NHS Interview Questions and Answers

18 Minutes

We are frequently asked what questions you will be asked during your NHS interviews, and oft...

We are frequently asked what questions you will be asked during your NHS interviews, and often, for most, they do not know the right answer. When interviewing, there is never a “right” answer, but remember to be honest, remain calm, confident and interested in the position. In this article, we provide you with frequently asked questions in an NHS interview – and example answers that will impress your prospective employer.

If you have reached the stage of attending an NHS interview, congratulations! Being asked for an interview proves you have sufficient knowledge, training, and skills to hold the position you’ve applied for. However, don’t assume you have it in the bag, as NHS interview preparation is necessary to be successful.

That’s why we have gathered some of the most frequently asked NHS interview questions and answers – to help you prepare for the interview. If you are a doctor and would like guidance specific to your grade and specialism then our helpful PDF guides contain specific clinical and ethical scenarios as well as guides on how to answer: 

Remember that questions will, of course, change depending on the position you are interviewing for. For example, some interview questions might be particular to the role, whereas others might be broad, like the ones we’ve covered below.

Tell me about yourself

This question will be asked at the beginning of the interview and is queried because the hospital want to hear about your employment history, training, education, your dreams (let them know they are in line with the position you are interviewing for) and any ties to the hospital or location you are applying to.

Tip: Try and convey your message in a few brief sentences.

Why Do You Want to Work for the NHS?

Talk about what you appreciate about the NHS service. Your answer is the perfect opportunity to prove that your values align with theirs. For example, you could talk about wanting to improve the standards of care for patients; you could also talk about your passion for accessible healthcare. Here’s an example response:

“The NHS is one of the largest healthcare systems in the world and the largest employer in the UK and Europe. Therefore, working in the NHS will allow me to join a team of skilled, devoted and passionate people whose priority is to provide the best healthcare and treatment to their patients. My reasons for wanting to join the NHS are threefold:

  1. Training - One of the principal reasons I want to work within the NHS is because the healthcare system prides themselves on giving their employees the opportunity to advance their skills and develop their careers.
  2. Job Stability – It is important for me and my family to have job stability, and as most hospitals and healthcare centres in the UK are busy and have a huge demand for doctors, I hope my role will always be secure allowing me to provide for my family.
  3. Improved Quality of Life – The UK has one of the largest economies in the world, provides an excellent opportunity for education and offers a good quality of life.”

What Challenges Does the NHS Face Right Now?

You might be asked about the current challenges faced by the NHS at this time. To answer this question, you’ll need to keep up with recent NHS news. For example, they might struggle with a lack of workforce planning, insufficient funding, or staff shortages. You may also go into social factors that affect the NHS, such as the ageing population in the UK.

If there was a misunderstanding between two colleagues what would you do?

In group settings, at some point, you will encounter conflict. As an individual who works with the general public, it is important that you mediate conflict quickly and efficiently. Here’s an example answer:

“If I noticed a hostile environment between two colleagues, I would suggest for them to both meet privately with me. I would ask them to summarise the situation from their own viewpoint and I would reinforce that this can only be resolved through discussion and negotiation.”

Explain a Time When You Provided Excellent Patient Care?

The interviewees want to know that you’ve demonstrated excellent patient care in the past. Therefore, before you step through the door, you should have an answer ready. Ideally, talk about a time when you faced a big challenge that required immediate action and a well-thought-out plan. For example, you could describe when you experienced a very upset patient and how you handled the situation with empathy and patience.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

This can often feel like a trick question, but it is important to be honest, while still providing the answers your interviewers want to know. Questions you should ask yourself before answering this question are:

  • Do you have realistic expectations for your career?
  • Are you ambitious?
  • Does the position you are interviewing for align with your growth and goals overall

Our tip when answering this question is: Think about where this job role could realistically take you and then think about how that aligns with your professional goals. Here’s an example answer:

“I am really excited about this Clinical Fellow Paediatrics position because, in five years, I want to acclimatise to the NHS system and work in a supportive department that will enable me to, in the future, either complete my specialist registration via CESR or apply for a deanery training post. My long-term plan is to stay in the UK and hopefully become a consultant.”

What Are the NHS Values?

The chances are you will get asked about the NHS values. Here are the NHS values you should highlight:

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

What do You Know About Us?

This question is more focused on the particular NHS trust you are interviewing for. Before attending the interview, conduct plenty of research into the organisation. The more you know, the better; that way, you’ll be able to provide a well thought out, rounded answer to this question. For example, you could talk about the most common type of patient the particular hospital cares for.

What Can You Tell Us About Clinical Governance?

Clinical governance is a system that ensures all NHS organisations are always focused on improving the quality of care. The chances are you’ll get asked about this at some point in the interview, so research clinical governance beforehand. It helps to consider when you’ve seen clinical governance in your work, such as audits or personal development.

