Over the past year, I have been successful in 5 out of 8 job interviews in Ireland. All this experience has taught me a few tips and tricks which I would be sharing with you today.
First of all, my advice is to prepare well for the interview. No matter, how many years of clinical experience you have or how many exams you have passed, the interview mindset is different and you need to be prepared for it to be successful. For that, you must know the general layout that all interviews follow.
Tell us about yourself:
This is mostly the first question that all interviewers ask. Here, be careful not to start narrating your entire CV in verbatim. The panel has already reviewed it and want to hear the salient points from you. Make sure that this summary is no longer than 3 – 5 minutes. An efficient way to summarize your achievements is by the acronym: CAMP: Clinical, academic, management, personal. You can begin by giving a brief introduction about yourself like your name; your current location and your career aims and objectives. Then, explain your clinical competency in the various positions that you’ve held previously. For example, if you’ve only done your house job/internship, then you can say,
“I have just finished my intern year from ‘ABC hospital’ which is the largest public hospital in the area and has a huge patient exposure. (You can even allude to the number of hospital beds in your hospital to show how big it is). I worked in the following specialties (name your rotations) and gained expertise in history taking and physical examination of common diseases like ___ (name a few diseases you are comfortable dealing with). I also learnt their management under supervision. Moreover, I became proficient in phlebotomy, IV cannulation and arterial tap. In addition, I have done my ACLS and BLS courses and have participated in multiple code blue scenarios.”
You can tailor the above paragraph according to your clinical skills. Be honest and mention only what you are fully confident about as you can be asked about that in the later part of the interview.
In the academic part of CAMP, you can discuss a myriad of topics according to your CV. For instance, academic honors; post graduate exams; multimedia case presentations; medical courses/workshops; research publications/posters/conferences and teaching experience. Choose the most relevant of your strengths as per the job description and elaborate on those. You could state,
“I have passed MRCP Ireland Part 1 exam and plan to take Part 2 soon. Throughout my job, I volunteered on various occasions to present in the journal club and weekly case reports. My presentations were applauded by all for being well researched and thorough. Furthermore, I have participated in many CME accredited workshops on research guidance and my next aim is to undertake a clinical research.”
Again, modify the above to make it more personal to you. In short, you are describing your current experience and future goals concurrently to show that you plan to progress in your career. This is considered an asset in any doctor and will be highly appreciated.
The next section is often lacking in most candidates because not everyone is a leader or manager. But if you have held administrative positions at any part of your career then you can refer to those. If not, then simply skip over to the personal aspect i.e., attributes of a good doctor like compassion, empathy, team work, punctuality, commitment, hard work etc.
Remember to make it sound like a story and not a well-rehearsed speech. Though, it would be a good idea to make a mental draft of the points that you are going to talk about. Be confident throughout and try to make eye contact with all the interviewers present. Sit back in your chair and use your hand gestures to emphasize upon certain points. All this is less relevant these days due to the online interviews so prepare accordingly. Make sure, you have a secure internet connection. You are seated in a well-lit and quiet environment and your webcam, microphone and speaker settings are in place.
After your initial introduction, you may be asked questions from your discourse. They could be clarifications or further details about any aspect.
Subsequently, you are given a clinical scenario and asked questions about it. Some of the common ones are as below:
-Approach to headache -Approach to syncope -Management of stroke -Management of Acute coronary syndrome/chest pain -Management of Shortness of breath -Management of Upper GI bleed -Differential diagnosis for abdominal pain -Neutropenic sepsis -Rhabdomyolysis
The above topics are for medicine and allied medicine posts. However, if you’re applying for a post in surgery or orthopedics then the clinical scenarios will obviously be different.
To prepare for this part of the interview, two resources along with your clinical acumen will suffice. The first is ‘Oxford handbook of clinical medicine’ – the emergencies. And the second is the website, https://wikem.org/wiki/Main_Page. Firstly, you must be able to make the differential diagnosis as per the case given to you. Subsequently, you must know how to rule out or rule in a certain diagnosis and lastly, be adept with the steps of its management. For example, lets take a case of stroke:
A typical case of stroke is presented to you. How will you proceed?
“After taking a quick history and examination using NIH stroke scale, I will proceed to the work up consisting of FBC, biochemistry, coagulation profile, blood glucose, troponin and ECG. Then I will order a CT scan of brain with stroke protocol that includes CT angiography. If there’s ischemic stroke causing neurological deficit and symptom onset is less than 3 – 4.5 hours then I will rule out the contraindications of thrombolysis. If none present then I will administer alteplase 0.9 mg/kg IV (maximum 90 mg total) of which 10 % is administered as a bolus and the rest is given over 60 minutes. Neurological observations are done every 15 minutes for 2 hours. Keep systolic blood pressure <180 and diastolic <105 mmHg. However, if the CTA showed large vessel occlusion, then I will refer the patient immediately for potential thrombectomy.”
This is how you must prepare your clinical cases. Know the case well and read up on it so that you can answer any potential questions.
Following this is the story telling part of the interview. You will be asked to narrate an incident where you indulged in team work; solved a challenging clinical case; dealt with a troublemaker colleague; displayed management or leadership qualities etc.
Prepare a few stories in advance and narrate accordingly. Use the ‘STAR’ acronym here i.e., situation, task, action, result. What was the situation; what was your role, what action did you take and what was the result?
Sometimes, you may be given an ethical conundrum and asked how you would deal in that situation? Examples include:
-You suspect that you have developed COVID symptoms while at work -Your consultant has given round order to discharge a patient but his family is opposing this idea -You have made a prescription error while making a discharge summary -A patient needs blood transfusion as a life saving procedure but he’s refusing due to being Jehovah’s witness
This is an area in which I myself am not very strong. I am still doing research on the best resources for its preparation. One useful website I found was: http://www.themedicportal.com
If any of you is aware of a better resource then please do let me know as well.
Other questions that may be asked are:
Why do you want this post? What will you bring to the team?
Here, you might say that you want to gain international exposure in a developed health system where medicine is practiced as per guidelines. Also, you want to work in a multicultural environment. And you might scan through the hospital website to gauge their unique strength like research or good training program etc. and list that as a cause of your interest in that hospital.
At the end, just reiterate your strengths and show how they align with the job description and how you will be a perfect match for their team.
This is a general outline of a job interview. Hope it helps you all.
My next post will be about, “Work experience in an Irish hospital.”
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