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Communication - team player

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1. How would you rate your communication skills?

2. Give us an example of a situation where your communication skills made a difference to the care of a patient.

3. Give us an example of a situation where you failed to communicate appropriately. Tell me about a situation where your communication skills did not succeed in getting something done?

4. What skills have you acquired that make you a good communicator?

5. How can you improve your communication skills as a leader?


Questions 1-5 involve the same theme.

Rate your communications skills as good or effective. You have to back up your answer with some specific examples where your communication skills have made a difference. Try to make it specific to the specialty you are applying for: for example, in gastroenterology you may wish to focus on relationships with other colleagues like surgeons. You may also discuss breaking bad news, rapport with patients etc.

Skills acquired: Say, I have acquired good listening skills. This has helped me to build rapport with my patients, helped me understand them better and generally provide improved care. You may also wish to discuss other skills, like negotiation skills, and the ability to explain complex details in simple terms.
You can always improve your communication skills by either observing your senior colleagues or attending the relevant training courses.

6. What are the attributes of a good team player?

Good team members are communicative, supportive of the other members, flexible (they can fit in with others and adapt to changing demands), unselfish (they put the needs of the other team members on a level with their own) and are interested in the success of the team as a whole, not just their own performance.

7. Are you a team player?

More and more, we work in teams, so the answer should be ‘Yes’, but give examples as to how you know - e.g. feedback from your consultant at appraisal, 360-degree appraisal.


8. Do you work better as part of a team or on your own?

I would say from past experience that I enjoy being part of a team. I like the camaraderie and that feeling of all working together towards a common goal. I believe a good team member should be... (see the question 6) and I try to demonstrate these qualities when working with others. Give an example where you worked well in a team - demonstrating at least one key attribute of a team player.  However, I am quite happy working alone when necessary - I don’t need constant advice and reassurance, but I prefer to work in a team as so much more is achieved when people pull together.

9. Give us a recent example of a time where you worked as a member of an MDT.

You could say something about the fact that, more and more, we are dealing with elderly patients with complex care needs. I liaise with the OT/physio/family/nurses/social care workers to ensure that a thorough management plan is in place to ensure optimum care.

10. What makes a good team?

I believe a good team is one where the members are committed to each other and to the successful achievement of a goal. I believe it’s my role as the team leader to ensure that the team is more than just a collection of people working on the same ward/hospital but a real team, pulling together with a strong sense of cohesion. I ensure this in my team by making sure that everyone knows what their role is within the team and how important it is to the overall outcome. I make sure that individual skill and input are valued and appreciated, not just by me but by everyone concerned. I encourage team members to support each other to complete tasks, rather than focusing on their own responsibilities. I also support team unity by organising social and bonding activities.

A number of studies have revealed the characteristics of successful teams:


  • A meaningful, clearly defined task
  • Clear team objectives and individual targets
  • Regular meetings
  • Regular feedback to individuals and the team’s success in achieving objectives
  • The right balance of people
  • Reflexivity – the ability to reflect on team performance and adapt and change
  • The experience of full participation, which reduces stress and may lead to better care
  • Good leadership

A good team shows excellent internal and external communication.

External communication means keeping the team in touch with what is happening in the wider organisation, and letting the organisation know about the team - how it's meeting its goals, what resources it needs, how it is innovating, etc. It is maintaining these external links which keeps the team in line with the organisational goals and which lets the rest of the organisation know about the role of the team. This will usually be an important part of the leader's role.

Internal communication is naturally less formal and more constant than external. It involves making sure that everyone has a voice - even the silent members of the team - so that risks can be appreciated, problems aired and the best care given. Sometimes this will involve including the patient or the carer in the team as an honorary member so, that they are given the same chance to contribute to any decisions made.

11. Tell us about your experience of managing a team of people.

As registrars, most of us look after a team of junior doctors on the wards and when on call. You could mention that you ensured that they were well supported, understood their roles, ensured that their study and annual leave were sorted, ensured their training needs, provided feedback as appropriate, organised team meetings etc.

12. Describe a situation where you had to give negative feedback to somebody.

Quote any situation but remember the general principles of giving feedback. Feedback is part of the learning cycle and is thus an integral part of any learning experience.

  • Feedback should be descriptive rather than judgemental or evaluative (e.g. this what I saw - what do you think?)
  • Make feedback specific rather than general
  • Focus feedback on behaviour rather than personality
  • Focus feedback on sharing information rather than giving advice
  • Give feedback about something that can be changed

How to give feedback:

  • The person should know that he is receiving feedback
  • Collect relevant data from others
  • Make notes prior to the meeting
  • Reinforce good practice with specific examples (so give positive feedback first. The trainee is likely to be more receptive of the negative feedback)
  • Identify, analyse and explore potential solutions for any deficits in practice
  • Encourage the trainee to self-assess their performance prior to giving feedback

N.B. If a trainee rejects any negative feedback given, explore with them why they feel like this. They may be getting contradictory feedback from elsewhere which will prevent them from acting on your feedback and suggestions.

