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Looking at interview questions in more depth

When taking part in a selection process for many specialty training roles, the questions will have been decided in advance at a national level. In addition the questions might relate to competency based questions or they might also include clinical scenarios, or scenarios where you pose challenging ethical dilemmas to the candidates. So for example, for CT1 interviews for Core Medical Training in the 2014 recruitment round, candidates know in advance that it will consist of a MMI (multiple mini interview) format with 3 stations each lasting 10 minutes and at each station candidates will be assessed on 2 areas, as shown below:


Station 1:

Suitability for and commitment to CT1 and LETB / Achievements to date

Station 2:

Response to clinical scenario/Communications skills

Station 3:

Response to ethical scenario/Understanding of professionalism and governance


In this MMI format the questions and scenarios have been devised in advance, and the task of the interviewer is to listen extremely carefully to each candidate, take notes, and then apply the scoring system to the candidate’s answers. (See the next section in which Scoring is discussed more fully).

However, in an interview panel when you have to devise your own questions, a good approach is to include open ended questions that ask about situations where the candidate has had to use the particular competency in question. It can also be useful to think about the STAR acronym when constructing a question, ie S(Situation); T (Task) A (Action) and R (Results). So for example, if you are asking candidates about teamworking, an example of the sort of question you could use would be:

Can you think about a time when there was a significant difference in opinion within a team of which you were a part?

What was the situation? (S)
What did you want to achieve? (T)
What actions did you take? (A)
What was the outcome? (R)

Thinking Point

  • With reference to the person specification for a given post, devise a number of competency based questions that you could pose to candidates in an interview

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