Looking at physician interview questions and answers can make all the difference when you’re preparing for your own. After going through medical school and residency, it’s easy to feel like you’ve gotten the hang of interviews. After all, you’ve gone through and you figured out during residency, but the truth is that every physician interview is different and you have to prepare for a different set of questions, and figure out how to include new information in old responses. If you're getting ready to interview for a physician's role, whether it's in a hospital, private organization, or another medical setting, it's important to prepare and that’s what this blog will help you do. We share with you 30 different questions that are common in physician interviews, some sample answers for those questions and we also give you some preparation tips.
Even though every physician job interview is unique, some common questions are likely to come up during most interviews. Preparing and looking at sample questions and answers in advance can help structure your own answers in a way that highlights your unique experiences in a positive light. Additionally, it can help you figure out what to expect during your interview, which will make you feel more confident and improve your chances of impressing the interviewer.
Before we start going through sample questions, here are three things to keep in mind when preparing for your interview:
Now, let's take a look at some examples of general questions with sample answers to inspire your own:
1. Tell me about yourself
Sample answer: I was born and raised in Blumenort. It's a small town in Manitoba where the average temperature is -10C, and the winter lasts almost half the year. It's probably why my siblings and I love the snow so much. One of our Christmas eve traditions is actually to go ice skating. I wanted to become a professional for a long time, but unfortunately, I am not very good at it. I don't fall every time I skate or anything like that, but I am also not the most graceful person on the ice. My brother, on the other hand, is fantastic. He played hockey for a long time, giving him a bit of an advantage. Going to his hockey games and cheering him on was practically one of my extracurriculars in high school. It is the main reason I got interested in sports and decided to pursue a degree in kinesiology.
I went to the University of Manitoba, where my brother played hockey, which was great. I also discovered my love for medicine there. The more I learned about the human body and movement, the more questions I had about how our bodies function, how we can help them stay healthy, and how to make them healthy again when something goes wrong. Going to medical school felt like a natural progression, so when I graduated with honors from the UofM, that's precisely what I did. Medical school was challenging, but it was a challenge that I welcomed, and it solidified for me that I had made the right choice. So I stayed on that path. I moved to Toronto for my medical school and then my residency, so I don't get to see my brother play as much anymore, but I stayed close to the sport by volunteering for hockey Canada. And it is through Hockey Canada that I came to know about this position.
Wondering why interviewers ask this question? Check out this infographic:
2. Why did you choose to become a physician?
Sample answer: My parents often joke that medicine chose me, and to an extent, they are right. I wasn't one of those kids who told everyone that they wanted to be a doctor. Actually, I disliked the idea of it as a child because someone had said to me that doctors had to be good at biology, and biology was not my favorite subject at the time. I wanted to be an engineer because engineers solve problems and make broken things work again. The thing is, I was always taking care of someone, even when they didn't need it. I am the oldest of four children, so it started with my siblings. Someone always needed a band-aid or an aspirin. Then eventually, I realized that not only was I doing it without being asked, but even my parents would send my siblings to me instead of handling the situation whenever something medical came up. When I asked my mom about it, she said that I have more patience than she does when it comes to these things. So I got curious about this gift that everyone claimed I had and went looking. That's when I found out that medicine is actually a combination of everything I love doing. It combines taking care of people with problem-solving, and in many ways, it is all about trying to get something that is broken to work again. I was in my junior year of high school when I figured that out, and I never looked back.
3. What are your greatest strengths?
Sample answer: I pride myself on my ability to be very self-disciplined. 90% of the time, I am able to push myself forward, stay motivated, and take action, regardless of how I'm feeling, physically or emotionally. I am an only child, and my mother was a nurse who kept both of us on a strict schedule. She even went as far as to schedule our leisure time. It turned me into a creature of habit, in some ways, but it also taught me that sometimes, things just need to get done whether you feel like doing them or not. There were days when I didn't feel like doing a particular chore, but it was on the schedule, and I knew that if I didn't do it, then I would have to look for and find the time to do that chore later, so it was just easier to push through the laziness and do the chore. That attitude served me very well in medical school when it was time to create a study schedule and stick to it. It also helped me during my residency when I would be exhausted, but I could push myself and find the motivation to study after a long shift at the hospital. It's a skill that I know would serve me well as a physician in your hospital.
4. How would you handle a patient challenging your professional opinion with the information they found online?
Sample answer: During my residency, I actually witnessed an interaction like the one you're asking about. One of the attendings was explaining their treatment plan to a patient, and he got upset and accused her of trying to make him spend more money by suggesting surgery when one was not necessary. He insisted that the website she had been on was legitimate and that he wanted the doctor to follow the plan exactly as it was laid out online. The attending was very calm and attentive while he said all this. She asked him to walk him through exactly what the website had described. Once she understood what the patient was explaining, she calmly explained why the treatment plan he'd found online wouldn't be feasible for him.
I really admired the way she handled it, and that is the approach that I would like to take. I think patients just want to feel heard. I constantly try to remind myself that this could be my 3rd patient with appendicitis today, but this is the first and only time they will have appendicitis. So it's all about making sure they feel heard and helping them understand why you're making the choices you're making for their care.
5. Why do you want to work with us?
Sample answer: I chose to apply for this position for two main reasons. The first is that I wholeheartedly believe in your vision and mission. As physicians, we are all united in our oath to do no harm and save lives, but I think that the X hospital's commitment to dignity and respect is admirable and often lacking in the care that some physicians give.
The second is that this is the only hospital in the city with a free clinic. I genuinely believe that many illnesses and complications can be prevented with a simple check-up or a quick visit to the doctor. Still, when you don't have health insurance or the money to address these smaller issues, they can quickly become bigger problems. I hope to spend some time volunteering in the clinic in the future.
6. Why did you choose to specialize in (specialty)?
Sample answer: I chose to pursue Emergency Medicine because it's the only specialty I have found that plays to my strengths and allows me to use the full breadth of my skill set. I am not patient enough to spend twelve hours repairing one organ as certain surgeons do. I am a quick thinker who likes to be challenged and experience new things every day. That's precisely what emergency medicine requires. You have to be a "jack of all trades" in the emergency room because you get a little bit of everything walking through the door - from big scary traumas to codes and all kinds of procedures. You never know what to expect. Furthermore, often, you are also the first doctor to come into contact with a patient, meaning that you rarely have a pre-existing diagnosis, and so you have to start from the patient's chief complaint, like in medical school.
7. What do you do in your spare time?
Sample answer: I just finished my residency, so I have not had as much spare time as I would have liked over the last few years. However, whenever I am free and am not too tired, I enjoy curling up on the couch with a good book and some tea or cooking for my husband and our lovely daughter. I have been trying to multitask lately by reading with my daughter. She is thirteen years old, and I've introduced her to fantasy novels, so we are currently reading the Harry Potter series together. I find that books are a great way to improve your vocabulary and communication skills while allowing your mind to relax, so I am glad that I get to share this productive hobby with my child.
Will your interview be virtual? Check out this video to find out how to ace video interviews:
8. How do you handle stressful, pressure-filled situations?
Sample answer: As an athlete, I have learned to remain calm and focus on solutions during stressful situations. I have been playing tennis ever since I was a little girl, and my coach always made it a point to remind me that if I start panicking because I think I am losing, then I will guarantee my loss of the match. It took me a long time to understand what he meant, but it was actually in medical school that it finally sunk in. I was out with some friends at a coffee shop, and one of them mentioned a midterm quiz that was supposed to happen in a couple of days. I had somehow forgotten about the quiz, and it was worth a big part of my grade, so I started to panic.