13. Tell us about a situation where you had to bring a difficult person on board.

The basic problem here is generally a lack of communication. So mention any situation and explain how you used your good communication skills to bring the person on board.

14. Tell us about a situation where you showed leadership.

A good leader:

  • Leads by example
  • Takes initiative
  • Communicates well with the team
  • Has clear objectives and ensures that the team understands them
  • Develops team members by encouraging active participation, valuing opinions and giving feedback

Quote any example where you showed any of the above qualities. You can quote the example: You noticed a less than perfect clinical care - decided to audit it - presented it - and subsequently helped bring the change to improve the quality of care. You can use any of the audits you carried out.
Or you initiated a teaching programme for juniors to help to train them better, to avoid a repeat of the bad practice

15. Tell us about a situation where you showed initiative.

a. You could quote you noticed a less than perfect clinical care (see  Q.14).

b. Or you could say that you took charge of organising holidays for junior doctors on the ward after noticing poor organisation of junior doctors' leaves.

16. Tell me about a time when you had to use your spoken communication skills in order to get a point across that was important to you?

You can say something like you noticed a lack of educational programme or MRCP teaching at your hospital. You ensured that you raised your concerns with the appropriate people and devised a teaching rota involving all the consultants and senior registrars.

17. Can you tell me about a job experience in which you had to speak up in order to be sure that other people knew what you thought or felt?

Same as Q16.

18. Give me an example of a time when you felt you were able to motivate your colleagues.

You can quote any of the leadership or team-playing qualities or teaching qualities to illustrate the point. I regularly teach juniors and can tell from the feedback I have received that they really feel motivated to improve themselve and provide safe and effective care to patients. You can quote a specific teaching episode.

19. What do you do when one of your people is performing badly, just not getting the job done? Give an example.

This is basically an issue of performance gap. The issue is not to ignore it and deal with it promptly. The principles of giving feedback apply here. Steps to deal with it:

  • Ensure that the person understands his role and what is expected of him
  • Tell him what is expected of him
  • Explain the difference between his current level of performance and the expected level of performance (performance gap)
  • Agree as to how the gap can be bridged in a timely manner

20. Describe a situation in which you felt it necessary to be very attentive to your environment.

All exams, especially OSCE kind!

21. Give me an example of an important goal which you have set in the past and tell me about your success in reaching it.

Quote any example, either medical or non-medical. It could be learning swimming or setting up a website. Go through the steps of planning, hard work and dedication.

22.What makes you angry?

I suppose, like most people, I get angry about inequalities in the world, poverty, cruelty to animals, but I don’t find everyday irritations affect me. I‘ve learnt that dealing with other people calmly and politely is less stressful for me as well as for them, so that now it's second nature.  


23. Do you ever lose your temper?

I can’t remember the last time I actually lost my temper. Everyday irritations don’t affect me that much; there’s always something you have to deal with.  However, I take patient safety very seriously. Quote an example like poor handovers and how you spoke to all the juniors to ensure proper handovers.

24. Have you ever been in a situation where you have had a conflict with a colleague?

Yes, give a situation (e.g. your colleague SpR not pulling his weight - not doing enough). In the end, I took the initiative and persuaded him that we should have a talk and try to work out an effective strategy for us to work together - we really needed to, with us working together. We had a pretty frank discussion and although I can’t say we ended up the best of friends, we did gain more respect for one another’s roles and we certainly worked more productively together. I was really glad I had taken the initiative.

25. How have you benefited from your disappointment?

Disappointments are a learning experience for me. I look at what happened, why it happened and how I would do things differently, if things were to be happen again in future. That way, I put disappointment behind me and am ready with renewed vigour and understanding to face the new day’s problems.


26. Give an example of a situation where your work was criticised.

A good way is to give an anecdote from your early career that shows you accepting suggestions calmly and reasonably and learning from them.

27. How would you cope with criticism or a complaint being made against you?

I don’t take it personally, if that’s what you mean. I believe I‘m mature enough to handle constructive criticism. In fact, it’s essential if I want to continue to improve my performance. I remember earlier in my career (describe the event and how it arose. Who did the criticising?). I listened to what they said and I could see that they had a point. Describe the lesson you learnt and how it was useful.


28.One of your SHOs says he is getting bored in his job. How do you respond?

Find out what else is happening
What is demotivating him?
Discuss things and suggest remedies or direct him to appropriate resources
Stimulate/challenge him - take him to see referrals, endoscopy sessions etc

29. Do you like change?

Look at my CV, came from Sudan, three house moves in 5 years. Change does not scare me.

30. If you could teach a medical student only one thing to make them a better doctor, what would it be and why?

Compassion and empathy. I believe this makes more difference in patient care than virtually anything else.

