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Job Seeking: At Interview

The essentials

  • Smile when you walk in.
  • Shake hands with all interviewers, if you can do this with ease.
  • Take time to get comfortable.
  • Ask if you don't understand a question.
  • Keep steady eye contact.
  • Don't rush your answers.
  • Ask questions at the end.

Body Language


  • friendliness
  • openness


  • you're paying attention

Eye contact

  • sincerity
  • confidence
  • respect, when spread evenly among interviewers
  • interest, but don't stare; look first at the questioner and then at any other interviewers

Sitting well back

  • relaxed
  • comfortable

Crossed arms

  • guardedness

Fumbling, fidgeting

  • nervousness
  • lack of preparation

Hunched shoulders

  • lack of confidence

Visit your portfolio and record what you have learned. 

Interview Presentations

If you prepare thoroughly, the need to do a presentation in an interview setting doesn't have to be frightening. Consider it a chance to showcase your skills and attributes. Read more .

Sample Questions

Here are some examples of common interview questions.

  • Why do you want the job?
  • What skills and experience do you bring to the role?
  • Tell us about a recent situation where you were required to use your initiative.
  • How do you cope with pressure/stress?
  • What makes a good team player?
  • What role do you play in a team environment?
  • What motivates you as a nurse?
  • Where do you see yourself in “X” years' time?
  • Please describe a situation where you've had to manage change.
  • How would you deal with a relative who was aggressive and verbally abusive?
  • What would you do if a patient said he wanted to make a complaint about the nursing care on the unit?
  • Please give an example of a situation where you have collaborated with a multidisciplinary team.
  • How would you apply research findings to your practice?
  • Describe your involvement in teaching: How would you help to create a learning environment?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses/development needs?
  • How do you keep up to date?
  • Tell us about a national initiative in nursing.
  • What do you understand by the term “equal opportunity”?

Difficult Questions

Some interview questions can cause discomfort because they appear to focus on your weaknesses rather than your strengths. It's important to anticipate these questions and consider how you can respond in a way that turns negatives into positives.

Write out your answers to some potentially challenging questions, and then check Feedback in the next section for more ideas.

For example:

  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Please give an example of a work situation that didn't go well.

Your Own Questions

Most interviews end with the interviewee being encouraged to ask questions.

It is useful to prepare a few questions in advance. This demonstrates that you're serious about the job and shows interest. Write your questions on a prompt card, if you need a memory aid.

Question order and pace

Try to ask general questions at the beginning and end, and personal questions in the middle. You want to leave a positive impression, so conclude with a question that demonstrates your commitment. Listed below are some of the issues you may want to explore.

  • What support will be offered in the early stages of the job?
  • Clarify any confusion in the job description or terms and conditions. (Be careful not to create an impression that your primary concern is remuneration.)
  • Will the employer support or honour your pre-existing plans for annual leave, study leave or pre-booked holidays, etc.? You may want to discuss the dates of pre-booked absences.
  • Is there scope for further development of the role?

Visit your portfolio and record what you have learned.

Interview Presentations

Getting Started

If you're asked to speak, the typical duration would be about 10-15 minutes. You will usually be given a title at least a week in advance. Research the topic carefully and — once you're completely familiar with it — decide what you want to say. Start with two or three messages that you want to communicate. (The key is not to cover too much.) Then decide how you will present your messages, and the arguments you'll use to communicate them.

Visual Aids

Contact the interviewing organization to confirm available equipment. If you request equipment for a PowerPoint presentation make sure you have overhead transparencies as a backup. Only do a PowerPoint presentation if you are very confident of your IT skills; it is easy to panic if the technology lets you down. As a rule, it's best to use overhead transparencies created using PowerPoint. Try to make your presentation stand out; yours may be among several the panel has seen on the same topic. Use cartoons, pictures or diagrams to illustrate your points, rather than bombarding interviewers with information. For a 10-minute presentation, plan on about five or six clear, simple transparencies: introduction, conclusion and two or three in between.

Using Notes

Prepare what you want to say and write notes or cue cards as reminders — but don't prepare a script. Interviewers will find it hard to concentrate if you talk at them in a monotone.

Rehearsal Tips

  • A presentation is essentially a performance: rehearse!
  • Practise using visual aids and test the relevant equipment.
  • Get a colleague, mentor, friend or relative to listen to your presentation and provide constructive feedback.
  • Practise in front of a mirror if you think it will help.
  • Time your presentation, aiming for a maximum of 15 minutes.
  • Practise speaking at a modulated pace.
  • Have relevant, well-researched messages/information to deliver.

Dealing with Nerves

It's natural to feel nervous before giving your presentation. Hadfield-Law suggests several tips for dealing with the physical signs of nerves:

  • wear a high collar to hide a blotchy neck;
  • bite the inside of your cheek to get saliva flowing;
  • eat a banana before the interview; it may act like a beta blocker;
  • take a few deep breaths to help you calm down; and
  • remember that being well-rehearsed will help quiet your nerves.


Boyes, C. and Wolverson, C. (2004) Presentation skills for health professionals. Therapy Weekly, 30 (52), 10-13.

Hadfield-Law, L. (2001) Presentation skills for nurses: how to prepare more effectively. British Journal of Nursing, 10 (18), 1208-1211.

Makinson, G. (2002) Improving your presentation skills. Nursing & Residential Care, 4 (5), 237-239.

Meek, G. (2005) Enhancing nurses' presentation skills. Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand, 11 (5), 18-19.

Vollman, K.M. (2005) Enhancing presentation skills for the advanced practical nurse: strategies for success. AACN Clinical Issues: Advanced Practice in Acute and Critical Care, 16 (1), 67-77, 112-117.

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