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How to prepare for your first NHS interview : advice and top tips

Hi, we are Tanzina and Deepthi, NHS doctors and IMGs from Bangladesh and India. We would like to share with you some tips on how to excel at your first NHS interview. You may also want to read our blog on Preparing for NHS interviews - Guidance, Advice and Top tips

Where to start?

Congratulation on securing the interview, it means you are very close to getting your first NHS job. The interview is an amazing opportunity to present yourself in the best possible way to prove to the interviewing panel (usually, an HR representative and a consultant) that you are the most suitable candidate for this role. In summary, you have to sell yourself in the best possible way. For this reason, please attend your interview only after thorough preparation.

Firstly, check the time and date of the interview. Secondly, check if the link for the interview has been sent to you. Check your login details and be prepared for login through the Team app/Skype for the interview. Please remember that you have been invited to the interview because the interviewing panel chose your application among hundreds of others. This means that they already know some basics about you and want to see how you can stand out from other short-listed candidates.

When asked a question, answer it in a calm and organised manner and listen very carefully to what you are asked about. If you did not understand the question, ask for clarification but do not guess the question. Do not rush with your answers, think before your answer (this is why preparation is key). Be friendly and smile.

Common questions

The most common question at the interview is 'Take us through your CV' or 'Tell us about yourself'. You will definitely get this question at the start of the interview because the interviewing panel would like to see how confident you are as a person. So, I will advise preparing for this question very well as it will be the very first impression the interviewer will have about you. To make your answer organised, use the CAMP structure: Clinical, Academic, Management and Personal:

  • Clinical. Introduce yourself and your background within 20 seconds and then start with your clinical experience, especially with the last place you have worked at - give short info about the title, duties and responsibilities. Provide a short summary of your clinical experience and try to base your answer around the patients' best interest.

  • Academic. Give a brief overview of the studies you have completed (any post-graduate degrees, master's, PhD etc.) and how they helped you in your career. Mention research studies/projects and teaching experience here as well.

  • Management. Focus on your management and leadership skills. Briefly explain how you manage critical situations with an example, e. g. how you recently successfully managed a patient with your team (it will demonstrate your teamwork skills). Mention briefly if you have ever worked in a busy environment (A&E, acute medicine etc.) and how well you managed patients there.

  • Personal. Tell about your hobbies and what you usually do in your free time, any extracurricular activities and/or volunteer activities.

Keep this structure in your head, but do not memorise your answers. The last thing you want to do is to give the interviewing panel a bad impression of someone who is robotic. Keep the flow of your answers natural.

In order to know what the interviewing panel expect to hear, check the job specification part in the job advert and include a few points from there to show that you are suitable for the job.

Another most common question is 'Why do you want to work in this trust?' I will suggest searching about the trust and mentioning during the interview trust values or something you like about the trust. It will give the interviewing panel a good impression that you have come to the interview prepared and know why you want to work at this particular trust. Be prepared to demonstrate your understanding of the NHS values as this is a common question too.

There might be a few other questions as well. For example, 'Tell us about a situation where you worked under pressure' or 'Tell us about a situation where you played a key role in teamwork'. To answer these questions, use the STAR approach:

  • Situation (context of the situation),

  • Task (what your task was),

  • Action (what you did/ how you did it/ why you did it),

  • Result (what happened after and what you learnt from it).

Clinical scenarios

At the end of the interview, you will be given a couple of clinical scenarios. I will suggest reading the medical emergencies part in the Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine. Most of the scenarios are PLAB 2 scenarios but the interviewing panel will want to see how you manage them.

Always start with the ABCDE approach and do your best to prove to the interviewing panel that you are a safe doctor. To prove this, use the SPIES protocol. This approach is suitable for any situation and it will ensure patient safety:

  • S - Seek information. Ask for general information - O2 saturation, respiratory rate, etc. You will be given the details.

  • P - Patients safety. You must ensure that patient is safe. So always go through the ABCDE approach. If you are not sure, clearly mention that you will shout for help or you will ask your senior.

  • I - Initiative. Try to think if there is anything you can do yourself which could resolve the problem. For example, any medication if you suspect PE, but always say that you will give those after discussing with your senior. It will prove that you are a safe doctor.

