There is a strong chance you’ll be asked teamwork questions during your Medicine interview. That’s because these types of interview questions get under the skin of whether you can work well in a team. It’s your chance to show that you value teamwork and understand that a Doctor forms part of a team. Check out our teamwork tips for more advice.

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 which you’ll get when you join a Medical School Interview Course. It’s over 220 pages long and has everything you need to ace your interview.

Give An Example Of A Time You Worked In A Team, And It Was Successful

Briefly set the scene: what type of team were you part of, what were you doing, what was the goal, and what was the outcome?

After this has been established, talk about your role. The interviewers want to find out what you contributed, so be specific. You need to say not just what you did, but how you did it.

For instance, 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 keep each other in the loop.

Have a set example of a time you showed good teamwork. Ideally, it should include a resolution to also showcase your problem solving skills.

Conclude your answer by stating what you learned 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.

Common mistakes:

  • Taking too long to describe the example. Everything you say should be relevant by either reflecting your individual good qualities or showing your understanding of the important factors of teamwork.
  • Not focusing on the right things. Your gold Duke of Edinburgh award itself is less important than the skills/qualities you’ve learned that can translate to Medicine.

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Give An Example Of A Time You Worked In A Team And Failed

Again, start with the basics. Briefly set the scene: what type of team was it, what were you doing, what was the goal, and what was the outcome?

Then talk about your role specifically. Although the team did not reach its objective, the interviewers will want to find out what you contributed. There should still be some positives to take from it. Show that you are able to reflect, learn and improve.

Say what went wrong and why. Don’t be overly critical of teammates or shift all of the blame to other 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 as a medical student and a doctor.

Common mistakes:

  • Being too self-deprecating. You need to show introspection, i.e. that you have learned from past mistakes and that you are confident of correcting them in future.
  • Claiming that you did nothing wrong and it was someone else’s fault that the team failed. You need to be able to see the fault in others but also appreciate that the failure of a team is collective.

What Are The Attributes Of A Good Team Leader?

Think about this in advance. Draw on examples from those who have inspired you as a leader – whether they’re a teacher, a sports captain, or a Doctor you met on work experience.

When going through the traits that you feel make a great leader, bring them to life by saying why they are so important and using examples of times when you have personally shown, or at least seen, these traits in action.

Good leaders are effective communicators. They get across the objectives to team members in a clear way that gives people a sense of purpose. A good leader also reaches out to all members of the team individually to make sure they are motivated and show that they care about the progress of everyone. 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 when you were a team leader, or a time you witnessed good leadership in action, to make your answer stand out.

Common mistakes:

  • Just listing qualities without reasons or examples. For every trait, make sure that you say why it is important and when you have seen/demonstrated it.
  • Focusing too much on the individual leader. The sign of a good leader is actually the ability to maximise the output of their team.

What Are The Attributes Of A Good Team Member?

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. In Medicine, 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?

Another key to being able to work well with others is compromise. You can tie this to lots of other desirable traits, like empathy.

Common mistakes:

  • Believing that being a team member is less desirable than being a leader. You need to be both, but it is important to note that as a medical student and starting out as a Junior Doctor, you will be part of a team more often than you will be leading one.
  • Thinking that being told to do something differently is a sign of weakness. Use examples of times when you were told to do something differently, took it on board and really improved your performance as a result.

Are You A Leader Or A Follower?

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 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, there was one game when 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.”

Common mistakes:

  • Insisting that you are a leader, thinking this shows more strength. It is excellent if you have leadership qualities, but you also need to be able to take instruction during your time at medical school and beyond.
  • Not having leadership examples. Some people have lots of teamwork examples but are shy and don’t consider themselves leaders. Think about times when you really took initiative and motivated others.

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Is Teamwork Important In Medicine? Why?

This is a great opportunity to showcase all of the preparation and work experience that you have done during the application process. You can use examples from work experience, any relevant reading or research 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 when dealing with patients who have 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 particularly essential in trauma cases. Teamwork is also essential to the training and development of future staff.

Think about 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 GMC’s Good Medical Practice? (Hint: If not, do so!)

Common mistakes:

  • Generalising by saying that teamwork is important, without giving any concrete or specific reasons why.
  • Discussing reasons in the abstract and not using work experience, reading or personal examples to illustrate how teamwork manifests itself in the real world.

How Do You Resolve Conflict Within A Group?

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 details of the argument, just give a brief overview and a summary of the resolution.

Common mistakes:

  • Getting too specific about the minutiae of the conflict can lead to you losing the interviewer, and you may also lose valuable time.
  • Not having an example ready. Examples of conflicts can be as big or small as you like. The key to answering this question well is about demonstrating that you can deal with any situation appropriately and seek assistance if necessary.

What Would You Do If You Were Working On A Group Project And Noticed Than One Member Of The Team Was Not Contributing?

Medical students are often required to work in groups for the purpose of PBL (at certain medical schools) or for other tasks, e.g. 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, possess teamworking skills and can resolve issues effectively.

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.

It’s important for all members of a team 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 don’t know why they are failing to contribute, you might want to do this sensitively and without being confrontational, showcasing good communication skills.

There is 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 the team member to start 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.

Common mistakes:

  • Saying that you would go directly to a member of staff. Although this might be an option as a last resort, it is important for students to try and resolve issues like this amongst themselves when possible.
  • Coming across as overly confrontational in your answer. Empathy is an important quality for medical students/Doctors and you should consider why the student might be having trouble with the project. You should also want to avoid generating friction within your team as this would further disrupt your work.

Why Is It Important For A Team Leader To Be Able To Allocate Tasks?

This question is an opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of the role of a 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 allocate tasks to others.

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 it may be tempting to want to deal with tasks personally, it is important for a leader to allocate work to others in order to make the most of each team member’s unique skill set.

It’s 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.

An effective team leader can also navigate within their team dynamics and resolve conflicts or issues as they arise.

Give an example of a time 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 and what you learned from the experience.

You may want to relate your answer back to Medicine. 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.

Common mistakes:

  • Failing to take into account the skills of different team members. Simply splitting work equally across a group is not the most effective use of human resources. More can be achieved when people are given tasks that are appropriate for their unique skill set.
  • Not giving a personal example. Although this is not technically required for a question like this, it is recommended. Interviewers will appreciate you giving an example of how you dealt with allocating tasks as a leader and reflecting on why your approach was or wasn’t successful.

You Are The Team Leader For A Fundraising Project, And While Totalling Up The Donations, You Find £20 Is Missing. You Suspect That One Of Your Team Members Has Been Keeping Some Of The Money To Themselves. What Do You Do?

This is a hypothetical scenario which tests your ability to handle difficult situations as a team leader, and it 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 them the option to talk to you privately about this if they wish. This method gives the person 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 be 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, mention that (if the money could not be recovered) 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.

Common mistakes:

  • Being accusatory. There is a possibility that the money was lost, and no one actually stole it. Accusing any of your team members would ruin the relationship and trust between you and your team.

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