You’ve wanted that nursing job in Ireland or that doctor’s job in the UK from the moment you saw it advertised. You’ve submitted your application and now you’re getting ready for that crucial telephone interview.
Some of the job interview questions you’ll be asked will, of course, be focused on the medical duties of the role. You can prepare for these by reading the job description and person specification carefully, researching the hospital or healthcare provider’s website, and reflecting on your clinical experience.
But how should you deal with those more general job interview questions that almost everybody seems to get asked? Despite all your years of study, despite all your experience of working as a doctor, nurse or midwife, these common yet tricky interview questions can leave even the best of us stumped.
Below we’ve listed nine of these generic healthcare job interview questions that could stand between you and your dream medical career in Ireland or the UK.
Here you need to think about what exactly the employer is looking for in a candidate. Think about how you can present your skills, experience, qualifications and personal attributes so that they match the points in the job description and person specification. Which details from your background fit with the healthcare organisation’s objectives and or could help with any challenges it is facing? Give real-life examples of difficult situations you’ve been faced with at work and explain how you managed to resolve them.
You should also stress that you have the skills and characteristics that all employers value – the ability to think on your feet, great communication skills, people skills, time-management skills, a strong work ethic, and the ability both to work by yourself and thrive as a member of a team.
This job interview question is a tricky one. Honesty may not always be the best policy here. First of all, don’t focus too much on the money. You don’t want to come over as solely motivated by cash. You could just say ‘well, you are offering a very competitive package’ and then move on to the other aspects of the job that appeal to you.
You’re after a healthcare job in Ireland or the UK, so should you say you have a strong desire to move to one of these countries? While a little praise directed towards your interviewer’s country might go down well, you shouldn’t overdo this. You don’t want to come across as naïve about how amazing you think life is going to be in your new home and you shouldn’t let the interviewer think that you simply see the job as a ticket to your desired life overseas.
So how can you deal with this job interview question? Well, this is where your thorough research of the medical institution and the post on offer can pay off. You can demonstrate (by being specific and giving real-life examples) that you have exactly the right skills and experience to add to the team. Stress that you share the healthcare provider’s values, ethics and aims and say you would fit in well with the institution’s working culture. Say that you feel the job would be a fascinating opportunity for you and that it would enrich your development as a healthcare professional.
If you know the healthcare institution is looking for a long-term employee, it would be wise to say, ‘Well, ideally, I’d like to be working here as a …’ If the job is likely to be more temporary, you could answer, ‘I’d like to be employed in an institution similar to this one, working as a …’
This is a tricky question that requires a well-balanced answer. You should come across as well-motivated, but not so ambitious that it sounds like you want to take other people’s jobs. An answer like ‘I’m desperate to get into a management role in this very hospital’ could seem threatening. A better answer might be: ‘I would like to be working as a ____ in this hospital, or in a similar healthcare institution in Ireland. I’d like to feel that I’ve contributed positively to the hospital and that my experience there has been good for my professional development.’
Don’t hesitate to expound on your strengths. Though modesty is valued in both British and Irish culture, an exception is made for job interviews. While you don’t want to seem boastful or arrogant, don’t be afraid to confidently list your skills, achievements, qualifications and successes.
It would be a good idea to talk about any positions of responsibility you’ve held or any areas of medicine or healthcare practice you have a deep knowledge of. Don’t be afraid to repeat what others have said about you: ‘My last line manager said I’m great at thinking on my feet and that I’m an excellent problem solver.’ ‘My colleagues all say I’m the person to go to if they need advice about …’
When discussing your skills and experience, try to match them as closely as possible to what’s listed in the job description or person specification.
Speaking about your weaknesses is more difficult. What you shouldn’t do here is give a long speech about your defects and failures. The trick is to turn negatives into positives – so that rather than admitting to weaknesses, you’re actually listing more strengths.
Take, for example, the following answer: ‘Sometimes I’m a bit too hard working. I occasionally need to remember that there’s more to life than work.’ What you’re really communicating here is that you have a great work ethic.
