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Helping IMGs to get the most out of an NHS interview

Post date: 12/08/2022 | Time to read article: 5 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 12/08/2022

Author: Dr Omar Alam, ST5 trainee in acute internal medicine at Hull Royal Infirmary

Interviews can be nerve-wracking. This article includes interview tips to help IMGs get the most out of an NHS interview.

Going into an interview as an international medical graduate who has never worked in the NHS is usually nerve-wracking, but just as you are being interviewed, it is also your best opportunity to make sure the role you have applied for (and the Trust or Health Board) is right for you too.

It goes without saying that you should have completed your preparation so that the panel sees you at your best. Think about what type of questions you will be asked about yourself and think about how you might answer them concisely.

General tips for the interview:

  • Convey the value and skills that you can bring to the Trust or Health Board
  • Confirm your commitment to meeting the Trust’s or Health Board’s goals and objectives – make sure you are up to date with the vision and strategy
  • Anything you included on your application may come up for further questions so do not include anything you do not want to discuss
  • Do mention areas of excellence and guide the discussion onto the ground where you know much and fear less
  • When providing examples, be sure to clarify your contributions. It can feel unnatural at times, but you are there to highlight your attributes and achievements. Using the STAR technique (Situation, Task, Action, Result) can help you to formulate clear, concise answers
  • Maintain a positive manner
  • Appear relaxed yet confident
  • Demonstrate your professional skills whilst acknowledging the importance of teamwork
  • Answer the questions put to you
  • You may be asked for your opinion on a topic; have an opinion, but be prepared to be flexible and do not argue excessively
  • Read up on key topics for your specialty focusing on
    • The top five patient presentations of your specialty
    • The top five emergency conditions in your specialty
    • Practical procedures that you are likely to encounter or perform
  • Be yourself

It may be worth “role playing” a mock interview with a friend or colleague prior to the real thing. Make sure you have prepared some questions to ask the panel. It’s important, as well as asking about the job, that you check that the Trust or Health Board is set up to support you in your role. Here are some key areas that you might want to discuss and ask questions about:

Will I have a dedicated supervisor?

A supportive supervisor is really important to help you to settle into your new role. Supervisors can provide an invaluable source of advice and can help you to achieve what you need whilst in post. In your first job as a non-trainee, supervisors can help you achieve the necessary requirements to get your alternate competency forms signed off (like CREST, core competency forms). They can mentor you and support you when necessary.

Will I have a rotational post?

Rotating in different departments within a specialty can help you to explore the best environment for you. Some departments are more supportive of this than others, but this approach can really help you to gain the knowledge and skills required, particularly for managing emergencies when on-call.

Will I have a period of shadowing?

You have the clinical knowledge and the skills, however some of the logistical practicalities such as how to bleep, how to document a consultant ward round, how to assess a patient after they have had a fall, how to clerk and how to prescribe, can take a bit of getting used to. Shadowing a colleague for 1-2 weeks to observe how other doctors do this can really help to build your understanding quickly. Sometimes a period of shadowing will take place in your first few weeks but occasionally you may need to complete this prior to your start date, which may mean it is unpaid. It is important to clarify this in your interview and follow  it up if offered the position. For more advice on setting up a period of shadowing visit my blog.

Will I receive an induction?

Trainee doctors starting in August may receive an induction automatically but if you start at a different time of year this may not be the case, so it is worth checking. An induction session can help to prevent making mistakes and help with the orientation process. The content will vary between Trusts and Health Boards but should include how to use the IT system, an overview of the local Trust or Health Board policy, departmental operations and procedures and an opportunity to answer any general day-to-day queries that you may have.

Will I be put on the on-call rota after a certain period of working in the NHS?

Starting directly on the on-call rota can be quite daunting. Unlike in hours, the on-call team may struggle to support you hence it is best not to start on-calls till you get used to the system. Clarifying this early will help.

Will I be allowed to start work whilst awaiting my screening tests from occupational health?

Some Trusts and Health Boards do screening blood tests and do not allow doctors to work till the results are back and this can take a few weeks. Hence it is important to clarify this early so that you can negotiate things like doing shadowing during this time.

Remember, if you are being interviewed there is a good chance you could be appointed. The panel wish you well, they are not trying to trick you. If, however, you are turned down for a job, always ask for feedback from the chairman and/or clinicians on your performance so you can address any weaknesses next time round. Visit my blog for some do’s and don’ts relating to the job offer.

Also bear in mind that in case you are unable to ask all these questions, you can always ask when the Trust or Health Board emails you accepting you for this offer. It is a good idea to ask these questions before you agree to take up the job offer so that you have a clear plan with regards to support when you start. Even if you have asked these questions in the interview, email them again at this point so that there is documented evidence of their response to ensure you get the support they have agreed.

Personal experience

When I started in the NHS as a non-trainee SHO, I asked all these questions in my interview as well as via email before I accepted the post. I had documented evidence that I would be supported. This way, I had a dedicated supervisor who not only helped me sign my alternative competencies form to apply for training but ensured I was well supported and mentored me throughout my post. I was not put on any on-calls in the first three  months and, this way, learnt the system by working from 0900 to 1700 on the ward. This positive experience reduced the stress and anxiety in my initial few months and I was able to flourish as a junior doctor. I wish that all doctors who start in the NHS are able to get the same support.

About the author

Dr Omar Alam is a specialty trainee registrar in acute internal medicine. Omar came to the UK in 2016 from Pakistan and has a blog sharing some of his experiences: https://omarsguidelines.blogspot.com/ which focuses particularly on International Medical Graduates. Omar also provides mentoring to International medical graduates, local UK graduates and advanced care practitioners in his work place.

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