What Questions Do People Get Asked in an Interview?

Interview questions

Interview questions: a foundational approach

I’ve gotten my fair share of ridiculous interview questions in the past, and I bet you have too.

“If you could have lunch with one historical figure, who would it be and why?”

“What song would you pick to be the theme song of your life?”

“If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you want to take with you?”

Those kinds of questions might have been part of your college sorority/fraternity interviews, but they likely won’t be part of medical school or job interviews. That’s a good thing, because you probably never considered things like which breakfast cereal best defines your personality.

Before we get to commonly asked interview questions, I want to mention three keys to answering any question during an interview.

Three tips for approaching all interview questions

Be authentic.

Don’t try to guess what the interviewer is thinking. If your answers don’t line up with their goals, you may not be a fit for that company. Remember, you don’t want just any job, you want the RIGHT job. Answering questions authentically ensures that the interviewer assesses who you really are, not a sugar-coated version of yourself.

Be direct.

Interviewers don’t have time to waste. You may only get 20 or 30 minutes with them, and they may have lots of questions. If you take 5 minutes to answer each question, then you may only get 4 or 5 questions.

Be confident.

You are awesome! I probably don’t know you personally, but you’re going to be a great fit somewhere. You need to go into an interview with the attitude that the universe has conspired to bring you to that place.  Therefore, you have no alternative outcome but unbridled success. Project that confidence and your interviewer will sense that.

Common interview questions for doctors and medical students.

Interview questions about your personality

  1. Tell me about yourself. This open-ended question is a great opportunity for you to talk about the things that are most important to you. I don’t recommend talking about where you grew up or your favorite childhood memory. Talk about your values, your background and your aspirations. What do you want in life, and how does that fit into the job for which you are applying?
  2. Why do you want to work here? This will almost undoubtedly come up in every job interview. This answer needs to include a reason for joining that company/practice/group specifically. Is it the group’s reputation? Is it because it’s close to family? Perhaps you know someone who is already in the group and your admiration for them is your motivation. The company doesn’t want to be your second choice. Tell them why you’re excited to work for them.
  3. Why do you want to be a doctor? I think it might be a federal law to ask this question in a medical school interview, because 100% of my interviewers asked it. You can read about my personal decision to become a doctor here. You need to be crystal clear on this issue and have your answer ready. Keep it to a short statement of no more than 1-2 minutes, but keep it real. Don’t try to give the “yearbook answer.” Be authentic!
  4. What is your greatest strength? I used to hate this question because I thought I would come across as boastful. I realized after a few years of interviews that companies are looking for ways to separate candidates from each other. If you get this question, answer it genuinely. If you’re having trouble coming up with an answer, ask a mentor or a colleague to tell you what they perceive to be your greatest strength. The attributes through which you serve others are the best way to project value to a new employer.

Interview questions that assess your abilities

  1. What is your greatest weakness? I used to hate this question because I thought interviewers were looking for me to weed myself out of the applicant pool. More often, interviewers want to see if you have insight into your own shortcomings and if you have plans to address them. One weakness of mine is that I know I’m not naturally inclined to read medical journals in my spare time. However, I’m so committed to taking care of my patients that I’ll read a dozen articles if it helps me treat a patient. So, in interviewing for residency and fellowship, I told interviewers that I needed to be in a program where I would see a ton of patients, so that it would force me to do a ton of reading. Interviewers appreciate vulnerability and introspection.
  2. Tell me about a time when you had to overcome a challenge. Don’t try to make something up here. Again, be authentic. Pick a real challenge. It doesn’t have to be in the medical field. Interviewers are trying to determine your problem-solving capabilities. How did you address that issue, and how will you address challenges in the future?
  3. How do you define success? Existential questions like this are a time-honored tradition for interviews. There is generally not a specific “right answer” to this question. Interviewers just want to get a sense of your values and your personality.

Interview questions about your aspirations

  1. Why do you want to leave your current job? This won’t apply to you if you’re coming straight out of training, but it’s a common question if you’re leaving another position. Answer this question truthfully, even if you’re worried about the answer. If they weren’t paying you what you’re worth, or if there was no room for upward growth for you, it’s ok to say that. Just be honest.
  2. What makes you the best candidate for this job? If you get this question, it’s your time to shine! What qualities make you stand out in a crowded field? Are you more dedicated than others? Do you have unique or special skills? “I want it more” is not a good answer. Think about it from the employer’s perspective. How do you provide more value to the company than every other candidate?
  3. Where do you see yourself in five years? Are you looking to be a manager or executive? Are you hoping to retire young? Do you want to be doing research or seeing patients? If your goal is to be a clinician, don’t say you’re interested in research. You’ll run the risk of getting hired with the expectation that you’ll be doing a ton of research.
  4. What other companies are you interviewing with? Don’t be afraid of this question. Interviewers understand that you’re applying for lots of positions. If you’re seriously considering another job, tell them why. If you’re a stellar candidate, your interviewer will be pitching you as much as you’re pitching them. Show them that people are competing to hire you.

Interview questions about your past

  1. What was the most frustrating thing about your last job? Don’t beat around the bush, just answer directly. If you hated being micro-managed or your company had a toxic team culture, then say so. Give the interviewers an idea of what you want your job to look like.
  2. What is your biggest accomplishment? This doesn’t have to be an award, or a paper published in a major journal, or a particular position or title that you earned. Maybe it was a conflict you successfully mediated at work. Maybe it was diagnosing a patient with an unusual illness that no one before you could figure out. It should be something that mattered to you and about which you can speak passionately.
  3. What sort of leadership style works best for you? This usually isn’t meant to be a trick question. Maybe you really need specific deadlines to stay on task. That’s ok, just be upfront about it. If micro-management drives you crazy, then say so. Good employers want to put you in the environment where you’re most likely to thrive.

Misc. interview questions

  1. What are your hobbies? What do you like to do in your spare time? Here’s an opportunity to talk about personal interests so the interviewer gets to know you as a person, not just a job applicant. Discuss things you care about. Even if it doesn’t resonate with your interviewer, you’ll be able to paint a good picture of your personality.
  2. Do you have any questions for me? You should definitely come prepared with a few questions to ask. Check out my post “5 Tips for Crushing Your Next Interview.” I discuss several questions that would be smart to ask during your interview.

Leave a comment below and tell us what other interview questions you have been asked.  If you interview people regularly, what are your favorite questions to ask?

Further Reading

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