Receiving your first initial invitation for an interview is exciting. It is the first step that the trust you have applied for are interested in what you have to offer them.
Now at the same time, you may feel overwhelmed as you are unaware of what happens next. You may think to yourself, “oh my, where do I begin?”

I have had my fair share of interviews; the nerves; the long anticipated wait; the anxiety.
So it is normal to feel like that, so don’t worry yourself. I have therefore put together helpful tips which have helped me throughout the process. I have split theses up into three sections:

  1. Preparation before an interview.
  2. Preparation for during an interview.
  3. Preparation for after an interview.

Careful planning is important. It reduces some anticipated anxieties on the day.
Some people tend to ‘wing it” and see what happens, others, like myself, follow a process of planning and it works.

Preparation before an Interview

Research the organisation - Read up on their initiatives; their objectives. Each trust have them.
Try and find out about what educational resources they have in place for your CPD.

Arrange a visit - Some find it necessary to arrange a visit with the OT department.
This will give you an idea of the environment and team in which you will be working with.
It also gives the interviewer an idea of who you are. This could in turn be beneficial to reducing the anxieties on the day, as you have already met your interviewers.

Travel - How are you going to get to and from the interview? - Google search the post code, look up the area, local bus routes, train times, local taxi companies.
The more prepared you are, the less anxiety you will have on the day. The day will just flow perfectly.

Personal Specification - with a highlighter pen, highlight key areas that are covered in the ‘essential criteria’.
More common than not, these areas form some of the questions interviewers may ask you.

Job Description- It is daunting looking at the job description because it lists an extensive range of responsibilities you have to attain to.
So what to look out for? Well here are a few things to look out for:

  • Your role within the team
  • Assessments you will be providing - If you can not find what assessments they provide, this can be a question for you to ask them.
  • Chosen model of practice - research it.
  • Clients/patients - their conditions
  • How you would maintain CPD and clinical governance
  • General day to day duties.

It is overwhelming summarising this information. I find that the more you can summarise and learn about the organisation, the more prepared you will be when if it is brought to your attention at interview.

What questions will I be asked?

There are many uncertainties surrounding what questions maybe asked. It is anyone’s guess really.
By preparing yourself well enough, it will give you the preparation you need for any questions your interviewers may ask you and therefore help you prepare answers beforehand. I have had fair experience of them to know not preparing for interviews does not put you in good stead when they begin their questioning.

Here are areas I have compiled together that certain questions may be asked:

  • About you
  • About the organisation
  • Group work
  • Legislation and Policy
  • OT specific questions
  • Managerial questions
  • Scenario based - what would you do if?
  • Speciality focuses e.g. Mental Health, Learning Difficulties.

On the following page are questions I have been asked in interviews. I hope they help you like they have helped me in the past.

ABOUT YOU

  1. Tell me about yourself
  2. What is your greatest strength?
  3. What is your greatest weakness?
  4. What experience and skills do you feel you can bring?
  5. Tell me about your hobbies and interests outside of work?

ABOUT THE ORGANISATION

  1. What made you apply for this job?
  2. Tell me, in your own words, why you have applied for this position?
  3. Tell me in your own words, what you understand about our trust/organisation.
  4. Why should we hire you?
  5. Why do you think you will be successful at this job?
  6. What will you do if you don't get this position?
  7. How do you feel your knowledge, skills and experience meet the requirements for the post?
  8. What can this mixed rotation offer you?
  9. What part of this rotation interests you and why?
  10. What skills do you feel you can bring to this rotation?

TEAM WORK

  1. What do you think makes up a good team?
  2. Give some examples of teamwork e.g. Placement; University and Employment.
  3. How Would You Describe Your Ability To Work as a Team Member?
  4. Group work/interventions you have done?

