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5 effective ways to use stories in your nursing job interview

Scenario-type questions can be tricky to answer – but if you prepare before the interview, they can offer a great opportunity to convey the skills and values that set you apart from other nurse candidates. Done right, story-telling is a highly effective technique that makes interviewers listen to what you have to say, and ensures that you are remembered.

Not sure where to start? Here are five ways to use stories in your nursing job interview.

1. Find the conflict

Can’t think of any stories? Start by reflecting on times when you faced conflict. ‘Most blockbuster movies start with a hero facing a conflict and follow a journey of struggles before reaching a happy ending. You can make your story more powerful by following the same structure. Going back to your scenario, you will want to describe how you faced your own fears in that situation and how you managed to overcome the challenge. Think about the skill, attitude or wisdom you gained from the experience – and convey that in the story.’

‘For example, if you want to show that you are a good communicator, you could talk about the time you encountered an aggressive client and turned things around,’ suggests Heike Guilford, Managing Director of The Coaching Nurse.Many candidates struggle to think of an example when asked, “Tell me about a time when…” While you can’t predict which scenario questions you will be asked, that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for them. Develop a number of stories before the interview, and you will have plenty of material to call on.

2. Make your stories work harder

Once you’ve decided on a particular story, see if you can tease out a variety of angles.

Heike explains: ‘Say you have a story that demonstrates your communication skills – can you also use it to show that you work well in a team?

‘Once you’ve decided on a particular experience, analyse it from a variety of perspectives. Could it be used to answer, “Tell me about a time when things didn’t go to plan?” or “When you had a busy workload and had to manage a crisis situation?”’

Of course, you don’t want to talk about the same situation for every question.

Heike says: ‘If you prepare three stories and think about each of them in depth, you should be able to answer most questions that come up without sounding too repetitive.’

3. Match your stories to the job

Once you’ve come up with three stories, think about how these are relevant to the role for which you are applying.

‘It’s a good idea to spend some time before an interview thinking about your experiences so far and how these might apply to this particular position,’ says Jonathan Beebee, a nurse consultant and director of pbs4.org.uk.

‘The interviewer isn’t just looking to see that you have the right skills, experience and attitude for the role. They’re also considering whether you fit with the organisation’s key values and can help them to meet their objectives,’ says Jonathan.

‘Make it easier for them by bringing your stories around to explain how you can use the skills and values you’ve learnt to benefit this role.”

4. It’s the way you tell them

When preparing stories, don’t just think about the content. How you start a story and the words you use can reveal much about your values.

‘Stories are highly personal, and the way in which you describe an experience can reveal much about your values as a nurse,’ says Heike.

‘If you’re not sure how you’re putting a story across, try recording yourself and listen back. Alternatively, practise on a colleague or friend who you trust to give you honest feedback.’

5. Don’t keep your stories just for scenario questions

Don’t feel you have to save stories just for scenario based questions that begin, “Tell me about a time when…”

‘When attending a nursing interview, my advice is to bring any question back to your personal experience,’ says Jonathan.

‘If you can answer a question by reflecting back on a situation you have previously been in you will naturally demonstrate that you have come across this situation before and you know how to deal with these situations.

‘Giving a text book answer, quoting research and policy shows you know your stuff, but giving real life examples shows you can apply this knowledge. Story-telling is a far more engaging narrative and will make your interviewers listen to you and be more interested in what you have to offer.’

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