How to Nail Your Interview in Australia as a UK Junior Doctor
If you’re a UK junior doctor applying for jobs in Australia, no doubt you’re probably focused primarily on securing interviews with Australian hospitals. Have you stopped to think about the next steps though?
The interview is the last major step before (hopefully!) securing an offer, and being well-prepared can be the difference between success or failure.
If you’ve got to interview stage, well done, that’s lots of the hard work done already! If you haven’t secured an interview yet, you’re still in the right place. There is plenty of useful information that you will need once you land your first interview.
In this article, we will help you kick-start your interview preparation, so you can attend your interviews feeling confident and in control. We will cover:
👉 Logistics of the interview; such as who will interview you, how long it will last and how it will take place
👉 How to prepare for the interview
👉 What you can expect to be asked
If you’re not at this stage yet, don’t worry, we have compiled these helpful articles on how to secure yourself an interview, and hopefully a job in Australia:
✅ Four paths to finding a job in Australia as a UK junior doctor
✅ How to apply directly to Australian hospitals
✅ How to write a great CV if your moving to Australia
✅ Applying through state annual recruitment cycles
🗓️ Arranging the interview
You’ve landed an interview, but what now? Below, I’ve broken down how to manage the logistics of the interview based on a series of frequently asked questions.
How much notice will I get?
Generally, you will get 1-2 weeks notice prior to your interview. It is a good idea to arrange your interview as soon as you are able to practically manage it. Hospitals will likely be speaking to other candidates and you want to be amongst the first that they interview.
Most hospital schedule their interviews back-to-back, if you get in early you’re more likely to select your preferred time slot.
Be aware, your interview will likely occur within Australian office hours, which means it may be in the middle of the night in the UK! Again, that’s why I suggest you respond early it is a good and select your interview slot at a more convenient time.
What do I do if my interview is in the middle of the night?
If you are allocated a night-time interview, I suggest you do all of your prep work in advance on the day. Set up your laptop the night before, and download Teams/Zoom if you have not done so already. Make sure to wake up with plenty of time to fully switch on and run through your preparation before the interview.
Perhaps take a shower, get dressed as if you’re going into work, make a coffee and turn as many lights on as you can to give your body the impression that the day has begun. And set two alarms if you have to!
Who will interview me?
For the most part, you will be interviewed by a single person. I most likely won’t be the HR person who scheduled the interview.
It will likely be a doctor or member of staff involved in medical education or someone with a semi-clinical role. Sometimes, it can be a clinical director or consultant - this is more likely to be the case if you have applied to a specific department rather than for a rotational post.
However, don’t be alarmed if your interview takes place with a small panel, in practicality there will be little difference in the types of questions they ask.
Will the tone be formal or informal?
The formality of the interview will depend on who is interviewing you, but for the most part they are fairly informal. Don’t be surprised if your interviewer wants to talk about your extra-curricular interests - some people have experienced their interview as a 30 minute chat about cricket!
Will they tell me what questions to expect in the interview?
You will generally not be told what questions to expect, however this doesn’t mean you can’t prepare!
See below for details on what questions you might expect to receive, and how to prepare for these.
How long will the interview last?
A standard interview length is around 30mins, and typically includes time at the end for you to ask questions.
Will it be on the phone, Zoom or Teams?
This varies from hospital to hospital, but most places will prefer video conferencing to phone-based interviews.
Make sure your computer is ready and working, your software is updated, and you are waiting in the virtual meeting room well before the allocated time slot.
What should I wear?
Given your interview will likely be over video, it is a good idea to dress accordingly. Dress to match your interviewer, i.e. ‘clinical dress’. If your interview is in the middle of the night your interviewer should be understanding, but make sure you don’t look like you just rolled out of bed - and keep yawning to a minimum!
🔎 What are the interviewers looking for?
The context and content of an interview can vary greatly from place to place.
Some hospitals will have rota gaps they are very keen to fill, and will have already earmarked you for the job from looking at your cover letter, CV, and references. In these cases the interview may take a more informal approach, or even be used in an effort to persuade you why they’re the right hospital for you!
Others may take a more structured approach, and use the interview to rank candidates and to decide if they meet a minimum bar to be hired. These are likely to take a more formal manner, perhaps with an OSCE-style approach, and involve a mix of standard interview questions, clinical scenarios, and situational-judgement-style problems.
