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Interview Tips and Tricks
The large majority of junior doctors have not had an interview since their medical school interviews and find the prospect of a potential interview very daunting! Although interviews can be daunting, they are a great opportunity to show your potential employer your skills, strengths, achievements and why they should hire you! Interviews can be done really well, and can actually be enjoyable if you feel confident and are prepared.
When it comes to medical interview tips, there are different types of interview questions that you can prepare for, with three main styles asked in most interviews – General questions, behavioural questions, and situational questions. There is a good chance you may be asked a clinical question if you are applying for a junior doctor role (E.g. Tell us about a time you managed a patient with chest pain).
General medical interview tips
- Be prepared! Research the facility and its surrounds – It shows genuine interest in the role.
- Be familiar with its size, location, medical specialties, reputation etc.
- Look up the facility's website.
- Speak to industry contacts and use journal articles, newspaper articles, blogs, annual reports and the internet to learn as much as possible about the Clinic/Practice/Hospital.
- Brainstorm questions that you are likely to be asked in the interview based on the job responsibilities and requirements.
- Prepare specific examples that will demonstrate how you meet the requirements of the position.
- Prepare a list of questions you can ask in the interview.
- Practice your responses out loud and ask someone to do a mock interview with you.
- Make sure you are clean, tidy and appropriately dressed – consider your hair, nails, accessories and shoes as well as your clothes.
- Have a copy of your CV or Resume, along with names, addresses and phone numbers of your referees prepared to take to your interview
- Visualise yourself at the interview – imagine yourself walking into the interview room, shaking hands with the interviewer and answering their questions with confidence. Visualise them calling you up to offer you a place/position after the interview.
- Change your mindset about the interview. Remember it’s not just about them interviewing you. It’s also an opportunity for you to find out if they are the right organisation for you. This will help you regain a feeling of control in the interview.
- Reflect on what there is to appreciate in this opportunity, for example, being able to share what you have to offer, gaining valuable interview experience, and networking.
- Put the interview into perspective and don’t lose sight of the big picture. Remember it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get offered a place/job. There will be other opportunities. Ask yourself ‘what is the worst that can happen?’
- Before the interview, look up the location on Google Maps or similar and plan how you are going to get there, how long it will take, where you will park if you are driving etc. If the interview is online, check your computer is working, that any programs required are updated and that your notifications are turned off (E.g. Text message notifications that may ‘bing’ during your interview).
- Practise, practise, practise! Record yourself answering interview questions out loud using a recording device or app on your mobile phone. Listen back to it and pay particular attention to your number of ‘ums’ and the length of your responses.
The vast majority of job interviews will begin with general interview questions, which is an employer's attempt to get to know you better. It's also your opportunity to show them why they should hire you.
General interview questions give you a perfect opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Some people may get stuck on their job history (E.g. I worked as an intern in 2019 and then an RMO in 2020) whereas this is a great opportunity to showcase your skills, interests and strengths and why they should employ you! For instance, an answer like this one showcases your strengths and skills: “I have been a rotational doctor for two years at the Townsville University Hospital in which I developed a wide range of skills including teamwork, procedural skills, clinical reasoning skills and communication skills. I have performed above average in all rotations as evidenced by my end of term assessments and have received positive feedback from allied health and nursing about my communication skills” etc.
A useful framework for general or open questions like “Tell me about yourself”, “Why did you apply for this job”, “Who are you”, or “Talk me through your CV” is the CAMP framework.
Clinical – Your clinical background and any clinical achievements you have, or any clinical skills or strengths you stand out in
Academic – Any academic achievements you may have
Management – Any managing roles you have had/ committees/ board work/ voluntary work etc you feel relevant
Personal – Any personal information you may feel relevant to the question
Below are some examples of general interview question examples
- Tell me a little bit about yourself.
- Why did you apply for this position?
- Who are you? Talk me through your expertise/ research in this field?
- What are your biggest strengths?
- What areas do you believe you need to improve on or consider a weakness?
- Where do you want to be in 5 years?
- What do you know about our team/ clinic/ hospital?
- What qualities do you have that will make you a good medical practitioner in this unit?
- What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
Behavioural interview questions are based on the assumption that past behaviour is an indicator of future behaviour. In asking detailed questions about specific tasks you undertook or experiences you had in a real-life setting in prior roles, the employer can ascertain how you may react in similar situations in the role you are interviewing for.
