The Multiple Mini Interview – a speed-dating type of interview!

A growing number of UK universities are now using the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) for their Medicine and Dentistry applications. St. George’s Medical School was the first UK institution to adopt this system in 2010 and it has spread quickly ever since.

The advantage that an MMI has for you is that if you have problems in one scenario or you feel that your answer has not been up to par, you can recover and give an excellent performance in a different situation, where you will be interacting with a different interviewer. It also gives you more opportunities to shine!

The test

When you go for an MMI, you move around an average of 10 interview stations.

handshake-2056023_960_720Each station lasts around 8-10 minutes and can include role-play activities, data analysis, traditional interview questions as well as questions on a given situation. You will be given time to prepare your answer and then you will interact with or be observed by an interviewer. The situations deal with a wide range of issues but they will normally focus on:

  • Ethical decision making
  • Critical Thinking skills
  • Communication skills
  • Contemporary healthcare issues

It is important to remember that you will NOT be assessed on your scientific knowledge.

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We’re pleased to announce we have just launched InterviewStream – our *brand new* video interview platform, where you can record and practise a number of ready made video interviews or create your own custom interview from a large bank of questions.

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  • Practise whenever, and wherever!

Take your mock interview using a Mac, PC, Android or iOS device.

  • Choose from 7000+ questions

Browse the library of interview questions, organised into themes and sectors, or select a ready made set of questions designed for you, including sector-specific interviews covering medicine, law, business and more.

  • See and hear yourself online

Review your own performance. Practise at your own pace and retry as many times as you need to. Why not try out the ‘umm, like, you know & I mean’ counter to tally how many filler words you’re using!

Sign up with your QMUL email address here to get started.

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How to research a company

gillGill Lambert, Careers Consultant

This blog focuses on how to research a company, an activity which is needed to make your cover letter stand out and also to answer the inevitable interview question “Why do you want to work for us?”  

I wrote this blog because my daughter recently asked me how to research a company. She graduated last summer and is looking for work through for graduate schemes.  I advised her to use the checklist below to organise the information and then I suggested a number of ways of gathering it. 

Information Checklist 

  • Basics: what the company does, who its customers are, who its competitors are 
  • Size & Reach: how many employees they have, where their offices are
  • History: origins and  defining moments 
  • Industry: trends, opportunities, threats
  • Financials & Operations: how, where and why it is growing (staying stable or shrinking), future plans
  • Reputation: what it offers that’s unique compared to its competitors, its market share, its reputation in the industry
  • News: press releases and articles 
  • Structure: the names of executives and advisers profiled on their employees page, how the company is organised, how the department that you are applying to impacts on the company’s business,  
  • Ethics: values, aims, personnel policies

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What is your greatest achievement?

winner-1019835_960_720As with many interview questions, ‘What is your greatest achievement?’ is not as straightforward as it first appears. That doesn’t mean it should be difficult to answer, but you have to know what the interviewer is looking for.

Let’s start with the basics. This does not have to be your greatest achievement in a literal sense, since that may be a personal matter (such as helping a family member). Rather, it should be a great achievement drawn from your professional experience. This includes work experience but also your education and extra-curricular activities.

Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the pressure of having to decide your ‘greatest’ achievement, try to think of an experience that shows you at your best. This, in turn, should provide an insight into your values and motivations.

The choice of achievement is important. The achievement you give should be something you’re genuinely proud of. However, a generic answer such as passing your driving test or getting good exam results says little about what makes you unique as a candidate.

Likewise, don’t give an answer that’s too general and/or can’t be backed up with evidence, such as ‘I’ve learned to be more confident around new people’. Not only is this unverifiable, it seriously lacks wow factor!

Examples of good answers include:

  • a challenge that you overcame
  • a time that you led a team to success
  • a difficult customer that you dealt with (and how)
  • an award that you won (and why)

The structure of your answer should be similar to that of other competency-based questions. As such, you should follow the STAR technique, with the exception that the ‘R’ (result) part comes first. But what the interviewer is most interested in is how you reached that achievement (the ‘action’ part of your answer).

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Answering the ‘Tell me about yourself’ question in an interview

20947593635_f0eae7d28c_zIt’s the opening question to many interviews, designed to get the ball rolling and give you the opportunity to provide an overview of yourself as a candidate, yet the ‘Tell me about yourself’ question provokes fear in even the most confident interviewees. How do you answer it? Here are some tips:

  1. It’s more specific than it seems. Candidates are sometimes bewildered by the seemingly limitless scope of this question. What shall I tell them about myself? Where do I start? But since this is an interview, the panel is going to want a structured response which gives some insight into your overall suitability for the position. So make your answer specific and relevant. Think about the person specification: what aspects of your work experience, academic experience, or overall life experience make you suited to the position and choose the most relevant examples.
  1. Think structure. The ‘Tell me about yourself’ question is just like any other interview question in the sense that it needs a clear structure, even if the need for this is less immediately obvious. You could start with what you’re currently studying and your academic experience, followed by some brief ‘highlights’ from your work experience, followed by what motivates you, your overall career goals and objectives, and perhaps even what caused you to apply for this position. This can be a balancing act, as you don’t want to veer too far into ‘what motivates you’ or ‘what are your career goals’, since these questions could also come up later in the interview. The best strategy is to have an idea of the answers you would give to all of these questions to ensure that they don’t overlap too much.
  1. Think length. Although the scope of this question is broader than other questions, the answer you give should not be longer (typically 90 seconds to 2 minutes). Avoid spending too long discussing your personal life (although this can be beneficial if you choose specific, relevant examples) or ‘zooming in’ too much on one experience or quality, as this answer should be about providing an overview and you will probably have to talk in depth about particular experiences later in the interview.

