Interviews are one of the most stressful parts of the application process. You can reduce this stress and improve your performance by spending some time preparing yourself. The range of questions you get asked can vary greatly between interview panels, however, most will ask a mix of general questions (e.g. what are your strengths/weaknesses), specific questions and clinical or ethical scenarios.
A good starting point for preparation is to reflect on your life to date, particularly focusing on your experiences in the workplace as a doctor. Try to recall examples of situations that are commonly asked about, such as difficult interactions with colleagues, so that you’re ready to recount them if asked. Don’t rehearse them too much though as you want it to come across as a natural discussion and not overly scripted.
Below is a list of some potential interview questions, including some that have previously been asked in interviews for several anaesthesia rotational schemes.
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Everyone will give slightly different advice for interviews. This is largely because interviewers are human and will all have slightly different attitudes, opinions and methods of rating/selecting candidates. The following points will be applicable to most interviews:
- First impressions are important – this includes how you look (clothes, hair, cleanliness)
- Act confidently
- Sit up straight with good posture
- Don’t cross your arms across your chest
- Make eye contact
- Try not to fidget, play with your hair or touch your face too much
- You can use hand gestures if you want to but don’t go overboard to the point that it’s distracting
- Know about the position and organisation you are applying for
- Avoid talking too fast – make sure they can understand you!
- Avoid using noises like ‘umm’ and ‘ahh’ – brief silence is fine and you can always ask for a few moments to think before you answer a question
If asked to explain or respond to something that you’re unfamiliar with, respond constructively, e.g. “Sorry, I’m not familiar with this policy – can you please tell me about it?”
If asked about a scenario/situation and you can’t think of an example then say that although you haven’t been in that situation, if you were then this is how you would approach it
- If asked whether you have any questions for the panel, don’t feel obliged to ask something (better to ask nothing than something that shows a lack of insight or basic research).
- Questions should be:
- Things you actually want to know,
- Things that show interest/passion, or
- Things that show your skills
- Some generic questions include:
Is there anything else I can answer for you that will help address any concerns you might have about selecting me?
How would you describe the work environment and culture?
How would my performance be measured?
What types of career opportunities may open up down the road for a person starting out in this type of position, assuming they perform well?
What can I do between now and starting the job to better prepare myself?
Do you have any concerns about my suitability for the role that I haven’t managed to address to your satisfaction?
- Probably avoid asking about money or leave. These are perfectly reasonable things to want to know but are best followed up afterwards. Generally these will be stipulated in the relevant EBA or your contract.
- Questions should be:
- Organisational information
- Find out as much as possible about the training college / hospital
- Consider using phrases such as “on your website I noted…”
- What changes have occurred recently, what is planned?
- What problems/issues exist?
- Find out as much as possible about the training college / hospital
- Job/career training information
- Read the job description / training position; check details of which you are unsure; note issues for clarification
- Speak to a person in the job / training position or at the same hospital
- Practice out loud
- Get feedback from others
- Think about what is unique about you and play to those strengths
Reasons for interviewing candidates
- To identify who will:
- Survive the rigors of training
- Ultimately succeed
- To identify who would be a good fit:
- With the other trainees
- With the institution
- With the consultants
- To identify who will follow through if offered
- To weed out personality disorders
What interviewers look for
- Ability to communicate
- Ability to learn
- Motivation and enthusiasm
- Knowledge of the position
- Knowledge of the organisation
- Interests / career directions
- Personality / attitudes
- Dress in smart business style
- Arrive 10-15 minutes early and ensure you have time to relax prior to the interview
- Appear friendly, composed and outgoing to all you meet (including staff on reception)
- Acknowledge and greet everyone in the interview room and shake hands with them
- Maintain good non-threatening eye contact, smile, show that you’re interested
- Sit up straight and rest hands in lap when seated – don’t cross arms or fidget
- Stand out but don’t stand out
- This oxymoron means you should stand out in a good way – i.e. you should seem unique and have a ‘selling point’ that sets you apart from others but you shouldn’t seem like you are so different that you won’t fit in or might ‘rock the boat’ too much (again, not all will agree with this but it probably holds true for most interview panels)
- Be friendly but not familiar
- Practice with a mock interview beforehand
- Know your panel and what motivates them
- Prepare for the common questions but don’t over-rehearse
- Don’t be afraid to pause and think about your responses or ask for the question to be repeated
- Know why you will be an asset and sell yourself
- At the conclusion
- “I would just like to be absolutely clear about how much I want this role because…”
- Thank the panel
- Poor presentation/appearance
- Arriving late and flustered
- Discourteous behaviour
- Use of first names
- Distracting mannerisms
- Inappropriate jokes
- Too talkative, muddled rambling
- Too quiet, one word answers
- Obscure/inappropriate answers to questions
- Not seeking clarification on difficult questions
- Try to avoid if possible
- Strong candidates can still get through
- Have a script handy with prompts but don’t read your answers from it verbatim
- Tell me a bit about yourself.
- Why should we choose you? What makes you unique? Why are you the best person for this position?
- What are your strengths?
- When answering, use examples of them in action
- What are your weaknesses?
- This is assessing whether you have insight and adaptability
- Choose something minor and easily fixable
- Make sure it’s not essential for the job you are applying for
- Focus on the positive aspects
- Provide examples that illustrate this characteristic in yourself
- State that you’ve recognised the problem, are taking steps to remedy it and explain those steps
How would others describe you?
- What are your major achievements in your current position?
