Top Tips For Excelling In Job Interviews | BMJ Health Careers - Mental Health (2023)

Top Tips For Excelling In Job Interviews | BMJ Health Careers - Mental Health (1)

Author: Dean Malpass

Job interviews remain the most dreaded part of the job seeking process for most candidates. For some it is severe enough to prevent them from even applying for new roles and progressing their careers.

Over the years the style and format of interviews has changed the most when compared to other job seeking activities, such as sending in CV’s and cover letters. For instance, nursing interviews tend to be more informal than they were a decade ago, and it is more common to have experts by experience or service users on the panel.

There’s an added complication in that no two healthcare organisations interview candidates in the same way. In fact, even within the same organisation you may find differences between teams and departments when it comes to interview format, style and decision making.

Over the past fifteen years I have been involved in the recruitment and selection of hundreds of people from mental health nurses to consultant psychiatrists, student nurses and nurse directors. When I conduct interviews I am mostly looking at character/personality and how they will fit within the team, competence, and potential.

Here are my key areas to focus on when trying to impress an interview panel in the mental health sector.

Before the interview

(Video) MENTAL HEALTH PRACTITIONER Interview Questions & Answers! (Mental Health Nurse, Worker, Assistant!)

  • Use the contact specified in the ad to discover the format of the interview as soon as possible. For example, will it be one person or a group? Who are the panel members? Do you need to prepare a presentation?

  • Do your research. At a minimum read:

    • The latest Care Quality Commission (CQC) or equivalent report for the service; and

    • The national policy / standard for the service; and

    • The organisation’s current mission statement, values, and key priorities/strategy relating to the service.

  • Complete a mock interview with a trusted friend, colleague, or family member. If done well this will help you become comfortable with being uncomfortable and help you rehearse your answers in a more realistic context.

  • Make sure that you know where the interview is and map out your journey to ensure you arrive with plenty of time to spare. Hospitals and healthcare centres can be confusing places with little signposting so take this into account. If you are late this not only creates a poor impression but also means you will be flustered and not perform at your best.

During the Interview

(Video) HEALTHCARE Interview Questions and TOP-SCORING ANSWERS!

  • It is normal to feel anxious or stressed so think of strategies to make you feel as relaxed and confident as you can. This might include breathing techniques or perhaps remembering moments in your career when you felt proud or happy. Good interviewers will be skilled at making you feel comfortable and relaxed and they are likely to be sympathetic to the situation.

  • Speak clearly and audibly, avoid the use of slang or colloquial terms and demonstrate good eye contact. You are trying to build rapport and demonstrate confidence. If you have a neurodisability that makes this difficult, consider letting the panel know so they can adjust their expectations accordingly.

  • Answer the question that is asked of you. When nervous it is easy to drift into different topics or spend 15 minutes of a 40 minute interview explaining why you applied for the role. You must be disciplined and it is worth following a structure to help you keep on track. (see below for detail)

  • Take a moment to digest the question that is being asked before you answer. This gives you time to mentally prepare your answer before saying it.

  • In a group interview setting the main challenge becomes how to make a valid contribution whilst also avoiding saying too much or too little. In these situations, it is helpful to assess the dynamic of the group and decide when your contribution will deliver optimum impact and offer something new to the discussion.

  • Do not be afraid to ask the interviewer to repeat the question or ask for clarification to ensure you understand what is being asked of you. Too often candidates can squander interview time answering a question that has not been asked.

  • It is also better to go back to a previous question and make an additional comment, than it is to leave the interview and wish you had said something.

  • Try to ensure that all answers are relevant to your working life and show reflective insight. Perhaps the most memorable interview I have ever conducted with a candidate was for a hospital-based mental health support worker. The candidate was a former nurse and towards the end of the interview she was asked: “We tend to improve over time, tell us how have you learned from a past experience?”. To which the candidate paused for about ten seconds and said, “I don’t really know, I don’t make mistakes.” Another panel member offered some gentle examples to nudge the process along. After a further short period of silence, the candidate said, “oh yes, I’ve got one now…marrying my husband. I learned he wasn’t for me, so divorced him.” This was the only time I have ever been stunned into silence during an interview.

