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NHS Interview Questions and Answers (2024 Guide)

NHS Interview Questions and Answers (2024 Guide)

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The NHS relies on a variety of staff to operate effectively. Job roles are varied, from those on the front line such as medicine, nursing, midwifery, dental care and emergency response, to non-clinical supporting posts including administration, IT and finance.

The NHS application process typically involves several stages:

  • Application – This involves completing an online application form, submitting a CV, and a covering letter.
  • Psychometric tests – Applicants may be required to complete aptitude and psychometric tests to assess their cognitive abilities, personality traits, and values.
  • Video interview – Successful candidates may be invited to complete a video interview, where they will be asked pre-recorded questions and will need to provide recorded answers.
  • Assessment centre – Applicants who successfully pass the video interview stage may be invited to attend an assessment centre. This involves participating in group exercises, individual interviews, and presentations to assess the candidate's skills, knowledge, and values.
  • Final interview – Successful candidates will be invited to attend a final NHS interview questions. The final interview will likely include competency-based questions and questions about the organization's values and goals.

To be successful in your NHS interview, you should fully understand the role you have applied for and how it fits into the wider service.

You should also conduct thorough background research, practice your interview technique, and prepare answers for general interview questions.

In addition, you’ll need to prepare for specific questions relating to jobs in the NHS. With such a broad range of roles on offer, the exact questions will vary.

That said, there are many that are likely to crop up in all scenarios.

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The list below offers 10 common NHS interview questions, including those relating to the service in general, as well as competency and situational questions relevant to most roles.

What Are Interviewers Looking For in an NHS Interview

Interviewers in an NHS interview are typically looking for several key qualities and attributes in candidates.

First, they are looking for candidates who have the necessary technical skills and knowledge required for the role, such as:

  • Medical expertise
  • Clinical skills
  • Administrative competence

Second, they are looking for candidates who demonstrate a strong commitment to patient care and safety and have a clear understanding of the importance of delivering high-quality healthcare services.

Third, they are looking for candidates who possess good communication skills, both verbal and written, and who can work collaboratively with colleagues and other healthcare professionals.

Other key qualities that interviewers may be looking for include:

  • Adaptability
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Leadership potential
  • Attention to detail
  • A willingness to learn and develop new skills

Additionally, interviewers may assess candidates' values and work ethic, including their ability to work under pressure, their commitment to teamwork and their ability to handle challenging situations with professionalism and compassion.

Top 10 NHS Interview Questions and Sample Answers(2024)

1. What Appeals to You About Working in the NHS?

This NHS interview question may also be phrased as “Why do you want to work for the NHS?” or “Why do you want to work here?”. It's designed to establish your motivations for choosing the NHS in particular, your understanding of its culture and ideals, and how well you’ll fit into the organisation.

When forming your answer, as well as describing what you will gain from the role, also refer to what you intend to bring to the service in return.

Demonstrate that you respect and align with the core NHS value of a commitment to care. Show you have the desire to work in a highly challenging environment and are dedicated to continued professional development, to raise standards of service delivery.

Example answer:

I strongly identify with the ethos of the NHS and believe the best way to use my skills is to contribute to the continued delivery of accessible healthcare.

The opportunities for ongoing training and development will allow me to move forward, while remaining an integral part of a committed team of professionals.

I am passionate about quality patient care and, despite the many challenges it faces, believe the NHS to be the best environment in which to truly make a difference to the lives of others.

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2. Tell Me About the Core Values of the NHS

Regardless of the role for which you are applying, this is one of the most important NHS interview questions, as the organisation takes a strong values-based approach to recruitment.

Ensure you are familiar with and can express commitment to the following six principles:

  • Commitment to quality of care – This focuses on the building of trust and a pledge to continued safety, accountability, integrity and improvement.
  • Working together for patients – This emphasises internal and external collaboration for the good of patients, over and above any organisational needs.
  • Compassion – This centres on a proactive approach to patient care, treating all with kindness and taking every step to relieve suffering.
  • Respect and dignity – This refers to a culture of openness, honesty and respect for all who come into contact with the NHS.
  • Everyone counts – This revolves around the fair allocation of resources and caring for those most in need, regardless of circumstances.
  • Improving lives – This underpins the very purpose of the NHS, its commitment to excellence and the improvement of patient health and well-being.

