The questioning usually follows a set pattern and in the following order:
He / she is there to see if you are appointable, to check you have the appropriate CCST and to ask specifically about your training in relation to the post for which you are applying. This is your chance to tell the panel that you are just what they are looking for, since your training in what they want is more than adequate, and, in addition, you have done other related things e.g. have been involved in trials.
- The University Representative
He / she will only be present if there is a major teaching commitment, when you are likely be asked about audit, research & teaching, and about ways in which you know you are a good teacher e.g. feedback from students, pass rates at exams. Try to tell the panel all this before they ask you so it does not have to be dragged out.
- Hospital Consultants (usually 2)
They usually want to know what you have done and why you want to join their department. This is your chance to tell them why they should select you, how your training fits into their department to strengthen it and how you can help them make it a department to be proud of. Be positive: it is surprising how few people can sell themselves effectively.
- The Medical Director, The Chief Executive and The Lay Chair
It can be difficult to forecast their questions but, in general, the Medical Director will want to know how you interact with others, the Chief Executive will want to be convinced that you wish to come to his hospital and that it is not just the next in line. The Lay Chair may want to know a bit about you outside medicine.
Any of the following questions could be asked:
- "What are your strengths and weaknesses?"
Anyone can attend a management course or read book which explains what this is about, and what answers are expected. Do NOT say that you have no weaknesses; everybody has some weaknesses. Do not, for example, say you don't like doing paperwork; it might be true but it's not what the panel wants to hear.
- "How do you deal with a difficult colleague?"
Not an uncommon problem; try to think of, for example, a junior who had problems and tell the panel how you dealt with it.
- "How do you deal with a failing colleague?"
Obviously, they are trying to ensure that you are not involved in "cover ups". You must deal with such problems honestly and by involving more senior people; you are too inexperienced to resolve these matters alone. To avoid being accused, at a later stage, of a cover-up, you must go higher in the organisation. Remember: if you know about something, and do nothing, you you too will be in trouble if an enquiry takes place.
You must think of good reasons e.g. you will be joining a good department. Tell them you know it is a good hospital with a excellent reputation and say how you know. What they need to determine is that you have looked at the hospital positively and said "Yes! this is where I want to be for the rest of my career". This gives the Chief Executive a warm glow!
It's amazing what I have heard: reading medical texts is not a good answer. If you enjoy watching television, try to be specific about what you like to watch. If you play a sport, tell them who you play for or how often. There are many ways in which people relax, so try to be specific about whatever you do.
- "Where do you think your speciality will be in 5 years?"
There have been so many changes in the last few years, they want to determine whether you have any forward vision as to how things may change, and how you are going to adapt.
- "How would you get to know the GPs?"
You will need to be able to sell yourself to the GPs. Ideally, you would do this by giving presentations, involving them in audit meetings etc. "By inviting them to dinner parties" is not the most sensible answer.
- "What would you want from the Hospital?"
This is your chance to tell them what you would need to build up the department and for you to develop. They should not want someone who thinks, once he / she has a Consultant Post, that nothing more need be done until retirement. Try and express how you would like to develop yourself.
The answer should, of course, be "Yes", but give examples of how you know e.g. feedback from your boss at appraisal.
- "What Audits have you been involved with and did they change practice?"
Tell them what you have done.
- "What is your most favourite paper you have written and why?"
Again tell them what you have done.
- "If I was to phone your Junior Staff and say what are you really like what would they say?"
Try and get in a bit about team player, being approachable etc. Remember: your references may say different?
- "Why this area of the country?"
Apart from the hospital, and how great it is, you can say that you have looked around the area and like what you see. Try and give examples of good points even if it is good connections with major centres or good schools etc.
If there is a recent article that significantly affects the NHS, try to get a feel for its implications; examples in recent years would include the Bristol Childrens' Heart Surgery Enquiry, the Shipman Enquiry etc. It may also be worth visiting the Department of Health website to see what is "hot" or currently on the agenda. There may be numerous other questions but these are the commonest.
Do NOT try to crack jokes; the panel may find them amusing but jokes can also go horribly wrong.
There was a vogue, a little while ago, for starting your answer by saying "That was a good question". Generally, the panel knows what a good question it was; that is why they are asking it. They do NOT wish to be complimented on their question - they just want it answered!