    (Video) Mental Health Job Interview Tips | 10 COMMON QUESTIONS ASKED

I often coach clients to use a two-part structure for answering interview questions:

  1. Provide a succinct and precise answer that references the knowledge/skills/education/experience required or inferred by the question.

  2. Give a specific example showing how you have applied this knowledge/skills/experience in practice and the outcomes.

For example:

Interviewer: Why is physical healthcare important within mental health services?

Candidate – We know from the research that people with mental health conditions are disproportionately affected by physical health conditions too. We also know that the average life expectancy for people with mental health conditions is shorter than for those without.

Holistic care is centred around treating the person in their entirety, not focusing on one area to the detriment of another and ensuring parity of esteem.​

When I worked in a mental health hospital, I was the ward champion for the smoking cessation strategy. This programme encouraged patients to stop smoking by providing support and access to services that would enable them to beat the addiction. It was often hard work, but over twelve months we had supported ten patients to stop smoking.

(Video) LAST-MINUTE INTERVIEW PREP! (How To Prepare For An Interview In Under 10 Minutes!)

At the end of the interview

The standard end of most interviews is the question ‘Do you have any questions for us?’. You might be tempted to shake your head and try to escape as quickly as possible but try to resist it. This is an opportunity to assess the culture and test whether the role is right for you.

Some examples of questions you might want to ask at an interview if given the opportunity:

  • How will I be supported throughout my career to reach my full potential?

  • Can you give me an example of what my first week would be like?

  • Is there anything I can do between now and my start-date that would help my induction if I were to be offered the role?

Finally I would say interviews, like most forms of public speaking, take practice even for those who are very confident. Try not to be afraid of them. If one doesn’t go well then review it in your head or talk it through with a friend/colleague. Reflect on what you want to improve and strategies that might help.

If you don’t get the job, call the recruiter or drop them an email and explain you would like to improve and detailed and specific feedback from the interviewers would be helpful. Just the fact of doing so may also create a good impression on a recruiter who could have other job opportunities for you in the future.

(Video) Talking About Mental Health at Work – Can I Speak to Your Manager? | Mark Bailey | TEDxDayton

Dean Malpass is a Registered Mental Health Nurse and Chartered Manager and was previously a regional nursing director (Midlands & Wales). He currently provides consultancy services (


What are 5 tips for a successful job interview? ›

Tips for a Successful Interview
  • Be on time. ...
  • Know the interviewer's name, its spelling, and pronunciation. ...
  • Have some questions of your own prepared in advance. ...
  • Bring several copies of your resume. ...
  • Have a reliable pen and a small note pad with you. ...
  • Greet the interviewer with a handshake and a smile.

How do I prepare for a mental health interview? ›

  1. Mental Health Job Interview questions –
  2. Q: Tell me about yourself: ...
  3. Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? ...
  4. Q: Why did you choose to become a Mental Health Worker? ...
  5. Q: What about this role appeals to you? ...
  6. Q: How did you handle a difficult situation? ...
  7. Q: Do you have any questions for us?
Oct 15, 2021

How do you ace a healthcare interview? ›

How to prepare for your healthcare job interview
  1. Research the company and interviewer. ...
  2. Tweak your resume. ...
  3. Anticipate resume questions. ...
  4. Rehearse some answers. ...
  5. Prepare some questions of your own. ...
  6. Plan your outfit. ...
  7. Pack your bag. ...
  8. Catch some zzz's.

What questions are asked in a mental health field interview? ›

Related Interview Questions

What experience do you have working with children and adults impacted by abuse and trauma? Discuss how you would respond to a family presenting in crisis. Tell us about your knowledge of community resources or community programs. Conducts psychosocial and/or trauma- specific assessments.

What are the three P's to the perfect interview? ›

An interview can be the difference between getting your dream job or not, so it is important you can make it as perfect as you possibly can.

What is the STAR method in interviews? ›

The STAR method is a structured manner of responding to a behavioral-based interview question by discussing the specific situation, task, action, and result of the situation you are describing.