To prepare, try to think of a few examples of when you have demonstrated each of these six principles in your work or personal life.

3. What Are the Current Challenges Facing the NHS?

As far as NHS job interview questions and answers go, this is perhaps the most telling when it comes to your understanding of the inner workings of the NHS, the realities and challenges of the role you are applying for, the future of public health and how external factors impact on the organisation’s ability to deliver.

The best response to this question will be timely and based on current affairs. Funding, staff shortages, rates of pay, working conditions and the allocation of resources are all challenges for the NHS. You must be up to speed on the particulars of each at the time of interview.

Beyond financial and political challenges, there are also many social factors affecting the NHS, such as an ageing population and the impact of poor lifestyle choices, including the rise of diseases like diabetes and obesity.

Proving that you have a sound knowledge of how external factors continue to present new challenges will show that you appreciate the service as a whole, and are not solely focused on your role within it.

4. What Qualities Make a Good NHS Employee?

As stated, the NHS takes a value-based approach to recruitment. It looks for staff that support its ideals, and work to its moral and professional standards.

Of course, role-specific skills and experience are important, but if you’re at interview stage, it has likely been determined that you hold these.

Instead, focus your answer on the qualities that the six core values of the NHS demand:

  • Integrity and accountability – To ensure patient confidentiality, learn from mistakes and work towards continuous improvement
  • Flexibility and time management – To meet ever-changing demands and respond effectively in a challenging environment
  • Kindness, compassion and patience – To provide the highest standards of patient care and to take an empathetic approach to the treatment of family, friends and carers
  • Teamwork and communication – To work as part of a healthcare network that includes multiple departments and external organisations
  • Passion and commitment – To uphold the standards of the NHS and go the extra mile to improve the lives of others

You may also be asked NHS competency-based interview questions, which will require you to describe situations where you have demonstrated these qualities in action.

5. What Can You Tell Me About How the NHS Operates?

This NHS interview question requires in-depth research. You should be able to demonstrate a good understanding of primary and secondary care, and the roles of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), NHS trusts and foundation trusts.

You should also take the time to familiarise yourself with the NHS Long Term Plan, a document published in 2019 that outlines priorities and goals for the next 10 years.

Also note that there are structural differences across the NHS in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so you’ll need to thoroughly research the particulars of your area and understand how they relate to the wider framework.

If you have any contacts already working within the NHS, ask them for guidance to help develop your understanding of its operations.

It’s also vital that you’re familiar with the workings of your own chosen department, and the role it plays in the service as a whole.

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6. Describe a Time You Have Coped Well Under Pressure

Your response doesn’t have to relate to a healthcare-based role, but it must demonstrate that you can remain effective in a pressurised environment.

Use the STAR technique to formulate an answer that sets the scene, details your approach and ends with a positive result.

Example answer:

Throughout my time at university, I had to learn to deal with both financial and academic pressure. Personal circumstances meant that I had to balance part-time employment with study, which became increasingly difficult in my final year.

Ultimately, I had to take a step back to assess my priorities and make a plan to manage my time effectively. Through approaching my responsibilities strategically, I was able to turn the pressure to my advantage. Knowing I had a limited time to complete academic tasks really helped to focus my mind.

I also learnt that I needed an outlet for stress, which is why I took up running. I find it helps to clear my head and boost positivity, so I can handle pressure effectively.

Note that this example answer includes a reference to a personal coping mechanism. This shows that you take a proactive approach to stress management.

7. Describe a Time When You Have Resolved a Work-Based Conflict

The NHS is a highly stressful environment to work in. Staff are often under extreme pressure, which can result in tension and confrontation.

A key quality of a good employee is the ability to stay calm and not let personal feelings or challenges interfere with quality standards.

Again, your example can be from any previous employment, provided you clearly demonstrate good interpersonal skills and strong conflict management.

Example answer:

In my previous position, I was tasked with coordinating a small team of employees from different departments to deliver a project to a tight deadline. As work progressed, it was apparent that one individual was failing to complete their work on time and the wider team were becoming frustrated as a result.