When you hear the words “Tell me about a time when…”, “Describe a time when….”, “Give me an example of….” it is highly likely that you are about to be asked a behavioural question.
Our top medical interview tip when answering these questions always be truthful with your example, and consider an example that will also highlight multiple skills you have (E.g. one example could prove that you have skills in conflict management, negotiation skills, problem-solving and rapport building all in one!)
The CAR or STAR methods are good approaches to answering these questions.
Situation - describe the situation or setting
Task – describe what you did
Action – describe how you did it
Result – describe the outcome
Context Action Result
Here are some examples of behavioural questions
Tell me about a time when:
- You made a mistake.
- You were involved in conflict.
- You advocated for a patient.
Give me an example of a:
- Good leader you’ve worked with.
- Good team you’ve worked in.
Tips for answering behavioural questions in an interview
- Do your research. Consider what skills and behaviours the employer is looking for, and find examples that you think will demonstrate a good match for the role.
- For instance, if you are applying for a senior resident role, consider what is expected of a senior resident and create some examples of how you can showcase these skills. You may get asked a behavioural question on “Tell me about a time you have made a mistake and what actions did you take”. Within this one answer you can showcase your skills, for example you may have a response that shows your ability to reflect, communicate, build rapport with patients, learn from mistakes, communicate with teams and apologise.
- Practise the CAR or STAR method out loud in advance. If you remind yourself of the acronym while telling your story, you’ll stay on point.
- Have a few different examples that you can adapt depending on the questions you are asked.
Always make sure you have described the ‘R’ – You always need to provide a result.
Situational questions assess how well you can analyse a problem, how you involve others, or how you obtain additional information in the decision-making process. When answering these questions you might like to ask for additional information or add theoretical information yourself that will demonstrate your understanding of the complexity of the problem.
Tips for answering situational questions in an interview
- Avoid making the situation more complicated than necessary.
- Make sure you address the case that was described to you, even if you have experienced something similar.
A useful framework for situational questions is the SPIES framework.
Seek Information – E.g. Find out more information about the situation
Patient safety – Always consider patient safety and if the situation that has been described to you may have patient safety implications
Initiative – How are you planning on approaching the situation?
Escalate – Does this situation need escalation? Who are you going to escalate to? This is a good opportunity to consider who in your team you can escalate to (Consider who else you can escalate to apart from your direct supervisor as the example may be about your supervisor)
Support – Consider what supports are available for the individual in the situation. Think laterally about supports and not just their immediate supervisor – their GP, psychologist, colleagues, union, doctors health line etc
Example situational questions
Please outline how you would handle the following situation.
- You are an ED resident and seeing your patient is a 35-year-old IV drug user who has a complicated forearm fracture. He is aggressive in ED and does not want surgery. How would you manage the situation?
- You become aware that a fellow resident has been performing poorly, covering up their mistakes and coming to work intoxicated. What would you do?
- You are asked to deliver an education session to emergency department doctors about a key topic from your specialty. How would you go about this?
- Your supervisor is regularly attending work late, dishevelled and smelling of alcohol. What do you do?
What to take and how to prepare for an interview
- Your resume
- Details of 2-3 referees – Its always good practice to advise your referees that you have an interview
- A list of questions to ask
- Arrive 10-15 minutes early
- Wear appropriate clothing
- Be confident and maintain eye contact
- Listen carefully to each question
- Do not interrupt the interviewer and listen to them very closely
- Speak clearly and concisely
- Smile and show enthusiasm
- Provide specific examples to support your statements
- Use positive body language
- Ask questions in the interview
- Focus on what you can do for them, not just what they can do for you
- Email the interviewer within 1-2 days after the interview to thank them and reiterate your interest in the position
Question #1 – Please tell me about yourself (General)
How NOT to answer - Please tell me about yourself? Transcript
Interview (I): Hi doctor. Thank you for your time today. We are going to jump straight to the first interview question. Please tell me a bit about yourself?
Doctor (D): (Few second pause)… Oh.... Umm.... Yeah so I am a doctor in Townsville, and I have done heaps of rotations in different areas and have liked my time in Townsville. I want to do orthopedics, so I want a job in Cairns as I have heard that the ortho bosses are good, and I will be able to get plenty of theatre time. I love playing sport in my spare time when I'm not at work.
How to answer - Please tell me about yourself? Transcript
Interview (I): Hi doctor. Thank you for your time today. We are going to jump straight to the first interview question. Please tell me a bit about yourself?
