Things to consider, interview tips and starting as a new consultant radiologist
It is never too late or too early to consider what you want from a consultant job. Most people start seriously looking at their options once they have a good idea of the subspecialty (if any) that they decide to pursue. How you approach this will depend upon what is most important to you, and what you hope to get out of it. There is no “right way” to do it, but here are a few considerations.
What to do in your last year of training
So you’re coming to the end of your training. When should you be thinking about jobs and what are your options?
1 year – 18 months pre CCT
- Start thinking about where you would like a consultant job early on.
Target your skills
- It is important in the last year or so of training to gain any skills you need for your chosen job.
- It may be a good idea to undertake a placement within the hospital you wish to apply to. Out of programme experience (OPE), out of programme training (OPT) and fellowships are good ways of visiting potential hospitals.
Eligibility for the job
- Most places will accept applicants six months prior to CCT, although some accept applicants before this time so read job adverts carefully.
- Many new consultants now decide to locum for a little time before finding their long term job. There are many possible reasons for this, but the main advantage is that it gives them time to wait for their dream job to be advertised if one wasn’t immediately available at the time of CCT.
Optimising yourself for the job
Building your CV / Application
- Ask what they want. What do they need? Can you fill any gaps in service provision? Can you stop them outsourcing a technique? Be desirable on the person specification.
- How do you know you are good at what you do? Do you have reporting numbers? Procedure numbers? Feedback? Quality assurance? You MUST get numbers + hit rate + complication rates for procedures.
- Does research matter? Not all centres are academic.
- Management and teaching. What management roles have you been involved in? Any relevant teaching experience? Give examples of your approach to working in a team.
- Show to lots of people. Show your CV or application responses to consultants and managers in your department to get feedback and improve. It is often good to approach junior consultants who have recently gone through the process to get their feedback.
- Google yourself. Check and double check your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and all other online accounts to ensure they look professional and/or have the correct privacy settings in place.
- Do your homework on the hospital/trust. Google the heck out of your potential employer. If you find something they are involved in then read up about it. Look at the trust website. Things to consider may be hospital mergers, CQC reports, major incidents, financial issues within the trust etc. The more you know, the fewer surprises you will have! A good way of researching is to get a piece of paper and split it into columns of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ then list everything you can find on the trust in those columns. Remember CQC reports are in the public domain so should be fully accessible. Reading the summary should be adequate. Look for their IBP (Integrated Business Plan) and 5 year forward view too.
- Find out who is in charge in the department. Who is clinical lead? Who are the lead consultants in the department? Ask your consultant to call the other trust in advance and tell them what a great candidate you are!
- This matters. It is important to meet the team you could be working with in the future. Meet the clinical lead, clinical director, departmental lead and medical director. Meet the secretaries, new consultants and managers in the department.
- Find out what they want. What are their priorities? Where are they breaching? How could you improve things in the department? Do you share the same vision?
The consultant interview
Consultant interviews are like nothing you will have experienced before. They are intense and surprisingly they are predominantly non-medical in nature. What do we mean by this? Well, up to this point in your career it’s likely most of your job applications/interviews have been very medically orientated, likely with consultants on the interview panel. A consultant interview however is a ‘corporate style’ interview and there will almost certainly be a large number of non-medics on the interview panel.
The interview panel
A typical interview panel may be made up of 6-10 people which may include:
- Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
- Medical Director (MD)
- Clinical Director (CD)
- Royal College of Radiologists representative (RCR Rep)
- Human Resources (HR) Director
- Financial Director
- Lay member
- Allied Health Professional (manager)
- Trust board executive
- University Representative
Looking at the above list, only about 50% of the panel are medics. This means it is very important that any answers you give at interview can be understood fully by non-medics. You must avoid medical jargon, abbreviations and assumptions about the panels expertise. Of note the RCR rep is not on the payroll of the trust and therefore has no casting vote – they are there to check you are appropriately trained for the role that is advertised.
Find out about these people. If possible find out who will be on the interview panel. Research and Google them. Know their role, their hobbies, their personalities. What do they think is important? Any information you can get prior to the interview will help you get that job. The CEO is the most powerful person in the room – they are not your average manager. Often they are from the city, well paid and influential.
What do the interviewers look for?
- CEO – Overall direction of the organisation
- CD – Interested in governance and not being sued
- Clinicians – Can they work with you? / Are you flexible? / Will they get on with you?
- HR / Finance director – Quality improvement etc
- Lay member – Will patients like you? / Are you caring?
- Allied health manager – Can they work with you?
- University representative – Research / teaching questions
- Keep answers personal. Telling a short story about your own personal experience is a good way of composing an answer. DO NOT have generic answers.
