The NHS splits nurses into five different bands, depending on their seniority:
Band 5: Newly qualified nurse or staff nurse
Band 6: Nursing specialist or senior nurse
Band 7: Advanced nurse or nurse practitioner
Band 8: Modern matron or chief nurse
Band 9: Consultant level nurse.
This system was designed to improve the mobility of nurses, encouraging their career development. Pay rises are guaranteed after a set number of years’ service, until they go up to the highest rate of pay then move up to the next level.
Questions and answers
It can be difficult to assess someone based on a CV and an interview – that’s why there are different types of questions to give you a view of the person as a whole: both personally, and professionally. There are several types of questions, including competency-based questions, and scenario-based questions, behavioural questions and more.
The scenarios below outline how these questions should be approached from both the employer and the interviewee’s viewpoint.
Tell me about yourself
Employer: This question is the most common question to start with. It sets the tone for the rest of the interview. The way a professional introduces themselves will give you a good impression of who they are as a person and as a professional. It will also give you an idea of how they view themselves professionally.
Interviewee: Ensure everything you say is relevant to the role and take the opportunity to explain why you are the right person for it. Think back to the person specification and job description to find out what the employer is looking for. For practice nurse interview questions, you might explain how you work well autonomously.
Why have you decided that this is the right role for you?
Employers: If this is a band 5 interview question, it might be a general question about why the candidate decided to become a nurse in the first place, and their expectations for the role. For interview questions in NHS band 6, or higher, you could add more specific details about the role. Or if you’re in a niche specialism, you might also ask why neonatal nursing, prison nursing or mental health nursing is something that interests them.
Interviewee: They aren’t only asking you why you chose them, they are asking why they should choose you. This is your opportunity to sell your skills and knowledge and show them why you are the right person for them. Have you completed any additional training or learning to upskill yourself? Let them know how you think this role matches your skills.
What are your biggest weaknesses?
Employer: How they answer this is important because they need to be able to identify their own weaknesses and acknowledge them before you can help them improve.
Interviewee: This question is common in any job interview – but people often fall into the trap of saying “I’m too [something positive]” which sounds insincere. You should reflect on your skills and behaviours and give an honest self-assessment of an area in which you are looking to develop professionally.
What do the 6 Cs mean to you?
Employer: Every nurse should know this but it’s how they answer the question that matters. With band 6 or band 7 nurse interview questions, you might ask this in a more in-depth way, such as how the six Cs have improved their work. However, asking what it means to them is more general and can help you glean different information from each person – since you may find varying interpretations of the question.
Interviewee: Before your interview, you must ensure you understand the six Cs of nursing, which are: care, compassion, competence, communication, courage and commitment. It’s not enough to say what they are – you need to share examples of when you’ve successfully exhibited all these traits.
Describe a time when you resolved a conflict
Employer: Hiring is all about finding someone who can solve problems. For those at level 6 or above, this might involve their team, patients, or doctors and they should have some experience with this. Those entering band 5 roles might have only had to resolve conflict outside of nursing, which is transferable, depending on their method of resolution.
Interviewee: Conflict resolution is a crucial skill in nursing, and you must demonstrate you have it by coming up with specific examples from your experience. It might be that you have disagreed with a doctor in the past. It can be applied at any salary band, even if you’re not a manager, it’s a skill that can help you move up.
How have you developed in the past year, and what have you learned?
Employer: Understanding how they have progressed in the last year, and what they have learned will help you assess what level they are at, what further training they may need, or what kind of support they might need in that role. For instance, in mental health nursing questions, you might ask how they’ve demonstrated more specific skills.
Interviewee: To answer this question, you must reflect on any training you have done, any informal lessons you have learned in your role, and how you have used any feedback you’ve received from seniors. If you are applying for a band 5 role, this could still apply, in that you must have transferable skills and previous experience, from training as a nurse, working another industry, or previous education.
What nursing achievement are you most proud of?
Employer: This is a scenario-based question, which will help you understand what their definition of excellence is, if it matches yours, and what they have done well in their experience as a nurse. It can also give you an idea of their motivations and an insight into who they are.
Interviewee: Here, you need to be more specific than ‘becoming a nurse’. Cite a time when you’ve provided excellent patient care, for example. Answering this requires reflection upon any experience you’ve had so far that made you love nursing or made you excited to come to work the next day.
How would you handle a situation in which you made a mistake?
Employers: Many people learn by making mistakes. This won’t necessarily tell you if they have made a mistake before, it just shows you how they manage under pressure and demonstrate that when things go wrong, they know what to do.
Interviewee: This should be based on a mistake you’ve learned from, either yours or someone else’s, and should emphasise what you did afterwards. How did you resolve the issue? What would you do next time, in a similar scenario?
What is your understanding of clinical governance?
And finally, clinical governance interview questions will always come up, and can challenge even the most experienced nurses in band 6 and above.
The NHS defines clinical governance as “the system through which NHS organisations are accountable for continuously improving the quality of their services and safeguarding high standards of care by creating an environment in which clinical excellence will flourish.”
You can demonstrate your understanding and dedication to clinical governance by citing any training, audits, research, risk management or staff management you have done. If you’re in band 6, or higher, the employer will expect a more extensive answer.