Seb Gray, Nick Schindler, Rachael Mitchell, Nancy Bostock, Nikhil Ganjoo, Ollie Bevington, James Dearden, Louise Budd, Tom Whitby & David James (co-authors of our Consultant Life series)

Congratulations – you’ve passed the first hurdle and got to the interview stage. What next?

Preparation is key here. You need to know yourself inside out so that you can answer a question without umming and ahhing. You need to get over the cringe factor and big yourself up without appearing arrogant. Practice makes perfect and the popular courses are popular for a reason. Spending a day learning answer structures and practicing in real life is expensive but most people will agree, worth it. Ask your colleagues for practice sessions but avoid doing this too close to the actual job (both in terms of who you ask and time-wise). Having a consultant pull out of a practice interview a week before as they are now interviewing you certainly doesn’t help preparations!

You need to know the job you’re applying for and what they’re looking for. If you’re working in the place you’re applying to, you still need to do the rounds and the ‘expected visits’ will vary from place to place. Every job advert will have contact details for who to approach as a first point of call. I’d suggest asking them who they would recommend meeting (particularly if there are visiting restrictions due to pandemics). This list might include –

  • Chief exec (if you are applying for a substantive job). N.B. The chief exec of a large hospital may well be too busy to meet you, but an attempt to arrange a meeting would still be courteous.
  • Medical director
  • Clinical lead for the department / speciality
  • Lead nurse for the department
  • Other consultants in the department
  • General manager
  • …anyone else who you have been informed will be on the interview panel!

Unofficially, visits are the start of the interview process bi-directionally. You will want to find out exactly what the job is. Is it brand new or is it filling someone else’s shoes? Who else is in the team and who will you be working closely with? Read the job description and person specification carefully before the visit. Most information will be on there and you’ll avoid asking questions that upset your potential employers. They may also give you some pointers about the things they are interested in, which may be useful come interview.

Many Trusts will ask for a presentation, either separately or part of your interview. This might be to the panel or it might be to anyone within the Trust who wants to come. Prepare this, stick to the topic, practice your timings and don’t forget to sell yourself.

Google the last CQC report and read the relevant sections. Questions in the interview will allow you to mention this. Commenting on positive reports shows you’ve done your homework but negative reports will also allow you to highlight your personal skills that may help boost their rating at the next CQC

inspection. You may also want to do this for the GMC training survey and your regional STP priorities. Know the Trust values and have no shame in using the wording from them during your answers (but make sure you get them right!). 

Try to relax and do something to take your mind off the interview the day before. Eat something healthy and try to get a good night’s sleep (any tips on how to optimise sleep when nervous would be greatly appreciated Dr Farquhar!). On the morning of the interview, get to the venue with plenty of time to spare so you’re not worried and make sure you’ve eaten breakfast and not overdone the caffeine. 

If virtually interviewing, make sure your surroundings are clean and tidy without any distracting background additions. Ensure you have good lighting, don’t sit in front of a window or they won’t be able to see your face. If you have the means, you may want to invest in or borrow a good webcam and a microphone so that you don’t need to use a headset (most laptops/ tablets now have these built in). Buy an ethernet cable (or dig it out from the cupboard) and plug it into your router so that you’re not reliant on your Wi-fi. One less thing to go wrong is one less thing to worry about. Do NOT attempt to interview on your phone. The quality will be poor and detract from your performance. Put a sign on the door to avoid interruptions and stay as calm as you can. If they ask a really difficult question, just stay really really still until you have a good answer. They’ll assume you’ve frozen due to their dodgy internet connection! On a serious note, take your time with answers and answer the question. Don’t self-deprecate – now is not the time. Sell yourself as best you can. Show your passion and smile. People find it much harder to be rude to someone who is smiling. If they are, you probably don’t want to work there.

If you don’t get the job, it’s not the end of the world. It’s probably for a good reason, even if you can’t immediately see it. It’s ok to feel like you’ve failed and mourn the loss of a life that you’d envisaged. Take some time and re-think what it is you want to do. There will be more jobs in that place – you can wait and re-apply. Or you can look around and check how green the grass is elsewhere. Sometimes the grass is unbelievably greener once you’ve gone through failure and removed the tunnel vision that has overpowered your perspective until point.

It all works out in the end.

1 thought on “Preparing for your first Consultant job interview”

  1. Superb article well written and so helpful I can see a whole lot of people reading this whether or not they are looking for a consultant job!

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