31. How would you handle a situation where you had a disagreement with a nurse over the management of a patient?

I would try to understand why he/she disagreed with my opinion and try to reach a mutually acceptable decision while ensuring that the patient is not put at risk.

32. What would you do if a patient disagreed with your treatment approach?

Same approach as for Q31.

33. What kinds of decision are most difficult for you?

It’s not that I have difficulty making decisions - some just require more consideration than others.
A small example might be holiday time. Everyone is entitled to it; however, careful planning ensures that the team has enough doctors at all times. I think very carefully at the beginning of my jobs when I‘d like to take my holidays and then think of alternative dates. I discuss this with my colleagues and the consultant and tell them what I hope to do and see if there is any conflict. I wouldn’t want to be on holiday when the team is depleted. So by carefully considering things far enough in advance, I don’t procrastinate and make sure my plans fit in with my team.


34. How do you handle stress?

I‘ve always been good with stress. I was always the one who stayed calm during exams. I believe it’s because I am good at planning and prioritising. Describe some of the things you do to organise your workload - or anything you do to manage your time. For example, on-calls are generally very busy. Often, you have to deal with multiple emergencies. This can be very stressful. However, I take a step back and look at the whole situation and involve my whole team. So I work closely with the charge nurse to triage patients effectively, delegate simpler tasks to junior members of the team and keep an eye on progress regularly.
(The most commonly accepted definition of stress (mainly attributed to Richard S. Lazarus) is that stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that “demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.” In short, it’s what we feel when we think we’ve lost control of events).

35. How do you normally cope with pressure?

Same as Q. 34.

36. How do you recognise when you are stressed?

My wife tells me!
Tiredness, irritable or forgetful, inefficiency (taking too long for simple tasks) are the general markers of stress and you can quote any alone or in combination.

37. How do you resolve stress?

Delegating/sharing workload, planning and prioritising work, asking for help and anything that relaxes you (hobbies, holidays etc)

38. How would you deal with a 10% cut in your budget?

By increasing productivity and improving efficiency! You will have to quote examples like seeing an extra patient in the clinic, vetting endoscopy requests to screen inappropriate requests, organising professional leave more efficiently to ensure minimal disruption of clinical work etc. Basically, you will have to involve the whole team in the effort to ensure that patient care is not compromised.


39. How did your boss get the best out of you?

My last boss got superior effort and performance by treating me like a human being and giving me the same personal respect that she liked for herself.

40. Are you ruthless?

I can be ruthless when required. I am ruthless with time but gracious with people.
I have got a huge amount of self-belief and I do believe that I am good.

41. How do you cope if a project/things go wrong?

First, I assess the steps we need to take to optimise damage limitation and deal with the immediate problem. Once the crisis is over, I analyse what went wrong and I include colleagues in this discussion, so that we can pinpoint how we might avoid the same thing happening again.


42. Have you done the best work you are capable of doing?

I am proud of my professional achievements to date, especially (give an example). However, I believe the best is yet to come. I am always motivated to give of my best.

43. What are your views on health and safety in your job?

The interviewer needs to know that you:

  • are aware of the importance of health and safety
  • know about health and safety issues relevant to your job
  • understand and follow regulations
  • have had health and safety training

44. Have you ever had to bend health and safety rules to get a job done?

I have never found it necessary to bend the rules, and I wouldn’t expect to be asked.

45. Would you say you are confident?

Yes, I would say that I am a confident person. I do everything I can, though, to support my natural sense of confidence - keeping myself up to date, preparing carefully for the presentation/meetings etc. I‘ve always been outgoing and self-assured, and my confidence in dealing with the people has developed naturally with experience and watching senior colleagues at work.

46. What difficult decisions have you made in a clinical setting?

Discuss any difficult decisions you have had to make in managing a patient and explain why it was difficult. It could be an ethical issue or lack of resources. It may be worthwhile mentioning how you would deal with it in future or anything you did to remedy the situation.

47. How do you go about making important/difficult decisions?

There are  steps I follow to ensure that I choose the best possible options:

  • Firstly, I get together all the facts I can


  • Secondly, I talk to the people involved in the matter and get their input as well


  • Thirdly, I examine all aspects and try to predict the possible outcomes


  • Lastly, I try to foresee any contingencies that might affect my decision, along with any problems that might arise from it

When I have all the information, in my experience a clear option usually stands out. Taking into consideration factors such as timing, budget and so forth, it’s usually possible to make an appropriate decision. For example---

48. Explain what do you understand by an equal opportunities policy?

My understanding is that every employee and everyone with whom we deal will be treated fairly, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic and cultural background, disability or social background.

49. You don’t get on with a colleague - how do you deal with it?

  • Try hard to get on with all colleagues
  • Came across one, did not get on well, basic problem was lack of communication - uneasy about situation
  • Working in same department
  • Went to see him, cleared up the misunderstanding and worked together afterwards

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