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Applying for a Consultant Post

A consultant post is the pinnacle of the surgical training pathway with a highly competitive application process. Read on for ways to improve your chances of consultancy success. 


Choosing the right job

It is important to take into account that a consultant post is likely to take up the rest of your working life. Therefore, you should consider the following carefully:

  • 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

You should look beyond the job description to decide whether it fits your career goals and aspirations. The trust’s website and annual reports are a good place to start.

Be proactive

Consultant posts are advertised in the BMJ, Health Services Journal, and on NHS Jobs. If you see one you wish to apply for, it is a good idea to contact the trust to arrange a preliminary visit. If possible, arrange informal discussions with existing consultants and anyone else who knows the trust and role.  

Preparing your CV and application form

Ensure that you have tailored your application specifically to the role you are applying for. You should make clear links between your skills and those in the job specification. Refer to your trust visit and what you learnt from it. You should also show your CV to senior colleagues who will be able to point out your unique selling points and what makes a consultant-level CV. 

Interview techniques

Consultant interviews are quite different from interviews you will have had for your trainee posts. Because of this you may find that preparation takes longer.

You should prepare thoroughly by closely examining: 

  • your CV
  • your skills (clinical, interpersonal and managerial)
  • NHS issues and politics
  • your development
  • your potential role in the team

You should practice answering questions, using examples from your own experience when answering. However, during the interview it is important to respond naturally rather than giving word perfect answers. 

The consultant appointment process

The appointments process for consultants is laid down in statute (except in the case of foundation trusts, who may follow slightly different processes). Once a consultant vacancy is identified, the trust must compile a job description and person specification and advertise the post in at least two medical journals.

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
  • trust chief executive
  • trust medical director
  • a consultant who works in the specialty 

The RCS 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.

RCS assessors are trained in fair and non-discriminatory interviewing and selection techniques, complying with appropriate legislation. They are established consultants or honorary consultants, practising a minimum of six sessions in the NHS. They must have a minimum of five years’ experience in active practice. Consultants must be recognised as trainers and their units must be recognised for training in the appropriate specialty.

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