Competency-based interview questions
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Competency-based interview questions

Many employers these days use competency based interview techniques to assess nurses at interview. Many jobseekers find this approach unusual and difficult – but it doesn’t have to be!

By preparing for the kind of questions you are likely to get you will find yourself more relaxed and able to answer questions more comfortably. Even if an unexpected question pops up; you will find that – with practice and once you are in the right mind-set, you will readily find the answer you need!

The questions below are just a guideline – there is no guarantee that they will appear in any interview, but it always helps to be prepared!

We would also recommend doing some research on the hospital/group or company that you are attending for interview. You are likely to get asked questions about why you want to work there. It is also useful to try and prepare some questions for you to ask as you will usually to be given this opportunity at the end of the interview.

Try to rehearse your own answers with a friend acting as the interviewer so that you can practice giving your answers to a real person – it does help.

When preparing your answers it is useful to remember the STAR method which is an acronym for:

S: Situation
T: Task
A: Action
R: Result

So to begin you give the situation or set the background; then recognise the task or target aim of the job; what you did, skills and behaviours used and finally the result – what happened.

A good STAR story should only be a couple of minutes long and delivered with energy and enthusiasm! It needs to be about a real experience and although a work situation is preferable this is by no means essential.

Although there are examples of questions below and the reasons these have been asked – what the information the interviewer is trying to get from you. It is also good to take a question apart and see how you build a STAR answer:

“Have you ever led a team before?”

You could simply say yes and move on – but leadership is a very important skill – particularly within a healthcare setting and you should not miss an opportunity to shine!

(Situation) – Yes in my last ward – which was a busy general surgical ward and often had a high turnover of patients due to the short stay nature of the surgeries.

(Task) – We were extending the bed capacity of the ward and this meant that the manager and sisters were often required to deal with higher than usual levels of paperwork giving them less clinical time on the ward and unable to supervise the junior staff.

(Action) – I realised the pressure this was putting on the management team and offered to assist in the supervision on the junior staff nurses and HCAs which allowed me to demonstrate my organisational capabilities and put my mentorship qualification to practical use. I took on additional responsibilities such as organising rotas and presenting annual leave requests to the management ensuring that any time off could be covered by our current staffing levels so that the team were not put under additional strain during the reorganisation. I also inducted new staff and students onto the ward.

(Result) – Shortly  after this and the introduction on new beds onto the ward I was promoted to a senior staff nurse post in recognition of the contribution I had made and offered the opportunity to further my management skills on future study days. I very much enjoyed to organisational and training aspects of the role and was recognised by my manager as a key member of the team during a period of transition and re-settlement.


Sample Questions

“Describe a situation in which you had to handle a difficult and demanding patient”

The interviewer wants to know what your interpersonal skills are like and how you respond to conflict. Possible examples could include a patient resistant to their treatment and being uncooperative with your management of their care. This is an opportunity to highlight your communication skills. Good nurses (like you!) have strong communication skills which include excellent listening skills and persuasion. They are able to ensure patients and their families are understood and their needs taken into account. They are also able to fully explain treatments and influence patient responses while displaying empathy.

“Describe a decision you had to take quickly regarding a patient”

This is looking at your judgment. Take the interviewer through the process you used to evaluate the situation and the criteria you used to make your decision. Show how you are able to rapidly assess the situation and then commit to the most appropriate action.

“Tell us about a time where you disagreed with a colleague over the management of a patient”

Are you able to work as part of a team? Do you display sufficient maturity in dealing with health care colleagues? What resources did you use to diffuse the situation- listening to your colleague’s reasons, gathering information to make sure you had sufficient understanding of the situation? Focus on what you learned from the experience as a nursing professional.

“What changes have you contributed to established practices to improve patient care?”

Nursing interview questions like this are designed to explore your ability to show initiative and to assess and implement new procedures. It also looks at your motivation to go beyond the routine of your nursing job to think about how you can improve on current patient care protocols. Important skills used would include attention to detail, close observation, critical thinking and judgment.

“Tell me about a challenging problem you faced in your previous job. How did you deal with it?”

This question is designed to explore your ability to analyse and manage problems. Be specific in detailing how you gathered the necessary information to clearly evaluate the situation before coming up with a workable solution. Highlight your critical thinking ability and how you are able to apply previous nursing experiences and knowledge to deal with a difficult situation. Explain what you learned from the challenging experience.

“Nursing work often involves a number of daily frustrations. Tell me about some of the frustrations you have dealt with recently.”

Dealing with daily frustrations is part of most jobs. Your examples should highlight your ability to demonstrate perseverance, reasonableness and common-sense in the face of common frustrations. Prove you are resilient and able to deal with daily frustrations.

“Take me through a typical day in your previous job.”

The interviewer is assessing your ability to organize and plan your day, your energy levels, your ability to be flexible and adaptable, and the sort of pressures and challenges you had to face on a daily basis. Before your interview outline a typical day for yourself and be able to answer this question fluently.

“How do you manage stressful situations? Give me an example.”

Focus on how you are able to maintain emotional stability in the face of traumatic and stressful situations. What resources do you use to do this? Examples include physical fitness, exercise and relaxation techniques.

If you require any advice on preparing for an interview or would like to discuss your career options with our specialist team please call 0845 259 0320 or email info@mgmedical.co.uk.

If you would like to download a copy of this factsheet, please click here.


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