Last month, I met Holly – she’s an incredible doctor. Her references are amazing, she’s widely liked by the teams she works with and her skills are regarded as exemplary. Yet, Holly was unsuccessful in her application for her preferred specialty last year, and when we debriefed on her application process the answer as to why became very clear, very quickly. Put simply, although she’d worked really hard, not understanding the right way to prepare meant she just didn’t perform well enough in her interview.
Did you know that there are a few mistakes I see doctors make over and over again when preparing for interview? I often work with doctors who are very experienced and fantastic at their jobs but who are struggling to progress in their careers because they just can’t perform at interview.
So what are the common mistakes? The first one is assuming that, because you’re good at your job, you’ll be able to convince the interview panel that you’re the person they’re looking for. Sadly, without concrete examples and evidence, this just isn’t true.
The next thing to understand is that great interpersonal skills don’t necessarily translate into great interview skills – it’s a good starting point but an interview is much more than going in and having a comfortable chat with the panel. While they want to know that you’ll be a valued and valuable member of a team, you need to be able to convey your suitability for the position and your passion for your work in an organised and impressive way.
Probably the biggest mistake I see is treating the interview like an exam – trying to anticipate every possible question and prepare an answer for it. The trouble with this is that there will always be questions you hadn’t anticipated. Unless you have something to fall back on and are really clear about what you’re trying to convey, you’ll come unstuck.
What you need to do is start with the basics. These are:
- Identify your strengths and what makes you unique
- Get clear on the details of the job
- Prepare examples
- Work out how you’ll structure your answers
- Think about how to deal with interview nerves
I call these the Fundamentals of Interview and this is where I start with every single client. And it works! I work with doctors applying for most specialties and especially the really competitive ones. In the last few months, my clients have been offered positions in orthopaedics, radiology, ENT, anaesthetics and a range of other specialties.
Trying to prepare for interview without getting the fundamentals right is like trying to build a house without proper foundations – you’re going to get some cracks!! Knowing how to prepare is the key to interview success. And it’s worth getting it right early in your career because it’s a skill that you will keep using and continue to build on.
After working with me, Holly went into her interviews this year with much more confidence. So far, she’s been offered training positions in a very competitive specialty in two States.