The reason you’re asked about teamwork is that medicine is a team sport. You will work with so many different people in the ‘multi-disciplinary team’ you hear so much about. It is important to recognise this and address it in your interview. No man is an island in medicine and the sooner you appreciate that the better!
Some people will come to interview having had six weeks’ experience in six different specialities, at six different hospitals – and others may have only had a fortnight in their local GP. This doesn’t really matter. The important thing about your work experience is what you gain from it and how well you can reflect on your experiences of teamwork.
One of the best ways to prove you have good teamwork skills is to show, rather than tell. Make sure you model the very best teamwork behaviour during your interview, no matter if it’s a MMI or traditional panel format.
For example, it’s good to speak up and get your point across, but make sure you are taking the time to allow other people to get theirs across too. Even if you think that what the other person is saying is rubbish and that you have a much better idea, wait until they have finished speaking. Then acknowledge their idea, and put forward your own.
You should always remain polite and courteous, even if there is one really annoying person that keeps dominating the group and even if someone is rude to you. If it helps, take a deep breath if you feel you are starting to get irritated!
When you talk about your teamwork skills, you need to share examples of this. Can you think of a time when you worked well within a team – and did that have a positive outcome? Perhaps you saw great teamwork during your work experience, and can talk about the impact of that?
The best examples will have a positive outcome that is verifiable (for example winning a team competition) and where you have made a positive contribution to the team (e.g. by effective delegation or where you were able to compromise and work well with others). It’s always useful to get feedback from someone outside the team about how well you all worked together so that you can also cite this in your answer.
Leadership is important, but you’re going to spend many years of your career as a member of a team and not the leader. Being able to work in a team and carry out assigned tasks efficiently is a key skill to develop and something you should definitely talk about at interview.
One way you can show leadership constructively is to try to include someone who might be feeling left out, or need some more encouragement to speak. For example, if someone hasn’t said anything, ask them if they think the group is going in the right direction. Often they may have a great idea that they haven’t been able to voice yet or they may be the only person to have realised that the group is about to run into difficulty with the task.
Try our quiz to test how much you know about teamwork in healthcare – and find out if you’re ready to look at other question topics.
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