Medicine Interview: Common Interview Questions

Common Interview Questions

Here are 20 common interview questions for you to have a go at and come up with your own answers for.

We have included model answers for inspiration and a short explanation for each.

This is not a conclusive list of the most common interview questions, so we strongly recommend that you create your own questions for each of these topic areas and practise answering them.

The more you practise, the better prepared you will be.

It is important to note that we have not included any questions on personal statements. Questions specific to your personal statement are very likely to come up but will be specific to your statement.

Questions may be derived from what you have written about your hobbies or extracurriculars so it is hard for us to give examples, but some questions we do have here on teamwork or work experience for example may be similar to ones derived from your personal statement.

We strongly recommend that you comb through your finished personal statement and come up with questions that are directly and indirectly related (for example, if you have written about volunteering you may get asked about a difficult situation you were in and how you overcame this).

Even swap with a friend to increase your question bank.

Ethics is another important category of question that you are likely to face. Check out our piece on how to answer ethics questions and have a look at some of our model answers for common ethics questions here.

INTERVIEW-BUNDLE

Background And Motivation Questions

Why do you want to be a doctor? or Why do you want to study medicine?

Model answer: I love science and find the human body fascinating; what can go wrong and the ways we can fix it. This interest was a strong draw, but I knew I wanted to do medicine because of the human element.

I love working with people and feel strongly that I want to help people in the role that I do. Medicine perfectly combines these two factors for me. Being able to be a small part of someone’s life and being able to help them with one of the most precious things we have in life – our health, is the most rewarding role I can think of.

Observing the incredible doctors on my work experience, I saw the opportunity to work as part of a team and use logic and reasoning to come up with a treatment plan – aspects that appeal to me. I also like that there is the opportunity for me to pursue my academic interest through research, alongside clinical practice.

Explanation: This answer needs to show awareness about the role of a doctor as well as the reason that is personal to you.

Don’t speak for too long on this, cover the main points confidently and be genuine about your reason for wanting to be a doctor. Different people have different styles for answering this, some begin with how they realised they wanted to be a doctor (often due to a loved one requiring treatment or even being a patient themselves).

Personal experience can often strengthen an answer so try to weave this in if you have any, you could even reference your work experience.

How would you contribute to the student community if you were offered a place here?

Model answer: I would love to get stuck into all of the wonderful extracurricular opportunities that you have here at X! I have really enjoyed volunteering with children for the past 2 years at sixth form so would love to join volunteering society X as I’ve seen they provide play session for the children in the hospital which I think I would be well suited to based on my experience.

I also play the violin so would love to contribute to the music here by joining your orchestra. I am willing to try new things and give anything a go, and fully intend on being an active member of the student community, should I be lucky enough to study here in September.

Explanation: Check out the medical school/university student union website before your interview. See what is on offer and if there are any clubs or societies that might fit your existing hobbies.

This question is very likely to come up if the medical school has a student on the panel.

They want people who will contribute to the medical school and be an active part of the community.

Don’t worry if you feel like you do not have anything to contribute (you totally do), saying that you are willing to get stuck in and give new things a try is very likely to go down well.

Why do you want to study medicine at this medical school?

Model answer: (This is completely personal to the medical school – here is a model answer for Barts and the London.)

I would love to study here at Barts for many reasons.

First, I like the way your curriculum is structured as the spiral curriculum as I feel this will work well for my learning style with the consolidation of topics across the years at medical school.

I like that you have PBL here as I enjoy group work and feel that it will help me to put the lectures into context.

Patient contact was a must for me from the start of medical school, so your integrated curriculum is very appealing to me, with patient contact in the first two years. A huge draw is the unique patient population.

East London is a unique place to be learning medicine with a diverse patient population an amazing environment to be studying in, seeing people from all different backgrounds.

Explanation: This is very personal to the medical school.

You should thoroughly research the medical school before your interview and find out what its key selling points are, what it is most proud of.

If you can, talk to a medical student at the medical school to find out about the best bits! Avoid talking about location if it is not relevant to the medical school curriculum.

You could also talk about the extracurriculars offered or specific societies that you would like to contribute to. Try to focus on what is unique, or not offered at most medical schools.

Show that you have taken the time to do your research and that you truly do want to go to this medical school.

INTERVIEW-BUNDLE

Interest in medicine

What do you think is the most important medical advancement in the last 100 years and why?

