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The NHS consultant interview is often considered one of the most difficult parts of the recruitment process. As a candidate, you’ll want to make sure you give yourself the best possible chance of success by preparing for difficult questions. It is important to be prepared for anything that the interviewers may throw at you. Correct preparation would equip you with the right strategies and techniques that can make you stand out from the other candidates and make a great impression.

Definition of “difficult question” depends on individuals, circumstances and your preparedness for the interview. One can assume that a question is difficult when does not know the answer!

In such situation, think coherently, apply knowledge you have to rationalize and give your answer. Choose the right framework to give structure your answers, and think coherently when responding.  Anticipate the types of questions you may be asked in your medical consultant interview, and practice your responses with a friend or mentor. By doing so, you’ll become more comfortable with the process and develop strategies for responding to common difficult questions.

Following four quarter approach ( in figure shown above) helps you in responding to a question that you feel is difficult. 


Applying your knowledge and rationalizing your responses are important in showing your interviewer that you have a deep understanding of your field and are capable of critical thinking. Make sure you use the correct NHS issues and examples in your answers and support your arguments.

When preparing for a medical consultant interview, it is important to anticipate and prepare for the questions that you can get asked. When you are faced with a question, think what the question is about. Which of the following category it can fit? Some of the common difficult interview questions include questions related to following:

  • Team working

  • Leadership

  • Difficult colleague

  • Service management

  • Job plan and SPA

  • Behavioral question

Once you have identified the type of question, think what knowledge you have on that specific topic and what NHS hot topic is relevant to that question? Put all that in a narrative using the correct frame work and you have answered that difficult question. All of this “thinking” should come easily when you have been practicing. It is essential that you think coherently, apply your existing knowledge. It is equally important to provide specific examples to illustrate your points and demonstrate your experience and skills.

Prepare examples of your previous experience that demonstrate how you possess the required skills and attributes for the role. Practice answering common interview questions that you think is difficult. As we can see from the list of categories, most of the questions in these categories can be answered using STAR framework.

The STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, and Result) is a popular framework to use in answers, especially for behavioural questions. With the right preparation and mindset, you can confidently handle tough questions in your medical consultant interview.

In terms of leadership qualities, you can discuss how you have managed and motivated a team, and how you have dealt with conflict and difficult situations. For team working questions, you can talk about your communication and collaboration skills, as well as your ability to build positive working relationships.

When you are asked about managing services efficiently with less staff and resources, you can discuss strategies you have implemented in the past to increase efficiency and productivity, such as streamlining processes or implementing new technologies.

If you don’t understand a question: clarify to ask what they want to know rather than guess. Your research about the trust/hospital/department will help you gain an understanding of the culture and the role you will be taking on. Prepare examples of your previous experience that demonstrate how you possess the required skills and attributes for the role.

By preparing and practicing ahead of time and using correct framework to structure your responses, you can effectively navigate difficult questions during your medical consultant interview. Remember, the interviewer is not trying to trip you up or catch you out. They are simply trying to assess your suitability for the role, so be confident, stay calm, and answer to the best of your ability.

Here are some tips:

  • Listen carefully to the question: Make sure you understand the question being asked before you begin to answer.
  • Use the correct framework e.g. STAR method: Use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to structure your answers
  • Be honest: If you don’t know the answer, it’s better to admit it than to try to bluff your way through. You can say something like, “I’m not sure, but I would be happy to look it up and get back to you.
  • Take your time: Don’t feel like you need to rush to answer a difficult question. It’s okay to take a moment to gather your thoughts before responding.
  • Use the information in the job description and person specification provided.
  • Match person specification to your skills highlighting your unique selling point
  • Avoid jokes and don’t talk too long as you may start to waffle or include irrelevant contents.

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