RadTips: The Interview
My post on job hunting and making applications is here.
Ok, first off, not all interviews are the same. The ones I’ve had have varied greatly; the majority involved a series of questions on knowledge, followed by a “tell us about yourself” bit, and then some image interpretation, however one was just an informal chat about me (no fact-based answers at all) and there are even some places which get you to position and image a phantom.
See who’s on the interview panel; do some Googling. If it’s John Smith, who wrote an article in Synergy last year about OPG for trauma, expect an OPG image to come up. If it’s Jane Jones the head CT tsar, revise your cranial bleeds. If you have any friends or contacts within the department, find out what kind of interview it is if you can. If you have any really good friends, maybe even find out what kinds of images they tend to use; are they mostly skeletal trauma? Head CT? Chest pathology? Seriously, it’s competitive out there, use any advantage you have, just don’t take the piss.
The knowledge questions tend to be on the following types of subject:
- What is IR(ME)R? State the roles and responsibilities
- What are the HPC’s CPD standards?
- What is Clinical Governance?
- What is a Clinical Audit?
- What is the Data Protection Act?
- What is NICE/NIHCE?
These are just a matter of learning by rote, unfortunately. There isn’t really a shortcut. Condense each answer into a series of points and get them into your head.
The personal questions can vary a lot, but there’s usually:
- Why this hospital?
You need to do your research. Perhaps this is a placement site you’ve really enjoyed, or it’s a massive teaching hospital with loads of scope for personal development. Mention other points, such as outstanding infection control (if true!), what kind of Trust is it? If they’re applying to be an FT then you ought to mention this and state why it’s a positive move.
- How has your degree/placements prepared you for a radiography career?
Quite simple really, have you done night shifts? Rotated between all the modalities? Have your placement sites been dramatically different? Big yourself up.
- How would you apply your personality to radiography?
- What do you most enjoy about radiography?
- Give us an example of your teamworking skills
- Give us an example of how you dealt with a difficult situation/patient
The only way to pass the image interpretation aspect is to practise. Go through some old OSCEs and familiarise yourself with pathologies and how they appear on radiographs. You’ll need to be able to describe anatomy as well as point out fractures; if you’re given a normal elbow image, they may ask you what fat pad signs you would expect to see if there was a fracture. It’s not just about being able to differentiate between normal and abnormal though; they may give you an awful peg view and ask how you’d improve it. Angle up? Angle down? Open the mouth more? That sort of thing. Try not to react too much to the images though; in one interview I was shown a frankly dreadful lateral ankle and I couldn’t help but raise my eyebrows when I saw it. Instead of commenting on how crap the image is (it might be one of theirs!), explain how you would improve it, and throw in something about patient cooperation, and how you’d only repeat if you think you could achieve a diagnostic quality image. If the image is rubbish but you can still see a particularly bad fracture, it’s worth mentioning that the patient might not have had analgesics (it happens), and this could be why the image is so naff. Patient care is hugely important, don’t waffle on about how you’d reposition the patient if they haven’t had any painkillers yet.
Personally, I think that technique is more important than interpretation. You’re interviewing to be a band 5 radiographer, not a radiologist. Being able to spot and describe a coin lesion is great, but you need to be able to take a decent mobile chest image first.
At some point in the interview, normally towards the end, you’ll be able to ask questions- don’t think for a second that this is of lesser importance than the rest of the interview. This is where you not only get to find out about the post (shift patterns, preceptorship, facilities, equipment etc) but you can also demonstrate your knowledge further. Asking insightful questions is an important part of the interview, and if you’re creative you can really use it to your advantage. Maybe ask what C-arms they use in theatre, and when they answer you can tell them that you’ve used that model on placement, or made a presentation on its features in your first year. Just don’t force an anecdote into a question as it’ll be obvious and really really awkward.
One piece of advice which I cannot stress enough, is the need to appear human. You might be able to cite IR(ME)R word for word and have the image interpretation skills of a trauma consultant, but you’re being assessed on more than that. Bear in mind that they know you’re a new grad, and therefore you’re going to have gaps in your knowledge; that will change with experience. Your personality probably won’t. They’re going to be judging how well you’d fit in their team, and if it’s a small department then this is hugely important. There’s not much you can do about this, just be yourself (or a slightly censored version of yourself) and hope they like you. If they don’t think you’ll fit in, then unfortunately that’s their call.
After the interrogation most places will offer you a tour of the department (this entirely depends on how busy they are, and whether they have anyone available to show you round). This is usually very informal, but remember that the person showing you round is a potential future colleague, so don’t relax too much; assume that they’re going to report everything back to the interview panel, that way you can’t go wrong. You can find out quite a lot about whether you’d want to work there from the tour: ask them how long they’ve worked there, what they enjoy about it, what theatres are like, ask about equipment and practicalities (room 4’s a nightmare, but there’s loads of space for mobiles in resus), whatever comes to mind. Don’t ask which band 7 is the biggest bitch, or who the nicest radiologist is. That would be something of a faux pas at this stage.
After the Interview
You should have been told when you’re likely to hear back from them, if not, don’t leave the room without asking! You’ll end up worrying unnecessarily, thinking you’ve been unsuccessful when in reality they’re not going to make a decision for another week. If judgement day comes and goes with still no word, it can’t hurt to contact them; it shows you’re interested at least, just don’t hassle them. If they said they’d ring by Friday and it’s now Tuesday, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to call. If it’s only Friday afternoon, lay off and chill out.
If you’re offered the job after your first ever interview, then well done! Whether you did it by skill, luck or a combination of both, it doesn’t matter, you did it.
If not, chalk it up as experience and move on, try not to take it too personally. The interview might have been excellent, you could have been the perfect candidate, unfortunately, there could have been 5 other perfect candidates and only two posts. It can be completely galling to come away feeling super positive, only to receive a standard “Dear Candidate” rejection email, and personally I think that’s a pretty crappy way to be turned down, but sometimes that’s how it goes. Any decent employer will give you feedback, and this can be vital; if they’re the kind of employer who won’t give feedback, would you want to work for them anyway? Remember that this is a two way street; they should be trying to impress you as well, after all, you’re going to be spending the majority of your waking hours there.
If, like me, you’ve gone for the “carpet bombing” approach, you’ll hopefully have another interview lined up, so you can use the feedback from this one to adapt your technique. If not, make some notes to remind you when the next one comes up.
Most important of all, try not to get disheartened. This can be really difficult, especially as the rejections pile up and the money runs out. I applied for over 40 posts and attended 7 interviews at a cumulative cost of over £75, but eventually the final three interviews all ended in offers. If I can do it, so can you.