- There are no right answers, only experiences.
- Aim to keep answers between 2-3 minutes long with a ‘start’, ‘middle’ and ‘finish’. The ‘middle’ should include an example to illustrate your point from your own experience. The ‘finish’ should include a final reflection and how it relates to the patient.
- Mention the patient in ALL answers. This is so important. Think of 6 different ways of introducing a patient and practise introducing them into answers. This can be tricky at first, especially with questions about finance, resources and non-clinical matters, hence the importance of preparation!
- Prepare ‘abstracts’ of answers to questions you think may be asked. The more you practice, the more authentic you appear at interview.
- Test your answers on non-medics. They must be able to understand you.
- If you have to give a presentation, prepare in advance and memorise it off by heart. Do not rely on adjuncts or slides. If you have ever watched or listened to a TED talk then you know the sort of thing to aim for – watch lots of them and copy some of the best techniques you see.
- For examples of how to answer difficult questions well, listen to Question time and Prime Minister’s Questions.
- Attending an interview course may help you when preparing for your interview.
It goes without saying that you should be well groomed with a professional manner. The setup of the interview can vary and you may not be sitting behind a desk. Wear clothing that is suitable, even if you are sitting in the middle of a room.
Starting as a consultant
Starting a consultant job can seem quite daunting at first, but remember every consultant you know has been in your shoes at some point in the past! Here’s a few things to remember when you’re starting out.
- It takes time to settle into a department.
- It also takes time to establish yourself in a department.
- Do coffee runs for your colleagues.
- Ask for help if you need it.
- Be approchable.
- Teach trainees, teach radiographers, teach students.
- Don’t make rash changes to the way a department works etc… too quickly.
- Don’t get involved in projects on your 1st day – you never know where they can lead!
- Having said that, once you start settling in, GET INVOLVED in projects – you never know where they can lead!
- Taking on too much is common so be selective where you can.
- Have a mentor. The RCR has a mentoring programme for new consultants.
- Take holidays and don’t check work emails while away. You need a break to get away from it all. Make sure you share Christmas/Easter/Half-terms with your colleagues.
- Check your payslip when you start. Ask the BMA or colleagues 1-2 years above.
- Start collect supporting information for your yearly appraisal:
- CPD points and reflections
- Quality improvement activities
- Compliments and complaints (keep an e-mail folder)
- Significant events (reflect on discrepancies and keep an e-mail folder)
- Patient and colleague feedback (360 degree assessments etc)
- Use the RCR revalidation template
Useful links, documents and articles
Below are a list of resources, articles, documents and publications which we strongly advise you should read prior to interview.
Advice from the Royal College of Radiologists
- The Royal College of Radiologists has some excellent advice for radiology trainees applying for a consultant post and is a good place to start. They have produced a 13 page document entitled ‘Advice on Applying for a Consultant Post’ which contains excellent information on a number of topics including but not limited to: Choosing your post, Applying for the job, Shortlisting, The interview and The Consultant contract.
- Advice on Applying for a Consultant Post
Resources from the BMJ and BMJ Careers
- The British Medical Journal Careers has some excellent articles and advice for doctors applying to consultant posts, much of which is extremely relevant to Clinical Radiology. See resources below.
- Ghosh R, Green M. Succeeding at consultant interview: how to stand out from the crowd for the right reasons. BMJ Careers 2012.
- Carthey J et al. Breaking the rules: understanding non-compliance with policies and guidelines. BMJ 2011; 343:d5283.
- Gibbons A, Bryant D. Followership: the forgotten part of doctors’ leadership. BMJ Careers 2012.
- Report of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry – Executive summary (Francis Report). 2013.
- A promise to learn – a commitment to act. Improving the Safety of Patients in England (Berwick Report). National Advisory Group on the Safety of Patients in England. 2013.
- Lifelong learning and building teams using peer feedback. The Royal College of Radiologists 2017. BFCR (17)5.
- Standards for Learning from Discrepancies meetings. The Royal College of Radiologists Board of the Faculty of Clinical Radiology 2014. BFCR (14)10.
- Larson DB, Nance JJ. Rethinking Peer Review: What Aviation Can Teach Radiology about Performance Improvement. Radiology 2011; 259:626-632.
- Prowse SJ et al. Discrepancies in discrepancy meetings: Results of the UK national discrepancy meeting survey. Clin Radiol 2014; 69: 18-22.
- RCOG Improving workplace behaviours: dealing with undermining. www.rcog.org.uk/en/careers-training/workplace-workforce-issues/improving-workplace-behaviours-dealing-with-undermining/.