How to prepare for a nursing interview

Familiarise yourself with the area you’ll be interviewing for, understand the kind of patients or clients they look.

Matt Bodell
9 July 2015

Preparing for your Staff Nurse Interview is important – you’ll need to make the right impression, sell yourself and demonstrate care, compassion, and competence.

RELATED: 50 Interview Questions & Tips for Registered Nurses


Normally your interview will be brief and only last around 15 to 20 minutes and is usually completed by the two or three people – the ward / unit manager plus a senior nurse and possibly a HR representative.

How to Make a Good Impression

First impressions are important and doing this well will put you in good stead for the rest of the interview. You’ll be understandably nervous but try not to be a gibbering mess.

  • Smile when you walk in and shake hands with members of the panel if you can.
  • Take your time, get comfortable and compose yourself.
  • Ask the panel to explain or reword a question if you don’t understand it.
  • Ask for extra time to answer a question if you need it.
  • Keep good eye contact and don’t rush your answers – be concise.

How Can You Prepare?

Prepare an opening statement. It’s commonplace for interviewers to ask open-ended questions like “tell us a bit about yourself” or “why should we employ you”. Prepare a reply that covers not only your professional life but also a bit about your personal life. It’s important the interviewer feels they have gotten to know you.

Learn about the area. Familiarise yourself with the area you’ll be interviewing for, understand the kind of patients or clients they look after and if possible arrange a visit to the area prior to interviewing.


Read up about the trust. Have a knowledge of recent incidents or feedback as well as any awards or commendations the trust or area has been given.

Demonstrate common sense. It is likely your interview will include scenario-based questions and it’s just as important to demonstrate common sense as well as clinical skills. Don’t be afraid to say things like ‘I’d ask the patient‘ or ‘I’d speak to the family‘.

Principles, values and behaviors. Demonstrate you are a trustworthy, respectable person with a caring attitude. Read these ‘Values and Behaviors’ documents by University Hospitals Bristol, Guys and St. Thomas and Nottingham University Hospitals – trusts pride themselves on providing patient-centered and holistic care.

Know the 6 C’s. Care, compassion, competence, communication, courage, and commitment. You can read the full NHS England document here.


Use keywords or phrases. You can score essential points in your interview simply by using phrases like; “I work well within a team”, “I’ll always seek advice from a more senior nurse when I’m unsure”, “I can prioritise my workload” and “I have good communication skills.

Tell them about your areas of interest. If you have a keen interest in core areas like end of life care, infection control or tissue viability mention these at interview and demonstrate you would be keen to take up link-roles.

“What would you do if…”. These questions can he hard to prepare for but remember to demonstrate common sense and show your principles, values and behaviors. Usual topics will include the identification and management of a septic patient, dealing with confused patients, speaking to patients wanting to self-discharge, identifying safeguarding concerns and the management of dementia or delirium.

The Quality Care Commission and the Francis Report. Have awareness about the role of the CQC. Understand the recommendations that were made in the Francis Report and the implications it had on healthcare.

Prepare questions to ask. Show your keen and have two or three questions prepared to ask.


Although you should take your portfolio, have important documents at the front, it is unlikely the interviewer will have time to look through it all.

These tips are for ‘Band 5’ Staff Nurse role and should be used as a loose guide only, it is likely you will be asked questions specific to the trust or area you will be working in.

Finally, don’t over prepare and good luck!

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