Getting your first consultant appointment

Information and advice for those applying for their first consultant post.

Choosing the right job

Consider your priorities. Try to match potential jobs to what you would like to achieve in your career. There are many  factors, both personal and professional, to consider:

  • Locality and travel times
  • Likely workload and on-call commitments
  • Clinical resources and facilities
  • The Trust's approach to team-working
  • Opportunities for research or teaching

Be prepared to research any post you are considering applying for. You should aim to visit the Clinical Director and also talk to current consultants in the Trust. Recent CQC visit reports are freely available and may provide you with useful information about good practice as well as areas that need developing. Take time to look at all aspects of the post and the Trust to help you decide if the post is right for you.

Preparing your CV and application form

By this stage in your career, you should have already created a good CV. You should ensure that this is up to date and explicitly shows the link between your skills and those required in the job you are applying for.  Useful ideas on updating your CV can be found at BMJ Careers.

This is also true for application forms, although be careful not to repeat yourself too much. Use what you learnt from visiting the Trust and make reference to this information.

Using your portfolio towards a consultant job

You will have built up an extensive portfolio to demonstrate your skills and knowledge progression through specialty training or as part of a CESR application. Much of this information can also be used as a valuable resource to help you prepare for consultant interviews, allowing you to reflect on your achievements, strengths and skillset relevant to the role you are applying for.

Useful ideas for building a portfolio can be found on BMJ Careers.

The consultant interview

Consultant interviews are quite different from interviews you will have had for your training or other posts. For guidance on preparing for and taking part in the interview refer to the Health Careers website and this useful video about consultant interviews. General tips on interviews can also be found at BMJ Careers.

You will find that preparation takes longer and needs to start well in advance of your application. Talk to consultants who have recently been through the process for ideas and advice regarding questions. A wide range of questions are asked at interview and there are no fixed ones so questions cannot (and should not) be learnt off by heart.

It is essential to practice as it will may be the first time you have been to this type of interview and several years since you had any type of interview.

Think  broadly about question topic areas including:

  • Your CV and your portfolio of experience
  • Your skills (clinical, interpersonal and managerial) and what you can offer
  • NHS issues and politics nationally and specific to the local area and paediatrics specifically
  • Your development and your potential role in the team

Use your portfolio to reflect on your achievements and experiences, so you can give examples from your own experience when answering each question and demonstrate how you can fulfil the role.

Your local LETB/Deanery may offer consultant selection courses to help you prepare.

Acting up into consultant posts

Excellent preparation for the role can be to act up into a vacant substantive consultant post which can be done in the last year of the specialty training programme.

The appointment process

The process that should be followed for the appointments of consultants in the NHS in the 4 home nations is set out in legislation. Best practice guidance has also been published by Government. Once a consultant vacancy is identified the employer must compile a job description and person specification– in consultation with the local Regional Adviser of the relevant Medical Royal College if best practice is followed – and then advertise the post.

Candidates are invited for interview and have to sit before an Advisory Appointments Committee (AAC). An AAC usually comprises:

  • a lay member;
  • an external Royal College assessor
  • Employer Chief Executive or their nominated representative
  • Employer Medical Director or their nominated representative
  • a Consultant who works in the specialty usually from the employing department

The College representative, along with other members of the AAC, must ensure that the best candidate for the job is appointed and that the process is fair and open within current legislation and employment practice.

College Assessors are trained by the NHS in fair and non-discriminatory interviewing and selection techniques, complying with appropriate legislation. They are established in consultant level practice and must have a minimum of five year’s experience in active practice in the substantive consultant grade.

Further guidance from RCPCH and the government.

Job planning and consultant contracts

The BMA provides guidance on job planning and on consultant contracts.

See further information for consultants in the early years of their career.