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I wrote the first edition of this book about 5 years after appointment to a consultant post in a Scottish teaching hospital. I had a fresh memory of all my interviews for the ‘training grade’ posts, and I was regularly invited to sit on panels for interview of both junior hospital doctors and applicants for consultant posts. At that stage it was pretty clear to me what a candidate needed to do in order to be successful – or at least have a very good chance of success – at every level.

But times change, and so do interview processes. Even when the second edition was produced in 2005, neither I nor the publishers could have foreseen the mayhem that was about to descend in the form of ‘Modernising Medical Careers’ – a bizarre and unreliable system of appointment imposed on the medical profession by faceless individuals in the UK Department of Health, with the acquiescence of some very senior clinicians who really ought to have known better.

Thankfully, the weight of protest that ensued made Whitehall mandarins see sense, and many of the most galling aspects of the ‘MMC’ process have been removed. Some though, remain, and interview candidates still have to contend with online application processes, requirements to justify an application for a given post in fewer than a couple of hundred words, national interviews held at a single centre on just 1 day in the year, and the possibility of being interviewed for a post in a given location by an individual who themselves may never have set foot in the hospital to which the candidate might be appointed.

Changes like this mean that senior doctors like me are a bit ‘out of the loop’ when it comes to being really savvy about what is needed to triumph in the interview process in its present form. So for the third edition of this book I had to get help. I needed to find a co-author who was fully up to speed with every aspect of the ‘new look’ medical interview process, and who had clearly shown himself to be a stellar performer when being interviewed. The obvious candidate was identified at the end of a busy outpatient clinic: my own registrar, Dr Suvankar Pal.

Suvankar has handled the lion’s share of work needed for the preparation of this third edition. He has grilled junior trainees regarding their success or failure with online applications, he has made them transcribe memories of questions posed and their own answers proffered at national interviews, and has made them spill the beans in terms of confessing their glaring errors and blunders when they recall their own performances. This diligent fact-finding has meant that Suvankar has been able to produce a great deal of new material for this book, with many descriptions of successful and less successful answers to questions, both online and in spoken interviews. I am enormously grateful to Suvankar for all his tireless work.

As well as the arrival of a second author, readers will also note that there are several new chapters in this third edition, including specific advice on strategies to use in specialist registrar interviews and academic interviews, many word-for-word records of good and bad answers to real questions, and more information on how to approach the first consultant-level interview.

I think the changes represent a big improvement over the first and second editions of this book. Let’s see if you agree.

Colin Mumford


A large number of good friends helped me in the preparation of the second edition of this book, and the same individuals were pestered to help with this third edition. Suggestions for new content, and comments on old, came from senior hospital doctors, junior doctors in training, secondary school teachers, representatives of the pharmaceutical industry and members of some of the more interesting parts of the British Civil Service. To all of these people I would like to offer enormous thanks. The team at Wiley-Blackwell had excellent ideas to improve the content for this third edition, and they have my gratitude too.

Finally a number of junior colleagues spent some time recalling their own interview experiences, both good and bad, and some have very generously allowed their actual words to be reproduced in this book. This was ‘above and beyond’ the call of duty.

Note For Would-Be Medical Students

The first two editions of this book were written for final-year medical students and junior hospital doctors in training. They were never really intended to be a guide to help sixth-formers seeking a place at medical school. Nevertheless, quite a large number of copies of the first and second editions were sold to A-level candidates, and I suspect some of the suggestions that I made were applicable to the process of gaining entry into university. This still holds true for this third edition of the work. Certainly, I think many of the ideas regarding ‘pre-interview groundwork’ could be utilised by the enthusiastic sixth-former wanting to make sure that they receive a good offer from their first-choice medical school.

Chapter 1


The aim of this short book is simple. It is to make sure that you're successful in your next medical job interview. It is quite possible to be a wonderful medical student or doctor with encyclopaedic knowledge of medical conditions, first-class clinical skills and a terrific rapport with all your patients, but if you can't perform well in the job interviews then you will get nowhere. This book sets out to give you tips that will be equally relevant, whether you are a final-year medical student applying for your first house job, i.e to become an ‘FY1’, an ‘FY2’ (the new name for a senior house officer) trying to break through onto the specialist registrar career ladder, or if you are reaching the end of your specialist registrar training and are seeking appointment to your first consultant post.