Model answer: There have been so many incredible medical advancements in the past 100 years that have revolutionised the field, but for me vaccination has been the most important. Once deadly or life changing diseases such as polio are now much rarer, and with a vaccine such as the MMR, if uptake is high enough eradication may one day be achieved.

Smallpox was even eradicated by 1980. The protection that vaccines offer mean children get far fewer serious infections and these diseases no longer represent a large burden on society.

Other vaccines such as the flu jab reduce the number and severity of flu cases yearly in the UK, improving the health of the population and reducing the burden on the NHS.

Explanation: There is a lot to choose from here. It could be antibiotics meaning simple infections are no longer fatal. You could go for imaging revolutionising medical treatments. Or discovering the structure of DNA and sequencing the genome which is leading to personalised medicine becoming available.

There are lots of things to choose from, just be sure to clearly pick one thing (make sure it has definitely been in the past 100 years) and be able to talk about why it is so important.

Tell us something medical related that you have read about recently.

Model answer: (So much is about coronavirus at the moment! Therefore, I am picking something from late 2018/ early 2019!)

I recently read in the news about a gene-editing scandal where a Chinese scientist He Jiankui claims to have done gene editing on embryos which have now been born – twin girls. He says he has altered their genes to disable a gene that allows HIV to enter cells, therefore possibly protecting them against HIV.

In China there are not laws against germline editing as there are in Europe. I think that gene editing has a lot of potential to cure disabling single gene disorders such as cystic fibrosis, however there are many ethical issues involved, especially around editing germline cells.

The role of regulatory bodies is important and highlighted in this case, to agree a worldwide standard. The ethical dilemmas must be debated in society before there is widespread germline editing.

Explanation: If this is something in the news, it would ideally be no more than a few weeks old, otherwise you risk looking like you do not keep up with current affairs. It doesn’t have to be something in the news; perhaps you read a book on epigenetics or read a paper on the hallmarks of cancer.

Tell the interviewers what you learned and if possible, the implications of this. Prepare for follow up questions so be confident you know the details of the topic you have picked.

What public health campaigns are you aware of and why is it important to have public health campaigns?

Model answer: One public health campaign that I am aware of is Stoptober, which encourages people to stop smoking for the month of October, which ideally means that will be able to quit for good if they manage that month.

I think that people are heavily influenced either consciously or subconsciously by the media that surrounds them. Many people may brush off advice given by their GP or for smoking in this case, if they have tried and failed to give up many times, they might be reluctant to try again.

Stoptober seems to me almost like a challenge and the idea of giving up smoking alongside thousands around the country may be motivating. Public health campaigns can also be informative such as FAST for recognising stroke. They can be more informative and reach more people than doctors giving advice alone.

Explanation: Pick a public health campaign that you have seen recently. Be able to describe it and ensure that you are able to answer follow up questions on the topic.

You can use your specific examples to highlight the benefits of public health campaigns as well as talking more generally on the topic.

Teamwork/communication

Give an example of when you have demonstrated good teamwork.

Model answer: I am on the hockey team at school which requires good teamwork every time we play together. It is essential that I both listen to my team members and also instruct at times, so that we are successful in not conceding the ball to the opposing team.

It is also important to respond to the non-verbal actions and body language of my team members so that we play as a cohesive unit, something that we have built up over time taking hours of practice.

Explanation: This could be an ongoing thing, such as being a part of a sports team or music ensemble, or it could be one off teamwork, for a school project for example.

It doesn’t really matter what you pick, just ensure you can explain why your teamworking skills are good and how you have developed them.

Communication is an essential skill for a doctor, how have you developed this skill?

Model answer: I have developed my communication skills through a variety of experiences over the years. Two ways really stand out for me.

I am a gymnastics coach for children aged 4-18 which requires adaptable communication skills. It is vital that I can communicate effectively to young children and young adults, adapting my teaching style to the age group.

I have also had to learn how to communicate effectively with parents about the progress of their child, something that I was very unsure of to begin with, but upon observing others and with practice, I have improved.

I had not considered that I needed to develop my non-verbal communication until I began volunteering at a special school and was in a class of non-verbal children. I have since become much more attentive to body language and hand signals, as well as subtle behaviour changes which can indicate if something is wrong or how the child is feeling.

I believe that these experiences and my ongoing development of my communication skills will serve me well if I hopefully become a doctor.

Explanation: Use examples from your life for how you have developed your communication skills. This might be public speaking, working in a team environment or at volunteering.

