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You are approaching end of your training and looking for consultant job. What is next? You have heard a lot about how stressful consultant interviews can be and have heard  different opinions on how to prepare for your upcoming consultant interviews.  Job market changes very quickly and demand and supply ratio can change. One still needs to perform and excel on the day. Here we look at some myths about the consultant interview process.

Being an only applicant increases chances of you getting the job

Number of applicant per post ratio for consultant interview is variable. Some specialities have gone through big expansion (stroke, acute medicine). NHS drive to improve patient care could also mean increase demand for consultants (Obstetrics). New drive to improvise patient care have resultant in rota changes and implementation of different model of care but these specialities may not have enough candidates finishing their training to fill up all new posts. On the other hand a speciality may not attract applicant due to shortage of trainees in that area.

Number of applicants for consultant role per post vary and depends on:

  • Location (urban/rural setting) tertiary referral centre
  • Nature of the job (part time, full time, research, academic post)
  • Speciality (some specialities are more competitive than others)
  • Number of new trainees finishing the training
  • Retirement posts
  • Expansion of the speciality: some specialities have seen huge expansion (Obstetrics, acute medicine)

It is possible that you may be the only candidate for the post that you are being interviewed. Do not feel reassured. Do not allow this knowledge to give you false sense of security that you are likely to get this job regardless of your performance. In fact, you should not even try to find out how many applicants are being interviewed (resist the temptation). Consultant appointment and advisory committee (AAC) may decide not to make recommendation for appointment if they find candidate not up to scratch even though that was the only candidate they interviewed!

So do not let your guard down even though you are the only applicant that is being interviewed. You need to stand out. You still need to perform as if you are one of the few. Consultant interview is an art and you should be master of the game!

Internal candidates have better chances of success

Consultant interview is a fair and transparent process.  There may be some truth that the internal candidates may have a slight edge than external applicants. This is very virtuous and comes from them being part of the unit/service/department. BY being part of the service, they may/would have a better understanding of the how the department functions, service development plans, future directions and the vision of the service. They are possibly attending management meetings and are more aware of the ongoing power games, politics as well as challenges the department and trust are facing.

Internal candidate may also have better access to minutes of the board meeting (may even have attended them). They may be more aware of the hurdle and obstacles as well as progress being made in certain aspects (and failures!).        Consultant interview questions related to management part stems from “what is going around” and an internal candidate may have an upper edge. They can guess or predict kind of questions to expect in the consultant interview.


Being an internal candidate is also like a double-edged sword. They may be liked by all and everyone wants them to stay as full-time consultant or they are not liked by team members? What if they recently made some mistake and considered reckless or dangerous clinician? What if the feedback on their performance is less than adequate? What if they are perceived negatively? Sometimes, they have “already been tried and tested”(unless exceptionally good) and this may influence the decision. This may impact their chances of success at the consultant interview.

Remember, the internal candidate is in place and has interacted with team members over a long period of time. There may have been positive/negative interaction. Internal candidate has been tested and either scored high for the team or not. But you have no way of knowing this.

What should I do if there is an internal candidate for the same post that I am being interviewed?

You should not even try to find out if there is an existing locum, internal candidate (trainee from same deanery). If you come across this information or become aware about an internal candidate, do not try to find more about the person. That will be waste of time. Try not to ask this at the time of pre interview visit. During your pre interview visit, if you do come across this, try to stay calm.

Do not lose interest in the job and prepare half heartedly. You have no idea about the capabilities, skills and opinions of others about the other applicant. You do not know about the skill/experience match of the internal candidate with the service need. The internal applicant may have different plans.

So even if you become aware of this fact it is recommended that you do nothing. Rather than focus how to excel on the day. You should prepare well and put your best feet forward on the day.

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