How to prepare for an interview

Interviews are an inevitable aspect of your medical career. Being well prepared is crucial, whether you’re applying for core medical training or for a specialty training post.

Invitations to interview

Invitations to interview can be issued at any point after the application window closes. Deaneries / local education and training boards (LETBs) usually shortlist applications for a number of specialties at the same time, so this may take a few weeks. Where possible, candidates should be given a minimum of 5-days notice before their interview.

What to bring

You may be asked to bring specific documents with you on the day; these can vary between deaneries and specialties. There are two broad categories of documentation: evidence to prove identity/eligibility, and evidence confirming your claims on the application form.

Personal identification documents

Acceptable forms of photographic personal identification include:

  • current passport – if a non-EU national, containing UK stamps, a visa, or a UK residence permit showing the immigration status of the holder in the UK
  • a current UK photocard driving licence
  • a national ID card and/or other valid documentation relating to immigration status.

Original evidence of your eligibility to take up employment in the UK

  • evidence of current immigration status if non-resident
  • passport, birth certificate or any naturalisation papers for UK/EEA applicants
  • non-UK/EEA applicants must provide their passport containing evidence of their current visa status and dates. This would normally contain UK stamps, a visa, or a UK residence permit showing the immigration status of the holder in the UK. For further information on immigration, please refer to the NHS’s right to work checks resource).
  • original current General Medical Council (GMC) certificate or original current letter from the GMC confirming that you are eligible for GMC registration
  • your original medical degree certificate and any other qualifications listed on your application form (translated if necessary).

Evidence of achievement of competences

You will require evidence of completion of foundation training (or equivalent), unless you are in a foundation year 2 post and are applying for core medical training. For ST3 applications, you will require evidence that you have completed, or are on track to complete, the relevant core programme (or equivalent), as well as the postgraduate examination relating to your training pathway (usually MRCP(UK)).

Other evidence

You may be asked to bring evidence of any achievements described on your application form, such as peer-reviewed papers or evidence of audits. Please follow the instructions carefully and only bring what has been asked for, in the format requested. Some deaneries state that evidence will be discounted if it is not provided in the required format. You must not bring any patient-identifiable evidence to interview.

On the day

What will happen?

Expect to spend at least 2 hours at the selection centre. On arrival, you will book in, then the deanery staff will check your eligibility documentation.

For the interview itself, there will probably be between two and four separate interview stations. These are designed to test your skills and attributes, based on the national person specifications.

Station formats

Most stations will have two clinical interviewers, and possibly also a lay chair, other observer or trainee interviewer. Because time is short (10–15 minutes per station), it is important for you to go into the station promptly (often a bell will be used) and spend as much time as possible on the key assessment areas. Usually one interviewer will make notes while the other is talking to you. They may swap at ‘half-time’, using a timer to allow a fair amount of time for each question area. Both interviewers will award marks.

Examples of types of station 

Application form, evidence, and suitability for specialty training station

At this traditional station, the interviewers will look at your application form and probably your evidence folder (sometimes this is viewed in advance, so be ready to hand it over when asked). They may ask you about your experience and skills to date, and to show evidence to support your application claims. They will almost certainly ask about your reasons for applying to the specialty in question.

Clinical or communication scenario station

You may receive a question in advance of going into the station, so use any ‘thinking time’ optimally. You will then be asked questions about the scenario and associated issues. You may be shown some data, eg results of blood tests, and asked how you interpret them in the light of the clinical scenario. This station is designed to test your basic knowledge and your approach to problem-solving. You wouldn’t be marked down for not having specialist knowledge, but clearly some specialist knowledge could be helpful and would affirm your interest in the specialty.

Professionalism/governance station

These are broad areas and may include audit, teaching, research and professional approaches to various situations encountered in the NHS.

Presentation station

You might be given advance notice to prepare a short presentation on a specific topic, eg research or a clinical case. You will be advised whether aids (eg laptop and projector) will be available, although usually they are not, so ‘prompt cards’ are useful. It is important to follow instructions carefully and to stick to time – practise, preferably with a colleague to offer feedback.

Communication station

There will often be a separate ‘communication’ station, where the interviewers will distinguish your communication skills (verbal and non-verbal) from your knowledge. They will want to know whether you can understand patients’ problems and communicate with them, work effectively within a team, convey a professional approach, etc. This area is crucial.

Research

If you are applying for an academic post, there may be a separate research station. This might include some generic questions to assess your understanding of research, and the skills required to undertake research. If you have undertaken research before, be prepared to answer questions about it – including why the research was undertaken, as well as the results and the implications for clinical practice.

After the interview

It may be that deaneries/LETBs request further documentation – eg CRB checks or references – after the interview. You will be notified of this as necessary.

All candidates applying to a specialty within the deanery will be ranked according to their overall score, and post offers will then be made to appointable candidates according to this score.

Best of luck!

 

Liz Berkin

Clinical lead for specialty recruitment