Articles and Case Studies

How to Perform Well in a Medical Job Interview

07 Jun 2013

So, after many years of hard work and study, you're walking into an interview for an amazing junior doctor opportunity… Are you terrified or calm and confident?

MDA National's Education Services team provides tips on what you can do to prevent your head swirling with a million thoughts, your heart pounding noticeably through your shirt, and your answers not remotely capturing all you offer.

Interview preparation

It is vital to put thought and effort into the job interview well before the big day.

  • Be familiar with the job, selection criteria and the organisation.
  • Know in detail what you put into your written application.
  • 90% of interview questions are foreseeable so it is wise to think about answers for anticipated questions.1
  • Practise your responses out loud. Consider recording yourself. Even better, run a mock interview – see if any senior colleagues will interview you and give feedback.1

Prepare knowing that interview questions usually evaluate your:1

  • proficiencies at job tasks and responsibilities
  • motivation for the job
  • personality e.g. Provide a brief overview of yourself and your medical education and experience, Where do you hope to be, professionally, in five years' time?
  • general medical knowledge (including ethical and legal matters) e.g. Provide an example of how you practise evidence-based medicine", "What are the critical elements of patient consent?
  • general skills e.g. teamwork, time management, communication.

It is expected that candidates ask questions at the end of an interview.1 Think of these ahead. Any queries about pay or annual leave should be asked another time (the interview is not the place to appear lazy or money-hungry).1 Constructive questions you could ask include opportunities to explore special interests and how may interns stay on as residents or start training positions at the hospital.

Another important part of preparation is ensuring that you turn up on time and well-presented. Know where you are going and how you are going to get there in advance.

General strategies during the interview

When you greet each panel member, shake hands and make friendly eye-contact.2 Engaged but non-threatening eye contact is important throughout the interview. Try to remember interviewers' names, and use them during the interview, but don't panic if you forget.

Nonverbal communication informs an enormous amount about you. Appear friendly, composed and positive. Don't cross your arms as this seems defensive; rather, rest your hands in your lap when seated. Sit up straight and don't fidget.1

Have a strategy for staying calm. Common techniques include deep, slow breathing and progressive relaxation; and remember that you've prepared for the interview well. Also, try applying for multiple positions at the same time and being mindful that you have alternative options.

Answering questions during the interview

Make the interview a two-way conversation by offering insights and asking relevant questions. Direct the focus of your answers to the person who asked the question but not to the complete exclusion of the other panel members. Every so often, move your eyes and head around the rest of the panel so they feel included.1

After a question has been asked of you, breathe in and out – taking these moments to assemble your thoughts. Don't rush into answering questions as you risk going off track. It is essential to respond concisely and clearly. Aim for a maximum of two or three key messages in each answer.1 It is very important to describe personal examples demonstrating the competencies relevant to the question whenever possible. Usually around three minutes is allocated to discussing each interview question.1

Always be positive about previous positions, managers and co-workers.2,3 Express opinions in a balanced manner, especially on more controversial topics.1
If you're confused by the question, ask for clarification. If you don't know the answer, enter into a discussion on the topic e.g. if the question asked you to explain your thoughts on a recent policy change of which you're unaware, then constructive responses include:1

Sorry, I'm not familiar with this policy change – can you please tell me about it?

Sorry, I'm not familiar with this policy change; however, I am aware of this other recent policy change that seems to be related …

Remember to enjoy yourself!
Each time you're interviewed you will gain valuable experience and insight into yourself, healthcare organisations and other health professionals.


References
1 Smith C, Meeking D. How to Succeed at the Medical Interview. Great Britain: Blackwell Publishing, 2008.
2 Cross D. The Job Interview: Do's and Don'ts. North Adelaide: Crossways Consulting; [updated 2012; cited 17 January 2013]; Available at: www.findacareerpath.com/careers/articles/job-interview-advice-tips.
3 Kelly Services. Job Interview Questions and Interview Tips. Sydney: Kelly Services Inc; [updated 2011; cited 17 January 2013]; Available at: www.kellyservices.com.au/AU/Careers/my-Career-Centre/Job-Interview-Questions-and-Interview-Tips/.

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