You’re keen to land that midwife’s, doctor’s or nurse’s job in Australia or New Zealand, and you’re preparing for that all-important telephone interview.
Some of the questions will, of course, be specific to the role you’re applying for, so it’s a good idea to read the person specification and job description thoroughly and to research the medical institution you’re applying to via its website.
But what about those generic yet frustratingly tricky questions that seem to crop up in so many job interviews, those questions that have had your experienced, well-qualified colleagues scratching their heads as time ticks on and the silence becomes ever more uncomfortable?
We’ve compiled a list below of eight of the most common of these job interview questions, along with advice about how to deal with them so you can emerge from your answers looking calm, professional and utterly in control. Read on carefully, and you could soon be signing a contract for the healthcare job in Australia or New Zealand that is just right for you.
It’s an understandable question from the employer’s point of view, but it seems to leave many candidates stumped. Don’t talk too much about the money. Even if it is your prime motivation, you don’t want to come across as mercenary. At most say something like ‘Well, it’s a very attractive package’ then list other reasons for wanting the post.
It’s a healthcare job in Australia or New Zealand that you’re chasing, so should you say you’re motivated by a desire to move to those countries? While there’s nothing wrong with giving your interviewer’s home nation a bit of praise, you shouldn’t go too far with this. You don’t want to appear naïve about how wonderful you think life there is going to be. (IHR Group has produced a Guide to Living and Working in Australia on the benefits and practicalities of moving to this country) Additionally, your interviewer shouldn’t get the impression that the job will be little more than your ticket to a dream life Down Under.
So how should you answer this seemingly simple but actually difficult interview question? Again, properly researching the job and the institution is likely to be the key. You could say that you share the institution’s ethics and values, that you feel you have just the right skills and experience (be specific and give examples) to bring to the team, that working there will help you develop as a medical professional and that you see the job as an exciting and interesting opportunity.
Here you need to fit your experience, qualifications and knowledge to what your prospective employer needs. Without going on for too long, demonstrate how aspects of your professional background fit with points from the job description and person specification, and with the hospital’s aims and any challenges facing it. Give concrete examples of situations at work in which you’ve solved problems or dealt effectively with difficult situations. It’s also worthwhile mentioning you have the attributes all employers are looking for – the ability both to work in a team and under your own initiative, excellent communication skills, the ability to learn quickly and adapt, the ability to effectively follow instructions, a good work ethic, an eagerness for continual professional development etc.
In job interviews, you need to sound positive. There may be things you dislike about your current position, but a job interview is not the place to recite a list of grievances. If you come across as too negative, the interviewer may ‘red flag’ you as a troublesome or uncooperative employee.
When you list the things you like about your job, use this as an opportunity to sell yourself: ‘I really like the fact that I can put my ____ skills into practice.’ ‘I enjoy working with my colleagues as part of a team – it’s great to help, support and learn from each other.’ ‘I enjoy the _____ challenges I have to deal with as this lets me use my problem-solving skills.’
But how can you talk about your dislikes without seeming negative? The trick is to turn negatives into positives. Talk about the limitations of your job in a way that sheds a positive light on yourself: ‘I like working in my present role, but I feel it’s time for a new challenge and I’d like to take on the wider range of responsibilities this job would give me.’ ‘In my present job, I have a wide range of responsibilities and – while I enjoy this challenge – I feel this job would allow me to specialise more deeply in specific areas such as …’
The easier part here is talking about your strengths. In a job interview, you shouldn’t be overly modest. Without seeming arrogant, don’t be afraid to ‘blow your own trumpet’. Talk about your personal attributes, your skills, your experience, positions of responsibility you’ve held – all matched, as much as possible, to the job description. Don’t hesitate to say you’re hardworking, a great problem solver, that you’ve got an in-depth knowledge of a certain area.
When it comes to weaknesses, again, you need to turn negatives into positives. You might have your imperfections, but a job interview is not the place to advertise them. You need to answer this part of the question in a way that – ironically – reveals strengths rather than weaknesses: ‘Sometimes I’m a little too hardworking, and I need to remind myself that everybody occasionally needs time to relax.’ ‘I’m fascinated by medicine, but I sometimes need to remember that there’s more to life.’
If it’s obvious that you lack something that’s important for the job, you could use this as a means of advertising a strength. ‘Well, I have relatively little experience of ____, but I’m a quick learner, so I’m sure I could fill any gaps in my knowledge swiftly.’
If the institution you’re applying to is looking for somebody in the long term, it’s advisable to say that you would like to be working for them. If, on the other hand, the job seems more temporary, you shouldn’t presume this, but maybe say, ‘Well, I’d like to be working in an institution of this type …’
Answering this interview question is often a delicate balancing act. You need to appear professional and motivated, but not so ambitious that it seems you’re after other people’s jobs. A suitable answer could be: ‘I would like to be working as a ____ in this hospital, or in a similar medical job in Australia, feeling that I’ve made a really valuable contribution to my team and developed myself professionally.’
The answer to this question should, of course, be ‘yes’. Give examples from your past medical experience of when you’ve dealt with difficult situations effectively. You may, however, also want to say that you try – through proper organisation and management of your time – to prevent high-pressure situations from developing wherever possible.
Teamwork is considered essential in almost every job nowadays so you need to emphasise that you can work well as part of a team, backing this up with concrete examples from your current or previous jobs. On the other hand, you need to show that you are capable of working alone and, where appropriate, taking your own decisions. How you balance these two attributes in your answer will depend on the nature of the job you’ve applied for – how much teamwork does it involve, and how often will you be expected to work by yourself?
This job interview question could seem pretty open-ended, so it’s important to stay focused and avoid rambling. Only mention things about yourself that have relevance to the job. You could mention your qualifications, professional background and experience, but also spare time activities that have helped you develop characteristics that are essential for the post on offer. If you play football or cricket, say it makes you a team player; being the chair of your residents’ association could have developed your organisational skills and helped you learn to delegate tasks; participating in your local Toastmasters public speaking group could have improved your communication skills.
So, to sum up, you need to have done your research, you should be positive, and you should match your experience, skills and characteristics to what you know your prospective employer needs. Back up your points with concrete examples of things you’ve achieved or situations you’ve dealt with during your medical career.
If you apply for a medical job in Australia or New Zealand through IHR Group, we will be happy to help you prepare for the interview so you can show yourself in your best light.
Why not take a look at our information page for candidates to find out more about what we can do for you? We are constantly listing new medical jobs in Australia and New Zealand on our website. If you see a post you think is suitable for you, please don’t hesitate to send us an e-mail or give us a call.