Are you thinking about the next stage in your career? Is that next step securing a new role as a Consultant? Well, on this page we give you an overview of what to expect and share some valuable advice. We’ve helped thousands of doctors successfully prepare for interview over the past 15 years. So, you’re in good company in reading this as the start of your preparations.
From your perspective, the process began long ago. You’ve spent years working towards your CCT or CESR. In contrast, the recruitment process is a short-term competition. The prize is the job. And, more often than not, there is only one prize available and one that the winner will treasure for many years. So, it would be a pity to stumble at the final hurdle and lose out through complacency or inadequate preparation.
The job advert
The signal for the start of this competition is the job advertisement. This typically provides you with a pack of valuable information about the role and the organisation. You should refer to this regularly during your preparations. So, make sure you save it in a safe place.
You enter the competition by submitting your application via a standardised form. In addition, you can also usually include a copy of your CV. This is your first significant challenge in the process. Writing a CV which is honest, readable, complete, concise and makes you stand out from the crowd takes time. So it’s best to start early. The ideal approach is to create a CV which you regularly review and update.
The recruiting organisation utilise a team to manage what they refer to as the selection process. This team reviews every application against their defined requirements. They automatically eliminate anyone who doesn’t appear to have the necessary qualifications or experience. Next, they reduce the remaining applicants to a short-list and invite these candidates for interview. This short-list could easily include as many as five or six doctors.
Hospitals are encouraged to make it possible for candidates to visit the hospital for a fact finding mission. However, busy departments can find it difficult to make time for all who are interested. So, it’s not always possible. If this an option then make good use of the opportunity. It can be a very useful step in your preparation for interview.
The interview panel
Appointing someone to a Consultant role represents a major financial investment for the organisation. Obviously, they want clinical excellence. However, the panel believe that each doctor invited to interview has the necessary technical qualifications and experience to do the job. So, they are looking for more than this. They want someone who will have a positive long term impact upon the entire department. Making the right choice leads to a strong team and quality improvement. Getting it wrong risks all sorts of problems in future.
High standards and high performance are essential for the long-term survival of the NHS. So, there are nationwide legal controls on the Consultant Interview process. These controls mean it is the most senior members of the recruiting organisation who will interview you. In addition, to ensure consistency, they will be joined by a representative of the appropriate Royal College. In all, you can expect to face an interview panel of between 6 to 10 high-profile people. For the majority of doctors, this is unlike any of the exams or assessment formats you have experienced to date.
What are they looking for?
So, if every interview candidate is already considered to be clinically capable, what are the panel looking for? Well, the purpose of the interview is to find about you. Who are you? What are your motivations, ambitions and strengths? What are your opinions? Will you fit in with the team? What are your values? What will you bring to the organisation?
You should expect a thorough interrogation lasting somewhere between 1-2 hours. Sometimes, it can be longer if further methods of assessment are used. You may be asked to prepare and deliver a presentation. Psychometric testing is becoming increasingly common. What ever the format, you should always be given reasonable notice. It’s time to prepare.
Our approach is to begin with a focus on three key elements:
- Know yourself
- Know the job
- Know the system
And, of course, to simply know is not enough. You must make what you know relevant to the role. Then you must clearly communicate this to your interview panel.
A structured approach
Your best approach to preparation depends on a number of factors. Be realistic. Tailor your plan to your personal situation and preferences. If your interview is imminent, time is tight, or you simply prefer to work on your own then books and online courses are good options. If you have the luxury of time, then attending a 1-day course is an excellent way forward. Interacting with other people is an excellent way to accelerate learning and preparation.
A dedicated Consultant Interview Course, Online Course or Guidebook is the most obvious form of preparation. Our approach is to guide you to identify your motivations, strengths and key areas for development as a starting point. This covers the element of getting to know yourself. Directly relating this to the specific job-role is the next part. How will your strengths help you? How will you overcome the difficulties that you will face? So it’s essential to know the job.
Some doctors believe a major part of the Consultant Interview is an examination of their knowledge of the NHS. Knowledge is always useful – if you know how to make good use of it. But, interview panels have little interest in the ability to name organisations or quote key documents as a memory test. What does impress is a doctor with a realistic grasp on the challenges faced by healthcare today. They want someone who knows how to function within the system on a daily basis, who is part of the solution, will lead improvement and achieve progress.
Regardless the amount of time you have available, a focus on knowing yourself and knowing the job should be your first priorities. Getting to know the system, whether through video tutorials, books or a course, is well worthwhile. But, if you were on the interview panel, who would you be more likely to appoint:
- One doctor who clearly understands the day to day job, the challenges they will face and how they will overcome them?
- Another doctor who can describe the function of the key bodies of the NHS and explain how the system is financed?
Ideally you want a combination. But, if it were a choice between the two…
Responsibilities and challenges vary from one Consultant post to another. So, interview panels tailor their line of questioning to match. It can feel great when you have the chance to talk about your personal strengths. But, when they are probing areas where you have little experience or potentially have a shortfall in skills it can feel very different. It’s important that you can discuss these areas both realistically and confidently. One way to do this is by being proactive.
As mentioned, our approach includes supporting you to identify any areas where you lack experience or you need to develop your skills. Your panel will be impressed if you are able to describe what steps you have taken to improve you ability to perform in the role. So, this may mean refreshing yourself or undertaking some additional training.
Virtually every Consultant role involves responsibilities for leadership and management of some type or other. So, if these are not your strengths, it’s well worth doing something about that. Alternatively, you may struggle with conflict, or with getting yourself heard. If that’s the case then, a team communication course may be useful. After all, you want to make the best start in working with a new group of people. Or if your role is going to involve teaching then it may be well worth doing an advanced teach the teacher course for either lecturing or mentoring.
The most important thing is to you tailor your preparation to suit your own situation. We are here to help.
For an overview of our range of dedicated Consultant Interview preparation options, click here.