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  • Preparing for nursing job interviews

    Author: Karen Keast

You’ve secured the all-important nursing job interview. But before you walk in the door for your interview, it’s essential to prepare to ensure you put your best foot forward. Here, some of Australia’s nurse recruitment experts, who have also revealed their most common nursing job interview questions, share their advice for nurses wanting to excel in their job interview.

Prepare, prepare, prepare!

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Preparation is key - the interview panel can tell which applicant has prepared and which applicant hasn’t, says Anette Smith, recruitment and retention nurse manager at the Royal Perth Hospital in Western Australia. “It really stands out - it doesn’t matter whether they’re nervous or not, I can tell whether they’ve actually done the work and prepared and know their selection criteria. Everyone gets nervous but preparation will get you through it.”

A little research
Research the organisation you’re applying to through their website. You can find a wealth of information about an organisation through their news or media release sections. Also, read their annual report, speak with staff or visit the organisation where possible. Take note of any projects underway and also their future plans. Consider where you can include some of this information in any answers to job interview questions. Applicants usually have the opportunity to ask a few questions in their interview. This information can also enable you to prepare a few questions in advance.

Be equipped
Take a copy of your application and resume, a notebook and pens. Review what documentation that you need to or can take to the interview. Some health organisations’ requirements include sighting original documents, such as certificates, while others require certified copies. Some organisations will allow you to take books and other references in to review during the interview, depending on the nursing position that you’re applying for. For example, a nurse educator may be able to take their education action plan and examples of their work into a job interview.

Do your homework
Applying for a more advanced nursing position? Robyn Fox, acting executive director of nursing and midwifery services at Metro North Hospital and Health Service in Queensland, says several days ahead of the interview, applicants may receive some pre-questions or be asked to present on a topic relevant to the position. “We might say to a nurse manager - we’re looking at a change in the services that are being provided at this particular work unit. How would you go about doing that? Then they will be able to prepare and come along with a plan.”

Practice your interview
Many health organisations provide assistance with interviews. If you’re applying from within the organisation, make the most of the assistance and advice on hand. “There’s lots of people you can ask and resources you can use within a hospital,” Ms Smith says. “It could be senior nurses or staff development nurses but really tap into those people around you.” Graduates should also get in touch with the organisation in advance to see if they offer assistance with interview techniques. Alternatively, you can practice with someone, on your own or in front of a mirror, says Ms Smith. “The key is your ability to verbalise,” she says.

Plan your journey
It’s imperative you arrive not on time for your interview - instead be early! Having time up your sleeve to navigate public transport or find a park near the organisation will help to reduce any pre-interview jitters. Arriving early not only shows you’re organised, it also gives you time to read any supplied questions ahead of the interview and jot down notes. Many organisations will let you take these notes into the interview to refer to throughout the interview. If, due to unforeseen circumstances, you are running late, call ahead to inform the organisation and see if it’s possible to reschedule your interview time.

Be professional
Presentation is crucial. Ensure you look the part for the position you want. A professional appearance is imperative - from the clothes, shoes and accessories you wear, to your hair, any make-up and the presentation of your finger nails. In the interview, smile and say hello to everyone and do your best to remember their names. Also, thank the interview panel at the end of the job interview. Importantly, never criticise your current or previous workplace, managers or colleagues.

Be calm
It may be easier said than done but it’s important to remain calm so that you can think clearly during your job interview. Take a deep breath to calm your nerves or have a drink of water. Ms Fox says members of the interview panel will do their best to set you at ease. “When people are scared or anxious, you don’t get the best out of them. We want to relax the applicant so that we can actually try to get the best fit for the position. It’s not about testing them to the nth degree, it’s about seeing what fit they are for the job, how would they fit in with the team and what’s their professional perspective.”

Show your passion
Don’t just go through the motions at a job interview - showcase your passion for your nursing career path. “We want nurses to be currently engaged and to really take pride in what they do and to be thinking ‘active nurses’ rather than just about coming to work,” Ms Fox says.

Provide examples
Think ahead about some of the questions you’re likely to be asked in the interview. The key selection criteria will give you a valuable insight into the potential questions. Then plan your answers and include specific examples to support your answers. Outlining examples adds legitimacy to your answers.

Stuck on a question?
Remember, the panel don’t want you to fail. “No-one likes to be interviewed for jobs and we want people to do well,” Ms Fox says. “We will provide prompts and support to them throughout the process.” If you get stuck on a question and go blank, ask the panel to move on to the next question, Ms Smith adds. The panel will return to that question later. “There’s nothing wrong with that and there’s nothing wrong with asking for questions to be repeated,” she says. “Take a second, you don’t have to rush all of the way through it.”
If you don’t know the answer, forget attempting to bluff your way through it - that can be obvious to interviewers. Instead, it’s better to admit you don’t know the answer but then say what you would do in order to find out more.
Finally, if an interviewer asks if you have anything further to add when you’ve answered a question, then you most likely haven’t answered it thoroughly, Ms Smith says. “Don’t just say ‘no’,” she advises. “That’s the biggest hint we give applicants when we’ve interviewed but they haven’t understood that it means that they’ve missed something. Go back over your answer and add to it.”


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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords