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13th January 2020
Work experience is a vital part of preparing for Medical School and showing that you are committed to one day working as a Doctor. It’s likely you could be asked to talk about it during your Medicine interview so knowing how to talk about work experience is an essential part of your interview preparation.

Words by Safiya Zaloum

Although this is a guide for talking about medical work experience in an interview, it is also applicable to any volunteering that you might have done. Here are five tips to help you think about how to talk about your work experience or volunteering in an interview.

Review Your Work Experience

Your work experience may have been a while ago, so it is important that you remember exactly what you did. Hopefully, you made notes whilst you were observing, or at the end of each day. Re-read through these to remind yourself of exactly what you saw. If you didn’t make any notes, try to make some rough ones now on as much as you can remember. It is important that you have a very good idea of what you did and saw, as this is the basis for talking thoughtfully about your experience in an interview.

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Prepare Reflections Beforehand

  • Choose one memorable case or patient you saw during your medical work experience. You may be asked to describe an operation you saw if, for example, you said you had observed a week of surgeries.
  • What qualities and attributes of doctors did you observe? Did you witness someone break bad news, explain test results, deal with angry patients, demonstrate empathy, or anything else that you can reflect on?

Remember that your interviews are far more interested in what you took from the experience and how you have reflected afterwards on the things you witnessed.

It doesn’t matter if you spent three weeks in many different medical wards or a couple of days in a GP, it is vital you demonstrate an understanding of the NHS and what it is like to work in the field of medicine. Consider how you saw different healthcare professionals interacting with each other and patients during your work experience and the different qualities these people had.

Extract Key Learning Points

You probably observed many things and came up with lots of things you learned. However, when in an interview you won’t be able to spend half an hour talking about what you learned. Come up with three to five things that you learned and a short example from which you drew this learning point. For example:

  • Did you learn the importance of teamwork by observing a multi-disciplinary team?
  • Did you observe how important good communication skills are when you watched a Doctor speaking to an elderly person with hearing loss?
  • Did you learn the importance of empathy after seeing a doctor speak with patients’ relatives?
  • Did you witness how good teamwork and communication skills are essential during surgery?

Review Your Personal Statement

Go through your personal statement with fine-tooth comb and make sure you remember everything you wrote about. This is where interviewers can filter out people who were bluffing or waffling in their statements, so make sure you prepare well. It wouldn’t look great if you forgot about something you had written about, even if it may feel like a long time ago now.

Interviewers 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 about your work experience and be prepared to expand on it.

Be Genuine – Don’t Script Answers

Talking about your work experience is like any other interview topic; the more you practise answering questions the better you will get at talking about it.

However, you shouldn’t script any answers as this will stop you from sounding genuine. You did your work experience after all, so it should be natural to talk about what you saw and what you learned.

Try to have some key points that you aim to cover but don’t practise word for word. You might find it useful to practise different variations of questions with friends.

Take a look at our work experience interview questions and answers for an idea of the kind of questions you could be asked.

Is Your Work Experience Interview-Proof?

Take our quiz to find out if you’re ready to discuss your work experience at your interview.

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