As with any interview question, the best method is to practice – so make some notes or a mindmap for how you would answer this question. Once you’ve run over the structure, you can ask the question to yourself or get a friend to ask you and practice giving your answer. Better still, you can book a practice interview (if you have an interview scheduled) for more in-depth practice. You can also find more interview resources, including our online interview simulator, on our QMPlus page.

Good luck!

Skype interview success

Skype interviews are becoming increasingly common and they do have some advantages – you don’t need to spend time travelling to an employer’s offices, and you can be interviewed from the comfort of your own home. Unlike a pre-recorded video interview, a Skype interview allows you to talk live to a real person, preserving the human interaction which is so important in a face-to-face interview.

However, they can also be stressful: you might find that you’re worrying about the possibility of internet connection problems rather than focusing on the questions, and reading the social cues and body language of your interviewer can be much more difficult over video.

Preparing for a Skype interview should be different in certain ways from the preparation you would do for an in-person interview; focused preparation can help you to deal with the specific challenges that video interviews pose.

  1. Download Skype well before the date of the interview. Practice using it if you’re not already familiar with how it works. Make sure that your Skype name and photograph are professional.
  2. Practice answering questions on video: ask a friend or family member to log on to Skype, ask you interview questions and give you honest and critical feedback on your answers and body language. Ask them to tell you if you are fidgeting too much, if you’re audible and if you come across as engaged and interested. Practicing on video will familiarise you with the process and help it to feel less strange on the day. You might even want to record yourself so that you can review your own performance and identify areas for improvement. It is a good idea to try and have the practice interview at the same time of day as the real interview will be, so that you can check the lighting – you want to avoid being in a location which is either too bright or too dark. Continue reading

How to answer ‘What do you know about this company?’ on an application or at interview

A common application form and interview question is: ‘what do you know about our company or organisation?’

It can be a difficult question to answer – often it feels like telling the company or the interviewer information they’re already sure to know.

So why do employers ask this?

As we saw in part one, A recent government survey found that 23% of vacancies in 2015 were difficult to fill because applicants lacked relevant skills and experience. In the survey, employers said that two of the key technical or practical skills which applicants most frequently lacked were knowledge of the products or services offered by the organisation, and knowledge of how the organisation works.

Employers want to hire people who are truly keen to work for them. People with a genuine interest in what the company does and how it does it are likely to be much more committed than people who are simply looking for any job at all. Knowledge of what the organisation does and its products and services is also very important in practical terms: understanding how your role fits in to the organisation’s overall goals and aims will help you to contribute more effectively to those goals.

Also, applicants who are able to answer this question impressively are likely to be those who have prepared thoughtfully for the interview, taking the initiative to do some careful research – these are all key transferable skills that employers value.

How to answer this question:

To answer this question you must do some research – on the company’s website, on relevant professional websites/websites about the industry or sector, and in newspapers. Important points to try and find out include:

  • What does the organisation do? Make sure that you understand the organisation as a whole, as well as the particular area or department you’re applying to work in.
  • What are the organisation’s products and services?
  • Who are the organisation’s customers or clients?
  • Who are their competitors and what makes them different from their competitors? Students often say that big companies are ‘basically all the same’. But if they were the same they’d cease to exist – there’d be no need for them. Think about areas you’re really familiar with, like supermarkets or universities. Supermarkets all sell food; universities all educate students. But nonetheless each supermarket or university has its own distinctive characteristics, selling points and strengths – it’s these key defining characteristics you need to be familiar with.
  • What is the organisation’s revenue, where is it based, who are its key employees, how many employees does it have?
  • What are the general trends in the industry which affect the company? What are the key challenges and opportunities it faces?

What NOT to do:

Don’t talk in general terms: try to avoid saying that a company is simply ‘big’ or has a ‘good reputation’. Instead quantify this. How many national or international locations do they have? What is their annual revenue? Have they won any particular industry awards or introduced any innovative products?

Don’t bring up negatives: it is sometimes the case that a company makes the news for negative reasons (and this has particularly been the case in the aftermath of the financial crisis). The application process is not the right time for you to discuss this! This is not the kind of evidence of commercial awareness employers want to see. Mentioning such issues (unless explicitly asked to) is likely to come across as a criticism of the company, implying that you’re not totally keen to work for them. Worse, if this the main piece of information you know about the organisation, it might seem that you lack integrity or honesty yourself.