authenticity are very important and remember your interviewers are professionals, they can probably tell whether a candidate is lying or not!

We hope our tips can help you prepare for your interviews. Good luck on your journey and we hope you land that dream job!

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