How To Nail Your Consultant Interview
Author: Hannah Bell @DrHannahBell
Previously Published on RCEM Learning
Unfortunately getting an Emergency Medicine consultant job is not quite as easy as just nailing an interview. In reality, the preparation starts way earlier so really this blog should be called, how to get the consultant job of your dreams.
In the middle of an Emergency Medicine recruitment crisis, there may appear to be plenty of consultant jobs. However, getting a job in the hospital you want, with the right team, at the right time, may not be as easy as it seems.
Having been through the process relatively recently, here are my top 10 tips to success.
1.Find Your Work Family
You've heard your colleagues say it many times, choosing your work colleagues is like choosing a wife. You're going to have to work together clinically day in day out and sit next to your colleagues in the office for years to come.
You want a team that are going to build you back up when you're down after a terrible day, and share in your celebrations of success when you secure funding for your next project. You want a team that share the same ethos towards work, education, and patient care, so choose wisely.
It helps if you've worked with the team before on your middle grade rotations. If not, pick up some locum shifts. Make yourself known to be enthusiastic, dynamic and hard working. The kind of person people get on with and want on their team.
2. Show Interest Early
Many hospitals plan their recruitment several years ahead and creating jobs takes time. Funding has to be acquired, and in times of austerity this is often difficult to achieve. Jobs are sometimes created when people move on, or go on maternity leave, but don't rely on this.
Plan ahead. Speak to the Clinical Director early and make your feelings known. Show why you would be a great asset to the existing team, and ask if there is anything you can be doing in the meantime to improve your chances of being successful. Even after a job is created, it usually takes a few months for the job application to appear, then a further month to closing, and another month to the interview. Don't start thinking about jobs a fortnight before your CCT or you'll be disappointed.
3. Find The Gap
There is little point in being that guy who loves trauma in a department of trauma enthusiasts. Find out how you can add value to the department. If you have a special interest or skill, make sure the team know what you can bring to the mix, and how you will use your extra skills to the benefit of the department.
4.Buff Your CV
When the panel read your CV, they should be able to understand at a glance what your strengths are. Make the boring bits short (everybody has an FRCEM, and went to medical school, this is not the highlight of your CV).
List your recent jobs, educational achievements, any research and audit you have done, and your management experience. Put your most recent achievements first in the list, as the most recent achievements are likely to be the most important. Some panels like to read a covering letter or personal statement. This should be a clear demonstration of why you are applying for the job, liberally peppered with indications that you know all about what the job entails and why it is the job for you.
Some health boards have an online application system, but submit your CV as well. This is your chance to show who you are, on your own terms.
Get a consultant you trust to read and critique it. Finally spell check it, and spell check it again. And again.
5. Meet The Execs
Once you have been shortlisted, there are certain people that you need to chat to. Your department lead should be able to give you the names of specific people, but in general you should always ask to meet with the department Clinical Director, Medical Director, and a Senior Manager. The benefit of this is twofold.
Firstly, it gives you an opportunity to introduce yourself in a less formal setting (when I say less formal, you still need to put your suit on), but it also gives you the opportunity to ask questions which may help you in your interview. Although not on the panel, it is useful to also chat with the lead nurse, as they can give you a good insight into departmental workings.
There will always be questions on health board strategy, including issues surrounding hospital policies, flow, exit block and escalation. Find out the problems the health board are facing, and ask what they plan to do about the issues in the emergency department. In the interview, show that you understood the issues, have read around the subject, and have some of your own ideas about how they can be addressed.
6. Know Your Panel
It can be daunting sitting across a board room table from lots of important people, but it helps to know who they all are and find out a bit about them beforehand. The mix is variable, but there will usually be a couple of consultants from the department, the Medical Director, a member of the senior health board, an external panellist (usually an EM consultant from another hospital), and a representative from the university.
This is the biggest interview of your life, so winging it is not an option. Find as many consultants as you can and ask them what they were asked in their interview. Make lists of questions, read around your subject and practice your answers. Know your CV back to front, plus its strengths and weaknesses. Know the department back to front, plus its strengths and weaknesses. Know why you want to work there, and why they should employ you. Read strategic documents on flow and escalation. Understand clinical governance and the safety issues in your department. Know what education and research your department offers and have ideas about how you can help to improve it. Have examples of times when you experienced conflict, stress, poor communication, a complaint from a patient and difficulties with a colleague.
Finally, write down the 5 things that you REALLY want to tell the panel about, and construct your answers to ensure that these points are covered.
Practice, practice, practice. In front of your partner, the mirror and then your colleagues.
8. Dress To Impress
They say, ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have. I'd take it one step further and say, don't let the Medical Director out-dress you. Look smart, professional and feel like you own that interview.
Disclaimer: Shopping may be required.
9. Calm Your Nerves
Nerves can be your best friend and your worst enemy. Use them constructively, and don't allow yourself to become overwhelmed. If you panic, take a breath, a sip of water and have a think. You can do this!
10. Be Obama Not Trump.
Be yourself. Show the panel your personality. A little smile, eye contact and some body language go a long way. You need to show the panel your strengths, but nobody likes an ego. Be professional, but somebody that they can get on with. In short, be like Obama, not Trump.