10 Behavioral Questions Doctors May Be Asked During An Interview and How To Respond

Asking the right questions during an interview is crucial to help you find out all the information that isn’t listed in the job post. Having all the details about a medical facility and the job opening will help you separate a great doctor job from an OK one.

But as much as you should be prepared to ask questions, the interview is also a chance for your potential employer to get to know you. As we’ve discussed in the past, traditional questions fall into a few categories:

  • Learning more about you: “Tell me about yourself” and “Why did you go into medicine?” are standard questions used to see who you are as a person and a doctor.

  • Seeing if you can do the work: “Describe your experience and skills” and “How will you apply your skills here?” help employers learn if you will be able to handle the work you’ll be responsible for in the facility.

  • Figuring out if you’re a good fit: “Why do you want to work here?”, “What is your interest in this facility?” and “What are your goals and objectives?” are questions that help determine if your goals as a doctor align with the goals of the facility.

But increasingly, employers are adding a fourth category of questions: behavioral questions. These types of questions are said to be 55% predictable of future on-the-job behavior. Compared to the 10% predictability of traditional interviewing, that’s a big step up.

Not only are behavioral questions more predictive, they also help make sure that doctors are both qualified on paper, and able to communicate and empathize with patients and staff. They demonstrate the bedside manner of a candidate to see if it fits with the medical employer’s needs.

Let’s discuss some of the most commonly asked behavioral questions and how best to answer them.

How to Approach Answering Behavioral Interview Questions

The purpose of the behavioral question is to learn about your past performance to help inform how your future performance may be. Your answer to each question should use your past experience to frame your problem solving skills and provide a clear message on how you’ll handle situations in your next position.

One clear best practice we’ve noticed when it comes to answering behavioral questions is to use a formula that clearly structures your answers.

While the jury is still out on which acronym you should use to remember this formula - we’ve seen a few iterations including BAR, SAR, PAR - they all break down to a similar thought process:

  • Background (B) / Situation (S) / Problem (P): Explain the background of the situation and what problem you were working to solve.
  • Action (A): What action you took.
  • Result (R): What was the result of the actions you took and how did the situation resolve.

Whether you decide to use BAR, SAR or PAR, keeping this formula in mind will take you far. 😉

But knowing this formula isn’t the only key to acing behavioral interview questions - you need to tailor your answers to every medical employer’s values. Do your research on the organization’s values and align your responses where appropriate.

Examples of Behavioral Questions

There are a variety of behavioral questions you may be asked, but they often fall into one of three categories: personal, patient and performance.

As you think about how best to approach your response, first identify the type of question it is and use that to help you decide what to focus on in your answer.

Personal-Focused Behavioral Questions

Personal questions are focused around how you as a doctor deal with situations in your everyday work. They look into how you make choices and overcome problems that affect how you practice.

These questions are looking for your internal thought process when dealing with situations. They want to see what you value as a doctor and what factors come into play when ultimately deciding what actions to take.

Common personal-focused behavioral questions include:

  1. Tell me about a time you worked effectively under pressure.
  2. Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.
  3. Describe a time when you tried to accomplish something and failed.
  4. Tell me about a difficult decision you’ve made in the last year.

Patient-Focused Behavioral Questions

Unsurprisingly, patient-focused questions determine how you interact with patients. Your patients are your most important interaction, so the medical institution will often want to know how your bedside manner translates in difficult situations.

When approaching these questions, focus on how elements of the situation you’re describing affected how you decided to conduct yourself. Every situation is different and showing that you remained cognisant of important factors even in difficult situations will emphasize how you pay attention to every case.

Common patient-focused behavioral questions include:

  1. Walk me through how you present complicated information or instructions to patients.
  2. Tell me about a patient you had trouble dealing with.
  3. What types of patients are difficult, and why?

Performance-Focused Behavioral Questions

These questions have more to do with your outward performance within the medical institution. Whether it’s in relation to interacting with coworkers or the medical institution itself, your performance is directly influenced by, and directly impacts those around you.

Answer these questions by keeping everything in a positive light. Even if you disagreed with a policy or coworker, potential employers want to see that you remained professional and found a way to work around your differences to a mutually agreeable solution.

Common performance-focused behavioral questions include:

  1. Tell me about a time your performance was criticized.
  2. Give me a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
  3. Give me an example of a time when you had a conflict with a team member and how you handled it.

Before going into an interview, take some time to think of a few situations that can be used to answer these questions. Think over how you might frame the situation to each of these questions to highlight the actions you took to reach to desirable result.

Doing a bit of practice in how to frame each answer will help you avoid one common mistake interviewees run into when answering behavioral questions - their answers get too long. It’s easy to want to tell the entire story of each situation, but interviews should be a discussion - not a monologue.

Pause at appropriate times to allow for questions and create a chance for you to discuss your story rather than tell it. It’ll create a more engaging response for the interviewer and build a better rapport.

We hope this helped you feel more prepared for tackling behavioral questions you may be asked during an interview! If you’re interested in learning more about the other side of the interview, you can read our article about the top 5 questions doctors should be asking during an interview.

Happy job hunting!

The Nomad Team

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