Many doctors have already had or are preparing to have their job interviews to become Medical Officers (MO). This has only been happening for the last couple of years with many of our seniors used to simply progressing from one stage to the next and signing a contract. It is surmised that we now have interviews because we have more doctors than spots. The interviews are a unique time to shine, and show that you are a good fit for the position you have applied to. To help current and future doctors with this, I asked both current medical officers and administrators about the interview process and how to make a good impression.
The interviews are conducted in person and lasts about half an hour to an hour. They are generally conducted by the Senior Medical Officer (SMO), the Head of Department (HOD) and someone from Human Resources (HR). You will be contacted and told when your interview is, on the day of the interview dress professionally, be early, be genuine and relaxed.
During the interview, you can be asked anything, however there are some questions that you will typically get. Aim to be genuine in your answers, have a system and always aim to align yourself with the health facility and department you’re applying to. The point of doing the interview is showing them that you are the best candidate and best fit for the job.
General Tips when Answering
Speak calmly and clearly
Interviews can be nerve-racking, but speaking too quickly and fumbling over your words takes away the interviewers’ abilities to understand you and make you appear less prepared and less confident. Instead, try arriving to the interview early so you aren’t rushed and prepare your clothing and pack your bag from the night before. After each question is asked take a moment before answering to avoid saying things that you didn’t intend to. Keep answers concise but jam-packed with information on why you’re an ideal candidate.
Anecdotes are a perfect way to bring across a point with the use of a practical example. Anecdotes should be relevant, short and sweet and add to the interview. Use these for questions that ask you to demonstrate a task, skill or attribute.
Keep the department and facility you’re applying to in mind
While you might have your goals and reasons for applying to the job, the employers are looking for persons who align to their goals and are best fits. Doing research on the facility and department helps you understand how you can sell yourself as an asset. When answering questions try to answer them in a way that speaks to how your addition would be good for the department. However, this shouldn’t come off as forced or disingenuous as that could potentially rub employers the wrong way.
A huge part of medicine is apprenticeship and continued education. Show interest in helping your future department. Whether it’s through academia or by being apart of committees. People want to work with persons who are willing to be apart of a community and want to help with the advancement of the department and facility.
Be prepared for difficult questions
These questions can be about anything, maybe it addresses a concern about you, a question about a write up/ reprimand you received or about something written on one of your past assessments. Know that these questions might come up and now is not the time to be defensive or make excuses. But rather take responsibility and speak about lessons learnt and how you have moved forward to improve.
Speak about your future
You inevitably will be asked about your plans for the future. Share the part of your future that best aligns with the values and objectives of the department or facility you’re working with. Be honest but also strategic. Remember most departments want persons who will move forward academically and help improve or build their department and facility.
Don’t be afraid to clarify
If you don’t understand what’s being asked paraphrase or simply ask for a clarification. Listen intently to the questions to avoid confusion and to avoid asking for repetitions and clarifications too often.
Put your best foot forward
Not just with how you dress and speak but the information you give about yourself. Speak in a way that is structured and systematic. It’s what we have learnt in medicine for all these years, use those same principles. Now might not be the best time to protest “silly” dress codes or complain about the “system” instead present yourself as someone who values and appreciates the system but also willing to help and offer service to the improvement of the department, facility and health sector.
Now, what about the questions? Honestly, you can be asked anything, while there is a general structure when it comes time for the interview its you and the administrators and just like an OSCE you can be taken down multiple pathways. This is why a system is important so you can be prepared to answer anything thrown at you.
When I spoke with persons the most common questions/ prompts where:
Tell me about yourself
Tell me x number of strengths and weaknesses about yourself
Why this speciality?
Why this facility?
For these questions always remember you’re presenting yourself as someone who is an ideal fit for the position. Avoid answers that will not add to the interview or worse- take away from your chance of being successful. Talk about volunteer and advocacy work, specific trainings or certifications you did that are relevant to the job and speak to your time management ability and ability to managing high patient and work load. Anecdotes are important for the strengths and weaknesses and remember- your weaknesses are not actually weaknesses but potentially areas of continued improvement that working in that department would assist with. Avoid saying weaknesses that will cost you the job such as “I don’t work well with others” or “I undermine authority”- dramatic examples but I’m trying to prove a point here!
Other questions more and more persons seem to be getting are clinical and ethical prompts to see what you would do in that situation. For these questions go back to your training in medicine, be systematic, don’t forget your ABC’s and always remember that you are a part of a team and are not the most senior person. Be aware of the structure of the facility, especially when it comes to questions about conflict resolution between peers or patients, an increasingly common question theme in interviews. At all times your aim is to avoid confrontations that can be detrimental to you, the other person(s) involved and the facility.
Medical Officer interviews are fairly new and there’s not much guidance on how to be successful at them. This is a good time to reach out to your consultants, HOD, SMO and MOs for help, guidance and their experiences. Think of this as a way to present yourself off paper as an ideal candidate while remaining genuine, believable and honest.
All the best!
Samantha C. Johnson
Thank you to everyone who was kind enough to answer my questions about the interview process.