Author: Julia Sinclair-Brown
Job interviews are an unavoidable part of professional life so, even though they’re unlikely to be something you look forward to, you can change the way you approach them so you consistently give yourself the best chance of succeeding.
Here’s three tips to help you make the most of every opportunity:
1 - Structure Your Answers
One of the biggest failures in medical interviews is not giving clear answers. This can lead to waffling, not answering the question fully enough and can make you seem unprepared.
Using acronyms can help you build in a structure to your answers and keep you focused. An excellent one is CAMP, which stands for Clinical, Academic, Management and Personal.
This will keep you on track when you are answering any question such as, “Talk us through your career to date,” or “Why should we pick you for this job?” This simple prompt particularly works well for such general, open-type questions. It can also work well for other broad, less obvious questions, such as “What does professionalism mean to you?”
When it comes to the ‘Personal’ prompt, I would strongly suggest that you introduce your personal soft skills, eg, stating you are a good team player, proactive, committed, etc, rather than your hobbies/interests – these can be reserved for answering other questions around resilience, managing pressure or stress.
For other questions, such as “What are your strengths?” – try to make no more than three clear points. Build in an anecdote to demonstrate your strength, so, for example, if you say, “I’m an excellent communicator,” talk about how you’ve demonstrated this from feedback with patients, colleagues in the department and the wider multi-disciplinary team.
Do the same for your other two points. You should avoid giving a long list of qualities that you can’t back up with examples.
2 - Prepare Well
No great surprise here but good preparation has many parts to it. As a starting point, you should ensure that you have a thorough grasp of the role you are interviewing for, so that you can demonstrate to the panel how you are a good match.
Medical job specifications can be generic, so try to find out as much as possible about the role before the interview. Try to speak to each of the panel members in advance to get the real low-down on what is expected from you.
Each interviewer will have their own perspectives on the challenges of the job so prepare different questions for each of them. Bear in mind they may have clashing opinions so it’s a good idea to show balance in your answer.
Prepare how you would address key challenges using examples that showcase that you have the skills and experience to make a difference to the department.
Make sure you have read up on the trust, read their latest report from the Care Quality Commission plus any other reports pertinent to your specialty, and make sure you know their values as this is a question that often gets asked.
Big hint – don’t just regurgitate their values if you are asked about them, it’s much better to use a good example that demonstrates how you embed them in your everyday practice as a doctor.
Practise your answers out loud as much as possible, hearing yourself speak is very important as part of your preparation – it helps to get your answers into muscle memory and makes them easier to recall on the day.
3 - Plan To Be confident!
Actors use affective memory as a central part of method acting – which requires them to draw on personal memories to link to similar situations faced by their characters – and you can use the same technique when practising for a job interview.
Close your eyes. Recall and experience a time when you had a positive, successful interview or meeting, gave a great presentation, or felt in-flow during a teaching session.
Pay attention to what your posture, breathing, and heartbeat were like. Be as detailed as you can in memorising that event – really try to feel it in your head, heart, and body. Revisit this feeling as often as you can.
This exercise will give you confidence for your upcoming interview by connecting it to the positive and successful experiences you have already had in your life. It aims to remove any daunting association you may have had with past interviews and, instead, replace it with a successful one you have already experienced. If done correctly, your mind will not be able to distinguish the difference between the two.
And if all else fails, just breathe. Don’t forget to breathe slowly and deeply whenever you have nervous thoughts about your interview and just before the event – it will slow down your thinking and, importantly, your speaking. When you speak slower, it makes you sound more confident and in control.
Julia Sinclair-Brown is a career coach specialising in supporting medical and healthcare professionals. You can contact her via the website www.juliasinclair-brown.com for interview coaching and other career support.