Interviews can be stressful, but effectively preparing for an interview can make you feel more confident and with practice, you will be better able to stay in the moment and treat the interview like a conversation.
Practice interviewing: enlist a friend (better yet, a group of friends and colleagues) to ask you sample questions. Practicing out loud is an incredibly effective way to prepare. You will find you gain confidence as you get used to saying the words.
Video record your practice sessions: Practice positive body language as this signals confidence even if you are not feeling it.
Practice your verbal presentation- eliminating verbal fillers i.e., “uh”, “um”, ‘like’.
Career objectives: Be ready to discuss your long-term aspirations. Your best approach is one that indicates you have thought about your career in these terms and have taken some action towards realising your ambitions.
Be familiar with what is written in you CV so any questions asked about what you have written you are comfortable with and can answer questions about.
Do some research about the hospital you are applying for, and the department you are wanting to work in.
What to wear?
Dressing professionally is a sign of respect, conveying that you care about the position, that you want to make a good impression. Here are the basics:
Dress for success! First impressions are important. It’s always better to be a little overdressed than too casual…If you’re unsure about what to wear, seek advice from your colleagues or mentors.
Sometimes it can help to try on the complete outfit (including shoes) to make sure you are comfortable. Prepare your outfit the night before and hang it up (no wrinkles!).
Whilst dressing professionally is recommended it doesn’t mean you can’t still be authentic, so remember it’s also important to still be ‘you’.
On the Day
Plan your schedule to ensure you are not late! Think about any possible travel delays, finding parking etc. which might mean you have to allow more time.
Virtual Interview? Make sure you are comfortable with the technology and do a test run if you’re unsure. Whether it’s via Zoom or Teams, make sure you have the relevant App downloaded so there are no delays on the day.
Body Language & Interaction: As a rule, it’s important to be observant and take your cues from the interviewer. Are they very formal and professional or more conversational? Its okay to make small talk, but you want to follow the lead of the interviewer/panel.
Shake hands: Most of the time, interviews will begin with a handshake and introductions, although Covid-19 is changing this practice – it could be a ‘elbow bump’ or polite ‘nod’. Be prepared with a firm (but not too firm!) and confident handshake, just in case.
Posture: Be conscious of your posture. You will want to sit up straight (no leaning or lounging) and avoid crossing your arms in front of your chest (it can be seen as defensive, withdrawn or a sign of nervousness). Fidgeting and extra movement can make you seem nervous even if you are not. If you know you fidget, try to keep your hands folded. If seated at a table, it can help to sit towards the front of the chair and plant your feet on the floor- it can help keep you steady.
Make eye contact: Look at the interviewer/panel while they ask you questions and give them non-verbal-cues i.e., smiling, nodding- when appropriate. Make it clear that you understand what they are saying and that you are listening.
Speak clearly and thoughtfully: Adjust your volume for the environment and make sure the interviewer/panel can hear and understand you easily. Do not rush yourself and take time to deliver thoughtful responses. It’s totally ok to ask for clarification if you do not understand a question.
Be yourself: Whether you are enthusiastic or shy you just need to be the most engaged, professional version of yourself so you can show the interviewer/panel of what you are capable.
Are you applying to a Specialty College?
Each College will have different requirements so it’s important to do your research. Here are a few pointers to get you started:
- Find a senior RMO colleague who has recently been through the process. The process tends to change often, and it's better to get the inside knowledge.
- Work with a group, and practice interview questions. Write them for each other as it’s important to see other people's views and ideas that you can integrate.
- Find out the format of the interviews; it makes a massive difference knowing this for your preparation.
- Make sure you read widely (news & current events). Look at the College website and see what the topics of interest are, and review their recent position pieces.
- Take time to ask senior colleagues who are on training to take you through practice questions and put you under pressure.
- In the lead up to interviews take it upon yourself to think, believe and behave like a trainee and take on the extra responsibility.
- Everyone will have nerves - develop your strategy to deal with them before you get to the interview day
There are some excellent resources for clinical interviews, such as the Medical Interview Textbook – ask you peers and seniors for recommendations. You may also be able to claim these under 10.8.2 for Registrars and 10.9 for House Officers.