GP Trainee - Interview Tips
Going for an interview is a scary process. Because of the way GP selection centres are run you may not have been for an interview for many years, indeed perhaps not since you qualified as a doctor. General Practices are all small independent businesses and will appoint GPs in differing ways ranging from a one- to- one interview to panel interviews to OSCE style multiple interviews.
Remember that the job you are applying for is going to be a longer post than you have ever had before. The interview process is as much for you to get a feel of whether you will be happy in the practice as it is for them to assess you.
The tips included here are to ensure that you do yourself justice on the day so that both sides make the best decision. Good luck!
- Preparation is key. Depending on the job you may need to do several hours’ worth of preparation – look up the practice, look on NHS Choices, talk to others who know the practice
- However you also need to be careful that you don’t rehearse answers until they are rigid. Rehearse in your head and with someone else asking you questions so you get fluent at saying things out loud and being confident.
- Anticipating obvious questions – Why this practice? Why you? What individual skills do you bring the practice? Do you have any questions about the practice or job?
- There is a long list of practice questions on the following website:
- You do not need to prepare answers for every one but you will quickly see that there are themes that you can think about and have some of your thoughts in order in case you were asked around that topic.
- Know your CV – know what you have written, never fabricate. Think through what each thing on your CV demonstrates about you and what key skills you will have learnt from each experience or role. Tailor it to the job you are applying for.
On the day
Never underestimate the role of body language. Keep calm.
Confidence – Be confident but not arrogant. Practise walking in to a room and your handshake. You need to keep your head high and good eye contact with your interviewers. Handshaking may or may not happen depending on your number of interviewers and the layout of the room – you may have to call this as you enter – keep your hand free so you don’t have to fumble or fluster yourself. Do practise handshakes with a friend and get the pressure right – not too firm – not too weak
Eye contact – This can be hard where you have large panels. The received wisdom is that you focus the start and most of your answer to the interviewer who posed the question but do try to involve others as you go. Don’t be put off by a lack of eye contact from interviewers, what they are writing is generally no more than what you are saying as they need to be able to justify their decision between candidates at the end of the day. If you find that one interviewer is reducing your confidence spend the least time possible focussing on them without ignoring them. There will often be a more friendly or seemingly more welcoming interviewer on the panel, focus on them to boost your confidence.
If you have completed your GP training in your recent memory you will have been videoed/ observed and examined multiple times. Eye contact is the basis of good rapport. Poor eye contact makes you feel disconnected – forced prolonged eye contact makes you feel uncomfortable. Do what you do every day in your surgery. You know this stuff.
Smile – although you are nervous don’t forget to smile. Try not to make it a fixed mask. Interviews are serious so vary your facial expression. Practice talking in a mirror – how do you look?
Active listening – Again, you should be doing this every day in your clinical role. The reason you practice these techniques is because they work. Don’t get frightened out of them – eye contact, leaning forward, nodding and smiling appropriately. Imagine you are trying to make them feel at ease rather than the other way around. Believe it or not the interviewers may well be nervous too – it is a big responsibility choosing the right candidate for a job.
Posture – check you aren’t switching them off by your body language. Again our body sometimes betrays us when we least want it to. Put the chair where you want to if you are at a table , approx. 20cm away gives you some flexibility to move backwards and forwards and is comfortable for putting your hands on the table. Check that you are facing them rather than turned away. Think how you are crossing your legs, cross towards rather than away. Think about what you do with your hands.
Fidgeting – otherwise known as ‘emotional leakage’. When we are nervous our bodies often give it away. For some people it is a jiggling foot, a desperate urge to run fingers through their hair, lick their lips or wring their hands. See if you can identify your leakage and find a way to control it – place both feet on the ground/ interlink your hands loosely etc.
Dry mouth – usually panels are kind enough to remember your adrenalin state will provide a glass of water. I usually ask before I enter the room if there is water in the room as I know I get nervous. If there is none one simple trick is to push the tip of your tongue into the roof of your mouth or bite the tip very gently – this can be done subtly whilst someone is asking you a question.
Dress – Smart. If in doubt always dress on the smarter side. For example it is not unheard of for someone to go for an ‘informal chat with the practice manager’ to arrive and be ushered in to a room with the partners for an interview. Hopefully you’ll know you’re about to be interviewed so look like you would expect a top notch professional to look. Suits are the safest option.
The disaster moment
The dreaded question – we have all had it – you think you have it all under control and then you get asked a question that you haven’t thought of or that you have no answer for – your mind goes totally blank and all of a sudden you think the job has gone. Don’t panic. Interviews rarely hinge on one question – this kind of moment is likely to happen to other candidates as well – indeed interviewers may find that all the candidates on one day struggle with a particular question – however due to HR rules – once a question has been asked of one candidate it must be posed with the same wording to all candidates – even if it is a ‘bad question’.
Don’t show the fear and confusion on your face.
Don’t fall apart – as I have said all candidates may have struggled with this one so the panel may well already know it’s a tough one but they can’t tell you that. I saw one candidate who was nearly in tears when actually she had given the best answer of the day.
Take a deep breath
Be honest – Use a neutral phrase to buy yourself some time – Hmm, that is a good/ interesting/ complex question/ situation, let me think for a moment or can I just order my thoughts. Panels would far rather hear a considered answer than confused verbal diarrhoea. You probably have around 15 seconds beyond the end of your statement.
If you are really struggling with a mind blank then you can potentially ask the panel if you could come back to that question. You probably can’t do that more than once in an interview.
The Human factor
Lastly remember that interviewers (in the main) are human. They appreciate that you are under huge stress. They also want to employ someone – they haven’t just organised a series of interviews for fun – they will want to see you do your best as much as you do. However they have to remain fair to all the candidates so although they may be willing you on from their seat they can’t be seen to favour one candidate over another by giving out help unfairly.