Applying For SET

SET Interview Tips

Preparing for the SET interviews can be pretty stressful. Some of us are not as good in interviews as in treating patients! These are some sample questions

Interview practice questions


  1. Tell me about yourself. (other versions of this question can be something like: How would you describe your character/personality? How would your best friend describe you? What the interviewers want to know is - why should you be THE SELECTED candidate , what is better about you than other candidates being interviewed)
  2. Take me through your work history
  3. What are your strengths?
  4. What are your weaknesses?
  5. I saw on your CV that you enjoy __________ - how did you get interested in this?
  6. What do you hope to be doing in 10 years time?
  7. How would you measure your success as a surgeon?
  8. What do you think of the work-life balance as a surgeon?


Structured interviews

  1. From your surgical experience, please tell about what you have learnt in your job as an unaccredited registrar that will help make you a better consultant.
  2. Tell me about Continuing Professional Development(CPD). How do you keen informed professionally?
  3. Tell us about the skills and competencies you have that will make you a good surgeon?

 The 9 RACS competencies:

    1. Medical Expertise
    2. Judgement – Clinical Decision Making

                                                             i.     Have you ever made a mistake in your work as a doctor? What have you learned from it? (Tell me about the worst mistake you have made)

                                                           ii.     3 patients from a multitrauma has all been brought into the emergency department as the same time in a country hospital with only one operating theatre. One has an acute subdural haemorrhage. Another is a 38 weeks pregnant lady with abdominal pain and there is fetal distress on the CTG. The third patient is bleeding profusely from a wound in his groin – femoral artery. What do you do? Who do you take to theatre first?

    1. Technical Expertise

                                                             i.     You are closing up after an inguinal hernia repair and no local anaesthesia has been given yet. You ask your consultant what local anaesthetic he prefers. Your consultant says don’t worry about using LA. What do you do?

    1. • Professionalism and Ethics

                                                             i.     You just did a 15min surgery with your consultant – he writes down on the claim sheet 5 different MBS item numbers for the operation performed. You think that the item numbers are incorrect and that there should only be 1(or 2).

    1. Health Advocacy

                                                             i.     Can you describe a time when you have been proactive?

    1. Communication

                                                             i.     An elderly non-English speaking patient has been admitted with bane pain has just had a bone scan which shows multiple bone metastases. You have just got the results and spoken to his son. His son tells you that his GP has done a PSA which was 200 last week but says that the family  has decided not to tell the patient? What do you do?

                                                           ii.     The surgical outpatients clinic is running late. It is already 6pm and you are the only remaining doctor there. All the consultants have already left due to other commitments. The last patient you bring in has only a brief referral letter – but he has brought in his scans which show he has pancreatic cancer. What do you do?

                                                         iii.     An elderly patient has been admitted from a nursing home with a perforated viscus. Your consultant has been informed and decided to take the patient to theatre for a laparotomy. You have to phone and obtain consent from the only next of kin(daughter/son) who lives interstate for the surgery.

    1. Collaboration and Teamwork

                                                             i.     Are you a team player?

                                                           ii.     Teamwork is very important in surgery - How do you normally contribute to a team?

                                                         iii.     How well do you work with nurses?

    1. Management and Leadership

                                                             i.     Leadership is important in surgery. In what way do you have leadership potential?

                                                           ii.     How do you have good time management?

    1. Scholarship and Teaching
  1. How do you handle this problem:
    1. If you are a registrar, and the consultant you work with turns up drunk.
    2. You are a surgical registrar – you are rostered to be oncall on  a busy job for 7 days in a row? How will you cope and how do you make sure you are working safely?
    3. Do you cope well under pressure? Can you give an example in your work as an unaccredited registrar?
    4. Patient has just been put to sleep in the operating theatre. You are the sole surgical registrar in the hospital. ED has just rung through to say a patient with multitrauma has presented.
    5. In is the start of the internship year - There is a new intern in the unit. He/she is not sure of what to do. How do you guide him
    6. There is a new nurse manager in the unit and you do not get along with the manager. What do you do?
    7. If you felt disappointed you are not getting the amount  of operating experience you were expecting during your 6 month rotation, how would you deal with it?
    8. What would you do if you hear your consultant make a sexist remark about a staff member of the opposite sex in theatre?
    9. You normally start your ward round at 6:30am before the consultants arrive at 7am. You have asked your new resident to come in at that time too to do the round. Your new resident refuses to come in that early as  he/she is not rostered to start at that time and is only rostered to start at 7am. What do you do?
  2. Logic problem questions:
    1. How can you estimate blood loss in surgery?
  3. Estimation:
    1. How many gallstones can fit into a gallbladder?
    2. How can you estimate the wound infection incidence in your hospital?
  4. Current issues
    1. What do you think of the government’s plan to reduce self-education expenses to $2000 each financial year?
    2. What do you think of Telehealth?
    3. What do you think of plans to reduce the public waiting list by doing operations in the private sector? Ie having private hospitals tender to do hernia repairs
    4. What do you think of the number of women in surgery? How can that be improved?
    5. The is increasing trend towards subspecialization in general surgery? Who do you think should participate in the oncall general surgical roster?