Note that virtually all that is contained in this book is relevant to the UK system of medical training. Graduates in Ireland and Western Europe may find some of the information useful. But we must leave it up to colleagues in the USA and Canada to decide whether they feel that this ‘very British approach’ is of any benefit in winning over interview panels in North America! Readers outside the United Kingdom may be surprised to learn that face-to-face interviews for the very junior hospital posts in Britain no longer occur. Instead, much is done via an online process, so the chance for candidates to excel in their oral interview performance has been lost. However, in some countries where this book is used, these lower level interviews still take place, and we have recognised that fact in many of the following chapters, retaining comments on optimal strategies for junior-level interviews where relevant.

Even British graduates need to appreciate that we are giving advice from the point of view of hospital doctors. I am a hospital consultant who has worked his way up through the British hospital medical career ladder. My new co-author is also progressing up the specialty training route. A rather different emphasis and series of tricks are needed in breaking into the world of general practice. All the same, some of the tips that we give here may at least be starters for someone approaching an interview to be a registrar in general practice, or even seeking appointment to their first post as principal in GP-land.

The astonishing thing about most British medical graduates is that although they prepare in enormous detail for clinical medical school exams and for postgraduate diplomas, such as the MRCP(UK), MRCOG, FRCS and so on, most of them put relatively little thought into planning their strategy for handling a medical job interview. This is a grave error since there is no doubt that good interview technique can be learned. Some people begin their careers already good at it, but others are so bad that they could only be described as appalling in an interview, and it is this latter group who most need to do their homework prior to facing an interview panel!

Throughout this book we've tended to use the word ‘he’ when, of course, we mean ‘he or she’. Writing ‘he or she’ every time becomes clumsy.

If you have suggestions for future editions of this book, please email

Chapter 2


Although this book is primarily aimed at ensuring your success in the interview process, if you are a final year student or junior doctor at the start of your postgraduate training, then it is worth pausing to think about which subject you're going to choose to become your life-long work. Deciding which specialty to apply for can seem overwhelming. With the advent of ‘run-through’ training, applications made less than 2 years after graduating from medical school may potentially define the next 4 decades of a medical career! Whilst narrowing down the choices can be daunting, time spent reflecting on your own attributes, career ambitions and researching what the different specialties have to offer is a must and can be surprisingly rewarding. Forming clear ideas in your own mind about why you are choosing a particular specialty will stand you in good stead for completing application form answers and shining at the interview. Initial interest and experience in a particular specialty may stem from medical school. If you're lucky, you may have gained further experience during an overseas elective, special study modules and placements, as a foundation year or junior specialty doctor. This may not always be possible though, and there are many specialties such as medical microbiology, chemical pathology and public health where exposure at junior level is limited and other specialties such as tropical medicine, allergy and audiological medicine which you may not even have realised existed!

So whom to ask and where to look? The first thing to be aware of is the very large number of specialties available which are broadly divided into: (1) Themed core specialties (including emergency medicine and anaesthesia), (2) Medical specialties, (3) Surgical specialties, (4) Psychiatry and (5) Run-through specialties. The latter are specialties to which commitment must be made at a very early stage, since a ‘one track’ training programme exists with very little scope to change to a different specialty along the course. This route currently includes both general practice and paediatrics.






Speaking to local trainees and consultants in different specialties is a good starting point. They may be able to help by arranging taster sessions and invaluable clinical shadowing experience. There is a wealth of information available on the modernising medical careers, NHS medical careers and foundation programme websites:

Further information can be gained by browsing individual Royal College websites. Many of the Royal Colleges have dedicated specialty careers information days and career liaison officers:

General practice
Obstetrics and gynaecology
Emergency medicine
Paediatrics and child health

Many specialty-specific journals contain up-to-date information about clinical, research and service provision developments which may provide additional insight into what a career in an individual specialty may involve. Don't forget also to look at the careers section of the British Medical Journal which frequently contains many useful articles ().