As it was a group project that required strong teamwork, this issue needed to be resolved quickly, so I called the individual in for a friendly chat. It transpired they had been receiving conflicting information from colleagues and, as such, were finding it difficult to fulfil their role.

It was clear there’d been a breakdown in communication, so I called a team meeting to discuss progress and clear up any misunderstandings. Allowing everyone to speak openly cleared the air without anyone facing blame.

The project was put back on track and the rising tensions disappeared. Communication improved and the team pulled together to complete the project on time.

8. Describe a Situation Where You Gave Quality Care

The key purpose of the NHS is to provide quality care to all service users at every level. To be successful in your NHS interview, you’ll need to show commitment to this value.

It may be that you don’t have a workplace example to give in response here, in which case it’s perfectly acceptable to describe a personal situation, such as caring for a family member or loved one.

The key thing is to remember the NHS core values and provide an answer that shows kindness and compassion.

Example answer:

I have been the designated first aider at my current place of work for two years now. This involves responding to the needs of both staff and the public.

A short while ago, an elderly lady collapsed in a busy public space. She was alone and became very distressed. I immediately called for assistance to clear the area for privacy.

She was showing signs of disorientation and felt sick, so I asked a colleague to call for an ambulance, relaying information while continuing to comfort her. I maintained a calm conversation until the ambulance arrived to ease her distress.

On arrival, the ambulance crew decided it was necessary to take her to hospital. Thankfully it was nothing serious and she came back to thank me a few days later.

9. If You Were Faced with an Aggressive Patient, How Would You Respond?

This is one example of a situational NHS interview question. Its purpose is to allow the interviewer to determine how you would react to a scenario in a real working environment.

Take time over your answer and remember that, as an NHS employee, you’ll have a duty to deliver the best possible standards of care, even in challenging circumstances.

A good answer will recognise that there will be guidelines in place for dealing with situations like this and considerations of patient and staff safety must be taken into account.

Example answer:

My approach would be to meet aggression with patience and understanding. It’s important to remember that patients are often in stressful situations and their anger is not a personal attack.

I would calm them by being attentive and listening to their frustrations, ensuring that I took every step possible to resolve the situation. Communication is key, so I would clearly explain my course of action and let them know their needs were a priority. If the situation were to worsen, I would follow guidelines and seek further assistance.

10. How Would You Deal with Seeing a Distressing Medical Situation?

This is one of the NHS interview questions more tailored to front-line staff. You’ll be working in an environment where these situations will often present themselves, and you need to show that you’re prepared.

When answering this question, it’s important to acknowledge that you’re human and will inevitably be affected in some way, but it’s how you handle these situations that counts.

Example answer:

When you make a commitment to care, you ultimately open yourself up to distressing situations. I think it’s crucial to remember that everyone around you is in the same boat and, while they may react differently, your team are there to support you.

You can’t shut yourself off from emotions. Compassion and empathy are key qualities of a good NHS employee. Instead, I would be open about my feelings, take time out to deal with them, and seek additional help when needed.

NHS Graduate Scheme Interview Questions

Here are some potential questions you may encounter in an NHS Graduate Scheme interview:

  • Why have you decided to apply for the NHS Graduate Scheme?
  • What interests you most about this particular program?
  • What do you know about the NHS, and why do you believe it's an important organization?
  • What are your strengths and how do you believe they will contribute to the success of the NHS Graduate Scheme?
  • Can you describe a situation where you demonstrated leadership skills and how you handled the situation?
  • How do you manage your time and prioritize tasks when working under pressure?
  • Describe a challenging situation you have faced and how you handled it.
  • What experience do you have working in a team and how did you contribute to the team's success?
  • What are some of the challenges you think you might face in the NHS, and how would you address them?
  • How do you plan to continue your professional development and contribute to the organization's goals after completing the NHS Graduate Scheme?

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What Questions to Ask in an NHS Interview?

Asking good questions at the end of your NHS interview is important as it showcases your interest and engagement in the position and the organization.

It demonstrates to the interviewer that you have thoroughly researched the organization and are genuinely interested in learning more about the workplace culture, training opportunities, career progression and how the organization values diversity and inclusion.