I was so stressed about the fact that I didn't study that I spent the next two days thinking about how stressed I was instead of studying. I got a C- on that quiz, but luckily for me, my professor gave me an opportunity to make up for the grade. It was then that I realized that if I had focused on trying to study instead of thinking about how stressed I was, I would have likely gotten a much better grade on the test and avoided giving myself extra work.
Now, instead of panicking, I remind myself to count to three, remain calm, and focus on finding solutions. If the situation can't be changed, then I focus on my response to the situation instead. It’s made my life easier on the tennis court, in school, during residency and in my professional life as well.
9. How much time do you spend with each patient?
Sample answer: I, unfortunately, can't tell you the average time that I spend with a patient. I just stay with them as long as I need to do my job and take care of them. I am conscious of the fact that there is a schedule to keep, and I try my best to limit my interactions when patients are waiting, but I also know that it's important not to rush through the steps.
10. Do you have any questions for me?
Sample answer: Yes, I do have a few questions about the role and the culture here at the hospital, so I appreciate this opportunity to ask them. I was hoping you could tell me what mechanisms are in place for performance reviews within the company.
- What makes you think you are a good physician?
- How do you keep up with changes in medicine and healthcare trends?
- What aspects of practicing medicine do you find most challenging? Why?
- What aspects of practicing medicine do you enjoy the most, and why?
- Being a physician can be very stressful. What do you do to promote a healthy balance between work and your personal life?
- What characteristics are important for healthcare professionals to possess, in your opinion?
- What do you believe is your biggest weakness?
- How do you approach dealing with angry patients?
- How do you approach dealing with upset family members?
- Why should we hire you?
- What would your references say about you?
- What is your process for presenting complicated information to patients?
- What is your process for presenting unpleasant news to patients?
- Do you have any experience using electronic medical records on the job?
- What challenges do you feel physicians face today?
- If you were to describe yourself in three words, what would they be and why?
- Have you ever had to conform to a policy with which you disagreed? How did you handle it?
- Have you ever made a misdiagnosis? If yes, how did you resolve it?
- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
- What do you think the nursing and ancillary support staff would say about you?
Do you remember the interview preparation tips we gave you earlier? Here is a quick reminder:
Taking the time to review physician interview questions and answers can make a huge difference. Not only does it give you an opportunity to prepare your responses to common questions that will likely come up in your interview, but it also gives you questions to use in mock interviews as you prepare. Make sure you take the time to research, practice and use the tips that we’ve outlined above, and you will be well on your way to acing your interview.
1. Should I prepare for my interview in advance?
Yes, we highly recommend that you do. Being prepared will make you feel more confident, and will reduce the likelihood of you being caught off guard during the interview.
2. Should I prepare any questions for the interviewer?
We recommend writing down at least 2 or 3 questions for your interviewer. It will show them that you took the time to prepare, and it gives you a chance to find out about your potential workplace
3. Why do interviewers ask you to tell them about yourself?
Interviewers ask this question because they genuinely want to know about you, the person behind the application they’ve received. They want to know what motivates you, what interests you, and what led you to this point in your journey.
4. What type of questions do they ask during physician interviews?
You should expect a mix of personal questions, scenario and behavioral questions, and conversations about current events in the field.
5. Should I memorize my responses for the interview?
You should avoid doing this as it may result in you sounding robotic and rehearsed. Instead, you should write down the key points of your answers and the structure of your response. That is what you should use to practice.
6. How long should my answers be?
Ideally, your answers should be under two minutes. You want your responses to be concise and straight to the point.
7. How can I sound more confident during my interview?
The keys to sounding confident in an interview are to be as relaxed as possible and to practice your answers beforehand. So have those mock interviews ahead of time, and get a good night’s sleep the night before your interview.
8. How can I prepare for my interview?
The process is somewhat similar to preparing for a law school interview or interviewing for residency. You should research the institution you are applying to, review common questions, prepare your answers in advance, and conduct mock interviews to practice.