Top 5 NHS Job Interview Tips and Typical Questions

The best way to reduce that fear of the unknown is to get prepared. We’ve had a look at the top 5 NHS job interview tips and typical questions you may encounter.

Job interviews don’t have to be daunting. It’s natural to have a healthy amount of nerves when being asked to perform under pressure.

The tips below will orientate you to perform well at interview. Time to get organised!


1. Build a strong argument for why you want the role

Make us believe in you! Why do you want the role?

It is your authentic belief and passion that ultimately sells you into the role. If you are competing against a candidate with a similar skill set who isn’t as adept at expressing the reasons as to why they believe in the work they do it is likely that you will outshine them.

A recent Ted Talk by Simon Sinek demonstrated that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. He used Apple as the example – a company that produces computers that perform the same tasks as equipment produced by rival companies.

Yet Apple are the market leaders. The difference is that they have a clear belief in their ethos of challenging the status quo through ‘beautiful designs, being simple to use and user friendly’. He reiterates ‘people don’t buy what you do, but why you do it’.

Why do you want that job in healthcare? If you can develop a reason based on your passions, ambitions and integrate that into your journey so far you will be able to craft a compelling answer to that question, and indeed the delivery of the role.


2. Back up your belief with evidence of your experience

You can build an even stronger case for yourself by aligning your reasons for the work you do with concrete evidence of your experience and qualifications.

It is important you do this in a way that matches up with the desired and essential criteria laid out by the organisation. Many NHS roles have detailed job descriptions and person specifications.

When applications are laid out in this way the employer usually needs to be able to fulfil the official criteria for an offer of employment to be made.

The best way to put yourself in a strong position is to tailor your answers and give evidence of how you meet their essential criteria.

Make succinct points on each skill requested. This will help you to build a good picture of how you will fit into and interpret the role and its functions.

Where you may have gaps in your experience try to gather examples that aren’t exact matches, but that are functionally similar. For example, you may have a lot of experience in dealing with people face-to-face in a professional environment, but not specifically in healthcare. How can you translate this knowledge into your new environment?


3. Create a list of answers to common interview questions

Interview questions typically cover a lot of similar ground during the recruitment process. Plan your answers to common and anticipated questions.

If you are asked variations of the questions you have prepped, use your stock response and adjust it slightly to suit the format on the day.

Questions that you may typically come across in interviews include:

  • Why do you want to work here?

Have a look at number 1 on this blog ‘Build a strong argument for why you want the role’

  • Tell me about yourself

Tell them about your professional history and your journey so far. Use the opportunity to pick out hightlights.

  • What do you think you can bring to the role?

Make a skills checklist, include any transferable skills where necessary and back it all up with real world examples from your work history and experience.

  • Role specific questions such as: Do you have any experience working with elderly patients?

If you don’t have direct experience include any experience when you’ve had to use the same skill and transfer it to the given scenario.

  • What do you know about the NHS, and this trust?

Do your research – memorise some key facts and figures on the trust you are applying to and the NHS more widely.

  • What is your biggest strength/weakness?

Give an example of a weakness that you’ve learnt from and already overcome. Give an example of how this happened, and how you deal with the situation differently today.

  • What are your career goals? / Where do you see yourself in five years time?

Think about how your goals align with the long-term objectives of the organisation and feed it into your answer.

  • Why did you leave your last job?

A better way to think about this question is – why do you want to develop with this organisation, in this role? What has made you make this change? Be positive.

  • Give me an example of a difficult situation or task at work. How did you deal with it?

Find an example within your experience that demonstrates your dexterity in dealing with challenging situations, people or problems. What did you learn?

  • What achievement are you most proud of?

This is a good opportunity to blow your own trumpet. Don’t shy away from doing so. It won’t hurt to take your own achievements seriously. 


4. How to stay calm

Part of staying calm for your interview is in the preparation. Make sure you get an early night, have your clothes prepared and any paperwork printed at least the night before. This will prevent any major flaps and moments of unwelcome enlightenment as to a missing item while on route to the interview.

Try and complete your interview prep work at least the day before. Check your travel route and make a note of it even if you plan to use a sat nav. That way if it recalculates into infinity or you lose power you’ll know the main roads you’re supposed to be following.

It’s also worth checking out what parking is available in advance – that can really slow you down especially on a hospital property. Get some money out the day before, and take plenty of change with you for the parking meter.

It’s worth taking an umbrella too – but if something does happen to go wrong and you get caught in the rain make light of it. When things don’t go our way it’s a good opportunity to show exactly how calm and positive you can be under pressure.


5. Be Professional

If you are applying for a job internally you may already be friendly with your potential employer.  Don’t let your informal relationship influence how you formally prepare for your interview.

Take yourself seriously, your potential employer certainly will, even if they know you from old.

Whether you’re meeting your potential employers for the first time or not, there are other ways you can be communicating your professionalism.

Firstly, have a look at your social media accounts and make sure you’re not giving off a bad impression or attitude. The clothes that you pre-prepare the night before should be smart. Have clean shoes, neat hair. Where possible dress formally in a smart dress or trousers, blouse or shirt. It’ll go a long way.

Some last tips for luck

When you meet your potential new employer at the interview, make eye contact, shake their hand and smile! Interviews are typically an hour long.

One last trick to calm your nerves is to plan something in that you enjoy for when you finish; even if it’s something small like a posh coffee from your favourite café. It gives the mind something more addictive and future based to focus on than the anxiety. You deserve the reward!

Aside from nerves, there should also be the sense that you belong professionally to an environment, and that you can positively connect with the people interviewing you. This will give you a good gauge as to how happy you may be, and to what extent you can grow within your role in that environment.

Remember you are interviewing the employer as much as they are interviewing you; knowing this will help you relax a little. It takes the edge off anxiety as it gives you back some control of the outcome.

If you don’t succeed in getting that new job or internal position, don’t be disheartened. It is much better to find a role that really wants you. It will also give you the time and space to improve your technique. Worst case scenario: you’ve made the mistakes that will be corrected for the more important opportunities coming your way. Good Luck!

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