Applying for specialty training is a stressful time in a junior doctor’s life. Whether you are applying for core or higher training, your performance at interview will have a significant impact on your career and life in general. For those of you who are tied to a certain area, through family commitments or otherwise, the pressure to score highly can be significant.
Modern medical interviews have evolved over the past few decades. There is less emphasis on the classical interview questions such as ‘why do you want pursue this specialty’ (although these are still important) and more of a focus on ensuring that you are ready for the training job that you are applying for. Interviews have therefore become exams in all but name, and the key to success is preparing for them in the same way you prepared for your medical school and post-graduate OSCEs and vivas.
The top candidates will have begun their preparations months in advance. Make sure you are fully aware of the application process. For most specialties, applications open before Christmas and you will have about a month to get your documents in order. If you require references, give your consultants plenty of time to fill them in as they won’t appreciate being rushed at the last minute.
When it comes to the interview, make your revision schedule well in advance. Everyone will have different time commitments and it’s important that you take yours into account. If you have a run of busy on-calls in the weeks leading up to the interview you will need to start earlier than someone in an un-banded 9-5 job.
Get a revision buddy
Knowing the content will only get you so far. You need to be practicing saying the answers over and over again to someone. Find a friend who is also applying and start your preparation together early. Be completely open with each other, sharing resources etc. Since it is a competitive process, it’s easy to get into the the mindset that everyone around you is your ‘competition’ and you should play your cards close to your chest. However, you should have at least one person you share everything with. Make it your goal to ensure both of you score highly at interview. Give the best feedback you can to your revision buddy during your practice sessions and you will find that they will do the same back to you.
Gather all the past questions that you can
Speak to colleagues in the years above who recently did the interview and ask them what questions they had. The questions tend to repeat each year so this can help to focus your revision onto the key topics. Make sure you have prepared the key topics to the best of your ability before you cover more obscure content. At Medibuddy you can find collated past questions and written model answers for a number of different specialties such as IMT etc. to help you with this process.
Do interview preparation with senior colleagues
Getting senior colleagues to grill you can be very helpful. It will put you under more pressure than preparing with your peers and so will replicate the interview. You will also get a good perspective on the most important points to cover in your answers. It’s not uncommon for candidates to try and get all their knowledge across in the interview for fear of dropping any marks. However, this can make you come across as inexperienced. By practising with senior colleagues you will soon realise that they are actually only listening for certain key points. The trick to doing well at interview is getting through the basics as quickly as possible so that you can focus on the higher level topics that will set you apart on the day.
Focus on how you come across
How you come across at interview will have a massive effect on your score. Due to the subjective nature of the interview process, it’s very possible for two candidates to give the same answer to a question but get different marks. You should aim to have learned all the content for the interview a number of weeks beforehand, then spend the remaining time ensuring your answers are polished. This is probably the most boring bit of the preparation process and many people don’t spend enough time doing it. Endlessly repeating your answers in the mirror or with your revision buddy can be mind numbing, but it really pays off on the day. When the examiners see that you are polished they are much more likely to rush you through to the higher level questions at the end which will get you the top marks. You will also find the interview process in general less stressful as you will feel well prepared. This in itself will give your performance a boost!
To conclude, doing well at specialty interviews is all about preparation. How good you are at your day job doesn’t necessarily correlate with the mark you get on the day. Treat the interview as an exam like any of the others you have done and tailor your preparation accordingly.
Medibuddy is a medical education initiative which aims to make life easier for junior doctors applying for their training posts.
We have assembled a team of doctors who have all secured some of the most competitive jobs in their specialities and are passionate about passing on the tips and preparation methods they used to prepare for interview. Modern specialty interviews are essentially exams and require you to prepare like you would for an exam, in order to achieve the best possible rank. Medibuddy will provide you with the knowledge you need to answer interview questions to the best of your ability.
We are also using technology and the internet to try and solve some of the other problems associated with getting a training job. Our foundation job ranker has turned the difficult and time consuming task of ranking foundation jobs into a much simpler and efficient task. We understand how expensive medical school is, so we will always endeavour to keep the fundamentals of our medical student resources free, or at least as cheap as possible!
We are always on the look out for new and innovative ideas in the medical education world, so if you would like to work with us please do get in touch!