How to ace the pre-reg interview!

The search for a pre-registration place is approaching and you still don’t know what to expect from the interview and how to prepare for it? No worries, we’ve got you covered here!

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The main point of the interviews isn’t to show your knowledge in optometry related topics but to give an insight into your personality and abilities. The CV or covering letter,  or whatever document you’re asked for, depends on the place that you are applying for and will cover your level of knowledge from previous experiences. However, the real you can’t be seen without a face-to-face interview. You’ve got to be prepared to show you possess the qualities that that company is looking for.

Here are some top tips to get your pre-reg sorted as soon as possible:

1. Do your research

You don’t need to know every detail about the organisation, but you do need to know their values. This will tell you exactly what their perfect potential employee would be. Usually, the main selling-points are communication (this should be obvious because your main job as an optometrist is to talk to patients), the ability to work in a team, good problem solving and interpersonal skills, willingness to take an initiative when required, and ability to withstand challenging situations (how well you work under pressure). Sometimes leadership skills are also mentioned during interviews but be careful not to overdo it with your confidence levels. This may come across as being selfish and arrogant. So, try to keep a good balance between being a team player and a leader. Most of these characteristics are tested during your interview in form of competency questions.

2. Know the STAR technique

Situation, Task, Activity, Result. Always follow these steps during competency-based questions.

Situation - describe an event that relates to the question you were asked about, to show your personal qualities at their best. Here it’s crucial not to rush, but to take your time choosing the best and most appropriate example possible.

Task - highlight the task that had to be completed and describe the difficulties or challenges that you had to face.

Action - explain what you did to tackle the task. It’s very important to talk about your own actions (e.g. “I managed…”) and not as a group (e.g. “we decided…”) even if the question was about teamwork. Remember, they’re hiring you – not your teammates. Therefore, the organisation needs to know the qualities you can bring to the table when it comes to group work.

Result –state exactly what you achieved. This is one of the most important parts and it’s often forgotten!

I know it may seem very boring to follow this method (at least I thought so during interviews :D) but it’s quite an efficient way of giving lots of information about yourself in a short period of time. It shows all traits that you’ve got, as well as your reflection and logical thinking skills.

3. Prepare the basics

Most interviews involve similar sorts of questions. Make sure you have some relevant examples from your experiences or have some ideas already in your head about what you could say about the following topics: 

  • Talk about yourself.
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Do you’ve any experience in the field?
  • Competency based questions.
  • What are your future plans in terms of career?
  • Why did you choose optometry or the organisation that you are applying for?

4. Do's and don'ts of an interview

I know that the following might be obvious for some people, but from time-to-time, these things still happen during interviews. Never yawn, be rude, be late, slouch, have bad breath, swear, eat chewing gum, mumble or come hungry with a roaring stomach. Always dress smartly, be positive, be prepared and bring identification documents.

5. At the end of the interview…

Always have some questions prepared that you would like to know answers to. Don’t forget to thank your interviewer (it’s also good to remember their name to make it personal and give a handshake if it’s appropriate).

I hope that these tips will be helpful when it comes to your interview. Remember that unfortunately not all interviews will be successful – that’s totally fine. There will be hundreds of people in the same boat, so don’t panic! 

One last tip: if your application was unsuccessful, always ask for a feedback. It will allow you to work towards improving your performance and I’m sure that sooner or later a pre-reg place will be yours. 

Good luck and all the best with finding a pre-reg placement!

Viktorija Valicka
Student rep, Cardiff University

Originally from Latvia, Viktorija Valicka, is currently a second year student at Cardiff University. She decided to become an optometrist to make vision care more accessible in developing countries and to improve her confidence. She say it was the best decision she’d ever made! For Viktorija, the best thing about the course is the clinic time when everything is hands on. Her motto for university life is: ‘a busy mind is a productive mind’, and she never stops applying for extracurricular activities - they boost her motivation, and procrastination to a minimum.


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