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The 3 Most Difficult Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

Two smartly dressed people shaking hands at an interview to demonstrate difficult interview questions

Whether you are preparing for a multi-mini interview (MMI) or a traditional one, a lot of the questions can be quite similar.

The interviewers want to find out more about you and whether you are suited for their medical school.

Although most are challenging, in this article I want to focus on the three most difficult interview questions to answer.

You can find general interview advice here and here.

 

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Difficult Interview Questions: Why Medicine?

Why this question is hard:

This is a simple question and one that you most definitely should know the answer to. Besides, why did you apply for medicine in the first place after all?

However, I was filled with dread with the idea that I might get asked this question! You have so much to say about it, and yet it is very difficult to find something original to say.

All candidates probably like sciences, they all want to work closely with people, and they all love the variety and the challenges that medicine has to offer.

The truth is, until we experience it first-hand, we don’t really know what medicine is all about at all, despite all that wonderful work experience.

How to answer this question:

The best way to approach this question is by asking yourself why you want to do medicine and what makes you a good candidate.

This may seem obvious, but it’s so easy to automatically start listing a ton of good things about being a doctor.

Think about what opportunities medicine has to offer and why they are important to you. What are your main strengths and how will they help you become an excellent doctor?

And always remember to back anything you say by giving examples. So instead of saying “I like the problem-solving element of medicine”, explain where you witnessed someone using their analytical skills in medicine and why you are good at problem solving.

A better answer would sound something like this:

“Through my work experience, I was inspired by the way in which this doctor (give an example) and the outcome was…” and then give an example where you demonstrated effective problem-solving skills.

This may seem a bit long-winded, but a few of these examples will make a far more powerful answer than a long list which anyone can come up with.

Difficult Interview Questions: Why Not Nursing?

Why this question is hard:

If you are so keen on helping people, and you love the way the body works, why wouldn’t you consider a career in nursing?

The problem with answering this question is that it’s very easy to say something derogatory towards nurses.

It also tests how well you know the role of nurses.

Nurse practitioners can also take on leadership roles, diagnose, prescribe and participate in medical research, all of which you’ve probably listed in your answer of the first question.

How to answer this question:

Firstly, do some research and find out exactly what it is that nurses do.

Demonstrate that you know this and acknowledge their role within the medical team. Then explain what is different in the role of a doctor.

Medicine offers a larger scope for specialisation than nursing. Perhaps you want to have the opportunity to do surgery for example. The education system is also very different.

Doctors are formally trained in medicine and spend more years studying how diseases work and how they are managed. By contrast, nurses are formally trained in providing holistic care and become registered nurses before they can start a career as a nurse practitioner.

When working together, doctors will ultimately take full responsibility. Whatever you say, make sure you back it up with examples and why you would be more suited for one and not the other.

Difficult Interview Questions: What Are Your Weaknesses?

Why this question is hard:

A medical interview is all about confidence and selling yourself as the best thing since sliced bread.

You constantly focus on your strengths and what makes you an amazing candidate. And yet we are all fallible mortals with multiple weaknesses, many of which we are probably very much aware of.

How on earth are you supposed to answer this question? Say something trivial, and you will sound big-headed or demonstrate lack of insight at the very least.

Say something terrible and the interviewer may think you’d make a terrible doctor!

How to answer this question:

In my opinion, this question is key at distinguishing excellent candidates.

A good doctor needs to recognise their limitations otherwise they may put their patients at risk. Most candidates will try to twist their answer and try to trivialise their weakness or make it sound like a strength, classically saying things like “I’m a perfectionist”.

However, this question isn’t trying to expose your inner Mr Hyde.

Rather, it is trying to see whether you have insight into your weaknesses and what steps you have taken steps to try and combat them. Sit down one afternoon, be honest with yourself, and write down any weaknesses you can think of.

If you’re struggling, ask a good friend or family member (this will also test your ability to accept negative feedback!).

You want to be able to explain how you recognised this weakness, why it could be a problem within medicine and how you’ve managed it.

For example, you may have noticed that you get terribly nervous at public speaking. Give an example where this happened and recognise why it is important for doctors to be good public speakers.

Then explain how you are trying to improve your public speaking skills. Maybe you joined a debating club? Or found particular techniques helpful?

Don’t be afraid to tell the interviewers that you received good feedback after your efforts as that will reinforce your argument.

 

Words: Natalia Kyrtata

 

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