Types of questions

You might feel that the list of possible questions is endless, and so end up preparing a huge list of possible answers to give to a multitude of different questions. In reality, there are 10 minutes to this station, and each one of your answers can feasibly take between 1-2 minutes. If you add the time it takes to settle in, for introductions and for the interviewers to read your portfolio (they can sometimes be finishing this whilst you’re already in the room), then you are likely to be asked a maximum of 4-5 questions on the day.

The interviewers are given a number of questions they should ask as a guide but it isn’t done in a military way. It should almost become a conversation between you and them, and you can manage this yourself with the kind of answers you give.

If you give short, sharp, quasi-robotic answers, the interviewers are left with little option but to ask you questions they have on their list. However, if you come prepared, but answer in a more natural and relaxed manner, and especially guide the conversation to your advantage, you will be in a much better position to do well.

The interviewers will naturally be inclined to ask follow-up questions to your answers if there is “space” available when you answer.

For example, the first question is usually a very open and generic one, such as:

    • “Tell me about your portfolio”


    • “Why do you want to do Respiratory?”

If you give them an answer along the lines of:

“I chose respiratory medicine for three main reasons. Firstly, I did a year long fellowship in hospital X which confirmed my wish to specialise in respiratory. I chose this to get more exposure to the specialty and because it had a very good department of subspecialty A, which I think I might be interested in doing. I found the mix of patients very interesting and challenging. As well as dealing with really sick people needing NIV, we had a lot of people who had suspected cancers and elderly patients with pneumonias, for whom there was a communication challenge associated to it.

I also enjoy the physiology of respiratory disease for reasons a,b and c. I worked on a QI project looking into how we were managing COPD exacerbations and I found that we were not managing those patients according to the BTS guidelines. With our work we managed to improve patient management to closely follow the guidelines.

Finally, I have always wanted a specialty that involved not just the usual inpatient and clinic work, but also a procedural component to it, such as pleural procedures and bronchoscopy. I managed to do a pleural procedures and ultrasound course whilst a CMT/IMT which was very interesting and I have been using these skills during my on-calls by putting in chest drains with the help of registrars. I also did a number of bronchoscopies during my fellowship.”

With this answer, you have given the interviewers plenty of things to ask you about, namely:

  • Your fellowship in respiratory
  • Your pleural procedures and ultrasound course
  • Your bronchoscopy experience
  • The whole of your audit: where you presented it, the role you had, etc.
  • Your plans for your future career

By giving them enough information to tell them that what you did was important and relevant, and expanding on them sufficiently, you have directed them to asking you questions about these topics, which you will know a lot about because they involved you directly (and you practiced answering of course!)

A bad answer would be along the lines of:

“I chose respiratory after I did my clinical fellowship where I managed a lot of acutely unwell patients as well as managed their chronic illness. I have also enjoyed the physiology of respiratory disease since medical school and have been involved in some projects related to this. Finally, I need to be in a specialty that allows me to do more than just inpatient and clinic-based work for the extra variety”.

With this answer, the interviewers don’t know:

  • Where and why you did your fellowship. You might look uninterested in it
  • Why you like respiratory disease. What you did as a result of it.
  • What other bits in respiratory that aren’t clinics or inpatient work. Are you interested in bronchoscopy? Or pleural disease? Or both? Could it be NIV/CPAP you like?

After an answer like this they may feel you were uninterested in what you did, or it may be that they feel this topic is over and then move on to the next questions they had.

The interviewers don’t get the idea that you had a motive for doing what you did, how you demonstrated your interests by acting on them, and how this is specific to you and the specialty. For example, if you don’t like just clinics and inpatient work and need something else, why aren’t you doing Cardiology or Gastroenterology? Why do you like respiratory physiology? How has that influenced what you have done up to now and how have you demonstrated this interest? The more you can anticipate and guide your interviewers next questions, the more you seem in control and secure of your choice, and the more inclined they will be to mark you well in this station

There are other types of questions you might be asked and the list is very long (this list is long but not exhaustive in any way). These are meant to act as examples only, and the actual wording of the question on the day may be a variation on the theme.

    • “What publication/audit did you find most interesting and why?”
    • “What is your greatest achievement?”
    • “What have you done that shows your interest in the specialty?”
    • “What have you done to prepare yourself for your registrar post?”
    • “What field of respiratory are you most interested in?”
    • “Where do you see yourself in X years?”
    • “What skills do you have that will make you a good trainee in this specialty?” or “What are your main strengths/weaknesses?”
    • “How do ensure you work as a good team player?”
    • “Tell me of a time you were challenged and how you resolved that situation?”
    • “Tell me of a time you were under pressure and what did you do to regain control of the situation?”
    • “Tell me of a time you used your communication skills to resolve a difficult situation”
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