- 03 August 2018
- 8 min read
How to successfully prepare for interviews in healthcare
Kate Gass details her experiences and advice when interviewing for jobs in healthcare
I recently applied for an internal post for a speech therapy job that I was essentially already doing. I made sure I’d hit all the essential criteria, and as many of the desirables as I could.
Don't assume it will be easy
I got an interview, and discovered my manager was one of the interviewers. My appraisals to that point had been glowing, and I always got on well with her personally, so I presumed the job was in the bag.
I breezed in, answered the questions and sat back waiting for the job offer. I didn’t get it.
I was devastated.
I asked for feedback and was told the other applicant had “given much fuller answers”, and had generally seemed more prepared.
In healthcare, interviewers are often working on a tick box system aiming to prevent the potential nepotism that I was relying on!
This means that in today’s job market, it really is what you know, not who you know.
On reflection, I learnt some valuable lessons that day:
1. Not to get complacent
2. There is no such thing as being over prepared for interviews.
I'd heard that someone else in the company had been offered interview coaching, so I enquired whether this was something I could access, and was offered a mock interview with detailed feedback.
This was one of the most excruciating things I have ever had to do. Not least because it was videoed, but it gave me valuable insight not only into what my employers were looking for, but also how I came across at interview and how to improve on this.
The next job I applied for, I was offered the post.
An interview is your chance to show your potential employer all the skills and knowledge you have, and ensure that you, above all the other candidates are the best fit for the job.
With an increasingly competitive job market, attending an interview can be a daunting and nerve wracking process.
However, through experience I’ve learned there are ways to reduce the stress, and ensure you are your best self on the day.
Following the experiences and training detailed above, I’ve detailed my top tips to ace an interview.
Ideally, arrive at the interview 10-15 minutes early.
If travelling by car/ public transport allow time for delays, traffic etc.
Dress so you feel comfortable, but ensure you look smart.
I happened to already know my interviewers, but for many jobs this may not be the case.
First impressions are especially crucial. Opinions vary as to when first impressions are formed, with some saying within 30 seconds, some within 7 seconds, and a recent study showing that people decide their opinion of someone within a tenth of a second.
The first thing an interviewer will see is how you look, so what you wear is a big factor in making a good first impression.
Find out as much about the organisation you are applying for as you can. Use the information provided e.g. job description, person specification etc.
Often, there will be some information on the organisation’s vision and values. If you can incorporate some of the language used into your responses on the day, this will help to show potential employers that you understand, and will fit in well with the ethos of the organisation
Research Potential Questions
Spend time beforehand thinking about the kind of questions you will be asked. There are quite a few forums online with health professionals sharing their experiences of interview questions.
I have attended interviews for speech therapy where there has been a written task, a practical task, and a question and answer session. Some interviews have included a group task.
Equally, I have attended more traditional question and answer based interviews.
For Speech Therapy jobs I’ve applied for, whilst the format may have been different, interviews have all included a mix of general questions about me personally, and also competency based questions where I have been given a scenario to demonstrate my clinical skills.
Every interview I have attended has asked a question on safeguarding. Potential employers want to know what you perceive as your strengths and weaknesses.
The former is a chance to really sell yourself. What makes you the best fit for the job?
What skills or experience can you bring to the role?
When asked about weaknesses, this isn’t the time to list your insecurities or mistakes.
Self-awareness is key. It’s fine to talk about areas you’ve found challenging, but make sure you can provide examples of what proactive steps you have taken to overcome or manage these.
Using real life examples will highlight to potential employers your problem solving skills.
The beauty of the internet is that we have access to a wealth of information at the click of a button, but so does everyone else.
Using specific examples of challenges you have faced and how you overcame them will demonstrate your resilience and problem solving skills, helping you to stand out above the competition.
It’s good to remember that interviews are a two way process. It’s a chance for employers to see if you are a good potential fit, but equally, whether the organisation is somewhere that you can see yourself working.
At the end of the interview you are normally asked if you have any questions. The answer to this is always, “Yes”!
This is your chance to find out anything you want to know about the company, what the career prospects are, training offered etc.
Practice your answers
In my experience, choosing a career in healthcare is about more than earning a living.
Remind yourself why you went into your chosen profession writing down key points.
This will help you to convey the enthusiasm and passion you feel for your job in your answers.
Think about your responses to your identified potential interview questions. The chances are you won’t hit all the job criteria, but that shouldn’t stop you talking about relevant or related experience that you do have.
Answers should be comprehensive but concise.
Practice saying these aloud until you give a clear and natural sounding response.
Even better if you have a friend or family member you can role play the interview with, but if not, just doing it in front of the mirror can be useful.
Writing down what you want to say first will help you really hone in on what you want to convey.
You don’t want to sound like you’re reading from a script, but succinct well thought out responses will not only mean that you sound more capable and professional, but will also help you remain calm, relaxed and in control. Some of my feedback was that I spoke very fast and it made it difficult for the interviewers to write everything down, potentially losing me valuable points. So, don’t rush in, take your time, speak slowly, and pause.
Take a notepad
Write down key words from the questions and listen to what is actually being asked.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a question to be repeated or clarified. This is far better than trying to “wing it” and going off on a tangent, only to realise at the end you’ve not really answered the question and forgotten what they’ve asked! It’s good to talk in terms of positives rather than negatives.
Smile, be positive, and make eye contact. Gently mirroring the interviewers body language can help to build rapport.
Relax, Think Positively And Power Pose!
Use deep breathing techniques to stay relaxed.
Breathe in for 6 and out for 10. Visualising techniques have long been used by top athletes to gain success.
Spend time visualising the interview process from beginning to end going exactly how you want it to, with the outcome you want.
Power pose! Amy Cuddy has done an excellent TED talk on body language; most notably, “power posing”. Research has found that getting candidates to adopt an empowered stance-power pose-for 2 minutes prior to interview actually increased their chances of a job offer by 20%.