Interview Questions: Work Experience
Talking about your work experience can feel like a broken record. You have made sure you have done plenty of it, written about it in your personal statement, but now we want you to talk about it in your interview. It may seem laborious but it’s important to capitalise off your experiences and demonstrate what you have learnt to the examiner in your interview.
What should you talk about when asked about your work experience?
1. What you saw
When we say “what you saw” we mean what skills did you see the doctors on your work experience demonstrate? Perhaps you saw some really tactful communication skills during a consultation. Or maybe you even saw a very complex procedure requiring a large amount of technical skill. The first part of your answer should a description of what you saw.
2. What you learnt
What did the experience teach you? This is your opportunity to show the interviewer how observant and insightful you were. The interviewer is expecting you to be able to reflect on your experiences, and learn from what you see. Perhaps something surprised you or went against your preconceptions.
3. What skills did you identify
What essential skills did this experience demonstrate? It could be teamwork, communication, leadership, work-ethic or competency. The list is endless, but what skills have you observed and identified from your work experience.
4. Why is this skill so important for a doctor?
Once you have identified the skills demonstrated tell the examiner why they are so important, especially how things can go wrong. You should be able to apply what you’ve seen and learnt to your future career in medicine. Bonus points if you can demonstrate how you have acted on what you’ve learnt since your work experience. For example, perhaps you were so inspired by the communication skills you observed that you’ve taken up a sign language class since!
Once you have thought about each of these points you can start to formulate your answers. If you are doing an MMI interview you are in the lucky position of being able to use just a few experiences to demonstrate multiple skills, as each interviewer with each question will be brand new and won’t know your previous answers. If you are doing a panel interview, you won’t be able to do this. However, you can make reference to your previous answers, which the examiners will remember from the earlier answers you gave. Below is an example of how you can use the same example to discuss your work experience in our model answers.
Tell me about what you learnt on your work experience
During my work experience I was able to shadow a junior doctor in a busy A&E department. There is one particular patients care which stood out to me, it was an elderly gentleman who had severe chest pain and shortness of breath. I observed the way that each member of the team worked so well together to treat the patient effectively and efficiently. Both the doctor and the nurses attending the patient knew the roles that each other were doing and communicated well with each other so that they didn’t get in each others way with their tasks. I found this insightful as to how it is essential to work together as an effective team, not just for a good working environment with colleagues, but also for efficient treatment of patients.
Another thing I learnt from my work experience was how having a good work-ethic is essential, not just as a doctor but as a medical student too. During my week long placement across various wards in my local hospital I was speaking to an A&E consultant about the difficulties of the job, so that I had a realistic understanding of the career and all that it entails. The consultant told me about the long hours, the lengthy training involved at medical school and throughout your career with the constant desire to learn. He also spoke at length about the issues that impact him personally, such as staff shortages in the NHS and how this means he often works overtime. What inspired me was how none of this was off-putting to neither myself or the consultant. He was so passionate about training the next generation of doctors and healthcare professionals as well as loving his job. This illustrated to me that although there are many struggles as a doctor that you may face, that requires your hard work and determination to succeed. Something that I feel, along with my passion for medicine will enable me to succeed at both medical school and as a future doctor.
- Use the same examples – not within the same answer, but you can use the same work experience to demonstrate several skills. This was partially demonstrated above where the same experience was used to demonstrate 2 seperate skills.
- Don’t forget to be precise – Tell the examiner enough detail for them to fully understand what you saw and what you learnt from that experience. Be careful not to carry on too much and use all your time at the station on 1 example though!
- Use 2-3 examples – In around 5 minutes you have time to discuss a few examples in enough detail. It is essential not to just list your experiences, as this won’t show that insight and reflection that the examiner is looking for.