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Preparing for a medical consultant interview

I have coached hundreds of doctors for medical consultant interviews. During this time, I’ve gained a true picture of pitfalls that many experience during their medical consultant interview. The following 7 medical interview tips and advice cover the most prominent areas which I believe can be useful for anyone seeking help with medical consultant interview preparation.

7 top medical consultant interview tips and advice:

My top medical consultant interview tips include:

Effective preparation

Making sure you carry out ‘effective preparation.’ In essence, that means not over or under-preparing. For example, leaving your interview preparation to the last minute doesn’t allow you sufficient time to prepare and practise your answers and aiming for perfect answers can make you sound over-rehearsed and robotic. Additionally, over-rehearsing on exact questions often means that you cannot adapt when the questions is posed differently and can make you look like a bad listener. For that reason, I always advocate that you need to have flexibility in the way you prepare your anwers to remain calm and collected for those questions that you didn’t quite expect. Rather than preparing perfect answers, instead prepare answers based on typical themes and focus on one at a time. For example, communication, empathy, teamwork, leadership, teaching, research, clinical governance, NHS issues.

Know thyself!

Whilst you are, no doubt, more than capable, clinically of doing the job well, many get stuck or feel uncomfortable talking about their personal strengths and qualities. And yet, there are many questions that are likely to crop which will ask you just that. So, it’s critical that you become comfortable talking about yourself in a way that doesn’t make you sound stilted and awkward. My top advice here is to practise hearing yourself OUT LOUD and even recording your answers so that you can listen back. And do this regularly, little and often (10-20 mins a day) is better than trying to master it in one long day. A good starting point could be to think about the feedback you’ve had from staff and patients alike and use those qualities that have been said about you to expand on further. In addition, know your CV well as you don’t want to get caught out by not being able to expand on a point/achievement that you’ve written about.

Be unique

Whilst you don’t want to be remembered for being different for the wrong reasons, neither do you want to be forgotten quickly for being too bland with unmemorable answers that the panel have heard many times before. Don’t be afraid to let them see your personality and focus purely on your ability to do the job from a clinical perspective. In general, the panel want to get to know who youare and to find out whether your personality suits the culture of the team/trust? They don’t want clones, they are looking for someone with human qualities whom they can judge from the personalised answers that you need to give. So don’t be afraid of expressing how you feel, what you liked and why you enjoyed it, etc. Also, talking about your feelings helps to bring out your passion and enthusiasm for what you do. Additionally, it is difficult to be passionate when talking about cold facts which although are needed to sell your credibility, it won’t help them to understand your motivation. Remember, they aren’t looking for perfection, they are instead looking for good, all-rounders.

Organise your points

In truth, quantity does not succeed quality in this case. For example, you can overwhelm the panel with 6-7 points on a topic which would take too long to go into detail on each one and also difficult to remember. For this reason, I always advocate 3-4 points that you can remember well and the panel can follow. If it helps, think of an acronym to reel off your answer so that you have something to grab hold of if you waver under the pressure of the interview. Certainly, with a few of the key questions you should have pitch prepared. For example. “Talk us through your CV/Tell us about yourself.”

Selling yourself

Let’s discuss one of the key issues I often find with medical consultant interview questions …. The issue that many just don’t sell themselves enough. Let’s take the question “Why should we hire you?” I often find people really miss a key opportunity to sell themselves here. The answer is often the same as the answer is Point 4 above. However, it isn’t the same. This questions allows you to reallydig in and show off your understanding of the job role including the challenges. In fact, it should be a response to everything you’ve discovered from your pre-interview visits, and hopefully the detail you’ve uncovered is far beyond that of the job description. For example, if you’ve found out there is conflict, dysfunction in the team, think about how you can use your communication/motivation skills to try to unite the team more and bring people together.  Many people really hold back on this answer, but I think you can truly showcase that you are the right person for the job by addressing their real, live issues.

Stay away from jargon talk

To expand, try not to speak in a way that you would never normally talk and use meaningless phrases like ‘create efficiencies’ or ‘strive for excellent patient care’ without actually backing up any of your points. Keep your answers grounded and real with practicalapplications. Whilst you may be asked your opinion on NHS reports, again think about how it might apply to your specific specialty and discuss ideas with colleagues and friends to understand the practical implications and gain a broad perspective in a meaningful way. Furthermore, it won’t do you any favours to regurgitate points you’ve only read about.

Speak in the active sense

Finally, speak in the active sense. Use “I” not ‘we” in your examples and use power verbs to give greater weight to your answers. For example, rather than saying that you were involved in an audit, far better to say instead exactly what your role was within it, ie. you ‘initiated’ an audit which led to a specific outcome. Make sure your results are measurable and quantifiable wherever possible to give impact to the result.

If you would like help preparing for your medical consultant interview, get in touch with me to see how my interview coaching sessions can support you.

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