Doctor interview questions and answers

Common doctor interview questions

You’ve looked through the doctor jobs listings, submitted your CV, and you’ve scored an interview for a great position at a hospital you’d love to work for. Congratulations! The job is (almost) yours. But first, you’ve got to run the gauntlet of the interview.

It’s your chance to stand out from the crowd and get your ideal medical job, but doctor job interviews can have tricky questions. It’s up to you to field the strange (“If you were an animal, what would you be?”) and the not-as-simple-as-it-sounds (“What are your weaknesses?”).

Though both Australia and New Zealand are known for being laid-back, it’d be a mistake to think that doctor job interviews here are a casual affair. As with any interview, it’s important you dress to impress, make sure your references are in order, and thoroughly prepare for your interview. Find out what the hospital or clinic is known for, its specialties, and any notable facilities.

Every doctor job interview is going to be different, however, there are some common doctor job interview questions some of which are likely to come up in all interviews. Below are the top 10 most common interview questions for doctors and suggestions for the answers.

Doctor job interview questions and answers:

1. Why do you want to work here?

You’ll only be able to answer this question satisfactorily if you know a good deal about the hospital and the surrounding area. Talk about the features that attracted you to the role; the hospital’s state-of-the-art equipment or the clinic’s close-knit community. Be specific and explain what atracted you to this particular opportunity. This could include the hospital's reputation, the types of cases you would be working on, or the opportunity for professional growth and development.

Avoid being negative – if you hate your current role, keep it to yourself. Negativity is a red flag for interviewers as a miserable attitude doesn’t always disappear with a change of scene.

2. What are you looking to achieve in your career?

If you are hit with this question it means they want to know about your short-term and long-term career goals. This is a great opportunity for you to explain the new skills you would like to learn at their hospital or practice and how you would see your career progressing within the company. If you are going for a permanent position employers love to hear that you see their establishment as a part of your long-term goals!

3. Why did you choose your field of specialty?

A question like this may throw you if you haven't prepared, but the answer is actually really simple. Just be honest. Tell them what you love about your specialty and why you decided to pursue this pathway in medical school. Don't hold back. Let your passion show!

4. Why did you leave/why are you leaving your job?

The trick to answering interview questions about why you're leaving your current job is to avoid talking about what you disliked about it. Instead, try answering this question in a way that focuses on the positives you see in the new position. For example, "I want the opportunity to learn new skills," "I want to try a new environment or new location," "I am looking to take on more responsibility".

5. How to answer that weird or whacky curveball?

With weird and whacky questions, the key is to use it as an opportunity to showcase your skillset or tell an anecdote demonstrating your personal attributes. If you’re asked what kind of animal you’d be, liken the animal you choose to your personality. Owls are thoughtful, bees are hard workers and crows have great problem-solving abilities. With questions like these, it’s all about the explanation – you’re not being judged on your zoology knowledge.

6. How do you cope under pressure?

Medicine is a high-pressure environment, you have to make literal life or death decisions. Recruiters know this and will want to know how you handle stress and whether you are able to maintain a professional and compassionate demeanour.

This is a good opportunity to showcase that you are able to think on your feet but also take a moment's pause to evaluate a situation before reacting. This is a good question to incorporate an anecdotal response.

7. Describe a time when you were faced with a high-stress or difficult situation and how you dealt with it?

We are sure you will have no shortage of these, practicing medicine is all about working under pressure! But we recommend memorising a few stressful situations that you have dealt with that you could use as examples if called upon in the interview, this will prevent you from having a nervous mind blank situation.

8. What is your greatest weakness?

Ah, the weakness question... The oldest trick in the book. If you say you have no weaknesses you seem to be lying, if you point out your true weaknesses then you might not get the job.

The best way to tackle this question in a doctor job interview is to focus on being self-aware, honest, and dedicated to improvement. Try to reflect on your real weaknesses and what you're doing to improve. For example, you may say that your weakness is caring too much about your patients and taking that emotion home with you, but that you are aware of it and that you are working on caring without emotionally investing in a way that affects your life.