How can I be mentally sharp for an interview? ›

5 Ways to Be Mentally and Physically Alert for Your Interview
  1. Exercise. Exercising is one of the easiest ways to wake yourself up and increase your alertness. ...
  2. Drink Water. ...
  3. Yogic Breathing. ...
  4. Power Poses. ...
  5. Music.
Aug 24, 2016

How do you answer mental health interview questions? ›

Try to elaborate on how you gained your skills and the challenges you faced while learning them. In your answer, try to talk about both professional and personal skills you've learnt as a mental health nurse and ensure to align your responses with the values of the organisation.

What are the 6 C's in a patient interview? ›

The 6 Cs – care, compassion, courage, communication, commitment, competence - are a central part of 'Compassion in Practice', which was first established by NHS England Chief Nursing Officer, Jane Cummings, in December 2017.

What are 3 open ended questions for mental health? ›

Questions like this: “So what do you think you want to do?” • “Have I got it right?” • “Did I leave anything out?” • “Is there anything else you think I should know at this point?” • “Did I misunderstand anything?” • “So what else can you tell me about…?

What 3 questions can you ask about mental health? ›

All The Psychology
  • What were the best experiences you had this year?
  • When were you the most happy?
  • What people, situations or events caused you to feel sad or depressed?
  • What were the most important things you made happen this year?
  • Did any activities lead to new relationships, partnerships or opportunities?

Why are you interested in a mental health position? ›

Example answers

I enjoy knowing that I can use my empathy and compassion to offer them support in challenging times. I believe I have many valuable skills that can help me succeed as a mental health counselor, and I'm excited about pursuing this profession so I can help others with their mental health issues."

How do you stand out in a third interview? ›

Tips to prepare for a third interview
  1. Review notes or recall information from your previous interviews.
  2. Prepare responses to behavioral questions.
  3. Research your interviewers.
  4. Prepare some questions to ask your interviewers.
Mar 10, 2023

What are the three 3 basic approaches to interview? ›

There are many different types of interview approaches and techniques, Generally speaking, all interviews fall into one of three categories: structured, semi-structured, and depth/unstructured interviews.

What are the three 3 main parts of an interview? ›

An interview is structured into three parts:
  • Opening the interview and welcoming the candidate, outlining the purpose and structure of the interview.
  • The body of the interview. The fact finding part, ask questions and allow the candidate to answer.
  • Closing the interview.

What's your greatest weakness? ›

Answer “what is your greatest weakness” by choosing a skill that is not essential to the job you're applying to and by stressing exactly how you're practically addressing your weakness. Some skills that you can use as weaknesses include impatience, multitasking, self-criticism, and procrastination.

Which of the following should be avoided during a job interview? ›

Ensure you don't go off on tangents or end abruptly without rounding out your answer back to what was asked. Also, avoid mumbling or speaking too fast. The interviewer shouldn't have to ask you to repeat an answer or strain to hear what you're saying.

What is your greatest achievement sample answer? ›

'My greatest achievement' examples could include: Giving a great presentation at work. Beating sales targets. Training for and completing a marathon.

How can I sound smarter in an interview? ›

10 Tricks to Appear Smart in a Job Interview
  1. Talk about your commute. ...
  2. Step up your pace. ...
  3. Ask for clarification until your interviewer has answered the question for you. ...
  4. Say yes to that glass of water. ...
  5. Downplay your past by talking about the future. ...
  6. Be a visual learner. ...
  7. Name drop productivity software. ...
  8. Ask practical questions.

How do you not blank out in an interview? ›

How to get back on track if your mind goes blank during a job...
  1. Repetition of a question. Ask the recruiter to repeat the question. ...
  2. Be honest with your interviewer and tell him or her that your mind has gone blank. ...
  3. Clear your mind. ...
  4. Chat. ...
  5. Refer to your notes.

How do I sell myself in an interview? ›

When you're talking about yourself and your experience, keep the following six points in mind.
  1. Be the Solution. ...
  2. Be Specific. ...
  3. Prepare Sound Bites. ...
  4. Prepare to Talk About Your Resume. ...
  5. Be Aware of Nonverbal Communication. ...
  6. Be Positive.

