NU2ICU V3 logoGetting the Job

NU2ICU is well aware of the pressures on today’s healthcare system – constant reshuffling of structure, policy and people.  To meet demands that can vary day by day or, in ICU, minute by minute, nursing staff that are committed, skilled and experienced are very sought after.   Well, we cant get you experience but we can help you show commitment by studying what you find on this website as well as what is supplied to you by your workplace.  Skills will come with practice but let’s go about getting our foot in the door first and address “doing” the INTERVIEW!

Having a job interview ranks for some people as one of life’s great stressors, daunting, scary and to be avoided at all costs.  But with preparation it’s not that bad.  It’s time to write an..


Getting an interview as a NU2ICU nurse involves your application, before you send or submit it please sit back and read it like you didn’t know you, make sure it highlights your most relevant skills, experiences and abilities

What does your hopefully new employer want in you?   Address the points in the advert, for example if it says “Ability to work effectively within a multidisciplinary team.”  In your application highlight you work well with other nurses, Doctors, Allied Health staff like Physiotherapists, Dietitians and while you’re there it’s time to mention the kitchen and cleaning staff etc.    Its a big team and we are all part of it.   Touch on every aspect of the adverts requirements and if you find things being repeated in there it raises the importance of that section of you application so give a specific example

The advert may have been necessitated by, for example, prolonged absences caused by numerous work related injuries  to their staff so it may say in more ways than one something like “Awareness of Occupational Health Safety & Injury Management principles”   So you’d highlight that you are up to date with manual handling training, are aware of personal responsibilities regarding OH&S and mention promotion of OH&S is everyone’s job – promote safety and if you see something, say something

References are going to make or break your application and you should know that you don’t have to give your referee names on the first application (unless they are quite specific), should you be granted an interview they should clarify again at that point who you’d like rung regarding your relevant work history, you’ll probably need at least 2 names and one must be (if you’ve listed it) your current manager / employer / work experience supervisor.

As a NU2ICU nurse they aren’t going to be too hung up on much other than commitment to work, absenteeism and work standards.  The most telling questions they ask your referee are “Would you employ them (again)” or  “Whats the worst thing about such and such?”    Pick your referees well, ask their permission, tell them they might get rung and about which job (gives them time to mentally prepare thoughts about you)

Your application needs standards;

Length: A letter of application should be no more than one page long.  CV as an attachment your info should fit on 2 at most, so if mailing application and CV we need 2 sheets of paper.  Ask someone to proof read both and allow constructive editing to get down to “relevance!”

Format and Page Margins: A letter of application should be single-spaced with a space between each paragraph. Use about 1″ margins and align your text to the left, which is the standard alignment for most documents.

Font: Use a traditional font such as Calibri, Times New Roman or Arial.  The font size should be between 10 and 12 points

Be prepared for digital applications – one safe way to send your information is by converting it to a PDF prior to uploading / emailing.  If you type up your Curriculum Vitae (the story of you) on MS Word or similar most of them have a “save as” selection, using .PDF rather than a.doc or .docx means all of your heading designs, fonts and formatting looks the same at the readers end and this can make your application look much more professional with less things to go wrong

There are a million sites on the web to help guide you writing this but you must be comfortable with what you submit

AND you get the call, email or letter – INTERVIEW next week usually in front of a minimum of 2 staff (occasionally more) comprising probably the Unit’s Manager (or HR) and the Unit’s Clinical Coordinator / Educator or similar.  Happily this gives you a week to prepare for the…


In the lead up

Do you think you would benefit from knowing more about the place prior to interview?  Check the hospitals website or drop by and ask, find out what type of hospital the unit supports is it – major trauma, burns center, major surgical etc?  Does it have more than one ICU with sub specialties being catered for like Neuro, Cardiothoracic or Transplant etc?    Back yourself up by knowing some hospital background so if asked you can say you researched the ICU and was impressed by …..  or saw that the hospital was expanding its size or changing scope of clinical services etc.   Aim to be and to look informed

Image –

Practice your answers to the following questions (do it out loud and get used to hearing yourself talk about this stuff);

Why do you want to work here?   Career pathway, reputation, challenge, dream, had a relative in an ICU and was inspired or just “always wanted to”, avoid the wish-washy like “I need a change”

Where do you see yourself in 5 years / What is your five year plan?    Do my university diploma or masters, being a senior nurse with the associated skills,  after you answer you can ask them back “where do you want me to be in 5 years?”