Remember that communication is both verbal and non-verbal. Don’t be afraid to tell the interviewers about aspects of communication that you have struggled with, as long as you can explain how you have improved.

Is it more important that doctors are leaders or followers?

Model answer: I believe it is important for doctors to be both leaders and followers. Different situations call for doctors to play a different role in the team. As a junior doctor, it is unlikely they will be leading the team.

It is important to be able to take direction and instruction from others and work cohesively as a group. At the start of your medical career, it will involve a lot more following than leading. However, doctors are important leaders, both in the medical setting and in society. As a consultant, a doctor will likely lead the medical team and need to give the team direction and motivation.

Doctors are also leaders by being role models in society and promoting wellbeing in a variety of ways. It is more important for doctors to be flexible than to be just a leader or just a follower, as both skills are important in medicine and adapting to the situation and your role in the team is essential.

Explanation: The answer is both! Avoid coming down too strongly on one side or the other, unless the interviewers force you to at the end. If they do, I would go for leaders as it can be argued that leaders can follow but followers may not be able to lead.

Be sure to explain why, possibly using examples for both. This question is designed for you to show an understanding of the role of the doctor and how this varies in different ways.

INTERVIEW-BUNDLE

Work experience

Give one example of something you learned from your work experience

Model answer:  I was lucky enough to observe some amazing teams on my work experience which replied on good communication skills. I observed some excellent communication skills in surgery between staff members, all moving as one to ensure a smooth and successful procedure.

I saw how important the sensitive communication was between the anaesthetist and the patient, as he was able to calm her as she was very nervous about her operation. I was already aware that communication skills were important as a doctor, but this really showed me just how essential it is to be able to adapt your communication to different settings.

I also saw when there was a breakdown in communication; when an operation could not go ahead as it had not been communicated that a patient was unable to travel across from another building to the operating theatre due to a broken lift, and the patient had a broken leg.

This showed me that good communication is essential to the day to day running of the NHS.

Explanation: This does not have to be something that you had never considered before, but something that you gained a greater appreciation of such as communication or teamwork skills. It could be something about working as a doctor, or something about the patient perspective. Perhaps you learned about a challenge of working in the NHS. Be able to give a clear example of what you learned/ took away from the experience.

What are the biggest challenges of working as doctor, based on what you observed on your work experience?

Model answer: For me, the biggest challenge of working as a doctor would be not being able to do anything more for a patient. A conversation with a doctor on my work experience made me realise how difficult this can be, as this is a profession that wants to ultimately help people.

However sometimes this is about making patients comfortable rather than being able to cure them. Sometimes the role involves delivering news that there is nothing more that can be done for a patient or even having to tell a family member that a loved one has passed away.

Being unable to help must be difficult but something that I believe it is important to come to terms with to be a good doctor. Sometimes the human things that we can do rather than the medical ones make the difference.

Explanation: There are lots of challenging aspects of being a doctor. Pick one that you have a clear example for, and one that you feel you can overcome one day as a doctor.

This is a subjective question, so pick the aspect that feels most challenging to you, and a plan of how you intend to overcome this challenge before hopefully graduating as a doctor.

NHS and Current affairs

Story X has been in the news this week. How will this impact the NHS?

Model answer: This obviously depends on the news story. However, another variant of this question may allow you to pick a news story that you have seen recently. This model answer is for a opt-out organ donation – which England switched to in May 2020.

Opt-out donation has the potential to save many lives. England has switched to an opt-out system 5 years after Wales did so. Despite 80% of adults saying that they consider organ donation, less than 40% are were on the register.

Now that the default is that everyone is an organ donor unless opted out or the family is against it after the patient has died, this should lead to an increase in donations, as it has done in Wales.

This is not only beneficial for the individuals waiting for a transplant but for the NHS as a whole. Many more lives are likely to be saved and the time and monetary cost of having patients receiving dialysis for example whilst they wait for a kidney transplant will save the NHS money which can be put to good use in other areas.

Explanation: This is obviously completely dependent on the news story. X could be a promising drug trial, a new prevention strategy or the invention of new technology. Start by talking a little about the news story, setting out any key points that might impact the NHS before detailing the impact.

What are the two biggest challenges facing the NHS right now?

Model answer: Undeniably the biggest challenge that the NHS is facing right now is the COVID-19 pandemic. It has caused the NHS to cancel routine operations, pause many services and increase intensive care capacity. Hospitals were at one point threatened to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of patients.

