How do you prepare for an interview?
Joan Reid (Head of Careers) and Caroline Elton (Education Advisor) have outlined some information below to assist you in your interview preparation.
Questions about you
The list below gives examples of the sorts of questions about yourself that you might be asked.
- Describe some of your key qualities/characteristics.
- Tell me what you have gained from your training to date?
- What are your key strengths?
- What do you think is your greatest achievement to date?
- Tell me about your approach to working in a team.
- Describe a situation at work which in retrospect you think you could have handled better.
- What did you learn from the situation?
- What sort of decisions do you find it difficult to make?
- What do you see yourself doing in five years time?
Questions about your Specialty/Job
Questions in this category might include the following:
- Why do you want this job?
- Why have you applied to this particular training programme?
- Talk us through your CV.
- What skills will you bring to this specialty?
- What do you think it takes to excel in this particular specialty?
- What’s the most useful course that you have attended in the last 12 months? Tell us about a research paper that you have read recently that has had an impact on your clinical practice.
Questions about the wider aspects of healthcare
Typical questions in this third category include the following:
- What do you think about the recommendations of the Darzi report into MMC and the Department of Health’s response to these recommendations?
- Describe how you think appraisal will help improve the quality of care that doctors deliver to their patients?
- What do you think are the main challenges facing the NHS? (These could include Payment by Results, MMC, NHS Direct, Foundation Trusts, etc.)
- Should patients be involved in decision making about their care?
- How might the European Working Time Directive affect you?
- What is audit, and how does it differ from research?
- Can you tell me about an audit project that has influenced your practice?
Make sure you understand what the deadline is for completing your application and familiarise yourself with the person specification for the job/training post as this will help you answer the questions in a focused manner.
Prepare a draft of your responses, using the information you have previously collected together, as application forms must be error-free, well written and make it abundantly clear that you understand what the job entails and have the necessary skills and expertise all within the word limits.
Once you have completed the whole form check it again before submitting it well before the deadline. Good practice dictates you keep a copy of any applications you make – these will be helpful when you get called to interview.
In the best application forms, not only is it really clear that the candidate has the necessary skills and expertise, you also get a sense of what the candidate is like as a person. In effect, through it being well written, the candidate builds up a rapport with the reader and that’s the way to maximize your chances of getting through to the next stage.
The following extracts have been taken from the August 2008 edition of Caroline Elton and Joan Reid’s book, “The ROADS to Success” - A practical approach to career planning for medical students, foundation trainees (and their supervisors)
“It is useful to begin by thinking about the purpose of interviews. A formal answer is that the purpose of the interview is to assess each candidate against the person specification, and thus identify which candidate (or candidates) is best suited to the position on offer. But it is also important to realise that you (as the applicant) and the panel members all share membership of the human race. An interview should not feel like a mechanised process of quality control but, instead, a professional conversation in which you build up rapport with the panel.
Of course, building up such rapport is easier said than done. And nearly everybody is nervous before an interview – particularly when there is a lot at stake. But it is useful to remember that you want to convey a sense of who you are as a person during the interview. After all, the panel will be asking themselves if you are the sort of person whom they would want to have as a trainee.
If you are very nervous, it is fine to say to the panel that you find interviews quite stressful. Similarly, if you are asked an extremely difficult question you can begin your answer by saying something like ‘That's a tough one. But I'll give it a go.’ In these – and other ways – you can convey something of your personality to the panel.
We often remind our clients that interviews for jobs are not like police interrogations. By this we mean that whereas, if the police were interviewing you to find out if you had committed a crime, you would be unwise to comment that a question was very hard, or that you needed a bit of time to prepare an answer, such strategies are entirely appropriate in a job interview. Because, in the latter situation, responding in this way both gives a sense of your own personality and also shows that you handle pressure well."