Additionally, asking relevant questions can help you gain a better understanding of the organization's expectations, goals and challenges, which can help you prepare better for the role and make an informed decision about whether the position is a good fit for you.

By asking insightful questions, you also create an opportunity to showcase your knowledge, skills and experience, and demonstrate your ability to think critically and contribute positively to the organization.

Ultimately, asking good questions at the end of your NHS interview can help you stand out as a thoughtful, engaged candidate and leave a positive impression on the interviewer.

Here are some questions you can ask your interviewer at the end of an NHS interview:

  • Can you describe the workplace culture here?
  • What kind of training opportunities are available for employees?
  • How are staff members encouraged to maintain a work-life balance?
  • What are the biggest challenges facing the NHS, and how does this organization work to overcome them?
  • How does this organization measure success, and what metrics are used to evaluate employee performance?
  • Can you describe the management structure here, and how decisions are made?
  • How does this organization value diversity and inclusion, and what steps are taken to ensure all employees feel supported and valued?
  • What opportunities are there for career progression within the organization?
  • How does the organization support employee wellbeing, both physical and mental?
  • What do you enjoy most about working here?

How to Prepare for an NHS Interview

Preparing for an interview for a job in the UK's National Health Service (NHS) requires careful planning and preparation. Here are some steps you can take to help you get ready for your NHS interview:

Step 1. Research the NHS

Before your interview, research the NHS to get a good understanding of its values, mission, and services. This will help you to answer questions confidently and show that you are enthusiastic about working for the NHS.

Step 2. Read the Job Description

Carefully read the job description and person specification for the role you have applied for. This will help you to understand the specific skills and experience required for the job and allow you to prepare relevant examples of how you meet the criteria.

Step 3. Prepare Your Answers

Prepare for potential interview questions by thinking about your experience, skills, and achievements.

Consider how these relate to the role you have applied for and the values of the NHS.

Think of specific examples that you can use to demonstrate your abilities.

Step 4. Practice Your Responses

Practice answering potential interview questions, and time yourself to ensure your answers are concise and to the point.

Ask a friend or family member to conduct a mock interview and provide feedback on your responses.

Step 5. Dress Professionally

Make sure you dress professionally for your interview.

The NHS has a dress code, so make sure you understand what is appropriate for the role you have applied for.

It is better to dress conservatively than to be underdressed or overdressed.

NHS Interview Scoring System

While there isn't a single standardized "NHS Interview Scoring System" that applies universally to all interviews within the NHS, there are common practices and principles that are often followed in the NHS and other healthcare organizations for assessing candidates during interviews.

Here's a general outline of how interviews in the NHS may be scored or evaluated:

Panel Interviews: NHS interviews often involve a panel of interviewers who may include healthcare professionals, HR representatives and managers.

Competency-Based Interviewing: The NHS commonly uses competency-based interviews to assess a candidate's skills and abilities relevant to the role.

Core Competencies: There are certain core competencies and values that the NHS often seeks in candidates, including clinical, communication, teamwork and leadership skills.

Scoring System: Interviewers may use a scoring system, such as a numerical scale or a rubric, to evaluate candidates on each competency. For example, they might rate candidates on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score.

Overall Evaluation: Interviewers will consider the scores for each competency and provide an overall evaluation of the candidate's performance in the interview.

Reference Checks: In addition to the interview, the NHS may conduct reference checks to verify a candidate's qualifications and assess their suitability for the position.

Selection Criteria: The NHS will have specific selection criteria for each role, and candidates must meet these criteria to be considered for the position.

Frequently Asked Questions

The top 10 NHS interview questions and answers are designed to find out what your motivations are and to allow you to demonstrate your competencies and skills.

They also make sure that you understand the role and the NHS as a whole. The questions include:

  • Why do you want to work here?
  • What are the core values of the NHS?
  • What are the current challenges facing the NHS?
  • What qualities make a good NHS employee?
  • How does the NHS operate?
  • Describe a time when you have had to cope under pressure.
  • Describe a time when you have resolved a work-based conflict.
  • Describe a situation where you gave quality care.
  • If you were faced with an aggressive patient, how would you respond?
  • How would you deal with seeing a distressing medical situation?

