How to Prepare for Your Internship Application
For many final year medical students, the upcoming internship applications are the first ever experience you will have applying for a full-time vocational job. Apprehension, stress, impatience, and even a touch of excitement are very normal emotions to feel throughout the application period. After all, this is the job you have spent thousands of hours working towards.
While it may be too late to acquire extra accolades for your application now, a large part of the process involves knowing what your potential employers are looking for, and using this to guide and configure existing achievements that best present yourself.
The Victorian internship application process is unique to other states, in that it is merit-based rather than decided by a randomised ballot. Though these have recently varied from year to year as a result of the pandemic, the five components of your application will generally include:
- Curriculum vitae (CV)
- Cover letter
- Clinical and/or non-clinical references
- Academic grades
This article will provide tips to help you maximise your CV, cover letter and interview.
Given there is a generic CV template all intern applicants must use, formatting and layout of your CV is fortunately one less thing to worry about. Having said this, there is also some room in the tables to customise how you wish to present your information.
- Do not change text size or font
- Do bold and italicise text
- Do not change the sizes or dimensions of existing tables
- Do use bullet points, or ‘invisible’ boxes within the pre-set tables to keep your text easy to read
While it may be tempting to include every single experience and achievement you have made in preceding years, also keep in mind unique or distinguishing points you have. Many medical candidates focus on research, teaching and academic awards, however often hospital networks are also interested in your life outside of medicine as these can more accurately demonstrate your personal qualities and aspirations. This can range from a community volunteering position you have held for several years, or extracurricular achievements such as involvement in recreational clubs or competitions.
Aim to also provide brief and succinct descriptions of each position and activity you include. These should be expressed objectively, but also contribute to painting a positive depiction of yourself. What responsibilities did you take on? What qualities did you bring to the role? What did you learn from this?
For both your CV and cover letter, also consider asking medical and non-medical people to help proofread and provide constructive feedback. Be sure to also not fall into the trap of allowing spelling and grammar mistakes to slip through!
Though cover letters are often the most tedious and time-intensive part of the application process, they are an important way for you to introduce yourself to the employer, with an overarching objective to persuade the hospital network to consider employing you.
In essence, the art of the cover letter is to be personable yet professional.
With this in mind, cover letters addressed to different employers are not to be copy and pastes of each other. Particularly as each hospital network will request for you to address varying points, your cover letters must be tailored accordingly.
In preparing to draft your cover letter, research the hospital’s vision, core values and strategic priorities. Draw upon achievements from your CV that both highlight these and that you are genuinely proud of. Rather than declaring outright that you possess certain qualities, aim to instead imply that you possess these by conveying what you have done. Employ the storytelling technique of show, don’t tell.
In presenting your cover letter, follow a professional cover letter format and keep it to no more than one page in length, with sensible text and margin sizes. Also ensure that you are addressing it to the right person at the right hospital.
The final - and typically most nerve-wracking - part of your application will be the interview. This will serve as the best opportunity for you to showcase your personality and people skills. Although this is naturally more difficult over video recording than in person, much can still be gleaned from the way you present and express yourself, and of course also in your responses themselves.
Broadly speaking, there are five types of interview questions you may come across:
- Personal motivation questions
- Personal quality questions
- “Tell us about a time you…” questions
- Clinical scenario/ethics questions
- Curveball questions (included in this list as a reminder that you cannot prepare for all questions that come your way!)
Brainstorm a list of questions or prompts that fit in each of these categories, either individually or with a group. Here are a few to get you started:
- Why are you interested in being an intern?
- What qualities make you a good team member?
- What is your biggest achievement?
- Tell us about a time you resolved a conflict?
- Tell us about a time you felt out of your depth?
- How would you deal with an acutely unwell patient?
- How would you deal with a colleague who is acting unprofessionally?
- What are you looking for in a hospital?
Once you have established a sufficient question bank, briefly jot down your answers to these questions. Much like your cover letter, you should frame your answers around a verifiable image of yourself you wish to communicate.
Get comfortable delivering your answers by practising them aloud. Just like preparing for OSCEs, the more actual practice you do, the more confident and fluent you will feel in your responses. Whether you practice with medical friends, non-medical friends, relatives or pets, every little bit will go a long way in helping settle your nerves in the real interview. Moreover as this is a video interview, record and watch yourself with practice videos too. You will always be your own harshest critic.
Finally, comply with interview etiquette through maintaining eye contact, showing appropriate facial expressions and sitting still. Prepare your outfit for the interview in advance (and consider wearing professional attire below the waist in case of unforeseen circumstances requiring you to stand on camera!), and find a filming location that is free from interruption and also ideally ticks the boxes of reliable wifi, flattering lighting and a subdued backdrop.
Best of luck for the application season ahead! And most importantly, remember that this entire process is one that you will encounter for years to come for as long as you continue to work in the hospital system. So no matter the outcome, take the internship applications as a positive learning experience that will help you grow both professionally and personally.
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