9. How do you work to improve patient care?

Patient care is integral to any doctor's job, so a question around this may come up. Answer this question in a way that speaks true to you, but if you get stuck some things that you could focus on are listening to the patient, showing them respect and emotional support, and ultimately creating a safer space.

10. Why should we hire you over other candidates?

When you’re asked to describe your strengths, interviewers don’t want a list of what was on your CV (they’ve read that already). Flesh out your answers with anecdotes and use them as an opportunity to showcase your personal attributes and interpersonal skills.

This question is also a chance for you to bring up any skills you have outside of medicine, maybe you are bi-lingual, have done extra-curricular training or projects, or have worked in been in a unique situation that has taught you skills that set you apart from your peers. This is a good one to prepare for because these things often slip your mind in the interview situation.

General questions and their implications

Often, medical interviewers will begin with some general questions to understand your overall attitude, perspective, and commitment to the healthcare field. One such question might be, "What do you find most challenging about treating patients?" Your answer should showcase your problem-solving abilities and resilience. Perhaps you find it difficult to deal with emotionally distressed patients, or maybe managing a critical medical situation is what you find most challenging. Whichever it is, highlight how you have navigated those challenges and used them as learning experiences.

Defining your greatest strength

In the realm of medicine, your strengths are not only your academic qualifications but also your interpersonal skills and professional attitude. A common question could be, "What is your greatest strength as a doctor?" Here, it's important to frame your response around the patient's welfare. Perhaps your strength lies in building strong patient-doctor relationships, or maybe you are exceptionally good at diagnosing complex conditions. Providing examples will underscore your strengths and show your dedication to patient care.

Delicate situations and compassionate care

In the medical profession, delicate situations involving family members are inevitable. Interviewers often test your interpersonal and communication skills by asking questions such as, "How would you break bad news to a family member?" Your answer should reflect empathy, sensitivity, and professionalism. You might consider discussing a specific situation where you demonstrated these qualities. Remember, honesty and compassion should be at the forefront of your response.

While answering these questions, always keep in mind the two vital components of successful patient care – clinical expertise and emotional intelligence. Demonstrating these during your interview will convey your preparedness for the job and your commitment to high-quality patient care.

Effective nonverbal communication and active listening in interviews

Apart from the answers to the interview questions, active listening and nonverbal communication are critical skills to focus on during job interviews and can set you apart in the competitive job market.

Active listening is about paying attention to both verbal and nonverbal cues, being empathetic, and demonstrating a genuine interest in what the speaker is saying. Nonverbal communication is also essential, as it can convey confidence, professionalism, and approachability.

Here are some tips for effective nonverbal communication during medical interviews:

  • Maintain eye contact to show attentiveness
  • Open body language by keeping arms uncrossed and leaning slightly forward
  • Practice good posture to demonstrate confidence and interest
  • Use appropriate hand gestures to emphasise important points
  • Avoid fidgeting or other distracting behaviours
  • Use active listening skills, such as nodding and summarising

By focusing on these skills, you can make a positive impression on recruiters and hiring managers, ultimately increasing your chances of landing their dream job.

We hope that you found these doctor interview questions and sample answers helpful. When preparing for an interview it is important to think about what skills and qualities the interviewer could be looking for. In the case of a doctor job interview, this could be things like diagnosing patients, communication skills, and leadership and problem-solving skills.

The interview questions will differ depending on your specialty and grade, RMOs may get different interview questions to a specialist, and a GP would get different questions to a surgeon.

The good news is a medical recruitment agency can help guide you through this process.

Want more information? Register with Medrecruit and one of our dedicated solution specialists will be in touch.

They can provide you with more information on how to ace your next interview.

Get ahead of the pack and ace your next interview with our free Doctor Interview Guide.
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Jordy Black
25 April 2023Article by Jordy BlackMedrecruit Editor