The NHS has adapted however and did not become overwhelmed thanks to the incredible dedication of healthcare staff and careful logistical planning to accommodate a spike in patients. COVID-19 will be something the NHS must adapt to in the medium to longer term too but I think another long-term challenge it faces is obesity.

Obesity is on the rise in the UK and many countries around the world. Obesity is linked to an increase in other health conditions too such as diabetes and hypertension. I think that the NHS needs to tackle this with prevention in order to prevent a large portion of the population having multiple largely preventable conditions.

Explanation: This depends on what is happening around the time of your interview, so keep up to date with current affairs!

I think the best strategy to show your knowledge on this question as it asks for 2 challenges is to pick one short term and one long term. Beginning with the short term sets the scene with your NHS and current affairs knowledge before showing an appreciation of the longer-term challenges that the NHS will need to adapt to.

It is not good enough to simply state 2 challenges but explain why they are challenges and if you feel able, how the NHS might overcome them. (This model answer was written in May 2020)

What do you envisage in the future of the NHS?

Model answer: I think that the NHS will change in lots of ways as it adapts to the changing needs of the population.

One thing I think will be increasingly important in the future is prevention. As the patient population is increasingly multimorbid, this represents a huge burden on the NHS.

Conditions such as obesity and hypertension can lead to other health problems, but if these could be prevented in the first place, the population has the potential to be healthier.

I think that the NHS will shift towards prevention and maximising the health span of the population rather than just treating them when they become unwell. This shift in focus will enable the health service to better look after the health of the nation.

Explanation: It is easy with open ended questions such as this one to talk for ages. You can acknowledge the broad nature of the question but try to stick to 1 or 2 key things that you explain in more depth. You can use examples from things you have read or just think about one issue that the NHS will have to adapt to such as the ageing population.

INTERVIEW-BUNDLE

General

What is your biggest weakness?

Model answer: I believe that my biggest weakness is that I take on too much. In the past I have overstretched myself and not left myself adequate time or energy to do everything to the best of my ability.

I think this is because I am passionate about a lot of things and all of the things that I agree to I do enjoy, however I recognise that I cannot say yes to everything and must delegate to other people on some tasks.

I have been working on this by taking time to think about whether I have the time to take on new things rather than simply saying yes and trying to fit the new thing in afterwards, improving my prioritisation.

I appreciate that this is important as a doctor as there will be lots of things to do and cannot do them all yourself. Delegation and prioritisation are key skills I am developing now to prepare me for what will hopefully be my future career.

Explanation: Honesty is important here. This is a test to see if you can identify your weaknesses and work on them. However, your interview is where you should be showing the best of yourself.

Try to turn your weakness into a positive. Perfectionism is a very overused answer to this question so try to avoid this, but this is often spun into a positive trait by explaining that its because you care about the work you do and want to finish tasks to an incredibly high standard.

It is important that you accept your weakness and not just give the interviewers a fake one. Tell them how you are working on the weakness as self-improvement is an important quality to demonstrate. If you can link it to medicine this is a bonus!

Give an example of a difficult situation you have been in recently, and how you overcame this?

Model answer: I am a gymnastics coach and at the end of a session a parent approached me to ask about the progress of their 5-year-old who had been in my group for a few months.

This is not unusual and am happy to talk to parents about how their child is doing. However, after generally asking how their child was progressing, they asked if their child was going to be able to make it to the Olympics.

This is very unlikely as we are a recreational club and her child does one hour of gymnastics a week and although is doing well, does not have the potential to be a professional gymnast.

I had to be sensitive and use good communication skills to avoid being to harsh and not give her too much encouragement on the Olympic front. Instead I focused on whether her child was enjoying gymnastics and that she is improving but should continue coming to these classes, as long as she enjoys it.

The parent seemed satisfied with the answer and her child continues to enjoy the gymnastics classes.

Explanation: This needs to be personal to you. Don’t spend too long explaining the situation, the focus here should be on how you overcame it. Bonus points if you can link this to skills the situation has helped you develop. If you can, reflect and tell the interviewers what lesson or learning point you took away from the experience, showing that you are not only adaptable but have learned from it.

How do you cope with stress?

Model answer: I try to identify when my stress is building up to avoid becoming overwhelmed. An important coping mechanism for me is talking to my friends when I am stressed.

