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NHS interview questions and answers – let’s examine them!

Following on from my previous post about common questions asked in NHS interviews, I’ve picked a few more ‘selects’ of those which crop up time and time again across different medical and healthcare roles.

Often, I find that candidates can struggle more with seemingly straightforward interview questions. But the interview panel are not there to catch you out, they are just seeking the person whom they feel is the best candidate. So here’s my advice on a few more of them ….

1)    Tell us about a conflict you managed at work?

Nearly all of my clients, tell me that they don’t have conflicts at work which I fully understand – most clinicians don’t tend to be the argumentative types!  And many can work out disagreements between themselves through open and fair discussion. To be honest, that is ALL the interviewers are looking for … they are testing your communication skills including your ability to negotiate, to be flexible, to speak up for yourself and others (in addressing the conflict rather than burying you head in the sand) and that you can accept that disagreements may sometimes occur. Colleagues are entitled to a different opinion but you need to demonstrate that you can resolve them amicably and keep a good working relationship within the team.

Do bear in mind that the focus of the answer shouldn’t be the outcome of a clinical scenario as I commonly hear the client running away with the story of what happened to the patient etc. withoutfocusing on the result and reflection of how they managed the conflict, which is the critical part. Make sure your answer remains focused.


2)    Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

Who really knows?! A lot can happen in 5 years and not everyone is equally ambitious or wants to follow the career path that the recruiters may have in mind. You have your own reasons for wanting the job and that’s fine but it is an interview, and you have to balance some level of honesty with what the recruiter needs to hear.

Depending on the role you’re applying for, you should generally think about developing your clinical leadership/management skills .. how you would like to develop yourself academically, ie. as an educator/teacher and/or research projects you would like to carry out in the future. However, do be careful here that you focus on what the role requires ie. you may have a strong interest in research but unless it’s specifically an academic post, you are most likely only expected to carry out an aspect of that within the role which is more likely to be about delivering a quality service to patients.

There’s no right or wrong answer but you should have something prepared for this question that tells the panel how you would like to develop in your career in whichever direction and ideally, that you see yourself working the trust for a number of years to come.

3) How do you manage pressure?

I think it’s fair to say that medical and healthcare professionals have been hugely challenged by working solidly throughout the pandemic. The pressure for all has been enormous.

But most people wouldn’t choose a clinical profession if they couldn’t handle at least some pressure so it takes a certain kind of person who can generally cope fairly well under challenging circumstances.

In more recent times, the word that is often associated with this competency in NHS interviews, is ‘resilience’ which actually means the ability to ‘bounce back.’ So the best approach to answering this question is to share examples of where you have shown resilience including your ability to stay calm in a crisis, to problem-solve and think creatively around a problem, demonstrate resourcefulness, to communicate clearly to your team, direct/delegate to others appropriately, offload/share difficult cases in a professional context, ensure your practice remains safe and ideally, talk about a hobby or outlet that helps you to unwind and relax and which demonstrates that you are a well-rounded individual.

For more senior healthcare roles, you could also include how you support team members who are working under intense pressure.  

4)  Do you consider yourself to be a good communicator?

Well, there’s only one answer to this and that’s ‘yes’! Of course, you need to follow through with a few examples, as everything you claim needs to be backed-up – try to give a broad range of examples eg. breaking bad news to a patient, receiving excellent feedback from a group of medical students about lectures you’ve delivered. Also, consider your written skills too ie. writing clear and concise medical notes, your ability to resolve disagreements effectively (see above), building excellent relationships within the team and across wider teams including partners in primary/secondary care.

Talk about how you’re open to constructive criticism and feedback from others (we all have our blind spots and 360 degree feedback can be helpful in recognising our own). Medicine and healthcare involves continuous improvement in all areas including our personal qualities.

For more senior posts, you could also focus on advanced communication skills such as influencing or persuading the board to spend money on developing a new service for patients.


5) What makes a good team player?

Firstly, note the way the question is asked … it doesn’t ask about you directly, but it ALWAYS IS about you! Don’t make the classic mistake of talking about the skills of good team player without talking about yourself and giving relevant examples. It’s easily done and this style of questioning can pop up in other areas too so watch out for it and make sure that every answer is about you, even if the way the interview question has been posed is not so obvious.

There are many different types of examples that you can give to demonstrate your team working skills – some of the qualities to mention might include flexibility, your proactive teamwork ethic, your support towards your colleagues, team loyalty and commitment, shared learning, how you work collaboratively with others to deliver the best patient care (you could bring in examples from MDT meetings where you work together with other healthcare professionals).

As you will well know, working as a medical or healthcare professional can never be a role carried out in isolation – it relies heavily on teamworking, so no matter how junior or senior you are, this is a very important competency to convey and it’s best to have a good few examples ready to share.


If you would like support with an upcoming NHS interview, please do get in contact to book one of my interview coaching packages.