LEGISLATION AND POLICY

  1. Meaning of Equal opportunities in relation to post
  2. Meaning of Equality and Diversity
  3. What is your understanding of Clinical Governance?
  4. What is your understanding of Safeguarding?
  5. What can you tell me about confidentiality? and how would you apply it to your work.
  6. What Policies do you feel would have an impact on your ability to provide a good service? e.g. OT policies, depending on speciality.
  7. What current legislation do you feel would have implications in your practice?

MANAGERIAL QUESTIONS

  1. What is your understanding of Lifelong learning
  2. What is your understanding of risk and managing risk situation?
  3. What is your understanding of inter-professional learning?
  4. How do you cope with stress?
  5. How would you apply positive stress management techniques in the workplace.
  6. What would you do if you observed a colleague in a stressful situation.
  7. How would you keep your knowledge and skills up to date?
  8. How would you cope with the transition from student to therapist?
  9. How would you use supervision?
  10. How would you manage your time effectively?
  11. Do you believe you have the skills to supervise junior staff?
  12. Do you believe you have the skills to supervise OT students?

OT SPECIFIC QUESTIONS

  1. What made you choose OT?
  2. Why did you apply for this job/rotation?
  3. What areas of this job/rotation interest you and why?
  4. OT process - Think of one client you worked with - What did you do and how did OT impact their life?
  5. Dealing with changing rapid situations on the ward is essential to this post. Can you give an example where you've had to do this?
  6. Who is included in a multi-disciplinary team?
  7. What do you consider the role of an occupational therapist has within the MDT?
  8. Describe the difference between environmental and discharge visit?
  9. How do you set and manage goals?
  10. What is your understanding of a therapeutic relationship?
  11. What are the biggest risks you have taken in recent years? Which ones worked out best and which ones not?
  12. Being under pressure on the ward can be stressful. Can you tell me how you cope with stress in the work place?

SPECIALITY QUESTIONS

Mental Health

  1. Recovery - What is your understanding of Recovery?
  2. What is your understanding of Schizophrenia?
  3. What is your understanding of Psychosis?
  4. What would you see in a person who is suffering from Schizophrenia?
  5. In your experience, tell me of a time where an intervention worked well? What evidences supported this? and how did you ensure your intervention worked?
  6. Social Inclusion - What is your understanding of Social Inclusion?
  7. How would you ensure your patients had fair access to services?
  8. Planning - What practicalities do you need to think about when running a group session?
  9. What could you do to ensure you keep up to date with your knowledge and skills?
  10. What local initiatives are there that could potentially impact your ability to provide a service?
  11. Service user involvement - What have you done in the past that ensures this?
  12. What is your understanding of risk assessment and CPA?
  13. What is your understanding of mental capacity?
  14. You are planning a group activity, what considerations need to take place when running a group?

Learning Difficulties

  1. What issues do you think people face with having a Learning Disability?
  2. What is in your opinion is the difference between a Learning Disability and a Learning Difficulty?
  3. Planning - What practicalities do you need to be aware of when organising a group session?
  4. What types of Abuse are there?
  5. What is your understanding of a vulnerable adults?
  6. How would you ensure that their needs are being met?
  7. What activities have you led in this type of setting.
  8. What is your understanding of mental capacity?

Scenario Based Questions

  1. How would you cope with a challenging carer/relative?
  2. How would you cope with a disruptive client in a group?
  3. What would you do if one of your patients disclosed they had self harmed themselves?
  4. What would you do if you felt a patient was not able to a decision about their care?
  5. What would you do if during a 1:1, a patient confides in you, telling you information that could potentially put them at harm/risk.
  6. You are approached by a patient who asks you to be their friend? What do you do?
  7. In the workplace, you notice a member of staff shouting at a patient. What would you do ?
  8. A patient you have been working with comes and tells you that your line manager borrowed 20 pound from them. How would you cope with with this?
  9. A student you have been mentoring, confides in you that a member of your team has been speaking to her inappropriately, what action would you take as her supervisor?
  10. Tell me of a time, when you had conflict with a colleague, what happened, how did you both learn from this? how can conflict in the workplace be prevented?
  11. A consultant challenges you about discharging a patient that is not ready for discharge, what actions must you take to ensure a safe discharge home?

