The UK is calling out for new nurses, with plenty of nursing roles available. In early 2021, the NHS experienced a nursing vacancy rate of 10.3%, up from 9.7% a year earlier. Yet despite the high number of vacancies, interviewers still expect recruits to show their skills and knowledge in interviews.

If the word interview causes you to break out in a cold sweat, fear not: we've consulted the experts in our specialist nursing recruitment team to provide advice and insights into the most common UK interview questions posed to jobseekers in nursing.

Spanning experience, working style, best practice and more, read on to learn 10 typical interview questions and answers for nurses, explaining why employers ask them and advising how best to answer them. For more information on acing your interview, visit our hub.

1. Why did you decide to become a nurse?

This nursing interview question is designed to illuminate your passion for the role and concern for your patients.

To answer effectively, share what attracted you to nursing and try to relate it to what you're more generally passionate about.

Is it helping others? Is it empowering individuals so they can help themselves? Or, as is often the case with subfields like community nursing, is it the variety of scenarios you get presented with on a day-to-day basis?

2. How do you manage your workload and prioritise tasks?

With rising pressures in healthcare, employers want to be able to see that you'll be an efficient and productive member of their team – this question is your chance to show them that.

In your answer to this nursing interview question, be sure to refer to real-life examples of workload and task management, particularly times when you had to deal with multiple priorities. Talk about how you ensured procedures were still followed and the effects of your efforts.

These situations can be stressful, so it can also be valuable to note the strategies you use to cope and ensure resilience. This can cover the day-to-day (writing lists, breathing exercises, staying hydrated) and your free time (the gym, hobbies, mindfulness).

3. What achievement are you proudest of in your career?

Heads of nursing practice are always keen to find nurses who are not only good at their job but can also demonstrate the soft skills so crucial to the role.

To respond effectively to this question, focus on moments where you went above and beyond to ensure a patient’s safety or to help provide effective care. Compassion and kindness are two soft skills that are on the checklist for every employer looking to fill a nursing vacancy.

With this nursing interview question and any others that focus on specific examples of your practice, it’s always good to employ the STAR technique:

  • Situation – when and where did the example happen?
  • Task – what did you need to do?
  • Action – what was your response?
  • Result – what happened and what did you learn?

This framework is a great way to form answers to nursing interview questions in advance, memorise them, then repeat them effectively to the interviewer.

4. What sort of feedback would I get from patients if I asked them about you?

In nursing, it’s crucial to provide the right support and care for patients during difficult times. Additionally, how you're perceived by your patients determines the kind of nurse you are. That’s why many interviewers will always ask this particular nursing interview question.

In your answer, focus on a specific patient or example of care you've provided. Talk about how your actions made your patient feel and the difference they made to their clinical outcomes.

You may also wish to weave in your knowledge of the 6Cs of compassionate care and how they guide and influence you – compassion, competence, communication, courage, commitment and care.

5. If a colleague did something wrong or unsafe, what would you do?

When practising as a nurse, you are governed under the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) Code to work cooperatively with colleagues to provide the best possible care for every patient.

As well as the sharing of best practice, the Code also requires you to challenge colleagues if you witness them doing something unethical or not in the best interest of a patient, and report their actions to a senior member of staff.

In your answer to this trickier UK nursing interview question, the interviewer will be looking for you to demonstrate that you're trustworthy and always able to act in a patient's best interests – even in personally uncomfortable situations.

They may also wish for you to display a good understanding of clinical governance, given the impact it has on standards of patient care.

6. How do you propose to continue and manage your PREP in line with revalidation?

To renew your professional registration with the NMC, you must submit the relevant revalidation documents, gained through post-registration education and practice (PREP).

While your employer will support you to do this, there is a responsibility on you as a practitioner to produce written reflections, conduct reflective discussions and ensure your revalidation is verified by a confirmer.

Answering this more technical UK nursing interview question well requires you to first demonstrate that you're legally able to practice. You then need to show that you've taken the necessary steps and are using the right recording tools to guarantee your revalidation.

7. What made you specialise in your chosen branch of nursing?

Job satisfaction and feeling a sense of achievement in your role have a significant impact on your ability to provide the best level of support and care to your patients.

The interviewer would be looking for you to demonstrate a passion for working with your client group. Tell them why this area interests you, especially if you're interviewing for a post within the same or a similar branch of nursing.

When responding to this nursing interview question, provide examples and specifics to make your answer more relatable to the interviewer and add substance to your reply.

8. What client group are you now looking to work with and why?

This question is designed to measure your competency within the niche you’re applying to enter.

How you answer this nursing interview question will be dependent on whether you're interviewing for a post similar to your previous roles or looking to branch into a new career path within nursing.

If you're interviewing for a related post, draw on past experiences where you worked with a particular group of patients and how you supported them.

If you're looking to work with a new patient group, discuss why this area is of interest to you and highlight any transferrable skills from your previous work experience.

9. What are your main strengths and what do you enjoy doing within nursing?

This is another competency-based nursing interview question. Here, the interviewer wants to find out what you’re best at – and whether your key skills gel with the role and the team.

When answering this type of question, make sure you pick specific strengths that can be applied to the role you're interviewing for, giving specific examples of how you've utilised the strength previously. If you choose broader skills or ones that aren’t focused on the job specification, you run the risk of appearing unqualified.

10. What are your main weaknesses and what have you done to overcome them?

Personal reflection and learning from past experiences and mistakes are fundamental for you to become the best possible nursing practitioner.

In your response, don’t be afraid of discussing real-life weaknesses or mistakes you've made in your career. No one is perfect, but by using frameworks like STAR, you can turn a negative story into a positive one.

It’s for this reason that this type of nursing interview question is highly popular. It's not to identify what you're bad at but for you to demonstrate you're continuously learning and evolving within your nursing role and specialism.

Don’t forget to ask your own questions too

Always prepare several questions and have them to hand to ask after your interview. Doing so will indicate that you're interested in the role and keen to find out more. Just make sure not to ask any questions that have already been covered during the interview.

You may wish to ask:

  • How would you describe the culture of the ward?
  • What are the team’s goals for the year?
  • What does success look like in this role?
  • Is there a preceptorship programme (if you're newly qualified)?
  • What learning and development opportunities exist in the team?

As well as preparing for potential questions, there are other ways you can ensure you prepare for your interview to enhance your shot at success.

One thing is for sure, though: research is key. Ensure you have researched the organisation and have thoroughly read the job and person specification to understand how your skill set and experience fit in.

If you'd like further advice on interview tips for nursing roles, please get in touch with one of our nursing recruitment specialists or view our interview advice hub. Alternatively, view all our jobs or submit your CV to have tailored opportunities sent to you as they appear.