Describe for us a stressful event at work and how you dealt with it personally?  They are looking for work / life balance and coping mechanisms – family, pets, church, peers, exercise (avoid mentioning recreational drug usage)

How do you deal with conflict in the workplace?  They are looking for what you will stand up for – will you deal with it yourself person to person in the first instance, will you report it if it remains an issue and do you know who to?  Have you had a disagreement with your manager / supervisor before and how did you handle it?

Clinical questions should always be targeted at your experience level so they want to hear your common sense and safety – if unsure always say “I’d be calling for help / asking for assistance”

Basic initiation of emergency procedures are gold standard questions – a 56yoa man in ICU monitored HR 80, no signs of respiration, no palpable pulse, unresponsive to voice and stimulus – what do you do?   Your patient’s visitor faints in your bay and falls to the floor, unconscious – what do you do?   We use continuous insulin infusions in ICU – What do you do for a BGL of 2.2mmol/L?

The crux of every answer is to do something!    Start CPR and call for help,  Watch your patient, call RRS / MET and call for help, cease the infusion and call for help / follow hypoglycaemia protocol – no one expects you to do much more than start things happening at this point

Basic Safety – you are checking your bay and notice bare wires hanging out of the bed power cord plug – What do you do?   You help the nurse in the next bay roll her patients and the nurse states her shoulder is sore after you finish – What do you do?

Again, the crux of every answer is to do something!  Avoid bare wires, turn off power at socket,  arrange new bed and this bed for repair,  Discuss the need to report the injury for the staff members benefit even if OK now, that reporting will cover for any future exacerbation and review your techniques and movement aids used if any

Other questions to think about and make answers include;


  • What specific training and skills can you bring to this role?
  • What areas are you currently working on to improve your skills?
  • Why do you want to leave your current nursing position?
  • What makes a good team player?
  • Can you tell us about a time your work was criticised and how you handled it?
  • How do you set priorities in your work?
  • Provide an example of when you thrived under pressure?
  • How would your co-workers describe you?

“Practice Practice Practice”


There is always opportunity given every interviewee (you) to ask the panel questions, you don’t have to but you’ll seem more interested if you do,.   You can throw in your research knowledge here “I know the hospital is adding  Organ Transplantation to its clinical services, do you foresee that will be soon and what training, if any, will be required of the ICU staff?” or “Would the hospital offer support, and what kind would it be, if I undertake a university based ICU course?”

On the Day

  1.   Wear something smart casual, feel proud of how you look (wearing your uniform if its the same hospital and different unit or even different hospital is fine)
  2.  Be early, obvious stuff but if you’ve never traveled there before add 20 – 30 minutes just in case parking is bad – as it is at most hospitals during office hours
  3.   Shake hands to start and close the interview
  4.   Ask to go back over a question if you have one of those epiphanies of “OMG why didn’t I say that, I know that?”
  5.   If you have something so show while there, work out when you think you should introduce it so it is part of the flow, at the very beginning, when they ask if you have    anything to add or any questions – it’s up to you
  6.   If you are saving giving your references until this opportunity have at least 2 names with their roles and phone numbers / email addresses printed on a piece of paper to pass rather than searching your phone contacts when asked
  7.   After the interview just don’t panic – no body ever thinks they nailed it for more than 10 minutes if at all because the “doubts” start to set in,  be kind to yourself because like everything else, interviews are learned skills

After the day

You GOT IT!  Great, ask lots of questions to prepare for your first day, seek any documentation they need filled and if you’re very NU2ICU have a look at some drug calculations that involve Microg/MIN/KG as you may not have seen them before (you can bet you will be tested soon).   Practice and practice more and you will be absolutely fine

You didn’t GET IT!   Still great, when the disappointment settles you will ask for some interview feedback (you will never remember if its given at the same time you get told no)   You are going to learn from this  – what you didn’t say, what you did say they didn’t get and worst or all, if it was just your lack of experience…    Sadly sometimes its like the jobs you see advertised for a 16 year old where they require extensive experience – How the hell do you do that?   If that is the case ask how you could prepare yourself better for next time (we assure you there will be a next time ‘cos nothings going to keep you down)  What would they suggest – throw it back to them?

But most of all remember – this is your career, your planning and, most importantly, your life – most of all, you deserve to be happy, so follow that dream!



How to answer hard interview questions …and everything else you need to know to get the job you want 2nd Edition 2009 by Charlie Gibbs


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