Why do you want this job? ›

I see this opportunity as a way to contribute to an exciting/forward-thinking/fast-moving company/industry, and I feel I can do so by/with my …” “I feel my skills are particularly well-suited to this position because …” “I believe I have the type of knowledge to succeed in this role and at the company because …”

What do you consider your strength? ›

In general, your strengths should be skills that can be supported through experience. For example, if you list communication as a strength, you may want to recall a situation in which you used communication to reach a goal or resolve a problem.

How do you answer what does mental health mean to you? ›

Mental health is a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community.

What is the best way to explain mental health? ›

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

How do I explain my mental health? ›

Whenever you feel ready, these tips might help you start the conversation:
  1. Find a method of communication that feels right for you. ...
  2. Find a suitable time and place. ...
  3. Practice what you want to say. ...
  4. Offer them relevant information and examples. ...
  5. Be honest and open. ...
  6. Suggest things they could do to help.

What is an example of a leading question in healthcare? ›

A leading question is a question that assumes the answer, for example, You didn't finish the course of antibiotics I prescribed, did you? rather than Did you finish the course of antibiotics I prescribed?

What are four tips for how to effectively interview a patient? ›

10 Tips for a Better Patient Interview
  • Establish rapport. ...
  • Respect patient privacy. ...
  • Recognize face value. ...
  • Move to the patient's field of vision. ...
  • Consider how you look. ...
  • Ask open-ended questions. ...
  • One thing at a time. ...
  • Leave the medical terminology alone.

What are open-ended questions in a medical interview? ›

Frequently used opening questions include, "What problems brought you to the hospital (or office) today?" or "What kind of problems have you been having recently?" or "What kind of problems would you like to share with me?" These open-ended, nondirective questions encourage the patient to report any and all problems.

Who is your strength best answer? ›

List of Strengths:
  • Creativity.
  • Versatility.
  • Flexibility.
  • Focused.
  • Taking Initiative.
  • Honesty.
  • Dedication.
  • Integrity.
Mar 23, 2023

What are three strengths? ›

Some examples of strengths you might mention include:
  • Enthusiasm.
  • Trustworthiness.
  • Creativity.
  • Discipline.
  • Patience.
  • Respectfulness.
  • Determination.
  • Dedication.

How do you answer what motivates you? ›

Good Answers to the Tricky Interview Question "What Motivates You?"
  • learning new things.
  • acquiring new skills.
  • meeting deadlines, goals and targets.
  • coaching others.
  • improving processes, finding ways to solving problems.
  • leading a team or being a part of a team.
  • completing a difficult project.
  • overcoming challenges.
Feb 24, 2023

How do you nail an interview? ›

How to nail a job interview in the first 5 minutes
  1. Remember the interview starts as soon as you leave the house. ...
  2. Treat everyone you meet as your interviewer. ...
  3. Create a strong first impression. ...
  4. Be ready for the small talk. ...
  5. Be on message from the outset.

What can you bring to the company? ›

Think about: your enthusiasm for the profession and the employer and your desire to make your mark. your personal qualities, such as your drive and willingness to learn. the skills the employer seeks and how you have demonstrated them in the past – your answer should show why you would be competent in the job.

How do you handle stress and pressure? ›

Taking steps to manage stress
  1. Track your stressors. Keep a journal for a week or two to identify which situations create the most stress and how you respond to them. ...
  2. Develop healthy responses. ...
  3. Establish boundaries. ...
  4. Take time to recharge. ...
  5. Learn how to relax. ...
  6. Talk to your supervisor. ...
  7. Get some support.
Jul 1, 2014

What are the 3 best words to start an open-ended question? ›

Open-ended questions start with “Why?” “How?” and “What?” They encourage a full answer, rather than the simple “yes” or “no” response that is usually given to a closed-ended question.

What are 2 Open-ended questions? ›

Examples of open-ended questions include:
  • Tell me about your relationship with your supervisor.
  • How do you see your future?
  • Tell me about the children in this photograph.
  • What is the purpose of government?
  • Why did you choose that answer?

What are the 4 key areas of mental health? ›

Four Pillars of Mental Health: Physical, Cognitive, Emotional and Social.

