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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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