NHS doctor interviews: What to expect and how to pass them

If you’ve applied for a role as a doctor in the NHS you’re probably aware that to be successful you’ll need to pass at least one interview. Job interviews can be a daunting prospect even for experienced doctors who’ve done many throughout their career. Thankfully, interviews for NHS positions tend to follow very similar structures and focus on the same key areas. Passing a job interview may not be easy, but if that interview’s with the NHS then preparing yourself for it is.

Preparing for your NHS interview

Proper preparation is key to interview success in any sector or business. The NHS is no exception. Whilst the NHS is currently experiencing a staff shortage and there is greater demand than ever for more doctors, those hoping to join the NHS ranks will still have to prove their suitability. This is especially true for permanent roles. Patient care is at the core of everything the NHS does, and thorough vetting of new staff is a huge part of this.

That being said, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be successful once you’ve been accepted for an NHS interview. Doctors who do their due diligence and make sure they’re properly prepared always succeed over those that don’t.

If you’ve got an interview for an NHS position, here’s how you should prepare beforehand to give yourself the best possible chance of success:

  • Practice being interviewed. The most important tip is also the most universal. Practising interview techniques to make sure you’re ready to answer the questions interviewers will throw your way is the most robust method of getting yourself interview-ready. Plus for NHS positions, which tend to follow a formulaic interview structure, knowing what questions to rehearse your answers for doesn’t require guesswork.
  • Double-check your CV. You’re going to be asked about the experience on your CV during the interview. Make sure you’re fully familiar with your professional history, paying particular attention to the experience most relevant to the role you’re applying for.
  • Memorise the role and your suitability for it. Never assume that because you were offered an interview the interviewer knows why you’re the best choice for the position. Make sure that you know the job requirements and specifications well enough to discuss them in detail from memory. What’s even more important is that you yourself know why you’re the most suitable candidate, because to be successful you’ll have to show this to your interviewer.
  • Research the NHS Trust and hospital. Every open vacancy for a doctor in the NHS requires somebody that is thorough and methodical. You have to be in any role that requires you to diagnose and treat patients. Nothing demonstrates a lack of these qualities to interviewers as much as no research into the Trust and hospital where the role is based. Every hospital wants doctors that are passionate about working there. It’s difficult to be passionate for a hospital you knew nothing about prior to attending an interview there.
  • Find out about the team you’ll be working with. Another crucial area of due diligence is the team you’ll be working with. You don’t need to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of their names, history, and career, but knowing a bit about the structure of your team or department will greatly increase your prospects.

NHS interview structure

NHS interviews mostly follow the same structure. This makes them simpler to prepare for than interviews with private practices or independent hospitals. Confidence is key in any job interview, and it comes easier to those not facing the unexpected.

NHS interviews normally take around 30 minutes. They can sometimes be longer, especially for senior posts or positions that require high levels of specific clinical experience. NHS policies require a minimum of two staff to conduct the interview.

Whilst the specific order or topics may vary slightly, the structure of NHS interviews is usually as follows:

    1. Introductions. You and the interviewers will introduce yourselves.
    2. Overview. You’ll be asked to give a brief summary of yourself. This can include your professional history, career goals you have, or what makes you an excellent choice for the vacancy.
    3. Specialty. The interviewers will probably ask a few questions about why you chose your current specialty.
    4. Good practice. It’s certain that there will be questions about what good/best practice means to you. You’ll be expected to discuss a few areas you recognise the need for self-improvement in, and of course, have to be able to explain how you’ll maintain good practice (both individually and in your team).
    5. Training, teaching, and development. If it’s relevant to the role (and it is for many doctors in the NHS) you’ll be asked about your experience in teaching and training colleagues and team members.
    6. Clinical scenarios. This is an incredibly important part of the interview. It’s common for interviewed doctors to be presented with a set of clinical scenarios. Usually, these are symptoms of a hypothetical or historical patient. You’ll be expected to provide a diagnosis and treatment plan for the patient there and then. As you’d expect, if you’re applying for a senior or specialty position these clinical scenarios may require an incredibly acute diagnosis and specialised proposed treatment.
    7. Your questions. It’s important that the interviewers can assess whether you’re the right fit for the vacancy. What’s just as important is that you get the opportunity to make sure that the vacancy is just as good a fit for you. The end of the interview will give you your chance to ask the interviewers any questions you may have. It’s expected that candidates will want to know more about the role, hospital, and trust they’re applying for a permanent role in, so make sure you have some queries ready.

How to shine through in NHS interviews

When interviewing for any NHS role it’s more than likely you’ll be one of a pool of several candidates. Your interview success rests on shining through and standing out amongst them as the best doctor for the vacancy.

Pushing yourself to the top of the list isn’t as difficult as it seems. If you learn and remember these key tips you’ll ensure you’re the name and face the interviewers remember.

  • Arrive with plenty of time to spare.
  • Dress smartly.
  • Make eye contact and engage with all interviewers present, not just the person asking you questions.
  • Keep your answers clear and concise.
  • Don’t assume the interviewer knows your CV back to front. Point out relevant experience to them on your CV as you discuss it, giving them context for that experience as part of your career as a whole.
  • Sell yourself. Job interviews are no time to be humble. Always be honest, but don’t undermine your own achievements for the sake of not wanting to appear to be bragging. Confidence secures more job offers than self-doubt.
  • Keep your body language open, positive, and energetic.
  • Stay positive, even when discussing negative experiences. Your interviewers are looking for somebody who grows from and embraces the challenges doctors face.

Video interviews

Video and remote interviews are common for NHS positions. This is especially true for overseas and international doctors. During the Covid-19 pandemic, almost all NHS interviews were carried out remotely.

Remote interviews can bring extra challenges and setbacks if they’re not approached in the right way. If your NHS interview is being carried out remotely the following advice will be incredibly valuable:

  • Find a quiet space with no distractions.
  • Make sure the area visible through your webcam is clean, tidy, and organised.
  • Maintain eye contact with your webcam, not your screen.
  • Position your camera so that you’re facing forward, towards the interviewer.
  • Make sure you’ve got adequate lighting coming from behind the computer.
  • Log in 30 minutes before the interview to check for connection issues.
  • Treat the video interview like it was happening face-to-face.

NHS Interview Questions

Whilst the exact questions asked in each interview will vary, knowing what questions to prepare answers for doesn’t require prescience or guesswork. There are common questions that are routinely asked in NHS interviews. Planning answers for the following significantly reduces the chances you’ll be surprised by an unexpected question.

  1. Why do you want to work for the NHS?
  2. Tell me about the NHS core values?
  3. What challenges does the NHS face currently?
  4. What are the qualities of a good NHS doctor?
  5. Can you tell me about how the NHS operates?
  6. When is a time you have coped well under pressure?
  7. Tell me a time you resolved a work-based conflict?
  8. Describe a time you gave quality care?
  9. How would you respond to an aggressive patient?
  10. How would you respond to a distressing medical situation?

Remedium- getting doctors interview ready for NHS positions since 2013

At Remedium we’ve found permanent positions in the NHS for hundreds of doctors. Since our first placement in 2013 we’ve been dedicated to candidate care and ensuring your NHS career journey is smooth and obstacle-free. For the Remedium team this means making sure that every doctor we arrange interviews for is coached and prepared to do the absolute best that they can.

If you’ve been considering a role as an NHS doctor why not register your details with us. A member of the Remedium team of NHS staffing and procurement specialists will be in touch to discuss suitable open vacancies and helping you make your next move up the career ladder. When applying as a doctor through Remedium you have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have an experienced NHS staffing professional in your corner at every stage of the application process.

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