How Medical Professionals Can Excel in Interviews

Written by: Matt Craven
Published on: Jan 11, 2022

professionals shaking hands
Photo credit: Shutterstock/Aleksandra Suzi

Having worked in the recruitment and career development industry for many years, one thing that has struck me as being particularly interesting is that many people are happy to admit that their resume is not quite hitting the mark, but seldom will someone admit to having weak interview skills. Conversely, many medical professionals feel that they are extremely adept when attending interviews, and as such, they don’t always put the required work into their preparations.

Now don’t get me wrong, to succeed in one’s career requires confidence and exceptional communication skills, but these traits should not be confused with strong interview technique. Simply being able to talk confidently and authoritatively will not win the day when interviewing for a medical job – there’s much more to it than that. 

Think of it this way, does anyone ever become outstanding at something without a great deal of time and effort? Think about all the top sports stars, whether it be Williams, James, Donald, Abrea, Hamilton, Rousey or Ronaldo – they were born with talent, but it was coaching and practice that turned them into world class performers.

If you want to become a world class performer in the interview room (and that’s what you will need to be if you are applying for top medical jobs), then without coaching and practice, you will never reach the level that some of your peers will.

Here’s three crucial tactics that will help you to become world-class in interviews.

There’s an “I” in team! 

One might assume that successful medical professionals are all forthright, ultra-confident individuals who are very much at home selling themselves to a potential employer, but the truth is, many are more understated, and those of this disposition often have difficulty talking about themselves.

What I mean by this, is they find it difficult talking about “I” and will default to talking about “we.”

I know we are all conditioned to believe that there is no “I” in team, but in the interview room, talking about “we” is a real issue.

This is particularly important when it comes to medical interviews, where the interviewers will be asking you questions related to your specialization, experience and training. They may also ask you questions about techniques or methods that you use in your line of work, and it is essential that you talk about exactly what “you” can do, and have done.

It may be tempting to discuss your team’s actions and achievements, but the interviewer wants to know what you took ownership of, what your actions were and what you achieved. The only way to communicate this is to talk about “I” (that’s “you” for the avoidance of doubt). 

You have two ears! 

When we reach a certain stage in our career and indeed life, we often become managers, parents, coaches or mentors. Of course, this is not a bad thing, but the issue is that it leads to being conditioned to assume the role of leader i.e., the one giving instructions rather than taking them. In short, many people become good at talking and bad at listening.

This often manifests itself in interviews where the person being interviewed doesn’t fully listen to the question – they are itching to talk so much that they simply hear words and phrases and then all of a sudden, their thoughts are fizzing in their heads and words are falling out of their mouth. They talk confidently and authoritatively for five minutes on their specialism, but guess what? They didn’t answer the question and demonstrate that they have the skills or experience that the question was designed to explore! 

To succeed in medical interviews, it is important to resist the natural urge to speak! Listen intently to the question, appraise its purpose and meaning, and give an answer that proves you have the skill and ability that the interviewer wants to hear about. In addition, make sure you are not only listening but also reading between the lines, as sometimes what is not said, is just as important as what is said, particularly in the complex world of medicine.

It’s all about YOU! 

To many people, interview preparation revolves around company research, researching the people who are interviewing you, learning about the organization and its area of medical speciality, and reading the job description several times. Don’t get me wrong, these are all valuable, and I whole heartedly recommend them, but if your preparation only revolves around these areas then there’s a big hole in your preparation, and that area is you!

Think of it this way, if you were hired to sell a company’s product, you could be the best sales person in the world, but without having in-depth product knowledge, you will probably sell very little.

It’s the same with interviews – without having knowledge of the product you are selling, you are likely to fail, and in this scenario the product is you!

Don’t fall into the trap of assuming you know yourself well. You may know yourself on a personal level, but very few people know themselves professionally at the level required to excel in a challenging interview.

The most important preparation you can do is to learn yourself. Map out all your skills, experiences, training, qualifications, and accomplishments, and make sure that you can recall key events that have happened in your career that prove that you have each and every skill and competency that are likely to be explored in an interview.

Above is just a small sample of the coaching that we provide. For more information on how you can receive interview coaching and practice, please email us at quoting WPM1.

Matt Craven is Managing Director of CVIA Careers