Getting through the interview. On the day.

Picture1After your pre-interview visit you’ve reconfirmed your desire for this job, and the day of the interview approaches.

The interview process is fairly standardised around the UK, since the NHS has very strict standards about how to appoint consultants.  (1, 2, 3)  This will obviously differ across the world, but the basic principles should be similar.


Technically speaking it isn’t an interview panel – it’s an appointments advisory board, whose job is to advise the trust board on an appointment.  But since you’ll think of it as an interview panel, and for all intents and purposes it is, then we’ll refer to it as such. 

The panel members will ask questions in roughly the following order.  We can’t give you the questions or the answers, but we can hint at what they might be interested in.

1.      College advisor

This person determines, on behalf of the relevant college, whether or not you are technically appointable to the post.  This will therefore be in the form of a description of your training, achievement of your certificate of specialist training, and other aspects.

Note that this person can only say if you can or cannot be appointed; they do not have an actual vote, and their role is strictly advisory.

2.      University representative

This person will look into any research or teaching aspects of your application.  Their questioning will obviously depend on the particular requirements of the post.

3.      Local consultant

There may be more than one member of the team that you are applying to join.  They may ask clinical questions – usually involving complex situations with patients and families – or questions which seek to demonstrate how your appointment might compliment the other skills in the team, and how you’ll fit into that team.

4.      Clinical Director

The clinical director is most likely to be interested in how you will help them solve some of the problems that the team may face in the future.  This is likely to include questions about leadership roles and management experience.

5.      Medical Director

The medical director will be keen to ensure that your appointment enhances the consultant body, and that you will be an asset to the organisation.  If you consider this a different way, if you end up in difficulty with the GMC or with any other disciplinary action, it will be this person who has to do a huge amount of work.  In addition, the medical director may ask questions which explore that you’ve read the relevant Department of Health documents, or other high impact reports – for example, the outcomes of major enquiries.

6.      Chief executive

The chief executive will be interested in your advanced skills in terms of your understanding of management, strategy, service development, and in general how you will fit into the trust.

7.      Human resources

It’s fairly unusual for this person to ask questions, but they may wish to clarify answers you’ve already given.

8.      Lay Chair

The Lay Chair can be independent, or may be a non executive director of the trust.  This person has to ensure that good interview practice is adhered to, and will be responsible for the overall running of the interview.  They will often want to ask a closing question, which can be very broad; they will invite you to ask questions and will close the interview by explaining the next steps.

 Add ons to the interview

Although all NHS trusts will use a panel like this, many trusts are also using other selection methods, including

1.      Carousel interviews.  In this format you move through a series of interview stations and are interviewed by other members of the team.  This might include nurses and other members of the multidisciplinary team, children and young people, GPs and managers.

2.      Group exercises.  We’ve heard of one trust which puts all the candidates together and they have to work as a group to solve a difficult problem, like pressures on waiting lists.

3.      Presentations – see comments above, but above all don’t over run.

4.      Psychometric tests.

While all this sounds scary, it is worth remembering that this is standard process for most senior NHS managers, many of whom will only be in post for two or three years, and most of whom will be paid less than you.

Our next post will catch up with a few things you might still be worrying about …

  • Ian Wacogne, Vin Diwakar, Helen Jenkinson

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