What are the three keys about mental health? ›

I often remind my psychotherapy clients that there are three pillars or foundations of well-being: Sleep. Exercise. Diet. If you are neglecting one or more of these things, chances are you're not feeling very good about yourself.

What are the 3 C's of dealing with someone with a mental health problem? ›

The Three Cs of Disclosing Serious Mental Illness at Work: Control, Conditions, Costs
  • Control.
  • Conditions.
  • Costs.
  • Discussion.
Jan 20, 2021

What are your key strengths achievements and skills in mental health? ›

The most important skills to have working in Mental Health include, but are not limited to the following: client rapport, empathy, compassion, active listening, organization, record keeping, information technology savvy, healthy professional boundaries, strong ethics and a desire to help one's fellow human beings.

What are 2 important tips for a successful job interview? ›

During the Interview
  • Plan to arrive early. ...
  • Be prepared to summarize your experience in about 30 seconds and describe what you bring to the position.
  • Listen carefully to each question asked. ...
  • Remain positive and avoid negative comments about past employers.
  • Be aware of your body language and tone of voice.

What's the best color to wear to a job interview? ›

The best colors to wear to an interview are ones that are neutral such as black, navy, gray and brown. White is also an appropriate neutral color for a shirt or blouse. Depending on your preference, you can also add a bit of color to an interview outfit to introduce your own personality.

What is the key to a great interview? ›

Be sure to briefly cover your education, work history and a hobby. The interviewer wants to know you are well-rounded person. Show confidence in yourself and your abilities. Key words to use are: profit, challenge, responsibility, developing new skills, team player, etc.

Why should we hire you? ›

“I should be hired for this role because of my relevant skills, experience, and passion for the industry. I've researched the company and can add value to its growth. My positive attitude, work ethics, and long-term goals align with the job requirements, making me a committed and valuable asset to the company.”

What color is calming for interview? ›

Brown - Brown is a neutral color that evokes feelings of calm. It is a great solid, neutral color for any interview. Blue - Blue, particularly navy, is another great neutral color for interview outfits. Blues convey feelings of calm, trust, and confidence - great qualities for an interviewer to sense in you.

Should I wear my hair up or down for interview? ›

Keep it simple with a ponytail

Instead of wearing your hair down, wear a classy bun or ponytail, or twist your hair into a smooth, long braid to keep your hair away from your face. Classy buns, ponytails or a long braid can give a professional look to your style while keeping you comfortable.

Can you wear black to an interview? ›

In an interview setting, black is a good choice, just don't wear too much of it. Like white, black pairs nicely with most other interview colors. Black says you respect the formality of the interview and the authority of the hiring company. Avoid matching black with brown, charcoal, or dark grey.

How do you introduce yourself in an interview? ›

Tips on How to Introduce Yourself in an Interview
  1. Greet Your Interviewers. ...
  2. Let Your Interviewers Know About Your Educational Background. ...
  3. An Alternate Approach for Seasoned Professionals. ...
  4. A Line or Two on Your Passions and Hobbies. ...
  5. The Vital Closing Statement.
Apr 12, 2023

How do I talk about myself in an interview? ›

A simple formula
  1. Present: Talk a little bit about what your current role is, the scope of it, and perhaps a big recent accomplishment.
  2. Past: Tell the interviewer how you got there and/or mention previous experience that's relevant to the job and company you're applying for.
Apr 19, 2023

How can I increase my chances of getting a job interview? ›

How to increase your chances of securing an interview?
  1. Take your time to write a killer CV. ...
  2. Build a great relationship with your recruiter. ...
  3. Apply for jobs that reflect your skills. ...
  4. Secure meaningful testimonials. ...
  5. Identify warm links to the company. ...
  6. Work on your online brand reputation.

What are the five characteristics of a good interview? ›

  • Avoid Yes/No Questions.
  • Avoid ”Multiple-choice“ and Double-barreled Questions.
  • Don't Switch Topics Too Frequently.
  • Avoid the 'Why' Question.
  • Avoid Asking for Little Known Facts.
  • Avoid Imposing Concepts.
  • Avoid Leading Questions.
  • Listen Attentively.


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