Interview tips from a medical human resources expert
At this time of year, many Junior Doctors are preparing to interview for a position next year. It can be a stressful time for some, so we asked Dr Anthony Llewellyn, Medical HR Expert and Founder of AdvanceMed, to share his top tips for interview success.
The best way to prepare for your interview
In the lead up to your interview, you do need to be focused on your preparation.
I recommend getting the logistics out of the way first for all the Junior Doctors I work with. By which I mean: getting approval to take the day off from work, working out what you are going to wear, working out how to get to the interview on time, and finding out the details of the interview (panel member names, amount of time for the interview) if the interview coordinator will give you this information.
This way you can spend the rest of the time preparing for the actual interview without being worried by any other parameters.
The very next thing you should do, if you have not already, is to start to practise answering interview questions and get some feedback.
Don’t worry too much about the actual questions. If you have a set of questions from previous years interviews, great. But if you don’t, just start practising some of the common question types. If you hunt around the web it won’t take too long to find a question bank like this list of questions for interviews.
If possible, practice answering one or two questions in front of your supervisor, family member or friend. At the very least videotape yourself answering a couple of questions.
What you want to focus on here is how you come across in a general sense. Are you speaking comfortably and are you making sense in your answers? It should be reasonably obvious whether you are too relaxed or too tense. Similarly, you will quickly see whether your answers are clear and concise, versus rambling or full of gaps.
Keep practising one or two questions with feedback until you are happy with your demeanour in answering as well as the clarity of your responses.
If you have a short period to prepare this is how you will make the maximum gains.
The simplest way to relax in an interview
You have probably heard it before from some well-meaning friend, family member or mentor. “Just relax and you will be fine”. But it’s easier said than done, isn’t it?
There are a whole host of things you can do to be more relaxed during your interview, from practising deep breathing to doing yoga to learning mindfulness. But what if you only have a few days to go?
Well, there is one simple thing you can do to help yourself out, something that is automatic to us all: smile. So before you say anything in your interview, smile. Most of us already have good muscle memory for so it doesn’t take practise or learning. It really just requires implementing.
Something I recommend to the Junior Doctors that I work with on interview preparation is to implement a routine where the first thing you do after you sit down for the interview is to smile and thank the panel for the first question.
The act of smiling does 3 things. It relaxes you. It also tends to relax the panel members. And it makes a positive first impression. It's far harder for a panel member to “not like you” if they are smiling back.
Learn how to give a good example
Most interviews these days will include more than one question where you are asked to provide a past example to demonstrate how you meet one of the selection criteria.
We call this the “Past Behaviour Question” approach. It’s based upon the principle that past behaviour is a reasonable predictor of future behaviour and that such questions are harder to fake at the interview.
So, you want to have some examples ready for some of the common interview scenarios that come up. These include: dealing with conflict, communication challenges, good teamwork, a difficult challenge, teaching, even sometimes quality improvement and conducting research.
I’d recommend first going through your CV and highlighting all the achievements you are most proud of. Come up with your top 4 or 5 and then practice telling the story of these. These are things that you are proud of, so when you describe them to other people you will be much more passionate about them and this will come across. Practice telling the story using a structured framework such as the STAR technique.
STAR stands for Situation; Task; Action/s and Result. In my experience with trainee doctor interviews, it’s the “Result” that is often missed when giving an example - this is a real shame as its the Result that helps you to “sell” the example to the panel. So, make sure you do talk about the result. This shows the panel that you are interested in results and evaluating your own performance.
What about Hypotheticals?
OK. You are comfortable with all the common questions and you feel reasonably good about answering a clinical scenario. But what if they throw a curveball at you? A question you are not expecting?
Sometimes panels like to pose an ethical dilemma or ask how you might go about setting up an audit of problem “x”.
Like the STAR framework above there are frameworks for dealing with hypothetical questions. My favourite is the CanMEDS framework because I think it suits just about every hypothetical question and gives you some handy headings that might prompt you with ideas. It’s also the framework that most medical colleges base their training curricula on.
So, if you do get stuck with a hypothetical remember: Scholar, Professional, Health Advocate, Communicator, Collaborator, Leader and Medical Expert.
Best of luck in your interviews!
Anthony has also prepared some videos about the interview process which are available on his Career Doctor YouTube.
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