Articles and Case Studies

Internship Interview Hot Seat Survival Guide

07 Jun 2013

Congratulations! You've refined your curriculum vitae for the 53rd time, finished agonising over your cover letters, and put your preferences in.

By Radhika Sheorey, intern and MDA National Member.

Radhika Shorey Internship Hot Seat Survical Guide

Now what? Here's some tips to consider before walking into your medical internship interviews.

1. Do the leg-work – again!

You've probably already done a lot of research about each of the health services before writing your cover letters and putting in your preferences. Now is the time to sit down and start thinking about each of the hospitals individually. Prepare separately for each interview so that you can appreciate what is unique about each of the different hospitals.

a. Rotations

In your interview, you want to demonstrate that you've done your research and thought about not only about your career interests, but also about what sort of year you want to experience. You need to convey excitement about what each hospital offers in terms of rotations. Any future employer likes to be assured that they are offering enjoyable and interesting opportunities to their prospective employees, and medical internships are no different.

If you have specific rotations that interest you, make sure you've spoken to current interns who have completed those rotations, and that you have an understanding of how the unit works and what the role entails. If you find yourself getting to final year medical school with no specific area of interest and no real idea what you are going to do with all of your education (like I did) you can still demonstrate your enthusiasm about the prospect of a broad and varied internship year. Both types of candidates are sought after by health services so there is no need to fake an interest in something if you don't truly have one!

b. Culture and achievements

Each health service hand-picks the applicants they think will best fit their institution, so you need to show that you have an understanding of what they represent and what they pride themselves on. For most hospitals, this will be a combination of their culture, achievements and future goals.

Speak to current interns and ask them to describe the hospital to you from their perspective. Ask them about their experiences and try to gauge their level of satisfaction and happiness. This not only helps you dispel stereotypes and rumours about each of the hospitals, but it also enables you to consider future career pathways, training opportunities and rotations in subsequent years.

With this information in hand, read each health services' "Strategic Plan" – a comprehensive document that outlines their future directives as an organisation. Employers see medical interns as an investment. Your job is to demonstrate that your five year plan is in line with the institution's future goals and values, and that an investment in you now would be mutually beneficial in years to come.

iStock_000015054268XSmall2. Practice makes perfect

I don't care what anyone says – you CAN practice ahead of time for an interview. While slightly unconventional, here is a simple and effective method.

Step one: Use all the available resources around you – current interns, Google, non-medical friends – and make an extensive list of practice questions. You will soon realise that many of them are just different ways of asking the same question, but the more versions you have seen, the more prepared you will feel.

Step two:  Write down the "perfect" answer to each question in dot point format and read over this response several times until you get a general feel for what you are trying to convey. Remember that health services are looking for safe, non-judgmental team-players. Think about what that really means and how you can genuinely incorporate some, if not all, of those virtues in your answers.

Step three: Assemble a panel of teddy bears and put yourself through a gruelling process of question and answer! If you don't own any teddy bears, practice your answers in front of a mirror. Regardless of which option you choose, step three is probably best done in the privacy of your own room!

I know it sounds ridiculous, but it works. Some of the questions that are asked in an interview are tough, but getting into the habit of working through your answers systematically allows you to build a framework that can be used for any question that's thrown at you. The objective is not to seem rehearsed, but rather to practice your communication skills. Eye-contact and body language are essential interview components, and you need to practice both in a safe environment (with teddy bears) so that you minimise anxiety during the real thing.

Trust me, it works!

3. And now for some practical advice…

Interviews are a way for health services to check your "employability" more than anything else. For junior doctors, this translates into checking whether you are punctual, prepared, friendly and most importantly, self-aware.
The day before your interview, make sure you have organised yourself thoroughly. There is nothing worse than being flustered and stressed before you even get there.

Make sure you have thought about what you are going to wear. Get yourself a professional folder or compendium, and carry a copy of both your CV and your cover letter with you. Not only does this make you appear well-prepared, but it gives you something to hold so you don't fidget.

On the day, ensure you know exactly where you're going (check the exact address and ensure you know the building name) and arrive early. Sit in your car for 45 minutes if you have to, but please ensure that you are early. I cannot stress this enough.

When you enter the room, make sure you shake each of the interviewers' hands. But most importantly, remember to smile! It is an instant ice-breaker and an easy way to convey that you are warm and approachable.

Good luck!

For more handy hints and tips, check out our article on How to Perform Well in a Medical Interview in this edition of Student eNews.

Anaesthesia, Dermatology, Emergency Medicine, General Practice, Intensive Care Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Ophthalmology, Pathology, Psychiatry, Radiology, Sports Medicine, Surgery


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