During the Interview

What to bring or not to bring?

Here is a simple list I have compiled together of what is usually needed at an interview. Unless otherwise stated in the letter they send to you.

  • CPD folder, otherwise your PDP, if just graduated from university.
  • ID such as passport, drivers licence
  • Birth Certificate
  • 2 forms of address dated within the last three months (Utility bill / council tax bill / bank statement)

If you attend for an interview at a secure mental health hospital for example, there may be situations where they will state via telephone with you or on the letter, what not to bring for security reasons.

These may include:

  • Mobile phone
  • Keys or other sharp objects
  • Cigarette Lighter
  • Jewellery e.g. Necklace.
  • Medication - if you do need medication e.g. inhaler, check to see if it is acceptable to bring it with you.

If you do need to take with you any of the above restricted items, one recommendation is if you can bring a companion along with you, do so, as they can hold on to your belongings during interview.
Otherwise they will be locked up in a locker for you.

Some trusts follow the “restrictions” above, others do not.
These are more than likely be applicable to medium and high secure hospitals or prisons. It is always good to ask them what is needed to bring to interview.

Once you have done as much research as you can prior to interview. It is good to plan what could happen, during an interview. In my experience.
Always expect the unexpected.
Just because they may state, “you have been invited for an interview”, expect that there maybe more to it, like a panel of clients as well as OT’s or a case study do.

There are many formats of interviews that are carried out, and it all depends on which trust you go to for an interview.
Every trust have different interviewing formats. These may include:

  • Structured interviews only.
  • Interview + Presentation.
  • Interview + Case study.
  • Intray Exercise.
  • Written and Group assessment.
  • Group assessment + individual interview.

There is big demand for OT, and a lot of competition for jobs .
The number of students who graduate at universities in Occupational Therapy is very high, unfortunately, due to the nature of the jobs, the ratio of jobs to graduates is low.
Hence the competitive nature of the NHS. Everybody wants a job when they graduate, the reality of this depends on the high turn over of available jobs in both public sector and private sector as well the experience of the individual when applying for their first job.
Advice I can give there is, apply and keep applying. Some people just hit lucky, others, take a while to get there.

If you don’t succeed in getting a job, first time around, do not worry, it is a very competitive market out there and usually it comes down to the finer detail. Keep persevering! I always believe in the concept that the right job will find you!

Below are types of interviews I have had the pleasure of taking part in. So I have included tips to help you all out:

Tips:

  1. Listen clearly to the questions being asked.
  2. If you do not understand a question, it is acceptable to ask them to rephrase it.
  3. Be concise in your answers - even take a note pad with you and jot down key phrases of the question.
  4. If you have dyslexia, state that as you go into the interview and before it begins. They will take that into consideration when they ask questions and mark your answers.

Interview and Scenario - You will get given time at the beginning of an interview to complete a scenario.
You may be given a case study and be required to answer questions within a set time and to discuss your findings within the interview.
Sometimes the service will let you know in their letter they send you, if you have a case study or some other of assessment to do.

Tips: For the scenario

  1. Highlight key areas e.g. age, condition, lifestyle, home situation.
  2. Look at the question(s), what do they want from you.
  3. Becalm and re-read both the scenario and the question carefully.
  4. Make small answers, because you can discuss them further in the interview.
  5. If you have learning needs such as Dyslexia, then you can ask for additional time, it does make a difference.

For the interview

  1. Feed back your findings.
  2. Be concise
  3. Follow the OT process of how you arrived at the answer (if it applies)
  4. If you have learning needs e.g. Dyslexia, they will keep that into consideration when you are talking.

