Interview Advice

Interview Questions That Everyone Hates! 

Sunday, 16 Jun, 2024

…And how to answer them.

Yep, you read that right! I want to break down the most hated interview questions and give you the tools to answer them – and feel confident in doing so!

Often through my coaching practice I hear the same troubles over the same questions – and the questions in this article seem to be extra niggly for a lot of doctors.

When you walk in through the interview doors, being prepared can be the difference between getting the specialty position you’re applying for…or not. Even the questions we’d rather avoid, (especially those questions) need to be faced head-on, practised, and confidently delivered. 

And because I’m committed to helping you succeed, I say we rip the bandaid off and dive right in! Here are the top three questions that doctors tell me they hate to answer (a strong word but we’re using it!), and my tips on how to answer them.

  1. “Tell us about yourself”

First on the list of questions everyone dreads! Some specialties have moved right away from this (for those lucky ones!), but a version of this is still asked in a lot of interviews.

It can feel uncomfortable talking about yourself in the first place, and I hate to say it but it’s easy to fall into the trap of telling a long and boring chronological story of yourself! 

It’s also common for people to have read that this kind of question is best answered using the “CAMP” format (Clinical, Academic, Management, Personal). This method often ends up sounding very formulaic and (you guessed it), boring! So how should we do it?

Use this question to your advantage

The key is to get really clear on what makes you unique. 

Prepare your answer by starting with these questions:

  • What strengths, skills and experiences do you have that will distinguish you from everyone else? 
  • What are you really passionate about in this specialty? 
  • What excites you about this work?

Once you’ve got the answers to those you’ll naturally start to feel excited and enthusiastic – and it will show! This enthusiasm is key.

I call this type of question a “core” question. These types of questions are often asked first in interviews, so it’s really important that you nail them. Of course it’s great to make a good first impression, but (perhaps even more importantly) starting out strong will help you squash those nerves and give you a boost of confidence to get you through!

Bonus idea

“Why do you want to do [this specialty]?”, is another core question that can be answered using the same method. Doing it this way assures your answer doesn’t sound the same as everyone else’s, and gives you a chance to stand out from the crowd!

  1. Difficult interpersonal situations 

This one is more of a group of questions rather than one in particular – but you’ll know them when you hear them! They can include topics like:

  • Conflict in the workplace
  • Bullying
  • Dealing with an underperforming colleague
  • Dealing with an intoxicated colleague

…and so on. 

This is another area where people have read about using a structure – SPIES, which stands for Seek information, Patient safety, Initiative, Escalate, Support. While structures can be helpful, they can also make it sound like you’re parroting a formula rather than giving an authentic answer. 

It’s important to consider that you’re not the first person to use this formula, and everyone’s read the book that these (CAMP and SPIES) came from…including your interviewers!

Does SPIES work?

Yes! The headings are great reminders of the elements that you need. But to make it really work for you, you need to incorporate it into a conversational discussion about how you’d approach the situation – not a series of bullet points.

  1. “Do you have any questions?”

You’ve reached the end of your interview and you hear one final question from the panel – do you have any questions? 

My advice for this is simple: say no! 

In non-medical interviews this question has a lot of emphasis placed on it. This is the opportunity to stand out, say something clever, and go out with a bang on the top of the interviewer’s mind – right?!

Well….no. Over decades of interviewing in medicine, I can tell you that I’ve never heard anyone ask a question that made me more inclined to give them the job. What I have heard? Lots of terrible questions that indicated the interviewee hadn’t done their homework, or (awkwardly) were trying to be too clever. 

Just think, medical interviews are almost always running late – so interviewers are always happy when the candidate says they don’t have questions!

When you walk into that interview room, and face that panel, it’s time to put your preparation into practice. Nailing these well-known tricky questions before you take that first step into that room is a big part of that prep!

While practising these might feel uncomfortable initially, if you’ve taken the time to carefully prepare yourself you’ll feel confident and in control – no matter whether you hate the questions or not!

Excel At Interview

I know you’ve worked incredibly hard to get to this point, and nailing your interview is a huge step toward your career. You know you need to get it right – so let’s make a great first impression!

Excel At Interview is a self-guided, 3 module course, that utilises the unique framework that I teach in my private coaching.

[Learn more here]

Need help squashing those interview nerves?

If you want to read more about interview preparation take a look here: Unlock Your Medical Interview Potential.


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