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I’m often hard-pressed to remember the day of the week, and yet I seem to remember almost every stupid thing I have done with perfect clarity. And so many of these stupid things seem to have taken place during interviews.
What is it that makes us say the things we neither mean to say or need to say? Is it anxiety, the desire to fill a silence? The effects of the alcohol which I confess to having occasionally consumed to ‘steady the nerves’ prior to such a trial?
In the case of a senior registrar interview many years ago, it may have been an uncomfortable frankness bubbling up to the surface when it really wasn’t wanted.
The interview had gone well, so well in fact that we were on the formalities of the starting date. The date I would begin this four-year post. Four years. And what did I tell them, as the job offer was so close I could see the whites of its eyes? I said I would only be staying for a year.
It is one of the ghastly clichés of the interview process that, when a candidate is asked to describe one of their faults, they give the cringy response that they are ‘just too honest’. That was a moment when I truly was.
Here’s another lesson for the young – no interviewer likes a candidate who appears more successful than they. I was told at another interview that the job would involve some travelling, and I needed a car. ‘Of course,’ I said grandly. ‘I have three.’
I can only imagine what played before their minds – a feckless dilettante pursuing a career in medicine for pin money, his only challenge in life choosing between the Rolls and the Bentley. In fact, two of the cars were worthless jalopies which I had tried and failed to sell, but I neither said this or would have profited from doing so. The damage was done.
Related to this is the universal contempt for the smart-arse. I applied for a consultant post and was somewhat overwhelmed to find 13 members on the panel. As I nodded to each in turn, I came upon one I recognised. At medical school he was termed a ‘chronic student’, because, like the characters in Doctor in the House, he had been condemned to repeat several years because of poor exam results.
My cheery greeting, ‘So you finally got through’, probably lost me that interview before it even started. So too did my comment to a panellist whom I encountered twice, both times with his leg in plaster, and which might have implied that his skiing skills were not all that he hoped.
I finally got the consultant post, and on many occasions found myself on the opposite side of the desk. I have tried to be kind, and to remember how I felt in the bear pits of the past. And I ask for a little indulgence for those facing the same situation now. We may not be forgiven for a small act of madness in the operating theatre, but in interviews, I think they happen to us all.
Peter Docherty is a retired consultant ophthalmologist from Derby
What have been your worst experiences in interviews? Use the comments section below. To help ease the inevitable stress, the BMA website has advice on job applications and a wide range of employment advice
witty and erudite, should consider writing more frequently to make the bmj more interesting
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For a job applicant to succeed in an interview they must come properly prepared. They would normally be expected to prepare in advance and avoid any last minute rush. They will need to know exactly how to begin this preparation and what areas they must pay attention to. When they are able to do this, the reward is always that they can walk into the interview room more confidently. I was really nervouse before my first interview at playcanadacasino.com/.../ and this advices was really helpful. Just remember:
1. Do some research
2. Practice interview questions
3. Do a Salary research too
4. Practice confidence
5. Arrive early and have a good personal appearance
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Talking about yourself can often seem unnatural and uncomfortable, especially when we are asked to talk about strengths. It is doubly uncomfortable when we are asked to tell about ourselves in a script that is similar to the opposite of what we intended to do. Regardless of what these strengths and weaknesses are, the candidates who answer these questions show the employer well that they are shy, self-critical, and striving to become better.
And these three traits should be the cornerstone of your answer. You should try to express that you can critically evaluate yourself, evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and are motivated to improve.
When you talk about your strengths, you need to maintain a balance between arrogance, on the one hand, and shyness, on the other, so that it does not seem that you have significant advantages.
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