What Are One or Two Achievements You Are Proud Of?

You don’t have to answer this question with achievements you made at work – although that might be helpful. To answer this, think about a time you achieved something that really made you proud of yourself. For example, you might have assisted a passer-by in the street when they required medical attention. Perhaps you are most proud of a time when you exceeded expectations during medical training. Try to be as specific as possible with your achievements.

What Makes a Good NHS Doctor?

The interviewees want to know that you understand what makes a good NHS doctor. To answer this question, highlight the best qualities of a medical professional, including:

  • Integrity
  • Accountability
  • Teamwork
  • Compassion
  • Time management
  • Passion
  • Communication

How Would You Respond When Faced with an Aggressive Patient?

To answer this question appropriately, you’ll need to consider the NHS guidelines for handling difficult situations. Remember, patient care and safety are always the focus. You might talk about meeting the patient with understanding and empathy and that you’d try to calm them before offering solutions to resolve the situation. You might also speak about seeking assistance from elsewhere if necessary.

Clinical and Ethical Scenarios

Some questions above are slightly more involved, as they fall under clinical/ethical scenarios. More than likely, you’ll be asked to answer a clinical and ethical scenario at some point during your interview.

In these cases, it’s crucial to form a response demonstrating your knowledge and ability to provide excellent patient care. You will talk through the steps you will take when handling a situation, explaining the reasons behind your action plan.

Before reading on for some tips on how to make a great impression this video takes each section of an NHS interview step by step with example questions and how to answer throughout:

Tips on Making a Great Impression

While your answers to the above questions are most important, there are some other things you can do to make an excellent impression:

Consider Body Language

It’s not just about the words you speak. Body language plays a crucial role in the success of your interview. Avoid crossing your arms or looking at the floor; instead, keep up good eye contact and hold a comfortable and open position.

Provide Clear Answers

Many candidates struggle to provide clear answers due to nerves. Don’t let that be you. Instead, go over the most common questions beforehand and develop an answering structure to follow. Being clear and concise with your answers will highlight your communication skills while eliminating the chance of a misunderstanding.

Practice the Interview

Before entering the interview room, practice interviewing with someone else (such as a work colleague). Get them to ask you some of the most common NHS interview questions (like the ones above) and answer how you would in the interview. You can then ask for feedback, which will allow you to hone your interview skills, ensuring you give your best interview on the actual day.

Other Popular Interview Questions by Skill

Communication Skills

  • How do you know you are a good communicator?
  • How would you like to develop your skills further?
  • Describe a time when you found it difficult to communicate with a colleague or patient. What did you do and how did you feel?

Problem Solving and Decision Making

  • Do you always know the right thing to do in any given situation?
  • What is your strategy dealing with difficult problems at work?
  • Describe a time when you felt you made the wrong decision. How did you feel and what has happened as a result?

Managing Others and Team Involvement

  • Describe a time when you led a team successfully
  • Describe a time when you have supported a colleague with a work-related issue
  • Outline a situation where you have had to motivate work colleagues to do something that they did not agree with?
  • Which do you prefer, leading a team, or being a team member?

Empathy and Sensitivity

  • Why is it important for doctors to demonstrate empathy and sensitivity?
  • Do you really need to show sensitivity and empathy to be a good doctor or are clinical skills and knowledge more important?

Organisation and Planning

  • How do you keep yourself organised at work?
  • What strategies do you use to plan your work effectively?
  • How do you cope when unexpected and unplanned work is added to your workload?

Vigilance and Situational Awareness

  • Why is vigilance an important attribute to have for this specialty?
  • Describe an example of when your awareness of a developing situation at work, enabled you to avoid a problem

Coping with Pressure

  • How do you cope with pressure?
  • What do you do when you can no longer cope with pressures of your workload?

Professional Integrity

  • Give an example of a clinical scenario where you made a mistake. What did you do about it?
  • Is it ever justifiable to bend or break the rules at work? Have you ever done so?

Clinical Knowledge and Expertise

  • Describe a difficult clinical scenario you have been involved in. How did you contribute?
  • You will be asked a range of questions about particular clinical scenarios relevant to your specialty

Research Skills

  • Why is research important?
  • Describe your last audit?
  • Which is more important – research or teaching? Which do you prefer?

Other Questions

  • Why do you want to train in this specialty?
  • What do you want from your career?
  • Looking over your CV, could you pick two or three achievements which you are most proud of?
  • We are interviewing many high calibre candidates today, why should we appoint you?

In Summary

While you can’t know every question you’ll get asked during an NHS interview, you can expect some commonly asked questions. By preparing for these, you’ll have a better chance of nailing the interview and getting hired for the role.

If you would like to receive a copy of one of our speciality specific interview preparation guides then please email us letting us know the grade and specialism that you are preparing to interview for.