The answer guides to these teamwork questions have been put together by medics who have successfully navigated interviews at top Medical Schools. They’re included in our Mastering the Medical School Interview Guide that you get when you join a Medical School Interview Course. It’s over 220 pages long and has everything you need to ace your interview.
Briefly set the scene: what type of team, what were you doing, what was the goal, and what was the outcome?
After this has been established, talk about your role. They want to find out what you contributed, so be specific. You need to say not just what you did, but how you did it.
Example answer: If you contributed to smooth communication within the team, maybe it was because you set up a group chat, addressed each member directly and checked up on their individual progress, encouraging everyone to post their progress and striving to keep everyone in the loop.
Have a set example of a time you showed good teamwork. Ideally, it should include a resolution to showcase your problem solving skills.
Then conclude by stating what you learnt about the qualities of a successful team. This shows that you are reflective. You can go a step further by relating it to Medicine and how the learning points can be applied in the future, at Medical School and beyond.
Again, start with the basics. Briefly set the scene: what type of team, what were you doing, what was the goal, and what was the outcome?
Then talk about your role specifically. Though the team did not reach its objective, they want to find out what you contributed. There will still be positives to take from it. Show that you are able to reflect, learn and improve. Say what went wrong and why. However, don’t be over-critical of team mates or blame people.
Say what you would change next time in order to achieve a more desirable outcome. Translate these lessons into something applicable to your future career as a medical student and a Doctor.
Think of this in advance. Draw on examples from those who have inspired you as a leader – be it a teacher, a sports captain, or a Doctor you saw lead a team on work experience.
When going through the points that you feel make a great leader, bring them to life by saying why they are so important and using examples of times you have personally shown, or at least seen, these traits in action.
Useful sources of examples that can be applied to the below checklist are Multi-disciplinary Teams (MDTs) in a hospital setting, sports teams or group activities, like Duke of Edinburgh. But you should have plenty of others as well.
Great leaders are usually effective communicators. They get across the team’s objectives to members in a clear way that gives people a sense of purpose.
An effective leader reaches out to all members of the team and makes it clear that they care about the progress of all members of the team. They are inclusive!
Organisation is essential, since managing a team requires being on top of exactly what needs to be done, when and by whom. Delegation is important. A strong leader knows their team members, understands what their strengths and weaknesses are, and is able to delegate fairly.
Ultimately, a strong leader takes responsibility. They will not place blame on their team in tough times.
Remember: use an example of a time you were a team leader or a time you witnessed good leadership to make your answer stand out.
Again, you will need to think about this in advance so you can arm yourself not only with key traits but also with reasons and examples.
In advance of the interview, make a list of all the times you were a member of a team and consider the things you did well, as well as the things you could have done better.
It’s very important that a good team member can take guidance. This is also an essential trait of being a medical student. Think of times, perhaps from work experience, when you were given feedback and took it on board to improve your performance.
A good team member understands their role as part of a larger team. You will often be working in a team (like an MDT) which is, in turn, a small part of a much bigger team – the NHS. Show that you can work for the greater good and believe in doing so.
Dedication should be a given. This is also a chance to showcase a crucial quality. When working a week of nights, are you the one who pulls the team through or holds them back?
A key to being able to work well with others is to compromise. You can tie this to lots of other desirable traits, like empathy.
You should answer that you are both – and this should be true!
To be a great medical student, you need to have leadership qualities but also be able to take instruction and contribute to the greater good.
Provide personal examples of times when you have been a leader and a follower to demonstrate this is true, offering an outline of the situation, the rationale and the ultimate outcome.
Leadership example: I took a leadership role in my school’s Medical Society. Attendance was low and people were not inspired to come. So I looked into some exciting topics and group activities online and worked with the teacher in charge to implement them. This led to numbers at society meetings doubling.
Teamwork example: When I was playing football for my school in the cup semi-final, our captain asked me to play out of position in the second half so we could protect a narrow lead. I knew this would limit my personal impact in the game but saw that the captain had the best interests of the team at heart. I played more defensively and we progressed to the final.
This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase all of the preparation and work experience that you have done during the application process. You should bring in examples from work experience, any relevant reading you have done, and even personal experiences as a patient or relative of a patient.
First of all, answer the first half of the question. Yes, teamwork is essential in Medicine because it is essential in delivering high-quality care.