Most of these questions need personalized answers – the way you respond will be down to your own feelings, for example. Some of them will demonstrate that you have done your research.

Knowing that these types of questions are likely to come in the interview means that you can prepare a tailored answer.

The NHS Constitution is based around six core values that demonstrate the level of care and commitment that all NHS staff must adhere to.

  • Working together for patients
  • Commitment to quality of care
  • Respect and dignity
  • Compassion
  • Improving lives
  • Everyone counts

All staff who have contact with patients follow the six ‘Cs of care.’ These are:

  • Care
  • Competence
  • Compassion
  • Courage
  • Communication
  • Commitment

When the NHS was founded in 1948, it was launched on three core principles – that it meets the need of everyone, that it be free at the point of delivery, and the care given be based on clinical need, not the ability to pay.

Even now, these principles are the guiding values that drive the NHS and the care they provide.

An NHS interview is typically structured to last between 30 and 45 minutes, and it is usually a panel interview. You will be introduced to the interview team, which is usually HR personnel and clinical management.

During the interview, you can expect to provide an overview of your skills, competencies and qualifications and then answer some questions. Depending on the role you have applied for, you might be expected to work through a clinical scenario or a case study.

At the end of the interview, you will have the opportunity to ask questions.

During the interview, you will be scored on a points system. This allows every candidate to be measured according to the answers they give.

You will be awarded points in relation to the essential criteria for the role, as well as the key ‘desirable’ criteria.

If your interview structure has a presentation, clinical scenario, or any testing, the scores for these will be included in the interview scoring.

NHS employees are paid according to a ‘band’ system, offering a competitive salary that is based on the relative position of the role.

Other benefits of working for the NHS include paid leave (at least 35 days including Bank Holidays).

Other leave types are available, like maternity, paternity, parental and sick leave. The NHS pension is another great reason to work for them – it is generous and well-regarded.

Discounts for NHS staff include things like the Blue Light Card which works in many high street retailers.

When you attend an NHS interview, you need to remember to dress smartly and be presentable. Even if you are already in a similar position, you do not want to attend in scrubs.

This might mean something like smart trousers and a shirt or blouse, with sensible clean shoes. The way you dress and the image you present will help you project confidence, friendliness, and reliability.

Any interview can be a nerve-wracking process, so preparation will help make sure that you don’t let your nerves get the better of you.

Be confident and make sure that you listen to all that the interviewers say. If you are unsure about anything, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification before you provide an answer.

When you are asked a question, take a moment to think before you answer – this will give you time to structure your answer and help you to avoid waffling. Make sure you answer clearly, concisely and honestly.

When you are facing an NHS interview, there are a few tips to keep in mind for your success. These include:

  • Do your homework – Make sure you research the role, the NHS, and the wider healthcare industry
  • Make a good first impression – Be early for the interview, and dress smartly. Project confidence.
  • Think about your body language – Don’t fold your arms, make sure you make eye contact, and practice active listening.
  • Be confident – Project your best, enthusiastic self and stay positive, even when talking about something negative.
  • Be clear in your answers – Think about using the STAR mnemonic when you answer questions that need detail so that you don’t waffle.
  • Ask insightful questions – Focus on the way the job is likely to grow, rather than just what benefits you can get.

The application process for the NHS is known to be quite a protracted process, with lots of stages to get through. Each role advertised can have hundreds of applicants, so a rigorous process is necessary to ensure that the best applicants get through to the interview stage.

In most cases, it can take anywhere from two weeks to six months depending on the role you have applied for – but sometimes you can hear back much sooner.

Final Thoughts

Whatever role you’re applying for, it’s crucial to be fully prepared for your NHS interview. Keep in mind the key competencies that all employers look for and take time to read through plenty of general interview advice.

In addition to the example questions above, you may also be presented with NHS interview scenario questions, whereby you will be given a hypothetical clinical situation related to your chosen area and asked to explain the best course of action. These questions will be aimed at those applying for front line clinical roles. However, you will not be asked to perform actual medical treatments at interview.

As with any interview, it’s also advisable to have a few questions of your own prepared. This is not only interview best practice, but it also shows that you have a vested interest in the NHS and your potential future role within it.

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