Medical School Interview: Teamwork and Leadership Questions for Medicine Interviews

Example Questions

  • Tell me about a time when you showed your leadership ability.
  • Define a good team player. What qualities do they have?
  • Define a good leader. What qualities do they have?
  • Do you have the qualities of a good leader?
  • Tell me about a time when your team succeeded despite the odds being against it.
  • What is the role of the multidisciplinary team in Medicine?
  • What makes someone a bad leader?
  • Tell me why you are a good team player.
  • Do you prefer to lead teams or work within them?
  • How would you deal with a difficult manager or team leader?
  • As a team leader, how would you deal with a difficult team member?
  • Tell me about a time that your team failed, and how that affected the team afterwards.
  • Tell me about a time that you supported another team member through a difficult time. 

How to Approach Teamworking and Leadership Questions

Being able to work in a team is vital to the practice of Medicine – you will have to work with other doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, physician associates, radiographers, porters, etc. There is a huge range of other people in the hospital, equally vital to its functioning. Likewise, at medical school you will have to work with other students on group projects, problem based learning, or presentations – and you will likely rely on each other to work your way through the course and tough exams. You will have to be able to work alongside doctors and other healthcare professionals from your first year of study. You will also be expected to teach and lead others, beginning at medical school, and increasingly as you continue your career. Therefore, you must be able to illustrate that you have a sound and innate understanding of how to lead teams and work within them effectively. Let’s look at a typical teamworking question.

‘Define the qualities of a good team player. Do you have those qualities?’

Now let’s consider a poor answer to that question.

‘I think that a good team player is someone who is kind and organised. If they are kind they will be able to get along with other people in the team, and if they are organised they will be able to work well and offer a lot to the team.’

We can see that the student has picked up on only two qualities of a good team player, and these qualities hardly encompass all that a good team player ought to be. Therefore their answer immediately seems shallow and underwhelming. They fail to reflect further on these qualities, or link them to their own experience and attributes.

Now let’s look at a good answer:
‘I believe that in order to be a good team player, one must fully understand one’s role, hold oneself accountable, and be ready and willing to collaborate with others for the good of their team. To understand the role, you must be willing to learn, able to plan ahead, and able to consider the limits of your responsibility – the scope in which you should work. To hold yourself accountable you should be honest, act with integrity, and put the team first. To collaborate with others you should have empathy, an understanding of others, and be flexible. I believe I have shown these traits through playing rugby and cricket at county level, as well being part of a debate team that won national competitions. In each, I was an empathic and motivated member of the team.’

This answer explains with greater coherency what might define a good team member – the initial points seem to encompass more qualities, and the student then goes on to define them even more clearly, showing a good depth of thought. They then link them back to their own experience, explaining their suitability as a team member and a future medical student.

Tips and Techniques

i) Remember that any teamworking or leadership question is an opportunity to reflect on your own abilities and attributes

ii) Be aware of the importance of interdisciplinary work to Medicine – don’t just talk about working with other doctors.

iii) Consider the patient as part of your team – in patient-centred care the doctor works with the patient to generate a treatment plan.

iv) Think about attributes and qualities of team leaders and team players well in advance, in order that you can define them clearly and concisely when the time comes at interview.

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