  • E - Escalate. Always escalate if the situation is critical and you are unable to manage it yourself.

  • S - Support. Remember to mention that you will support your team whenever needed.

Regarding ethical scenarios - read Good Medical Practice. Especially articles 12, 13, 25 and 43. Most of them are exactly like PLAB 2 ethical scenarios.

Other questions

Lastly, there are some questions that are most commonly asked:

  • 'What is Research and Clinical audit?'

  • 'What are the differences between these two?',

  • 'What is Clinical governance?'

Try to learn more about these topics and explain them in your own words instead of memorising. If you do not have any audit experience just let the interviewing panel know that you have seen a few audit presentations/read articles and you have a gross idea about audits. Also, you may want to mention that you would be happy to do an audit if there was a chance.

I will also suggest buying and reading this book – Medical Interviews: A comprehensive guide to CT, ST and registrar interview skills. You will get more ideas from the book about clinical governance, audit and ethical scenarios.

At the end of the interview, you may be given a chance to ask questions. I will not advise asking about salary and payroll. Instead, ask about study leaves/CESR pathways/educational and clinical supervisors.

Try to be calm and friendly during the interview, make it a nice conversation. Most of the consultants are friendly and sweet. Try to be smiley and friendly with them.

Clinical gaps

If you have any clinical gaps, do not mention them during the interview. Just focus solely on what you have achieved and how you have progressed in your career. If the interviewing panel ask about your gap and what you have done during those years, just briefly explain. For example, if you have had a clinical gap due to family commitments (looking after your child or taking care of your family member), you can say that family is an essential part of your life and it was important for you to be there for them.

You also can highlight that by managing family commitments you have strengthened your management and leadership skills and multitasking. Try to provide the interviewing panel with an example of other activities that would show that you were not only sitting at home during your clinical gap.

Success tip from Tanzina: 'During most of the interviews, you will not be asked about your clinical gaps, so I will advise you not to mention it at all. I have attended 4 interviews recently. During two of them, I mentioned my clinical gaps (although I wasn't asked to) and did not get an offer. However, during the other two interviews, I did not mention my 8-year clinical gap and they didn’t ask me either. I have got a job offer after both interviews.'

Summary from Deepthi

Here is a short summary of how to find your first NHS job and get ready for NHS interviews:

  1. Make an account on the website. Please read our guidance on how to create your NHS account: Mastering your job searching skills: how to create NHS profile and find your perfect job

  2. Search for jobs by finding appropriate job descriptions. The junior doctor jobs can be searched using keywords like SHO, trust grade doctor, FY2 doctor, clinical fellow, junior clinical fellow. Please read our guidance on Mastering your job searching skills: how to create NHS profile and find your perfect job

  3. Read the essential criteria for the job which you’re applying for.

  4. Frame the supporting information of your CV according to the essential criteria. Please read our guidance on How to write a CV for NHS jobs and CV for NHS jobs – 10 Do’s and Don’ts

  5. Write supporting information in clear and simple English without spelling and grammatical errors. It’s the quality of the application that matters.

  6. If the application is not shortlisted despite applying for jobs, please make sure your CV is written well. If needed, ask for a CV check. If you have anyone who works in the NHS, you may want to ask them for a CV review. If you don't have anyone, TrewLink community experts and UK-based IMGs would be happy to help you - please submit your request at

  7. If the application is shortlisted, then an invite for an interview will be sent to your correspondence email.

  8. Once it’s confirmed start interview preparation. Please read our blog on Preparing for NHS interviews - Guidance, Advice and Top tips

  9. A good interview book is a must, as it will give a good idea about the questions to expect and how to frame your answers. The best book is Medical Interviews: A comprehensive guide to CT, ST & Registrar Interview Skills. If you have anyone who works in the NHS, you may want to ask them whether they have this book and are willing to lend it to you.

  10. Practice with colleagues to ace the interview.

Useful blogs

Good luck with your interview,

Tanzina & Deepthi


If you have any questions feel free to ask on the TrewLink website, we are happy to help.

If you found our blog articles helpful, please share them with your IMG friends & colleagues who may also benefit from reading our blog.

Written by Tanzina and Deepthi

Edited by Julia


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