Tips to nail that next NURSING INTERVIEW.

Quite a few people have been asking about tips for upcoming new graduate or other nursing interviews.
I posted some thoughts on my FaceBook page and asked others to share their own advice and tips.

The result is a collection of tips that I thought worth collating in one place for reference when needed.


Remember: Interviews are not the best measure of your competency, but they are the process we all have to work with.

Take the time to be familiar with both the job description and the selection criteria for the job you are applying for. This should be easy as you have been working with them for your application.

If possible touch base with the person identified as the contact officer for the position you are applying for. This can usually be done via email. It gives you the opportunity to ask questions around the interview process and what form it might take.

Arrange some simulated interviews. You could ask a friend or colleague to help with this. If possible try to replicate the environment as much as possible  with desk and chairs, glass of water etc. Have the other person take notes as you are talking.

An excellent tip from NSW health:

Practice with a friend asking each other questions based around the selection criteria and the ANMC competencies and then formulate responses that demonstrate your skills and abilities, but don’t try to learn them word for word. Running through a mock interview with someone is a great way to prepare for the real thing. Be open to feedback and discuss your responses.

Familiarise yourself with the professional codes of conduct and ethics for nurses. You don’t need to know them verbatim but being able to speak to them may be beneficial.
Link to professional standards here.

The SELL question:

Be able to dentify and recognise the ‘SELL’ question if and when it is asked.
This is the question that opens up an opportunity for you to tell them why they need you.

Why do you want this job?  Why [insert specialty]? What can you bring to this position?

Be prepared to have about a 3 min answer to this question (Its that important!)
Most people run out of steam way too soon.

Prepare and be able to answer the questions:

  • What are your qualities (Know these well and honestly)
  • What does the job ask for (Essential and desired)?
  • Know the unit area you are applying for. What does the unit pride itself on? What are the issues? What are the contexts? Take time to research this stuff ahead of time.

Prepare for the questions.
Rehearse the interview.
Look professional.
Recognise your SELL opportunity.
Be yourself.


Dress advice: initial impressions matter. Dress neat, tidy and err on the side of conservativeness.
Tip: smell fresh!
If you usually wear lots of jewellery and body piercings, this is the time to tone it down to just a hint of your usual individuality.

Preparation can take you from good to excellent.

Give yourself PLENTY of time to get to the interview. Arriving all flustered and sweaty because you got caught in traffic or couldn’t find a hospital parking spot will do you no favours.

Have pencil and note paper at hand. Some interviews will give you a few minutes to see the questions before going in to meet the panel. If this is the case, be prepared to jot down some bullet point items to jog your memory for each question.

Questions. Questions. Questions:

Here are some examples of the sorts of questions you might be asked. A good selection here to give you some idea of both what to expect and to use for practice answers.

  • Tell us about yourself?
  • What qualities do you possess that will make you a successful registered nurse?
  • What nursing areas pique your interest and why?
  • What is an effective team you’ve been a part of and what was your contribution to that team?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What do you know about the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards?
  • How do you maintain your national registration with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency?

Here are some more:

  • What do you know about this area of nursing?
  • How do you perform under pressure?
  • Tell us about a difficult clinical experience you had and how you handled it?
  • What have you enjoyed the most about nursing?
  • What are your career aspirations?
  • Why do you want to leave your current nursing position?
  • What makes a good team player?
  • Provide an example of how you’ve handled a situation with an agitated patient?
  • The team leader has asked you to look after a particular bay of patients by yourself while your colleague takes a break. What would you do from a clinical handover perspective?