Overall, the interview gives the hospital the opportunity to assess three things:
✅ Can you do the work?
Overall, they want to evaluate your clinical experience and level of competency to be sure that you can do the clinical work in their department. NHS-trained doctors are generally seen as very capable, and often compare favourably to their Australian counterparts at this level.
In most cases, you can expect questions on your career to date, what your career ambitions are and your motivation for the job you have applied for. For this type of question it is a good idea to refresh yourself on what you have written in your CV - it may have been a while since you have submitted this by the time of the interview.
They might also do this by asking OSCE-style questions or situational judgement questions. I have set out some examples of this below.
✅ Will you fit in with the team?
They want to assess your interpersonal skills to see whether you would be a good fit for their department. Remember, if your interview is from a clinician, they are looking for someone they want to work with.
This is mostly assessed quite informally, which makes it harder to prepare. Just be yourself, be relaxed and try to enjoy the conversation in the same way you would if you were chatting to a senior in a break room or on the ward in your current hospital.
✅ Are you committed to moving to their hospital?
They want to know whether you’ve fully thought-through moving to Australia, and how long you are thinking of committing for. Hospitals will generally have you sign a 12 month contract, but given they invest significant amounts in sponsoring visas and travel expenses, they may look favourably on candidates who express an interest in staying on past this until the end of the next academic year (which runs Jan-Jan).
They also want to know why you’ve chosen their hospital specifically, again to see how carefully you have considered the application. You should expect some questions demonstrating your interest in the hospital you are applying to, along the lines of ‘why are you interested in a job here?’. Read up on the location and the hospital itself. If they are a centre for certain presentations, be sure to know this.
❓ What questions should I specifically prepare for?
We have prepared some example questions below (this is by no means an exhaustive list, but a good jumping-off point).
The questions have been broken down by typical question themes and example questions to give a flavour of what you may be asked:
Details about yourself
👉 Tell me about your career so far.
👉 Why did you choose to focus on this particular specialty?
👉 What has been the highlight of your career so far? What are you most proud of?
👉 What do you see yourself doing as a consultant?
👉 How do your non-clinical interests make you a better candidate?
Your CV details
👉 I can see [research, presentation, course] on your CV. Tell me more about that.
👉 What did you learn in your time working in a specific department?
👉 I can see you have done some locum work… how was that different from your time as a Foundation Trainee? What did you learn?
👉 What makes a great junior doctor in this specialty?
👉 Which rotation did you like the least? Why?
👉 What will you be doing between now and when you move to Australia?
Your motivation for Australia
👉 Why do you want to move to Australia?
👉 What do you think the major differences are between your role in the NHS and in our hospital?
👉 What differences in health demographics and patient presentations do you expect to see working here as opposed to in your previous work?
👉 What do you foresee yourself doing with your time outside of work?
👉 If you are thinking of applying to stay to train in Australia - what do you know of the training pathway of your chosen specialty?
Your motivation for selecting their hospital
👉 Why did you apply to this hospital?
👉 How do you think you will settle in?
👉 What challenges do you foresee moving here?
Your suitability for the role
👉 What skills do you think are more important for working here?
👉 Why do you think you would be a good fit for working here?
👉 Why do you think you would enjoy working here?
Clinical / OSCE style questions
These can vary based on your specialty, and there are lots of presentations that are fair game. They will generally involve scenarios that you are familiar with and have a well-accepted management plan that is the same in Australia as in the UK. Examples may include:
👉 You are the junior doctor on ward call - you are asked to see a post-operative surgical patient. They have normal obs but for a RR of 10 and are responsive to painful stimulus only. On examination you note that pupils are equal but small and sluggishly reactive.
👉 You are working on the medical ward. On ward round a CKD patient appears feeling drowsy and reports feeling generally unwell. ECG shows a shortened QRS and peaked T waves.
👉 A 22 year-old woman with T1DM has been admitted to the acute medical unit with a vomiting illness. A bedside blood glucose is reading ‘Hi’. On further questioning she tells you she has been withholding her regular insulin as she has not been able to keep any food down.
