Preparing for a job interview is sometimes like stepping into the great unknown. Whether you’re applying for a position in a medical training program, a locum job or as a new consultant, there is often a sense of uncertainty about going into an interview. Accordingly, there are some persistent misconceptions about interviews that you may identify with, or may surprise you.
1. The interviewers are prepared
Guess what? In many cases they are not. Or, even worse, they may have never been an interviewer before. Of course, that doesn’t mean that things won’t go smoothly. Every interview is an experience for you to draw from. Take it as it comes.
2. They are trying to put you under stress or trick you
Generally not. Some interviewers may have a more un-nerving presence than others, due to their personality, or simply ‘who’ they are (e.g. a high flying consultant). In most cases, it’s not good interview practice to intentionally put someone under stress. Certainly, in practical assessments this can be of benefit to assess the candidate, but the stress should come from the task, not the interviewers themselves.
3. They care that you are nervous
Unless it significantly changes your interview performance, it is natural to be a bit nervous. In the thousands of interviews I have done, it has been very rare that a candidate is not nervous. Whether you’re a medical student, an intern, or a senior consultant, the expectation is the same. The fact that you can get over those nerves to give great responses in the interview is what counts. If you’re there to show them what an amazing GP you are, focus on that!
4. They haven’t already made up their minds
Of course it is common that you may step into an interview that has a pre-determined outcome. That is, the decision has already been made about who is getting the job. This is especially common in the public sector, where bureaucratic requirements sometimes trump common sense in terms of recruitment practices. Of course, you probably won’t know this is happening in the background.
5. The interviewers want to hear your life story
When they ask you to tell them about yourself, they don’t mean from birth onwards. A brief precis of your professional history is what they want. If they want to know more, they will ask.
6. They care about anti-discrimination law
“So, are you planning on having children?”. Sounds somewhat innocuous, but depending on the context, your response (either way) may influence the outcome of the interview. Not only is this question illegal, you should definitely not answer it. Some interviewers (particularly if doing job interviews isn’t their everyday job) may not be familiar with anti-discrimination law, or may simply not care. If it’s important to them that you come from a certain race, have a particular sexual preference, or don’t want to leave early because of your kids, they’re going to go ahead and ask the questions anyway. You need to consider whether that is the right workplace for you.
7. You should have a script
Scripted interview responses stand out like a sore thumb. If you trip over your own words and start correcting yourself in the interview, it will be blatantly obvious. Certainly, practice for your interviews, but do not pre-prepare responses.
8. The questions are consistent
It is great to have an idea of what the interviewers will ask before you step into the room, but even in highly structured scenarios like MMIs and assessments for training programs, there will be some variation in the questions. Interviewers are human. Humans make mistakes, or go ‘off script’. Be careful not to prepare too much for what you think the questions will be, because there will inevitably be a curveball.
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