And here are some questions for more experienced nurses:

  • Provide an example of a situation where you had to resolve a conflict with a patient while providing care. What did you do?
  • Provide an example of a change you made in your nursing practice that improved the quality of care you were able to provide?
  • What’s your most important professional achievement?
  • Have you participated in the professional organisations you belong to?
  • How much supervision do you want or need?
  • Provide an example of a time you acted as a leader?
  • How do you delegate tasks to other staff?
  • What would your last supervisor say about your work?
  • Tell us about a recent situation where you were required to use your own initiative?
  • You’ve been approached by a junior nurse on the ward who is concerned about the care that’s being provided to a patient. How would you address that?
  • What would you do to ensure a particular clinical issue in the work environment didn’t occur again?
  • When have you had difficulty with your peers and how did you handle it?


During the interview.


  • Be Honest | Direct | Confident
  • Be Thoughtful | Considerate
  • Be Professional
  • Use strong body language.
  • Good eye contact | Smile.


  • Say you are better or complain about others.
  • Lie about yourself of your experience.

Remember to use actual clinical examples to support answering questions whenever possible.

If your answer is not quite what they are looking for or does not give enough information the panel may ask you to elaborate on your answer. Often they are often matching your responses to a set of expected responses to each question.
However, they are not permitted to lead you in your response.
So if you are asked to elaborate, the panel is just trying to help you out to give the best response.
Take a breath and try approaching from a different angle.

Know that the interview panel will expect you to be nervous and try to relax you as much as possible. Secret: panel members may often be a little nervous themselves.

Sit strong and remember to breathe!
Read this post and watch the video: Practice tactical breathing and super-nurse body posture.

There will always be a glass of water available. Don’t be afraid to have a drink if you are drying up.

Advice from those who have already been there:

Vicky: I was on the panel last year. Best advice is be yourself and use common sense when answering questions.

They want you to give examples of your experiences in your answers. Even if it was a conflict example from your job at McDonald’s it’s still relating back. Also with your scenario question there is no right answer as long as you remember to say that you would ask for help cuz remember nursing is team work

Zoe: May be helpful for NSW Health applicants….
Know NSW Health ‘CORE’ values and be able to give an example of how you would use each in your practice

Be prepared to be asked a WH&S question (e.g. manual handling, infection control…)
You may be asked a question regarding prioritisation of care. Eg. You’re given a scenario and asked what would you do. Pt A is yelling out for a pan, Pt B is such and such, a family member is doing this…

Always remember your scope of practice as a new grad. They don’t want or expect you to be super nurse who knows everything. They want you to be a safe practitioner, they want to be confident that you know when you need to ask for help and that you will keep yourself and your patients safe.
Listen to the question. Take a moment to process what they have asked. Clarify the question if need be. Even ask to come back to it if you need more time. You don’t have to jump in immediately.

Heather: (UK interview for Cardiac Intensive Care) I was expecting quite a lot of policy type questions vis-a-vis CQC type stuff like safeguarding etc but I got primarily clinical scenario and infection prevention and control questions. I didn’t get any personal type questions about my qualities or why I wanted to work there really. Though right at the end they asked how I managed stress which threw me. I wasn’t prepared for that but I was just honest and it worked out fine.

I would say with scenario type questions be clear about what you know and don’t know and when you look for support from senior staff members. They said they were very happy with my escalation and being clear about the limits of my competence. And even though they didn’t ask directly about policies and evidence base I tried to weave that into my answers. I would say just try to have fun. Part of it is them believing that you would be a nice person to have as part of the team. If you come across relaxed and pleasant to speak to then they may think, ‘I’ll look forward to working with them.’ 😊

My husband’s advice was not to go and have an interview. He said ,‘Go and have a nice chat with some colleagues.’ And that really was what it was. A nice chat about nursing with some pleasant colleagues.

Amber: Depends what on the area you are applying for as to what will be asked. The selection criteria should be a bit of a guide as to what the questions might be. For my interviews I wrote dot points for each criteria on poster paper and stuck them up in the lounge room. I spent a week or two reading them through and testing myself. Practicing with a friend is helpful too.


Health Times. (2017). Nursing job interviews. [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 Jan. 2017].

Intensive Care Network. (2017). 38. Harris on Interview Preparation – Intensive Care Network. [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 Jan. 2017].

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