Consultant application – my story and tips
a blog for OXICM by Adrian Wong, newly appointed consultant intensivist in Oxford
Nothing quite signifies the end of your training than the fanfare of the consultant application process. During my registrar years, there was always an exam to look forward to, hospitals from which to move. The consultant application crept up on me; I delayed the inevitable by applying for a post CCT fellowship. Finally, after a year of searching and 2 failed consultant interviews, on the 27th of August 2015 at approximately 1345, I was third time lucky and secured a substantive post (subject to contract being delivered by HR). Here are some tips I gathered along the way.
A bit of background. I had dual trained in Intensive Care Medicine and Anaesthesia and was awarded my CCT on the 14th of December 2014.
If there is a department and a job you want, be proactive and let them know. The worst they can say is No. Keep in touch and asked to be kept informed.
Visit departments you would consider working in, most of them would be happy to talk to you and show you around.
Both NHS jobs and BMJ Careers have email alert settings once you have registered. Having said that, be methodical with your search criteria – jobs aren’t always listed under the obvious headings. E.g. anaesthesia, anaesthetist, anaesthetics have to be included.
Healthjobsuk.com is another website worth keeping your eye on.
Know your CV! Identify your Unique Selling Points (USPs) and areas of interest. Three is a reasonable number; if you have more, pick your strongest three. If you think you have none, ask your colleagues.
Show your CV to senior colleagues – when I did this, all of them picked out the same three USPs to highlight as my strengths. I recommend doing this early as it will help you focus and plan a consultant-level CV.
Only apply for jobs that you want. Sounds silly but imagine yourself being offered the job. What would your reaction be? Woohoo or oh bugger? It is still alright to withdraw your application if you find that it does not suit you after visiting the place, but to reject a job offer or to leave the post shortly after will often be looked upon as highly unprofessional.
Personally, I place great emphasis on future potential – it is not what the unit/department is now but what it could be that matters to me. Equally, I’d like to think that trusts are looking for someone they can develop to maximise his/her potential. The consultant post is, after all, just another chapter in a lifetime of learning and improving.
Read the job description and tailor your CV/application form accordingly. Pay close attention to the person specifications. Address all the essential criteria and then highlight your desirable ones (Reassure and dazzle).
IMHO, the minimum list of people you should visit include:
- Clinical director and/or lead
- Medical director
- Divisional manager and/or lead
- Anyone involved in your area of interest or USP
- Members of the interview panel (if already known)
Find out about the department/trust strengths, weakness, challenges and priorities. My visits gave me a good idea about the trust’s vision, plan, priorities and direction of travel. Ask how this post fits into the bigger picture. PLAN YOUR VISITS – you wouldn’t just turn up for a date without prior preparation e.g. travel anecdotes, an interesting book, favourite food truck etc.
These visits are also meant to help you decide if you wanted to work there. As an example, despite the excellent geographical location of a hospital I was interested in, there were several issues that would have been near impossible to overcome over the duration of my working life.
At the end of the visits (especially to the interview panel), you would hopefully have a clear picture of the priorities of each individual and the trust. Therefore, at the interview, you will be able to address them (reassure and dazzle).
Know the trust’s management structure.
Download their reports, annual review, newsletters, guidelines, protocols, policies – you MUST visit the trust website. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn profiles should be part of your background research. It highlights the way the trust engages not only with the public but also their own staff.
Most trust have a mission statement or core values. Know them and incorporate into your answers.
NHS issues – this is where I found the ISC course book very useful.
Definitions of clinical governance, audit, safety etc. – it is meaningless to memorise the textbook answer. Instead, consider what it means to you and back it up with examples.
Know you strength, weakness and USPs.
Know your competition’s strength, weakness and USPs (wherever possible).
Identify your three most important selling points. You MUST, MUST, MUST get them across.
Prepare answers to the predictable questions. Reassure the panel and then dazzle them.
Practice, practice, practice – find a colleague, loved one, willing pet. Rehearse the important opening gambit/pick up line. If there is a presentation to prepare beforehand, be mindful of the time limit, check that the format is appropriate for the equipment provided and ensure that the slide auto-transition mode is switched off (this is sadly from personal experience).
Your own specialty website
Conclusion – Goodbye Wessex, Hello Oxford
Applying for jobs and preparing for interviews take far more time than you might imagine, and this has been one of the most stressful periods in my career, so much so that I would rather sit the FFICM again. It often means that you have to put certain projects on hold, and find time to arrange meetings with extremely busy people. If you manage to get a job after one interview, you have done very well indeed. If not, take a short break, learn from the feedback of the panel, and start afresh. Do not lose heart, it is just a matter of finding the hospital perfect for you, that also thinks you are perfect for them, so keep trucking.
It was a huge relief to realise that I was appointable and to be able to work alongside friends and valued colleagues. I would not have been able to get through this without the support of my wife, friends and mentors. There are too many to thank but a few I would like to mention –
- Graham Barker
- Steve Mathieu
- Gordon Craig
- Jonathan Chantler (he who coined the mantra ‘reassure and dazzle’)
- Jonathan Harrison
As I have been told, the interview is only the first step… the real work starts after that! Wishing you all the very best with your preparations. If you have any comments/feedback or any advice to add, please feel free to drop me a line.