How to Approach Job Interview

Psychiatry Non-Training Job Interview

I have composed this short guide to help junior doctors applying for CT equivalent non-training psychiatry jobs. This guide is my based on my own reflection of the interview process, therefore, I do not recommend gleaning any information. You should always be open and honest with your answers and they should reflect your training and personality. Always be absolutely honest with your answers and do not ever lie on your CV, application or portfolio. Not only is this a serious offense but it raises questions about your general conduct for the future.

Congratulations you have been shortlisted. You are half way there.

Do your home work:

  • Research about the trust, and hospital via the documents attached in the job advert and internet. 
  • Research the geographical location and local leisure activities. You can link it to your leisure interest when asked about why you are choosing that particular area.
  • Read the job description and person specifications thoroughly.
  • If possible try and visit the department before the interview to show your interest (this practice is fairly common with consultant interviews).
  • Prepare your CV and portfolio and be prepared to answer any question regarding these.

Essential and Desired criteria:

Identify how you meet all the essential criteria and link it with your portfolio and CV as this may be asked in the interview.

Read the desired criteria even more carefully as desired criteria is describing the ideal candidate.

Identify how you meet certain parts of desired criteria but do not worry if you do not meet it fully. You should be able to describe how you plan to achieve that level of competence in the next 6-12 months. You may write a personal development plan to show your ambitions.  

Dress Code and approach:

It is important to dress formally and smartly even when you are giving the Skype interview.

Approach the interview with a smile, be confident, calm and professional. Do not underestimate yourself and remind yourself that you were shortlisted for a reason. Remind yourself are a serious candidate for the job.

Don hesitate to ask them to repeat or rephrase the question if you did not understand it the first time.

Show genuine interest and enthusiasm in the post, the Trust and Speciality. This is a job that you are likely to continue within the future and it is important that you enjoy it.

Commonly asked questions in the interviews

It is very difficult to predict questions for non-training job interviews as every trust and panel is very different.

The opening questions are generally very open.

Tell us about yourself

Take us through your CV

Tell is how you meet the essential criteria for this job

You should prepare a short introduction about yourself (few short sentences, around 3minutes) describing your journey as a doctor so far and highlighting your most important achievements and more importantly how you are the best candidate for this particular job.

You may be asked different clarifying questions about your career so far. Try and link  your achievements with your portfolio

Why are you applying for this Job?

What are you hoping to gain from this job?

Why did you chose this particular trust?

Your prior knowledge of the trust and geographical location can help you answer this question. Reasons for applying can be clinical, educational or personal.

You can discuss your developmental / training needs and how this job/trust can help you achieve these goals.

If you gained have prior knowledge of the local educational and training opportunities, that may be your motivation to apply for that particular job.

You can also demonstrate your passion for the specialty and how this particular job can help you explore your interest.   

What are your future plans?

Where do you see yourself in next 5 years?

Again if you have a small personal development plan, you should be able to answer your short-term and long-term goals. This is the time to show your are ambitious and ready to learn new skills and explore your potential.

Your goals should be realistic and you can reference how this job can help you climb the career ladder. Continues professional development is essential for every doctor and it is healthy to have the short and long-term career and personals goals along with a plan on how to approach them.

Most commonly the non-training grade junior aim to gain skills and eventually training position and you can explain how that particular job can help you achieve that.

You can also discuss your learning needs and link it with the opportunities available locally in the trust like the educational programme.

What skills can you bring to our trust?

What skills do you have that makes you a good psychiatrist?

It is important to show your passion for psychiatry and justify why you are choosing psychiatry especially if this is your first Psychiatry job.

Essential Skills of a good Psychiatrist may include:

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Empathy and compassion and the ability to treat others with understanding and respect
  • Emotional resilience and initiative to work in challenging situations
  • Negotiating & influencing skills
  • Teamworking skills and ability to work flexibly as part of a large multidisciplinary team
  • Problem-solving skills, using logical/lateral thinking
  • Analytical and scientific approach
  • Management and leadership skills, with the ability to organize and motivate other team members

Try and evidence your skills with your CV/portfolio. So rather than just saying you have team working skills, give them an example of how you led or contributed to a team. 

Skills can be demonstrated in clinical and non clinical settings.

If this is your first Psychiatry job and you haven’t worked in psychiatry before, don’t worry everyone has to start from somewhere.

  • You can discuss your medical student experience of psychiatry.
  • Do some online CPD relating to psychiatry.
  • Do some courses relating to mental health.   
  • Discuss your experience of assessing and managing the psychiatric patient in your current job.

It is important that you show why you are choosing psychiatry, especially if this is your first job. This can start from your personal attributes which you believe will make you a good psychiatrist, the satisfaction you get from working with mentally unwell patients along with what psychiatry as a specialty can offer you.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

This is a very personal question to an individual and stock answers shouldn’t be used.

Your strengths can be your clinical skills and personal attributes. It is best to evidence your strengths by your CV, portfolio, and progress so far along with future plans. You can discuss how you would use your strengths to your advantage and how can they benefit the trust.   