👉 A 12 year old child has been brought to paeds ED by his worried mother, who is concerned for an exacerbation of asthma. On examination there is an elevated respiratory rate, use of accessory muscles, and he is struggling to complete sentences.
Non-clinical SJT style questions
👉 You overhear a nurse talking at the nursing station. She is complaining to her colleagues that she feels your communication skills with the team are poor. What do you do?
👉 A child presents with injuries that trigger concern for non-accidental injury. The mother tells you they are from playing with other children, and asks you to simply perform xrays to check for broken bones and then discharge if there aren’t any. What do you do?
👉 A consultant asks you to prescribe an opiate at a dose which you feel is inappropriate. What do you do?
❓ What questions should I ask them?
Most interviews will close with the interviewer asking you if you have any questions. In order to avoid any awkward silences, it is a good idea to prepare a thoughtful question or two.
This can be a good way to help you decide which hospital you want to accept an offer from if you have multiple offers or interviews. It's also an opportunity to stand out, by asking a memorable question.
Ideally, you should prepare a personal question that is genuinely useful in helping you decide on a job or to learn more about a particular department. If you are stuck for ideas, these example themes may help get you started:
👉 What feedback has the department received from others who have previously done your role, or if they have previously employed overseas graduates, what has their experience of this been like?
👉 What does the interviewer love about the local area? Do they have any recommendations for things to do during your leave?
👉 If you do end up thriving in Australia and want to stay, what is the structure like at job levels immediately above the role you are applying for?
What can I do to prepare for my interview?
Here are some bonus tips to get you well on your way to landing the interview.
✅ Example questions. Run through the suggested questions above, and prepare an outline of answers. Don’t script your answers as this can come off stilted and robotic, however it is useful to have a good idea about what you will say about certain topics and this can help to structure your thoughts. If there is a particular quality of achievement you want to highlight, think about how you could insert this organically.
✅ Run through CV. It may have been some time since you submitted (or even read) your CV! They will likely have this in front of them, and will use it as the basis for questions.
You may wish to write some additional notes on the main sections, so you’re prepared to answer a “Tell me more about x” question.
Remind yourself of your clinical experience, and the challenges/benefits of each rotation, so you can talk confidently about this experience and what competencies you have picked up.
Similar to how politicians prepare for interviews by linking back to key talking points and prepared phrases, you should be able to prepare for these themes and highlight your key attributes through them.
Similarly, if you have written a cover letter, refresh yourself of this. If your interview offer has derived from a state recruitment campaign, re-read your personal statement and written answers.
✅ Read the job description, if there is one. Whilst these can be generic and are often filled with corporate speak, there may be some clues about the department and what they are looking for from candidates. Drop into the conversation some of the hospital’s values, or mention something specific about the department. Most people don’t do this, and will help you really stand out.
✅ Research - further to the above, read up on the hospital and the department. They will likely ask you why you have applied to them and it is a good idea to have a specific answer. Are they a transplant centre? Do they receive retrievals? Are they a trauma centre? Do they have particular subspecialty teams you are interested in working for? It is a good idea to know this - hospital websites are usually the place to start for these. In addition to this, prepare some questions for them (see above).
✅ Clinical. Remember your A-E approach, and look back over your ALS guidelines (you may find the resus council UK’s app useful for this). Practise these out loud and work out a structure of your responses.
✅ Portfolio. Look back through your portfolio to refresh memory on courses, CPD, QI, and presentations that you’ve done. If there are any of these you wish to draw particular attention to in your interview, work out a way to highlight these that doesn’t seem shoehorned or clunky.
What happens after the interview?
If you are applying directly or through an agency, you can expect to hear back within the week, and oftentimes sooner (within a couple of days). It can take slightly longer than this if you have applied through state recruitment as you may have to wait until the recruitment period has concluded.
If you haven’t heard back within 2-3 weeks, it is okay to politely send an email enquiring about the outcome of the interview. If the answer is a ‘no’ then it is a good idea to ask for feedback ahead of future interviews you will have coming up.
For more details on what to expect next, read our article on what to expect after the interview.
This article was written by Dr Mark Coulson, who moved out to Australia in his F3 year in 2019, and is now entering his third year working in ED at Princess Alexandra Hospital. You can read his personal story of settling into life in Australia here.
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