Medicine Interview: Tackling Teamwork Questions

Your ability to work in a team is a skill that all medical schools are going to want to assess at your interview. They don’t want someone who lacks initiative and only follows orders – while equally no one wants to work with a dictator! You might be surprised how often you engage in teamwork in your day to day life.

Aside from seeing teamwork in practice on work experience, going on a Duke of Edinburgh Expedition, putting together a group project or even organising your school’s formal are all examples of teamwork. Not all of your experiences are going to be medical but they teach you skills you can apply at interview.

Here are three examples of questions you may be asked:

How would I answer a Teamwork question?

Here is an example of a teamwork related interview question and how you could go about answering it – obviously you would need to make it personal to you.

‘What do you think makes a great team?’

‘I think that a great team is one motivated towards the same end goal. On my work experience I found that when the multi-disciplinary team worked together they put the patient at the center of all that they did thus giving them a central purpose on which to work together. They listened to one another and brought different ideas to the table, all the while respecting each other’s opinions another quality of a great team.

Teamwork: Are you a leader or a follower?

When I was part of my school’s formal committee, I found that time management was key to our team working well together as was appropriate delegation of tasks. The workload must be spread evenly and appropriately to the right people. When this is done properly our team worked well together.

I also feel that in any great team you must have a strong leader who has the support of the other members of the team. You need someone who is willing to drive things forward and they are able to do this thanks to the enthusiasm and passion of the other team members. I found this came into play quite often during my time captaining the school rugby team as it was up to me to motivate my team, but it was always much easier when I had the support of the rest of the team!

Overall, it’s quite simply about getting a group of people to believe in the same goal and work towards it with a good leader driving it forwards as well as supportive members behind them.’

Teamwork Questions: Top 5 Tips

1. Remember medicine is teamwork, day in day out

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!

2. Good quality experience is just as valid as varied experience

Some people will come to interview having had six weeks in six different specialties in six different hospitals while 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.

3. Just because your voice is the loudest doesn’t make it the most important!

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. People respect others who listen well, not just speak well – and this is a crucial part of teamwork.

4. Back up what you say with examples from your experiences

This is key to answering the majority of interview questions. Give some context to the skills you say you have. it makes you sound more genuine and like you actually learn from your experiences rather than memorizing interview buzz words.

5. Leadership isn’t everything

Yes, leadership is important but you are 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.

Words: Ruari McGowan


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