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Medical School Interviews: Resilience

Advice & Insight From Interview Specialists

Resilience is a core attribute required of medical students – it is a difficult degree, and a difficult career path in turn. Interview questions or stations that focus on resilience will either require that you can recognise when you yourself are struggling, and find a way to continue, or require you to help others who are struggling and failing to find motivation. Another part of resilience is being able to stay calm in difficult, high pressure situations – so expect to also answer questions on dealing with stress.

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Consider Types of Resilience

You should consider how one shows resilience, and what different kinds of resilience you might want to display. In particular, getting through a difficult time is unlikely to be possible without reaching out to others, seeking advice, or having a strong support network – it’s vital that you are aware of this and realistic in your answers. Resilience might also involve adaptability – for example, imagine that you are required to come back from a series of health problems. Here you need the ability to overcome adversity, and to adapt to your new situation. That could involve support groups, seeing the GP, or taking time off work as appropriate to ensure that you are able to then continue at full strength.

How to Answer Resilience Questions

Questions that touch on resilience should use personal experience as appropriate, and you ought to have particular examples of times when you have shown resilience ready to discuss. If you are tasked with a hypothetical situation then you should consider speaking to someone else – be that a friend or tutor – fixing background problems (like issues in your personal life), and being realistic with your work/life balance. Try to avoid options that could be seen as either giving up or requiring an unrealistic amount of work on your part.

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Common Mistakes in Resilience Questions

A typical mistake is not recognising that talking to others shows strength – it does, and it shows that you are ready and willing to work with others to maintain your own resilience. Additionally, be aware of taking on far too much work to cover for someone else or yourself – this could show resilience, but will also likely lead to burnout. Be ready to deal with difficult situations that affect colleagues or friends – and where your own resilience will therefore be tested, as you will need to show how you can be strong for them. Equally, be ready to discuss such examples from your own past. Examples might include a colleague who’s facing a difficult personal situation like a bereavement; a colleague who’s facing difficulties with their physical or mental health; or a scenario in which you encounter bullying or difficult circumstances during your work.

Technique for Resilience Scenarios

If you are tasked with answering a scenario in which you are newly struggling, and must therefore show resilience, consider the following:

– First of all, you must define how you are struggling, and thus what kind of resilience is required.
– Next, we need to consider potential personal problems. You should mention that your manner of addressing the situation will be context-dependent, and that therefore you would take different actions depending on the exact issues that we were facing.
Your general approach to dealing with adversity should then be as follows (and this is appropriate for all questions on resilience):
– Speak to others where possible and where appropriate. Others could include both pastoral figures, and friends and family.
– Reflect on how you could change or adapt to deal with the issue. Is it something that can be faced in a different way? This might involve taking steps like trying to live a healthier lifestyle.
– Consider whether the problem is something that seems insurmountable. If so, make it clear that you would seek professional help.
– Reiterate that resilience is both an ability to overcome adversity, and an ability to use help from others appropriately – and to be there for others when you are required.

Alternatively, if speaking on your own past experiences, try to use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) framework to provide a clear overview of what happened, and how you addressed it. Ensure that you don’t paint yourself in a negative light, and that experiences or examples you draw upon are more the result of ill-luck or external factors (which gave rise to adversity), rather than negative traits of your own leading to issues which then required resilience to overcome.

Medical School Interviews: Resilience

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