During the time when you’re thinking about the question; and how to answer it, consider one thing. The Occupational Therapy Process. It is the logical sequence we go through when arriving at a pivotal point in a persons treatment.
Within that is the reasoning process such as reasons for doing and why we do it. We never arrive at a conclusion surrounding treatment, we always have to CLINICALLY JUSTIFY what we do and why we do it.

You will find pictures in most Occupational Therapy books about the OT process. I will put up a simplified version for you all in another article.
So keep tuned!

Group Discussions - You may be involved in a group discussion where you are given a topic on a piece of paper.
There will be others around you also, including the interviewers and other candidates.
The topic given to you is not a question or statement to trick you or catch you out.

Example 1: Occupational Therapy is not seen as a recognised profession in Mental Health.

Example 2: Discuss the role OT has in an MDT.

Example 3: The importance of the core skills an OT possesses.

It is open for a debate about the topic(s). It is a practical way for you to exert your group skills and interpersonal skills.
The interviewers will be assessing your ability to provide concise points, your inter personal skills and ability to function in a team as a team player.

Tips:

  1. Make your points clear
  2. Listen to other peoples view as well as sharing your own.
  3. Make sure you understand the statement.
  4. Be relaxed as possible and have fun!

Intray exercise - This is a practical exercise you will part take on the day.
Similar to the scenario based assessment, however, it will be an exercise that demonstrates your suitability to work as an OT.
Exercises may include a scenario where you have to advise a treatment plan; organise a list in order of importance; how you would prioritise referrals and so forth. I enjoyed these exercises because they don’t solely rely on interview performance but on practice examples too.
They are always enjoyable to do.

Remember: When interviewers contact you following the interview, always ask for feedback. Depending if you are successful, you can use their feedback to improve on other upcoming interviews.

Overall Tips during an interview:

  1. If you have learning needs i.e. Dyslexia, let them know before they ask the questions.
  2. Be calm and relaxed as possible.
  3. Take a drink in with you. Preferably a soft drink e.g. water.
  4. Listen carefully to their questions.
  5. If you are unsure of a question, just ask them to repeat it or to be rephrased.

After an Interview

Once the interviewer(s) have asked you their questions. They will give you an opportunity to ask them questions.
It is good to have these already planned before the interview. As it shows them you have prepared yourself well.

Questions you may ask include:

  1. What are the Ratio of band 5's to patients on the ward?
  2. Supervision - who will be my assigned supervisor?
  3. Case load - Will I be given a case load straight away? If not, is there a transition period?
  4. EBP - what educational opportunities are their to increase learning needs? e.g. journal clubs, peer support, preceptor-ship.
  5. What modes of assessments/interventions they currently do with patients
  6. Ask them questions regarding the speciality e.g. in Learning Difficulties, Mental Health, Physical settings such as Stroke, Orthopaedics and Elderly care.
  7. Feedback time - when will I hear back from you?
  8. Why did they choose OT?

Once you have exhausted looking through both the personal specification as well as the job description; if their are any gaps, ask them at the interview, it will show them you have prepared fully and shows a good impression to your interviewers.

Usually you will hear back the same week, or if not the week after.
Depending on the amount of people they are being interviewed, it could take a while, or it could be on the day of your interview.

Ask for feedback when they ring, whether you get the response you need or not.
This feedback will help you prepare for future interviews, if not successful.
Everything is a learning curve, and like me, I have learned from every interview and it has proven successful because I am now in the job that is meant for me.

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Categories: Advice-for-Newly-Qualified-OTs

Tags: Assessments Case-Studio Clients CPD Difficulties Dyslexia Experience Feedback Interview-Preparation Interview-Skills Interviews Knowledge Learn Legislation MDT Mental-Health Occupational-Therapy OT Patients PDP Policy Presentation Questions Requirements Scenario Skills Stroke Students Supervision Workplace


"There is no standard normal. Normal is subjective. There are seven billion versions of normal on this planet."

― Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive