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You have the job. Congratulations

The consultant interview posts are limited in number and competition is fierce. You have to shine the most and come out the top to get that job. Consultant interviews are panel interviews and in all likelihood, you may not have come across this format earlier. Preparation is the key to success. But in this day of internet and information overload, where to start can be the first hurdle you need to overcome.

Be yourself

Walking on water may seem easy at first when starting preparation for your consultant interview but practice will make it easy. Consultant interviews are about you. You need to sell yourself (no one else will do it for you). You need to give examples and speak in first person. Use “I did…” instead of “we did…” Focus is on you. This does not mean that you take away credit for others work. You should acknowledge others and praise them for the contribution they did (and you come across a better and bigger person) but shift focus back on to yourself. You are being interviewed and aspiring to get that job. Though no one can do a project on their own, you need to highlight what you did, what was your role and what you achieved.

Be comfortable
Do not be shifty and look miserable. Be at ease and confident when you are answering questions. Make eye contact with each panel member is important when answering your question. I usually suggest looking directly at the panel member that asked you the question and glance briefly at other panel members as you speak and finish with the member that asked the question. This may seem difficult to begin with but that is why we recommend practice!

Be a seller
You need to sell yourself. Do not shy away when talking about your success and why you would be the right person. You know what you have done during your training and career. You should have lists of skills, experiences and expertise that you have developed over the years. Identify which of these matches the requirements in your future work place. Highlight these when going through your CV or narrating your experience. Person specification alongside the job advert should have given you pointers on what the trust is looking for (any expertise, skill set or experience). List them in your answer and do this again at the end “I feel I have what the organisation is looking for and I feel my experience in new immunotherapy for cancer is complementary and hence I would be the best fit for the job”

Be the best
You don’t know what the competition is like. You don’t know how the other candidates would perform. You can only influence how you do. Do the best to come across as the best suited applicant. You need to demonstrate what makes you unique? What is your unique selling point? What extra skills you bring to the organisation? Go through the CAMP pneumonic and add one expertise in each area. Your extracurricular activity may be what catches panel’s attention? You should have explored what the trust needs and weave that in your answer to bring out these in responses. You r research should have also given you pointers. Identify what they were praised or criticised for? Can you add something there? Maintaining positive aspect of the service and improving negative aspects both should be used and match your expertise to show that you are the one they must hire.

Remember, the application is a lengthy and not all panels members may have seen your application and may not be aware of what you are as person and clinician. You must narrate that to them.

Be the detective
Work hard on your application. Do as much detective work as you can do around your future work place. Invest time to get as much information you can get about:

• The job: details of work pattern, weekly timetable
• People at the organisation
• Work ethos and trust values
• Environment: Toxic or encouraging
• Reports on trust website: available for free
• Governing bodies report (Dr Foster, Kings fund, CQC)
• GMC survey report
• HES data report (hospital episode statistics)
• Publication and research work
• Staff survey
• Media article

Make folders to file these for each trust that you apply so that you can retrieve information easily. Use this information positively. Being aware of these shows your keenness and that your interest is genuine.

Be careful
Consultant interviews are serious business. Even when you feel you are well prepared, when you have something that the organisation would love to have, don’t get trapped in false sense of security. You still need to put in your 100% at the time of interview. The panel members need to be satisfied that you have what they want and you would be a good fit for the organisation in multitude of ways.

Do not become lax in your approach to the interview even if you happen to know that you are the only applicant. The panel need to decide that you are appoint-able. Do not let your guards down and take questions lightly. They are meant to explore different faces of your personality. Answer as best as you can, staying honest and leave humour at home.

Be a star
On the day of the interview, the best of the rest will be offered the job. Perform to your best abilities. It should come easily to you with all the hard work and practice you have put in. Speak clearly, avoid being forceful and avoid being argumentative. Put your point across but learn when to back off. Tell stories about your success, your achievements, how did you accomplish? Talk about your failures if asked but include lessons learned. Hands on heart no one is perfect and no one can say they have never made a mistake. So rest assured you will not be crucified for admitting a mistake. As long as the mistake does not portray you as a callous, careless, negligent person narrate the mistake and what changes you made afterwards. Ideally, you should have thought about such questions and prepared those lists.

Be organised
Being late for your interview convey to the panel that you either don’t care or you are poorly organised and don’t have time management skills. Being late or scruffy is a clear no and shows poor organisation at the time of the most important job interview. Aim to arrive in time. If you are travelling on the day for an afternoon interview, aim to arrive at least couple of hours early. This way if traffic is bad or parking is difficult to find, you stay calm as you have plenty of time before interview and you avoid panicking. For morning interview or even for an afternoon interview (when travel distance is long) it is best to arrive a day early for well rested look in the morning.

Be aware of body language
Interview is a two way conversation. Show that you are listening (lean forward a bit towards the speaker) making eye contact and soft smile are important. Make a grand entrance (no, not with music and dance) but a confident stance with head high on shoulder without slouching. Make eye contact and shake hands with every panel member unless they are all seated and across the large table. In that situation, do not lean over the table!

Be perceptive
Being perceptive is about communicating non-verbally, often non intentional. One does not always say the right things all the time. Unfortunately, interviews are exempt from this as you have to be hundred percent perfect in everything you say or do. Immaculate dressings, timing, conversation and perfect well structured responses are what you must do on the big day. What also matter is how perceptive you are to the panel’s reactions? Do you notice subtle gestures and can you differentiate between positive and negative gestures e.g. between smile or frown? If any of this happen, how quickly you can adjust whatever elicited that reaction if negative? If you perceive a positive response, that should encourage you.

Do not suddenly stop in the middle of the sentence when you notice a shift in position of panel member. It does not always indicate worry some news but could be a benign position shift from prolonged sitting. Only you know your scale of perceptiveness from previous experience and use it in your favour.

Be prepared

Careful attention to detail, meticulous planning, uncountable hours in skimming information from multitude of sources, attending consultant interview courses, online reading and courses should prepare you for a star performance. Be ready for unexpected and think quick on your knees!

You can book some practice sessions and mock interviews with your educational supervisor or a mentor to understand where you are. 

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