What do you want to achieve in the next year?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
- Why do you want to work here specifically? (i.e. why this country/state/city/hospital?)
What is a professional, specifically related to the field of medicine?
- What are the qualities of a good mentor? Do you have a mentor (or role model)? Who/why?
- How do you achieve a health balance between work and life outside of work?
- How do you deal with stress?
- What do you do outside of work?
What things do you not like to do?
What is something that you are proud of outside of medicine and how have you applied it to your work?
What would you consider to be your biggest achievement in life?
- What are the pressures involved in training and how will you deal with them?
- How do you debrief after a stressful situation?
- What are the important steps to follow after a critical incident (or patient death)?
- How do you contribute to your ongoing education and that of your peers and colleagues?
- What is an audit? Why is it important? Have you been involved in any audits?
- Discuss a project you’ve been involved with or a paper that has changed your practice.
- Tell us about an innovative idea that you have come up with to improve something in your workplace.
What makes a good working environment? What makes a bad working environment?
What do you think about training in a rural/peripheral centre?
What do you understand by the term CME/CPD?
How do you keep up to date with the latest medical knowledge?
What are the biggest challenges facing healthcare now and into the future?
What do you think could be done to contain costs within a limited health budget?
What is the role of social media in health?
Define leadership / what are the qualities of a good leader?
- Why do you want to train in anaesthesia?
- What are the positives of training/working in anaesthesia?
- What are the negatives of training/working in anaesthesia?
- What previous anaesthetic experience do you have?
- What is the role of the anaesthetic registrar? How do you feel you fit that role?
- What do you know about the training program? What would you change about the training program?
- What physical and safety issues might you face training/working in anaesthesia?
- What do you offer to the specialty? What do you expect to give back to the profession? (i.e. what is it that sets you apart from other applicants and that means we should select you specifically?)
How is anaesthesia different from other types of medical practice?
How does anaesthesia relate to other components of the Australian healthcare system?
- What are the skills/attributes of a good anaesthetist?
What will you be like as an anaesthetist?
How have you prepared yourself to become an anaesthetist?
What does an average day involve for an anaesthetist?
Who do anaesthetists work with?
- What one achievement on your CV do you think best shows you would make a good anaesthetist?
Have you done any anaesthetic courses?
What are 2 challenges facing anaesthesia as a specialty?
What changes may take place in anaesthesia in the next 10 years?
What is clinical governance? Why is it important in anaesthesia?
What is the role of information technology in anaesthesia?
- Who is the most important person in theatre?
- The patient
If not the patient then there is no one most important person, it is a team environment
What are the critical elements of patient consent?
Clinical & ethical questions
- How would you prepare a presentation for your department?
- In ICU a senior reg is called away, nurse asks for airway support on a non-ventilated post-op patient, what do you do?
- A colleague is behaving strange and appears to be intoxicated, what do you do?
- Give an example of a confrontation with a colleague or patient. How did you respond to the situation?
- What is bullying and what would you do if you or a colleague were being bullied?
- Tell us about a time you made a mistake and what you did about it.
- Tell us about a time when something went right or wrong in a situation and what actions you took.
- Tell us about a challenging conversation you have had and how you dealt with this.
You have been to a conference which has shown treatment x is best for condition y. You get back to work and your consultant prescribes something other than treatment x. How do you deal with this situation? Often egos come into play when dealing with patients perioperatively, how do you ensure this situation doesn’t lead to altered patient care?
Patient’s often have NFR orders, how do you deal with these in the perioperative period (e.g. for a #NOF)?
Tell us about a time when you received negative feedback and how you handled it.
Tell us about a time when you made a sacrifice for a colleague or patient. How did/would you deal with it if that person didn’t reciprocate when an opportunity arose?
You take 4 attempts to get a cannula in for a patient. She writes a letter of complaint about you afterwards, saying that you are incompetent. How do you respond?
Give an example of when you worked in a team and what made it work well.
You are walking past a patient in recovery and notice they are aspirating from their LMA, what do you do?
Your consultant wants to do a regional block but the patient refuses. Once under GA, the consultant starts scrubbing to do the block. What do you do?
You give a patient the wrong bag of blood. What do you do? No adverse consequences occur, do you tell the patient?
An anaesthetic nurse tells you that she is worried about another trainee. She thinks they are not coping and that they are having difficulty with the specialty. What do you do?
You are a team leader in a trauma situation, a person in your team is not coping or is not competent to do a task. What would you do? How should you ensure the team members are coping?
When do you feel that you are competent do something by yourself? When do you call for help?
You are asked to see a patient in recovery who is agitated. How do you assess them?
What do you think is better, having a person who has poor skills but is great to get along with and have a beer with, or having someone with exquisite skills but has a ‘personality disorder’?
- You are called to ED to help intubate a patient (morbidly obese, SpO2 90%). When you get there, the ED reg says to the nurse, “OK, s/he’s here, give the propofol, let’s go”. What do you do?
- If you stop them then the ED reg says “OK, he’s all yours, I’m outta here”. How would you deal with this?
- There may be an ALS scenario – revise the basic algorithms
Explain a situation when you were unhappy with the management of a patient and what you did.
How would you approach the situation if your intern were struggling with work?
Tell us about a time where you went above and beyond the call of duty.
Tell us about a time when you had to manage conflicting priorities.
Tell us about a time when things didn’t go the way you wanted – like a promotion you wanted and didn’t get, or a project that didn’t turn out how you had hoped.
More abstract questions
- If you could be any government minister, which would you choose?