Retirement and nursing homes aren’t places where people come to sleep, eat, and die. They still want to enjoy the autumn of their life, and do something meaningful during their days. Activity assistants (or aides) try to bring some meaning, socialization, and entertainment to their daily routine.

The same is true for any other setting where you can work as an activity aide (summer camp, holiday resort, cruise ship, children hospital). In this article we will look at some questions you may face while interviewing for this interesting position. I will try to help you find good answers to the questions. Enjoy!


Why do you want to work as an activity assistant?

Because you see the meaningful purpose in this work. You can always come up with some interesting ideas, and you have a good understanding for the needs (and limitations) of their target group.

Or perhaps you had a similar job in the past, spending your summer as an animator, or working in a summer camp. You have the experience, you enjoyed your work before, so why not to do the same thing again, though in a slightly different setting?

Try to speak with some enthusiasm. They should sense that you really want the job, and do not apply just becasue you can’t get anything better with your current qualification and experience.


Why our nursing home (cruise ship, summer camp)? Why not some other place?

You have several excellent opinions at this point. One is referring to their target group (children, elderly, holiday makers, etc). Perhaps you feel close to that particular demographic group, or have experience with organizing activities for them, or simply you have a good understanding for what they expect from an activity aide.

Another option is praising their place, comparing it to the places of their competitors. For example, on a cruise ship you can compliment their itinerary, musicians they have onboard, excellent reviews they got from their guests during past cruises, and so on.

In a nursing home it can be great vibe of the place, facilities and environment that allows for plethora of social end entertainment activities, or anything else they do better than their competitors in the area (or at least they do it well).

Certainly you can also have personal reasons. If your mom or granny stays in the place, or if you live fie minutes walk from the building, it would be foolish to look for the same work somewhere else.

* May also interest you: Home Health Aide interview questions.


What activities would you organize for the elderly from our retirement home, on a nice sunny day?

Now it certainly helps if you did some research and know a bit about their clients. For example if the place specializes in accommodating needs of people with mental disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, etc, you have to take this into account when thinking about summer activities.

Another thing to consider are the local customs, and the activities their generation used to enjoy in their active days. Playing games on smart phones surely won’t make the cut in this case…

In any case, try to suggest several different activities. For example petanque, cricket, chess, organizing a small open air concert (nor rock music, of course), outside reading, afternoon picnic, outside bingo, discussion, simple dance classes (people on wheelchairs can also dance!), and so on.

You can always emphasize that to come up with the most adequate suggestions you will have to know the clients first–their health, mental condition, activities they enjoy doing.

aide offers a helping hand to one of the clients of a nursing home

Speaking about rainy days, or long winter days, what would you suggest for our clients?

Try to be creative. Suggesting turning on a telly and letting people socialize in front of it won’t impress the interviewers much.

What can impress them, however, is suggesting doing individual visits, playing table games or cards with clients, helping them to design simple artistic items (or even more elaborate works of art), organizing group discussions, etc.

Old people do often feel lonely. Sometimes it is enough when you pay them a visit, make them a coffee (or drink one with them), and simply make for a nice companion on a rainy day…

* Do not forget to check also: Dietary Aide interview questions.


What artistic skills do you have?

Artistic skills make this job much easier. If you can play a piano, draw, or dance, you can easily organize some activities for the clients without a need of involving a third party.

Now, you should be honest in your interview, but you do not necessarily have to excel in any artistic activities to make them work for your favor in this job. You won’t lead an art class, or help a young child on their journey to a career of a professional pianist.

If you can do some basic drawings, and play a few songs on this or that instrument, it’s typically enough for the clients of a retirement home. And you should mention these skills.

Now I do not suggest that they do not have an ear for an excellent music, or can’t recognize a superb painting from a poor one. But they understand that you are not an artist. You are their activity aide, and your effort matters more than your artistic skills. What’s more, you can always ensure your interviewers that you plan to work on your skills, and will learn to play a new instrument.

Special Tip: You can also download the full list of questions in a one page long PDF, and practice your interview answers anytime later:

interview questions for activity assistants, PDF

We have diverse clients in our nursing home. Some suffer from mental problems, some have physical disabilities. How would you manage to include such a diverse group of people in your activities?

This is a tricky question. I have my experience with organizing activities in nursing homes (did it in my home city as a non-profit activity), and honestly it is very tough to include diverse groups of clients in one activity.

Therefor I suggest you to say that you prefer to understand the needs and abilities of each client, and divide them into groups accordingly, and then organize a separate activity for each group. Of course, in some cases these activities may overlap. But even if they do not, the most important thing is that everyone has some activity, and that clients enjoy their time in the nursing home.


How do you feel about working on 12 hour shift? What about seven days in a row?

This question applies more to summer camps and cruise ships, but you can get it also in a retirement home interview. Certainly young clients or holiday makers are very demanding.

On a cruise ship (or in a summer camp), if some activity assistants get sick (can happen to anyone), others have to replace them on their shifts, and sometimes work for long hours each day, many days in a row.

You should ensure your interviewers that you count with this option, that you are aware of the possibility of working long hours. Certainly you prefer normal shifts–because one can focus better and deliver a better service on a shorter shift, but if needed, you do not mind working for 12 hours on one go or even longer (of course you’ll be compensated for your overtime work).

elderly couple is enjoying a sunny autumn day outside

What would you do if one of the clients had an accident during the activity?

You can start with ensuring the interviewers that you plan your activities cautiously, and will keep your eye on the clients, to minimize the possibility of an accident.

If it happened, however, you’d provide first aid (you went to the course), and you’d immediately call medical staff (either from within or outside the company, depending on whether they employed any medical professionals).


What do you consider the toughest aspect of this job?

This can be many things. For some aides who tend to develop real friendships with their clients, the toughest thing is to see someone pass away. For other the constant need to come up with new ideas and entertain their audience is the most challenging aspect.

Long shifts, working on weekends and other things can also make the list. Whatever you pick, try to ensure the interviewers that you count with experiencing some problems in your work, low days, crisis of motivation, and so on.

No job is perfect, and the same is true about job candidates. But you will try your best, and hope to handle everything, including the tough aspects of your new job.


Few other questions you may face in your interview

  • Describe a conflict you had with one of your clients in your last job (if you had a similar job before).
  • Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
  • Tell us how you imagine a typical day in this work, from morning to evening.
  • What are your expectations on nurses, social workers, food service, and other staff members?
  • What do you consider your greatest weakness as an activity assistant?
  • Do you have any questions?


Conclusion and next steps

Activity aide is a wonderful job, and you can certainly find your calling in it. What matters most in the interview is that you manage to convince the hiring managers of your honest interest (desire) to make the days of their clients more colorful, and of your right attitude to this kind of work.

Do a good research about their place, and read this article once again from the start, trying to prepare a short answer to each question, following my hints. Once you do it, and bring the right energy to your interview, you should make it. I wish you good luck!


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Matthew Chulaw
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