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Interview Advice

How do I prepare for an interview?


You have written a great CV that has got you noticed, and now you must shine at an interview.  In this blog, our Cheltenham Branch Manager, Alicia Loughlin, gives us her 6 top tips on how to prepare for an interview in the care industry.

Over my career, I have attended many and been on the panel of hundreds, if not thousands, of interviews, so my advice comes from being both a candidate and a hiring manager.  We have all had those moments of panic, the mind blank, or the inability to say what you know you want to say!  So here is my advice on how to prepare for an interview to ensure those horror moments don’t happen – and how to deal with them if they do.

  1. Do your research

The healthcare industry has various employers and care settings, each with different cultures and working environments.  So, when you prepare for an interview, ensure you have done your research.  Firstly, about the company – use their website, look for recent new stories and perhaps even visit the place beforehand, secondly, on the person or people interviewing you.  You can use sites like LinkedIn to find out a little about their background and work history and how long they have been with the company.  It’s also a great idea to re-read the job description to thoroughly understand the role’s duties and person specifications.  This will ensure that you know what personal qualities the company are looking for.

  1. Anticipate potential questions

Does your CV leave your potential employers with questions?  Are there gaps in your working history, or were you only with a previous employer for a short period?  In these instances, interviewers are likely to ask for reasons, so ensure you have prepared your answer.  Then there are the typical and role-specific questions that are asked at interviews.  Here are some of the most common and my advice on preparing a response, so you feel confident in your answers:

  • Tell me about yourself: Give a broad overview of your work or educational history but make sure you throw in things that you have a passion for, perhaps something a little out of the ordinary.  Employers are often looking for more than experience – they are looking for values and behaviours that fit their workplace culture.
  • What made you interested in working here?  Be honest and put that research to good use!
  • What’s your biggest strength?  Think about the candidate they are looking for – the one described in the job description. Choose one of your strengths that aligns with what they’re looking for.
  • What’s your biggest weakness?  Be honest but cautious in your answer – show them that you are doing something to try and improve on this.
  • Why did you leave your last position?  The first rule – don’t be negative, stay as positive as you can, but try to shift the focus to the new opportunity you can see with them.
  • What are your career goals?  They aren’t expecting you to detail your road to retirement! Focus on your short- and medium-term goals and how working for this organisation helps you achieve them.
  1. Prepare your questions

Any interview is a two-way thing – a potential employer is looking to see if you would be a good fit for their organisation and the role.  But you are also interviewing them to see if they fit you well.  It’s expected at the end of the interview, that they will ask you if you have any questions.  Be a great interviewer as well as a great interviewee.  Again, this is an excellent opportunity to use your research to ask a question about something you have found out about the organisation.  Or ask about what they would expect from you in the first three months in the role.  Being clear on their expectations of the new starter should give you a real feel for if you are the right fit.

  1. Plan and prepare your outfit

You want the interview day to be as smooth and stress-free as possible, so make sure you have planned and prepared what you will wear.  As you have done your research, you should know what the working environment is like.  For many healthcare organisations, this might be a uniform.  However, for an interview, it’s always best practice to attend in business attire, so a suit or a business dress.  It’s also a good idea to keep jewellery and make-up to a minimum – to avoid distraction.  Remember to present yourself as you would for a typical day at work, so long hair should be tied back and nails clean and short.  And remember to iron your clothes and clean your shoes – first impressions count!

  1. Plan your journey

Or even better, as I said in point 1, visit where the interview will take place.  It would help if you planned to arrive 20-30 minutes before the start of the interview.  Cutting it fine will add stress and anxiety to what will already be a stressful situation.  I suggest presenting yourself to the receptionist around 10 minutes before the interview. Remember, the actual interview starts here – it’s common for organisations to ask others in the building what their thoughts were on any potential new employees.  The extra 10-20 minutes will give you a buffer for any unexpected delays.  Also, arriving with plenty of time will provide you with the opportunity to do point 6.

  1. Relax and review your preparation

Give yourself enough time to relax and take a few deep breaths to calm your nervous system.  You could also try a short, guided meditation to help you feel at ease.  Do this using your phone or sitting in your car so that you are calmer as you walk to the interview.  Also, take the time to review the things that you have prepared and researched ahead of the interview.  This will ensure you are super confident in your responses.

What if it goes wrong?

Even if you fully prepare for an interview, things can go wrong.  I can think of more than one experience where I stumbled in an interview.  These moments don’t mean the end of the road, and it’s often not as bad as you think.  Apologise to the panel; ask for a moment to compose yourself and breathe.  Try to regroup and if needed, ask them to repeat the question.  Everyone appreciates that interviews are stressful situations; hopefully, the panel should do their best to help put you at ease.

Remember, it’s a two-way street, too; are they a good fit for you as an employer?  Try to give an honest picture of who you are and what makes you qualified for the job. It’s always a great idea to follow up after an interview.  Use this as an opportunity to detail an answer that you struggled with during the interview.

At Safehands Recruitment, we care more, support you and help you prepare for an interview. We will offer valuable coaching and advice before any interview you gain through us.  So, if you feel we can help you through your health and social care career, get in touch for a chat – we’d be delighted to see you succeed.

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