Interview Questions: Personality and Skills
What personality attributes and skills do you think are required by a doctor? No doubt a few things like teamwork and communication skills sprang to mind straight away, which is great, but what are questions about personality and skills really asking you?
These questions are asking you for three key points:
- What is the skill or personality trait?
- When have you seen this skill or personality trait demonstrated by a doctor? and why is it so important for their role as a doctor?
- When have you demonstrated this skill or personality trait yourself?
What skills or personality traits should you discuss?
Ultimately you can talk about any skill you have identified as important as a doctor to have. Our top 5 recommended points to think about are the following:
Being a good team player is important as a doctor as you will always be working with colleagues. This includes other doctors and other allied healthcare professionals as well as patients in the patient-focused care we provide.
As a doctor you will often be in a leadership position. If you shadowed surgery you may have seen this quite prominently where the surgeon is the leader of the operation. Do remember that being a good and effective leader involves great teamwork and communication skills too.
You will need to be a great communicator as you will talk to a range of patients and colleagues. Your patients can range from new-born to geriatric (senior citizens) and all in between, with varying ranges of abilities, therefore it is important that you can effectively communicate with all patients that come through the door. Think about what doctors or you can do to adapt your communication styles based on the patient or scenario.
As a doctor, you will need to have very good organisational skills to be able to balance all the demands of the job. You will need to have great time management skills and the ability to prioritise tasks effectively. If you haven’t had a chance to see how this skill is required in your work experience do check out the BBC documentary series Junior Doctors (available here), it will give you an insight into the organisational skills required by junior doctors. You will even need this at medical school to balance your studies, so make sure if this isn’t your top skill or something that you struggle with that you work on these skills, as they will be invaluable.
With medical school and a career as a doctor being so demanding it is important that you have a hard working attitude. It is an important skills needed and therefore essential that you can demonstrate this at interview.
Can you tell me about a time you saw a doctor demonstrate teamwork?
Teamwork is a very important skill for a doctor to have as you have to work in conjunction with not just patients, but with your colleagues who are both doctors and allied healthcare professionals. It is essential to work well as a team to provide the best quality of care for patients.
When I was undertaking work experience in an A&E department, shadowing a registrar I was able to see how the doctor worked closely with the nurses and other doctors on the ward. An example of this was with a patient who presented with shortness of breath and tight chest pain. The doctor had to assess the patient while working alongside nurses who were wiring the patient up for an EGC, while another was taking bloods. During the observation I was able to see how all team members worked together, communicating where each other was in relation to the patient and with their roles were in the patients care, meaning no one team member was in the way of another. This effective teamwork meant that all tasks were completed efficiently by each team member.
Having seen first hand how important teamwork is as a doctor I am pleased to have identified this as a skill I am strong at. Having played netball for my school team for the past 5 years I have developed great communication skills, both verbal and non-verbal. Vocally calling plays to my other team members, as well as making physical signs to indicate plays to other team members too.
What skills are important for doctors to have?
There are many skills that are important for doctors to have to make them great doctors. I will discuss a couple of these skills in my answer.
First of all I will talk about Leadership. Being a doctor involves the responsibility of being a team leader in many situations. This is something I saw first hand in a shadowing experience in an operating theater. The surgeon was in charge of the operation, to remove an ectopic pregnancy, and before starting demonstrated great leadership by asking for each team member to introduce themselves and their role within the operation. This aided every team member in understanding exactly who was doing what and who to direct questions to if they arose. The surgeon also went on the make decisions about the progression of the surgery as any obstacles arose. As well as in aiding the teaching of a junior doctor (F2), who was assisting with the operation. It was nice to see this role of a doctor as I had mostly noticed the teamwork aspects to the role of a doctor in my work experience prior to this.
Having lead a team during a young enterprise project at school I have experience as a team leader. During this experience I have learned that it can be difficult as a team leader, making sure each team member completed their assigned tasks as well as completing my own as a team member. I approached the team member who was not completing their assigned tasks to see if they needed more support or preferred a different role within the team, and found they were struggling as didn’t fully understand their role. Once I had reaffirmed their role and gone over their tasks with them they were much happier and were able to complete their assigned work to the internal deadlines set.
Teamwork is also a skill required of a doctor, when I was undertaking work experience in an A&E department, shadowing a registrar I was able to see how the doctor worked closely with the nurses and other doctors on the ward. An example of this was with a patient who presented with shortness of breath and tight chest pain. The doctor had to assess the patient while working alongside nurses who were wiring the patient up for an EGC, while another was taking bloods. During the observation I was able to see how all team members worked together, communicating where each other was in relation to the patient and with their roles were in the patients care, meaning no one team member was in the way of another. This effective teamwork meant that all tasks were completed efficiently by each team member. Having seen firsthand how important teamwork is as a doctor I am pleased to have identified this as a skill I am strong at. Having played netball for my school team for the past 5 years I have developed great communication skills, both verbal and non-verbal. Vocally calling plays to my other team members, as well as making physical signs to indicate plays to other team members too.
Another skill that is essential as a doctor is having good communication skills. During my volunteering as a dementia befriender I started by shadowing a doctor and noticed how they adapted their communication skills to ask a dementia patient how they are to start a conversation before diving into their clinical conversation. From this, I learned that adapting your communication, often speaking louder for those who are hard of hearing, and not asking distressing questions about a patient’s forgetfulness puts patients at ease and made the interactions much easier for them in gaining the information they required from the patient. This is something that I then went on to demonstrate in my own work volunteering as a dementia befriender, by having regular conversations with patients. This has been proven to slow the progression of dementia, and to improve the lives of patients during their stay in hospital. I had to adapt my communication skills between patients depending on their severity of dementia and also in order to speak to patients relatives, visitors and the healthcare professionals working on the ward.
The skills I have discussed; leadership, teamwork and communication skills are not the only skills required of doctors but are 3 essential skills that all clinicians require in order to be able to work effectively and improve patient care.
- Use your work experience, tell the examiner when you have seen these skills demonstrated
- How have you demonstrated this skill? Tell the examiner how you have demonstrated this skill
- Don’t get stuck talking about one skill. The question has asked you about skills, not just one skill, therefore make sure you spread the time you have to answer over several skills, and discuss them in the same level of depth.
- Feel free to use one example to highlight multiple skills as within one consultation doctors often highlight multiple skills, don’t feel that you need a different example for each skill.
- Don’t just list skills. The examiner wants to hear about your experience and why you think these skills are essential for a doctor, not just a list of skills you think doctors should have. We harp on about reflection, but that is what the examiner wants to hear, your reflection on why it is an important skill from your experiences.