How to: Ace your interview

Congratulations, you have made it to the STP Interviews. Be proud of yourself, this is a great accomplishment! But even if you didn’t, if you are on the reserve list, don’t lose hope there’s still a chance, if not that, there’s always next year.

Editors note: This post was valid for the 2019 application process and might not be accurate for future years.

So at this stage, you have passed the aptitude tests (well done!) and someone has read your four questions and thought that you have great potential to work for the NHS. You are halfway there. After the application stage, it doesn’t matter if you have a BSc, 10 MScs or a PhD. Everyone starts at 0 and is ranked based on their interview performance. So all of you out there about to finish your undergrad degree, don’t worry too much, it is possible to get onto the STP just with that.

When I applied for the STP, I was somewhat indecisive about what I wanted to do after my masters. It was a very stressful time for me, applying for PhDs, the STP, a few industry jobs and  NHS Management Scheme. Thankfully before the STP interview, I had a few other interviews which gave me some experience and confidence on how to answer their questions. I do have to say, out of all the interviews I had, the STP one was the most enjoyable ones. So since I did manage to get through that one, I thought I might share some tips that might be useful when prepping for your interviews.

So some basic information about the interviews, that you hopefully are all familiar by now. The STP interview process is a bit like speed dating, 4 stations, 10 minutes each and two minutes in between to bring your heart rate down and have a sip of water.  There two specialism specific stations, one general science aptitude station and a station about values, behaviours and leadership.

1. Don’t stress

This should probably not be coming from me, but it is advice I need to follow in life as well. My Fitbit heart rate was off the scales while having any interview last year. But the more relaxed you are the better you will do at your interview. The way the stations are structured, you don’t really get a chance to know your interviewers and settle in, you have to approach them, confidently introduce yourself, sit down and start. No time to spare. The minute that bell rings, whatever you had left to say will be lost. If you got to answer all your questions in less than 10 minutes, again don’t worry, the interviewers will let you go if they think you have covered anything.

2. Prep Prep Prep

I cannot stress this enough. You need to know what to expect, be knowledgeable about your field and prepared to answer any question. Think about what could be asked by the station descriptions. Read around the clinical component of your specialism and any recent scientific developments of your field. You are applying to the Scientist Training Programme, you are expected to be able to think on the spot and have analytical and problem-solving skills. Use those skills, and show your interviewers why you should be given a job in one of the most competitive NHS graduate schemes. More information about how to prepare for each station can be found here.

3. Dress the part

This should be a given, but first impressions do count, and you will have to give a good first impression to 8 people. Your interview outfit should be neat and professional, something you feel confident and powerful in.

4. Answers: STAR technique

This will probably be more applicable to the Values & Leadership station. If you are asked a question that requires drawing an example from your experience, the STAR technique is the way to go. It stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result.

    • Situation: Explain the specific event or time that you are drawing your example from.
    • Task: What was the goal that you were working towards?
    • Action: How did you address your task at hand? What steps did you take and what was your contribution?
  • Result: What was the result in the end? Describe the outcome of your actions and be sure to showcase yourself and take credit for any positive outcomes.

Remember to try to be calm, think the questions thought before answering and don’t be scared to ask for a question to be repeated. You made it this far, be confident and do your best.

Hope this helps, and who knows, might meet some of you that get places in Cambridge.

Till then…

Author: Adriana

I am a Clinical Bioinformatician based at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge and a Regional Training Lead for Health Education England. I am all for increasing genomics awareness in and out of healthcare and interested in bioinformatics and genomics and general healthcare science.

4 thoughts on “How to: Ace your interview”

  1. Hi! Thank you for the very useful insight. I was just wondering whether you had any tips for the general science station?Im not really sure how to prepare for it! Would you say it’s like GCSE level stuff?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: