Whatever style of interview you have, work experience is very likely to come up. Your personal statement has very limited characters, and your interviewers will be keen to find out more about the things you wrote about.
This is your chance to mention the interesting but long stories that your teacher/tutor/friend viciously slashed out of your statement when you were character-counting! In this blog, I will give you three top tips for successfully talking about work experience in medical school interviews.
1. Don’t say you did or saw something without saying what you learnt from it
In fact, this matters more than the length of your placement. You may have spent a month shadowing a doctor, but stating this in itself is not impressive. Every experience you have needs to have a learning point – something you learn about the NHS, medical careers, doctors, or even about yourself.
For example, seeing a doctor speak with patients’ relatives may have shown you the importance of empathy and what a difference a kind manner can make in a distressing situation.
If you watched a surgical operation, you can talk about how you saw good teamwork and communication skills, and why these were important in that situation. This is called reflection, and is important throughout your entire medical career, so it’s a good thing to practice!
2. Feel free to talk about both positive and negative things you saw
Not everything you saw may have been positive, and that is absolutely fine. Do not worry about saying something negative, as long as you still say what you learnt from it (as above).
For example, you may have seen a doctor speaking angrily to his colleague, and you may have felt that this was not good for their working relationship. Say this! Don’t forget to also add what you consider may have been the correct way to handle the situation, and how you feel you would behave in similar situations in the future.
Of course, you should not be overly critical, but the interviewers will appreciate your honesty and your viewpoint, as they are looking for candidates who can analyse situations critically and reflect on what they see.
3. Go through your personal statement with fine-tooth comb and make sure you remember everything you wrote about!
It would not look great if you forgot about something you had written about, even if it may feel like a long time ago now. They can pick up on anything you wrote about, so as well as remembering all the stories that you did not have enough space to write about, go through everything you did mention, and be prepared to expand on it.
This is where interviewers can filter out people who were bluffing or waffling in their statements, so make sure you prepare well. For someone who is prepared, this part of an interview is a very straightforward one, so do not waste the opportunity!
Words: Mariam Al-Attar
Mariam is a 5th year medical student at Lancaster University. She loves writing and medical education, and is hoping to specialise in rheumatology.
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