I often find that by talking through whatever is causing me stress, this reduces it and it is often helpful for finding solutions. Another thing that always helps me to destress, and that I try to do regularly as a preventative measure is play music.

I play the violin and piano and love playing some of my old favourite pieces to destress. It really relaxes me and I always feel less stressed afterwards.

Explanation: This is incredibly important as a medical student and as a doctor. You must be able to cope with stress and avoid it impacting on your role.

Don’t say you don’t get stressed; focus on the positive ways that you deal with stress and avoid it building up. Everyone has their own methods so tell the interviewers about whatever works for you.

What are the 3 most important qualities that you look for in a doctor and why?

Model answer: For me, good communication skills, compassion and teamwork are the 3 most important qualities I look for in a doctor.

I saw the importance of excellent communication skills on my work experience, where I saw doctors expertly communicating with their colleagues as well as with their patients. This is especially important from the patient’s perspective, as medical conditions and treatments can be complex, so a good communicator is vital for a patient to understand and listen to the patient to make them feel at ease.

Compassion is something that I look for in my own doctor. A patient is more likely to talk openly with their doctor if they feel understood. Teamwork is something I observed on my work experience also. In order to deliver the best care for the patient, teamwork is essential.

Explanation: There are so many qualities you can pick for this question. Make sure that you include a reason for each. This might be something that you’ve observed at work experience or something you feel is important personally as a patient (putting yourself in the patient’s shoes is probably a good idea to show a different perspective for this question).

What aspects of being a doctor do not appeal to you?

Model answer: There are some aspects of being a doctor that appeal to me more than others. I think I will find not being able to help some patients difficult, when there is no more that medicine can offer. This seems emotionally difficult but something I aim to develop resilience to.

Doctors are often very busy and are stretched in many directions and I feel that I might find shift work difficult to begin with. However, any less appealing aspects are far outweighed by the positives for me, and although they give me aims to work on, I could not pick a more rewarding career than being a doctor.

Explanation: This is not a trick question, do not say that you love everything about being a doctor. You must show a realistic understanding of the role of a doctor when answering this question.

You can be honest about the downsides, but perhaps finish on a brighter note by saying that for you, the positives far outweigh the negatives.

Imagine you are a junior doctor working in A&E. You call a patient but another who is still waiting comes over to you and starts shouting, angry that she has been waiting for 5 hours already. How do you deal with this situation?

Model answer: This situation is complex and likely has many factors involved. The patient’s angry reaction is likely due to worry rather than anger towards me as the doctor.

When patients are unwell, they are often understandably anxious and would like to be seen sooner rather than later. It may have been difficult for the patient to possible watch people who arrived after her be seen sooner than her.

It is important that you de-escalate the situation.

I would tell the patient I have called that I will be back for them in 2 minutes then take the lady aside and ask her what the issue is. I would give her one minute to talk as then I have an idea of her concerns, ideas and expectations.

If she doesn’t explain these, I would ask her what she is concerned about to try to get to the root of the issue. I would be understanding and say that I can appreciate that she is worried and waiting a long time is difficult.

I would stress that she will be seen, but that some other patients have had more urgent issues that we have tend to first. But she is important, and we will see her and help her. Hopefully being understanding and managing her concerns will calm her down. If necessary, I would escalate to someone more senior than me if she continues to be angry and makes other patients become more anxious.

Explanation: You can start by talking about the situation rather than jumping right into what you would do.

What are the important factors here?

Try to put yourself in the patient’s shoes and react calmly rather than matching her anger. Manage her ideas, concerns and expectations rather than reacting with annoyance that her outburst is holding up both you and other patients.

Patients are often anxious coming into A&E, especially if they feel very unwell and begin catastrophising about the problem. Your manner is very important in this scenario to de-escalate the situation.

Conclusion

Hopefully this has given you some common interview questions to think about and formulate your own answers to.

You cannot possibly prepare answers for every single question that might be asked, but it is important to think about some common ones, as having an answer already thought out will show the interviewers that you have taken the time to prepare.

As well as considering your answers to some common questions, another important skill to work on is thinking on your feet.

There will be questions that take you by surprise at interview so practising composing yourself and being able to work through an unexpected question on the spot is also a very useful skill.

If you’re after interview support (or just help with all areas of your medicine interview) check out our Interview Bundle.

If cost is a factor for you, we operate a very generous bursary scheme – take a look and don’t let money be the thing that holds you back!

INTERVIEW-BUNDLE
2020-07-22T16:00:29+00:00