You could use the same technique to deal with anything you’re missing with regards to the job description or person specification: ‘To be honest, I don’t have so much experience of ____, but I learn very quickly so I’m certain I could get the hang of it soon.’
We all know that the healthcare environment can be stressful and demanding, so the simple answer to this question is ‘yes’. It’s a good idea, however, to back this answer up with examples of challenging situations you’ve found yourself in and managed to overcome: ‘I remember when we were short-staffed during a flu epidemic and …’ ‘There was once a major bus crash near my hospital and as an A&E doctor I had to …’
It would also be a good idea to stress that you try, as far as possible, to stop stressful situations developing through being well-organised and having effective time-management skills.
This job interview question is a tricky one. If your salary expectations seem too high, you could put the employers off, but – at the same time – you don’t want to undersell yourself by requesting too little.
A good technique here is to throw the question back at the interviewer. You could say, ‘Would it be possible to tell me the salary range for this sort of job?’ The interviewer, in his surprise, will often let you know.
If you have been told the salary range before the interview, you could say, ‘Where do you think someone with my qualifications and experience would be on that scale?’
If the interviewer resists giving you this information, you could propose quite a wide salary range yourself. This will have the double advantage of not making you seem overly expensive while giving you the opportunity to negotiate a salary towards the upper end of the scale later.
Generally, it is better to wait until you have been offered the job before asking for a certain salary. If the company is keen to employ you, this will place you in a strong position, meaning you might be able to edge the salary up.
Reputable nursing agencies and healthcare recruitment consultancies, like IHR Group, can give you advice about realistic salary levels with respect to market trends.
When answering job interview questions, always try to stay positive. While your current role might have its minus points, an interview is not the right place to moan about them. If you complain too much, this may give the impression that you are awkward and difficult to work alongside.
Talk about the plus sides of your current job in a way that reflects well on yourself. ‘I love the teamwork involved in the job – I really enjoy cooperating and sharing ideas with my colleagues.’ ‘My job lets me make use of my deep knowledge of _____.’ ‘I like how in the operating theatre I often get to use my problem-solving skills.’
When discussing your dislikes, you should again turn negatives into positives while putting yourself in the best light: ‘Though I enjoy my current role, it doesn’t have any management responsibilities and that’s an area I’d gain more experience of if I got this job.’ ‘I like my present job, but I feel it’s time to challenge myself more and I’m keen to develop further as a medical professional.’
These days, teamwork is a vital part of nearly every job, so you should stress that you can work as an effective team player. However, there may be times when you need to work alone so you should also emphasise that you’re able to work by yourself and make your own decisions. Give specific examples from your work experience of times when you’ve functioned well as part of a team and of times when you’ve worked alone using your own initiative. How exactly you answer this job interview question will depend on the role on offer: how much teamwork does it include and how frequently will you need to work alone?
Here you should only speak about things that have some connection to the position you’ve applied for. You don’t need to give endless details about your friends, family, schooldays, favourite films etc. You should mention your qualifications, skills and work experience, but also talk about other aspects of your life that have relevance to the job, such as your hobbies. If you enjoy playing basketball, you could say this has improved your teamwork skills. Your passion for fitness training could ensure that you have the stamina to deal with demanding schedules and long working hours. Being the chairperson of a club could have helped improve your management, communication and organisation skills.
To conclude, you should have researched the company well and you should talk about your skills, qualifications and experience in a way that matches the points listed in the job description and person specification. You should support the points you make in the interview with real-life examples from your medical career. Always stay positive and turn weaknesses into strengths.
IHR Group is a healthcare recruitment consultancy and nursing agency that matches nurses, midwives and doctors with healthcare jobs in Ireland, the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
If you apply for healthcare jobs through IHR Group, we will help you prepare for your interviews so you can present your skills, work experience, medical knowledge and personal attributes in the best possible way.
Why not take a look at our UK/Ireland candidates’ page to learn how we can help you get the job that is just right for you?
If you are interested in finding a healthcare job in Australia or New Zealand, click here for our candidates’ page for these countries.
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