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Acing Interviews

I didn’t interview for my first nursing post. Until recently, I’d never thought much about interviewing. Then I saw the opportunity for a specialist nurse role that just fit me perfectly; suddenly, I was in preparation..

Autism impairs my social interactions, and this is particularly evident when I’m meeting people I’ve never met. Eye contact is uncomfortable for me, rapport can be one-sided, it takes me a while to find some common ground. I have a particularly formal speech pattern, use overly formal language, have an uncharacteristically ‘posh’ accent. It’s taken me time to get the hang of building relationships with others, but I’m about 90% there. So how then am I to meet with people who are strangers to me, and not only make a good impression, but leave the impression as somebody with whom they’ll want to work?

It just so happened that at the same time I was preparing for my interview, two of my colleagues were being interviewed for a deputy ward manager post we had going on the ward. So I did some low-key digging for info, and tried to discern what sort of questions to expect:

1.       “Have you told your manager you’ve applied for this job?”

I like this question, a simple one on the surface but the response can tell so much about you. If you’ve told your manager, you may be more of an optimistic person, who is actively preparing to step up and get this job. Conversely, if you’ve not told your manager you may be someone who is not realistically preparing to move on; someone who is unwilling to have difficult conversations; take the consequences of their decisions. It may also signify that you either don’t have a good relationship with your manager, or that you don’t respect their authority – neither of these are traits that a new employer will be actively seeking.

It is better all-around to tell your manager that you’re going for a new job, it’s just polite. I honestly wasn’t planning on telling my manager pre-interview. I had decided not to without giving it a huge amount of thought. I hadn’t told anyone at work I was interviewing, I didn’t want the pressure and like a true Autistic I don’t like a lot of fuss. Hearing this question made me think. Despite my anxiety and general reluctance to make things real by telling her, I have huge amounts of respect for my manager, and she deserved to know. So I told her, and most surprisingly to me – it went fine, and was the right thing to do.

2.       “What are the trust values..?

This is the type of question that I really don’t like, I believe that all it does is assess a person’s ability to reel off some important but rather meaningless nouns.. kindness, respect, honesty, etc. etc.

In any job you’re going for, it’s probably worth doing a quick bit of research on your potential employer. Learning what they stand for is worth knowing, whether they ask you about it or not.

3.       “..and how do you align with them?”

As part of your interview preparation, you should have at least some idea as to how you meet the criteria of what they’re asking for. Reading the job description and the person spec is #1 task. Talk about aspects of you or things that you’ve done that would demonstrate the value they are determining. The whole point of the interview is that your potential managers learn who you are and what makes you, you. Give them the opportunity to learn all the reasons why you would be the perfect person for the job.

I think this is an attempt to spice-up what is fundamentally quite a mundane question. It is a very direct way of asking for what the interviewers want to know, I suppose the Autistic in me craves a question that asks for exactly what it wants but there is something in me that likes to be challenged. Very much on my own terms though, I must add.


To The Google!

Doing well on this interview was so important to me, and Autism means that social rules that may be obvious to everyone else do not occur to me so easily, so I did a lot of Googling!

  • “what to wear to a job interview”

Google told me I should avoid bright colours or patterns, and wear toned-down clothes. My problem here is – that just isn’t me. When I’m wearing clothes that I’m not comfortable in (think a blouse and black trousers) it’s like I have an itch in my brain, and I find it very difficult to concentrate on anything but my garmental discomfort. I opted for grey patterned trousers, and a blue woollen jumper – ok, it was itchy, but it really went with the trousers and I was happy with how I looked.

I didn’t wear heavy makeup, just as much as what I’d normally wear to cover the odd breakout. Hair up in a pony, brushed away from my face so I can make my expressions clear.. and here’s a tip: tuck a pen in your pony! I’m a huge fan of having a pen easily available to me, if I need something written down quickly, I don’t want to be fishing about in my bag, or getting out my phone to make a voice note, it just isn’t a good look. If you have a pen in your pony you’re always prepared.

  • “how to act at a job interview”

The interview starts as soon as you walk in. When I first walked into the unit, I sat in a waiting area and looked around. Not only are people sussing me out, but I have to suss out them, I need to know that this is somewhere I’m going to really be able to thrive in – so I made conversation with security, I asked questions of the reception staff, I looked at the décor on the walls – information can be extrapolated from every aspect of the interview experience. Visualise yourself working there.

To The Interview

Remember the names of the people who are interviewing you, it’s polite, and it shows interest. I help myself here by writing down the names of people as they introduce themselves to me, and I make note of who they are within the organisation. I don’t think anyone can fault you for doing this. The way my interview worked was I was given a sheet of paper with the interview questions on it and given 15 minutes to answer them and make notes before sitting in front of the interview panel to go through my answers. I loved this way of working, it was a fresh take on interviewing, and meant I got a chance to familiarize myself with the questions without having to ask.

I also, rightly or wrongly, told my interviewers that I’d never interviewed before. I suppose it shows a level of this is what’s going on for me, maybe some personability. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being real and admitting nerves.

1.       “What makes a good nurse?”

I fell into the trap almost straight away, I did the thing I hate of just reeling off positive qualities without really exploring how they applied to my good self – meh, I can’t be perfect. Always bare in mind that in any question they ask, you must apply yourself, and how you fit into the role you’re going for.

It is so easy to forget and lose yourself.

2.       “You’re having a disagreement with a colleague about a patient’s treatment, what would you do?”

This question challenged my thinking – I can’t say that I’ve ever quite been in this situation before. I thought about it logically, and applied it to the job I’m in now. If I were nursing a patient on the ward, and was in such a scenario, how would I act? Of course, it depends on a lot of the circumstances, but I think I may (along with said colleague) ask for the advice of a third colleague, or I’d have a look at NICE guidelines; what other treatments are available. Primarily though, and I cannot stress this enough, I would ask the patient! It happens so frequently as nurses that we get so wrapped up in our own knowledge that we forget that ultimately it’s the patient’s decision.


I think what shows a lot about myself, is that my answers are not static. When I was verbalising my responses I was actually updating some of the things I had initially written as new ideas were coming to me. There is nothing wrong with admitting, that with the benefit of more time and perhaps even hearing yourself, the answer might change.

To Your Interview

As well as interviewing you to see if you are a good fit for the job, you’re also interviewing them to work out the same thing. Think of some questions that you can ask of the interviewer. I like to know the background of people I will be working with, I think it’s interesting to know where people come from so that I can determine what I can learn from them. I like to know the general backgrounds of other people in the team, just so I know that I match, or can bring my experience along with me.


So here are my top 6 interview tips:

#1 Tell your manager you have an interview

#2 Wear what you feel comfortable in

#3 Chat to everyone you meet on the journey

#4 Keep a pen easily accessible to write down important information

#5 Remember the names and roles of people you meet

#6 Sell yourself – talk about yourself

#7 Ask questions that will help you work out how you fit in

#8 At the end of the interview, ask for feedback. Or take the email addresses of your interviewers so that you can email them a day later to thank them for their time, and ask how you could improve


Good luck!


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