Eight Tricky Healthcare Job Interview Questions in Ireland and the UK

Eight Tricky Healthcare Job Interview Questions in Ireland and the UK

You’ve been doing everything you can to get that doctor’s job in the UK or that nursing job in Ireland.

You’ve worked hard on your CV and followed your recruitment consultant’s advice to the letter. Now – brilliant news – the healthcare provider has offered you an interview.

But you know the healthcare job interview can be a difficult hurdle to get over. Of course, you need to research the hospital or healthcare provider’s website and study the job description or person specification to make sure you’re properly prepared.

But what about the healthcare job interview questions themselves? What questions are likely to come up? And what about those really tricky ones that could leave you mentally scrambling back through your medical career to dredge up the right information as your interviewers drum their fingers and the clock ticks ever more impatiently?

You need to predict which job interview questions you’ll be asked and prepare convincing answers to them – answers you can give in a calm and authoritative tone with no need for uncomfortable silences or hastily cobbled-together answers.

Of course, you can never know exactly what you’ll be asked, but there are some questions that come up with regularity. Check out our previous blog about the commonplace healthcare job interview questions that most candidates will face.

This blog builds on the last one by looking at the slightly more specialist questions you might have to answer as a medical professional. Below are eight challenging – yet frequently asked – healthcare job interview questions that could be the barriers between you and that doctor’s, midwife’s or nurse’s job in Ireland or the UK.


What do you know about our clinic/hospital/company?

This is where your thorough research of the healthcare provider’s website comes in useful. Demonstrating that you’ve properly researched the organisation – and especially the bit of their website that concerns your future department – is a clear signal that you’re keen.

It shows that, for you, this is not just one interview out of many, but that you’ve bothered to read up on the organisation and that what you’ve read has made you eager to work there. Make clear in the interview that you agree with the healthcare providers’ aims and values and that you would fit into the organisation’s structure well.

Appropriate responses might be: ‘I read the ethics, aims and values stated on your website, and I have to say that I thoroughly agree with them.’ ‘I saw on your website that you work closely with the _______ department. I was glad to see that, because in my current role I work with _____ doctors on a regular basis …’


How would your present boss describe you?

When answering this healthcare job interview question, you need to stay positive. Perhaps you have an excellent relationship with your line manager, but it’s also possible that you don’t always see things in the same light or that you feel he undervalues you as a medical professional.

A healthcare job interview is not, however, the place for complaining about your boss’s defects. Use this question as a means of proving you’re a truly excellent nurse, doctor or midwife.

Think of positive comments your boss has made about you over the years. Maybe she’s praised your ability to stay calm under pressure, your problem-solving and organisational skills, your deep knowledge of a certain branch of medicine.

Perhaps you could answer: ‘John, my current line manager, often says I’m a great team player.’ ‘My head of department has mentioned he’s impressed with my knowledge of _____ and a number of times he’s asked me for my opinion about _____.’


Give me an example of a time you dealt with a difficult or demanding patient.

The purpose of this healthcare job interview question is to check how good your interpersonal, communication and conflict-resolution skills are.

You could perhaps give examples of patients who were emotionally distressed or intoxicated, or patients who would not follow a prescribed care regime or take their medication. When you describe your responses to such individuals, make sure you highlight your ability to stay calm in a stressful situation, your excellent listening skills, your empathy and your verbal persuasiveness.

When describing a situation in which a patient was aggressive or abusive, you should stress that you knew and followed your hospital or clinic’s procedures for dealing with such people.


Have you ever had a disagreement with a colleague concerning the management of a patient?

This healthcare job interview question also aims to analyse your conflict-management and interpersonal abilities, as well as examining how well you function as a member of a team.

Disagreements do arise from time to time in workplaces, but good medical professionals should be able to resolve these conflicts using good listening and communication skills and tact.

Select one incident from your career and show how you calmly expressed your opinion before listening respectfully to your colleague. Show the interviewer that you each had the maturity to reach a compromise and find a way forward in order to successfully treat the patient.

A healthcare job interview is not the place to boast that you were proved right while your colleague was shown to be wrong. Even if this is what happened and you feel some smugness about it, don’t let it show here.


Can you tell us about a time you had to make an important decision about a patient very quickly?

This healthcare job interview question is testing your judgement, your medical knowledge and your ability to stay calm under pressure.

Choose an incident from your medical career. Describe how you quickly yet calmly applied your knowledge to the task at hand and came to your decision about how the patient should be treated.

Tell the interviewer about how your decision worked out. It’s a good idea to describe an episode that had a positive result.


Tell me about a time when someone criticised your work.

You don’t want to answer this job interview question in a way that could make you sound incompetent or likely to make careless errors.

The trick here is to make any criticism you received sound constructive. You should also sneak in the idea that your boss or colleagues felt it was unusual to need to criticise you.

Include the actual words of your boss or colleague in your answer: ‘John, I know you’re an excellent doctor, but there’s a more efficient way of doing this I’d like to tell you about …’ ‘Sandra, I’m very impressed with your work, but I’ve been in midwifery a long time and I’d like to share a little secret that could help you …’

Show that you took the time to reflect on the criticism and then used what you learned to become a better healthcare professional.

Don’t give examples of any overly negative or unfair criticisms you received. You might feel angry about them and have an urge to put your side of the story, but in job interviews you should always focus on the positive and avoid the negative.


Tell me what you know about _____ branch of medicine/_______ nursing/ _____ aspect of midwifery.

This healthcare job interview question is a chance to showcase your in-depth knowledge of your area of medicine and show how passionate you are about it. Explain how you came to learn your knowledge and expertise: ‘I’ve been working as a cardiologist for twelve years now and something I have frequently noticed is …’ ‘In my three years as a nurse manager, I have realised that …’ ‘Last year, I went on a really useful professional development course about …’

This is not, however, an opportunity to give an hour-long lecture about your specialisation. Keep your answer fairly short and use two or three well-selected examples to prove how much you know.


Have you got any questions?

This question often comes at the interview’s end. While researching the company or hospital’s website and studying the job description and person specification, jot down a few questions you can ask. This will seem impressive as it proves you’ve taken the time to find out about the position and the healthcare provider.

In the interview, it’s better not to ask about pay or conditions. You should rather wait until you’ve been offered the job. Knowing the organisation wants you will put you in a stronger negotiating position so you may be able to request a more attractive package.

You might find that all the questions you prepared get answered in the course of the interview. In this case, you could just say, ‘No, you have explained everything very clearly.’

IHR Group is an international nursing agency and healthcare recruitment consultancy which matches doctors, midwives and nurses with healthcare jobs in Ireland, the UK, New Zealand and Australia.

We help our candidates prepare for job interviews and can help negotiate competitive salaries in the light of market trends. We are happy to say that we have a 99% placement success rate.

Why not check out our UK/Ireland candidates’ page to find out more about the friendly, personal and highly professional service we offer?

If you are interested in finding a healthcare job in Australia or New Zealand, please go to our Australia/New Zealand candidates’ page.

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