Consider the following reasons why: Doctors specialise in a particular area, so the ability to work in a multi-disciplinary team is essential for patients with multiple morbidities; healthcare is not just delivered by Doctors, it is also delivered by nurses and allied health professionals; teamwork increases the speed of intervention, which is essential in trauma cases; teamwork is essential to the training and development of future staff.
Consider instances where a breakdown in teamwork has negatively affected an outcome.
Has your reading discussed the importance of teamwork and collaboration? For instance, have you read the first page of Good Medical Practice? (Hint: If not, do so!)
For bonus points, consider the role of the patient as a team member. Is the patient part of the team? In what way?
Your answer for this type of question should be multifaceted, involving a short, generic answer explaining what you would do as well as a more specific, detailed anecdote and a summary.
One of the most important traits of a good team member is the ability to deal with conflicts quickly and sensibly, whilst not affecting the group dynamic or ability to complete the task.
An example of a personal anecdote: During my Duke of Edinburgh Bronze, two members of my group thought that we needed to go in the opposite direction to the rest of the group. Before the discussion escalated further, I thought it was important to get everyone together and hear what people had to say. We had a task to complete and it had to be done as a team. I knew we could deal with this ourselves as a group, so we looked at the map and decided, as a group, on the best route to take.
After giving this anecdote, it may be worth mentioning any plan that you implemented to prevent conflict arising in the future and dealing with issues quickly. You don’t need to go into unpleasant details of the argument, just a brief overview and a summary of the resolution.
Medical students are often required to work in groups for the purpose of PBL (at certain universities) or to produce a piece of work such as an academic poster. This means that teamwork is very important and your answer should demonstrate that you have the ability to work well with others and resolve issues within a team.
Where possible, it is important for students to be able to deal with problems within a team independently, without having to involve a member of staff. You might mention speaking to a tutor as an option if the team was unable to resolve the issue, but this would probably not be your first resort.
When working as a team, it is important for all members of the group to contribute, so simply having other students make up for the lack of contributions on one person’s part is not a good solution to the problem described in this scenario.
Explain how you would approach the individual in question. As you are not yet sure why they are failing to contribute, you might want to do this sensitively and without being confrontational. There are a number of reasons why a team member might struggle with a group project such as personal issues, confusion about their role, or reluctance to ask questions in a group setting.
Suggest how you might encourage your team member to begin contributing more. For example, holding a group meeting to clarify each person’s role and give people an opportunity to ask questions, or providing some constructive feedback on what they have been doing so far.
This question is an opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of the role of a team leader and the importance of drawing on the strengths of each team member. You may want to use a personal example of when you acted as a leader and had to deal with allocating tasks.
A good leader is essential for the success of a team and it is up to them to ensure that each team member is contributing effectively. While very competent individuals often feel tempted to deal with tasks personally, it is important to be able to allocate work in order to make the most of each team member’s unique skill set.
It is also important for a leader to be aware of their limits and to know when it is in the team’s best interest to trust in someone else’s opinions/abilities. For example, another team member might have the experience or expertise required for a specific task.
Give an example of when you took on a leadership role and explain how you chose to divide work amongst your team. If you failed to allocate roles well, reflect on the impact this had on your team’s outcomes.
You may want to consider relating your answer back to Medicine – Multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) are made up of individuals from different healthcare professions who work together for the purpose of improving patient care. These teams are a perfect example of why allocation is so important, because each member has their own specialism and should take on a leading role when the team is focusing on an issue related to their area of expertise.
This is a hypothetical scenario which tests your ability to handle situations as a team leader, and this can be approached in a few ways.
As with most of these questions, there is no right or wrong answer – the interviewer just wants to understand your train of thought. Therefore, when you give an answer, explain why you would approach it in that way.
Approach 1: Talk to the whole group stating the fact that there is £20 missing. Then, ask if anyone knows what happened to it, and offer your team members the option to talk to you privately about this if they wish. This method gives that particular team member a chance to admit to what they have done, and also saves them the embarrassment of making it known to the whole group.
Approach 2: If you know who might have been guilty of keeping the £20, you could talk to them separately, away from a group setting. Explain the negative consequences this has on the charity, as well as the reputation of the group. No matter which method you choose, it is always better to give the team member a chance to admit to what they have done, as they might have lost the £20 instead of stealing it.
Lastly, if you have time in your interview, mention that you would approach the charity to explain that £20 has gone missing and that as the leader, you will try to raise that money again for the charity as soon as possible to keep your promise.
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