Doctor (D): Thank you for the question. I have been a doctor at the Townsville University Hospital for three years, including my internship year. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as a junior doctor at this hospital. I have found it to be an excellent hospital to solidify my general medical skills. My long term interest is to pursue Orthopedic surgery, and I am very interested in working as a rotational officer at the Cairns Base Hospital as I want to expand my knowledge in this area and hopefully have some rotations in orthopedics.
Clinically I have performed well over the past three years with all of my end of term assessments being satisfactory, and I have received verbal feedback from my supervisors that I performed clinically well.
I have academic interests, and I published a research paper in medical school on 'Wound healing time in children who swim regularly in North Queensland'. I am currently a co-investigator for a project on plastering techniques used in regional Emergency Departments.
I supervise medical students, enjoy teaching and supervising them, and am also on the 'Residents interested in Surgery (RIS) committee.
Outside of work, I enjoy sport, and I think being involved in a team sport is a good hobby and teaches excellent teamwork and leadership skills.
Question #2 - Share an experience where you had a conflict with someone and what you learned. (Behavioural)
How NOT to answer - Tell us when you had a conflict at work with someone and what you did about it? Transcript
I: Please give us an example of a time when you had a conflict with someone and what you learnt?
D: Oh... ummmm.. Ok... Well, I am only a junior doctor, so most of the time, I would just escalate these things to my registrar, and they would deal with it. But I can think of a time where I was on an after-hours shift, and a patient wanted to self-discharge because he was impatient and hadn't had his operation yet. I told him that was the way it always happens, and he will just need to wait for his surgery and that he just wasn't allowed to, and he got really angry at me and started swearing, so I told him he could discharge against medical advice and I let him discharge. I got the paperwork ready, and he signed and was discharged.
How to answer - Tell us when you had a conflict at work with someone and what you did about it? Transcript
I: Please give us an example of a time when you had conflict with someone and what you learnt?
D: Thankfully, conflict is not something that I have encountered regularly, but I would like to give an example of a situation where I experienced conflict with a patient. I was one of two resident doctors who were on an afternoon shift, and one of the nurses phoned to say that a patient was getting increasingly agitated as they wished to leave the ward. I clarified with the nurse the patient's reason for admission, whether they were currently medically stable or unstable, their current length of stay and if the nurse herself felt safe caring for the patient. She responded that the patient was awaiting a wound cleanout surgery that hadn't been done yet, and that she had felt safe until this point, but the patient was getting increasingly angry. I advised her that I would be there right away and asked her if she could phone the hospital security and ask them to be close to the ward but not make themselves too visible to the patient.
The patient was pacing in the hallway, so I introduced myself to him, shook his hand, and told him that I was here to try and help him. I asked them why he was admitted, and he told me that he was awaiting an operation on a hand-wound but had been waiting for three days for the operation, and it hadn't happened yet. The patient was very irritated and told me that he had been not allowed to eat or drink for three days in a row while waiting for the operation, but it still hadn't happened, and it was 6 pm. I explained the operating theatre emergency list and that more urgent cases can often mean that less urgent cases get bumped. I apologized to him that he had been waiting for the procedure for so long, explained the risks of not having the operation and self-discharging and promised him that I would find out more if he stayed on the ward.
The patient agreed to this, and I then liaised with the nurse unit manager, theatre NUM and anesthetist on duty to see what the chances were that the procedure would be done that evening. I was told there had been a multi-vehicle accident outside of town with many casualties, and it is unlikely that the procedure would occur tonight.
I returned to the patient's bedside with the original nurse, bought a sandwich and orange juice with me, and explained that there had been a significant accident outside of town and his surgery would, unfortunately, be postponed. As it turned out, he had just heard about the accident on Facebook and was very sympathetic to those involved and understood why he was delayed. The nurse organized for his dinner to be bought up to the ward. I gave permission to unhook his cannula and allow him to drink and to go outside for an hour or so and fast from midnight again.
The patient was happy about this outcome and appreciative that we communicated with him. Plus, he didn't even smoke! He just told the nurses that he could go outside for a break from the ward as he thought it meant.
The next afternoon I checked on the patient, and he had his surgery done and was back on the ward, and the surgery had gone well. The same nurse was looking after him, and I thanked her and phoned the security guards and thanked them for their efforts as well.
NQRTH is an initiative of the Australian Government's Integrated Rural Training Pipeline (IRTP) and is facilitated by James Cook University in partnership with public and private hospitals, Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC), health services, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) and GP clinics.