Question about weaknesses is a tricky one and many people find it difficult to answer. Every human being has some weaknesses and it is important to be mindful of them, reflect upon them and put mechanisms in place to overcomes them or function safely in their presence.

Few examples of weakness:

  • As IMGs getting used to cultural norms in the UK.
  • The time required to understand the system of NHS.
  • Time management skills, taking on too much work at a time, taking work home.
  • Difficulties in managing work-life balance.
  • Finding it difficult to say `no`.

When you describe a weakness, it is also important to show that you have reflected upon it and are taking steps to overcome that weakness.

Have you ever made a mistake? tell us about it.

Everyone makes mistakes and it is important to openly admit them, learn from them and reflect upon them.

When you discuss an example of a mistake, you should also show how you reflected upon it and learned from it.  

Clinical Governance, Audit and Research

Clinical Governance is an umbrella term and it is important for all doctors working in the NHS to understand the principles of clinical governance. It is basically about the quality and safety of patient care. It is everything we do as individuals and as an organization to achieve high standards of clinical care. 

There are seven areas or the pillars of clinical governance:

  1. Staff management
  2. Patient & Public Involvement
  3. Audit & IT
  4. Risk Management
  5. Effectiveness (Clinical)
  6. Information & IT
  7. Training / Education

You are generally not expected to remember these principles by heart but it is best to understand the concept.

Audit is the most commonly asked question and Audits are usually part of service improvement projects. If you have completed an audit, please mention it. If you haven’t completed one, you should have a basic understanding of the audit cycle and quality improvement projects.

If you have been involved in teaching and research activities, it will be worthwhile mentioning them in the interview.

Remember the NHS trust are looking for a well rounded up individual and showing your interest and skills beyond and above your clinical skills may make you a better candidate.

Examples you need to prepare

Prepare clinical and non-clinical examples of the following most commonly asked questions

  • Tell us a situation where you showed leadership?
  • How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?
  • How do you keep your knowledge up to date?
  • How do you deal with busy job and stressful situations?
  • How do you deal with stress at work?
  • Tell us an example where you made difference in your department?
  • Tell us how do you react when you receive negative feedback?
  • If a patient complains about you, how will you deal with it?
  • How do you deal with a conflict
    • with a colleague
    • between colleagues

Clinical Scenarios

Some interview panels will ask you short clinical scenarios to check the basic understanding and approach of the candidate. It is difficult to predict the clinical scenarios and they can be dependent on the subspecialty of psychiatry you are applying for or the nature of the job.  

Prepare yourself for questions around psychiatric emergencies. You can revise your plan-2 material, oxford handbook of psychiatry or refer to the internet.    

Common scenarios include:

  • Self-harm, overdose, and suicidal risk assessment.
  • Informal patient asking to leave the ward and nurses raising concerns contacting you to see them. How will you approach
  • If nursing staff inform you that they have made a drug error, how would you deal with this situation?
  • Alcohol abuse and Delirium Tremens
  • Scenarios requiring Rapid Tranquilisation. 
  • Old Age psychiatry job interview may include dementia vs delirium question. How to identify acute on chronic confusion. 
  • Scenarios relating to mental capacity assessment.
  • Inpatient fall on a ward and how to approach the situation.

In the clinical scenario where you are asked to assess informal patient asking to leave the ward.

  • You need a detailed history of circumstances leading to their admission,
  • Risk assessment at the point of admission,
  • Pastpsychiatry history,
  • Current mental state and current presentation.
  • Establish if the patient is suffering from a mental illness and if they are at risk of harming themselves or others.
  • Junior doctors can use Section 5(2) of MHA to hold the patient on the ward.     

Remember to ask for senior help when you are not sure.

Non-clinical Scenarios

You may be asked non-clinical scenarios relating to conflict, colleagues, and dilemmas. these are hypothetical questions designed to check your approach.  Examples are:

  • How do you approach conflict in a team?
  • If your senior or another doctor turns up intoxicated at work how would you deal with it?
  • One of your colleagues is always late coming to work. how will you deal with it?

One way of dealing with these questions is to start by analyzing the situation more deeply

  • Seek more information
  • Make sure patient safety isn’t compromised,
  • Taking an initiative trying to resolve the situation yourself if possible, otherwise
  • Escalating to seniors
  • Supporting signposting for support any colleague who you may find was struggling in the situation.

Remember patient safety is paramount.

Interview practice

It is highly recommended that you practice commonly asked interview questions with your colleagues and friends. Ideally, if you can find a helpful consultant.

Take honest feedback on your performance, body language and communication skills.

All the Best & Good Luck.

More Information

Clinical governance:

Psychiatry History Taking and Mental State Examination:

Click to access resourcepack.pdf


Alcohol withdrawal: 

Click to access acute-alcohol-withdrawal.pdf

Example for CT1 level PDP:

Rapid Tranquilisation Policy example:

Click to access Rapid-Tranquilisation-Policy.pdf

Mental Capacity Assessment Tool Guidance:

Click to access beh-capacity-assessment-tool-guidance.pdf

Mental Health Act information:

What is a Section 5 (2) of the Mental Health Act?

Online CPD for Psychiatry:

Some of them are free on this site.

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