Consultant interviews – a Clinical Director’s perspective | Association of Anaesthetists

Consultant interviews – a Clinical Director’s perspective

Consultant interviews – a Clinical Director’s perspective

Being the Clinical Director (CD) of a department is often perceived as a thankless, poisoned chalice where budgetary constraints prevent the post holder from effecting any real change. At best one manages to walk the tightrope of implementing change pushed forward by management while protecting the service from the worst budgetary decisions.

One of the most powerful legacies of a CD, therefore, can be the new consultants we appoint into the department. A legacy that in most cases will last well beyond the working life of the CD, as most consultants once appointed will stay in their hospital until their retirement. It is an enormous responsibility as the appointment of an individual who does not work well with other team members will have a lasting negative effect on the department. During my nearly seven years as CD of theatres, anaesthesia, intensive care (for three years), pain and pre-assessment, I appointed 34 substantive consultants, and was therefore involved in the appointment process of approximately one-third of the current workforce.

The process of getting consultant posts approved can be long and bureaucratic, but knowing there is a highly qualified candidate interested can help its progress, and I recommend declaring interest in working at a particular hospital early. The CD can give an idea of when a consultant post may be advertised and having an idea of potential candidates interested in a position may help the process along. I always found it strange that people would apply for a consultant job without making any contact with the Head of Department to declare their interest or find out the background to the post.

Shortlisting can be a drawn-out process. If there are a lot of applications it may not be possible to shortlist everyone who meets the person specification, so only the top scorers will go through. When filling in the application form make sure you write it clearly and succinctly to ensure the shortlisting person can quickly pick out your ‘unique selling points’. I always prefer bullet points to long blocks of text. After being shortlisted it is customary to make contact with most of the panel, but usually not the lay chair or the RCoA representative. Most people bring their nicely bound CV, but I generally prefer seeing a one-page condensed summary with all the information that is relevant to me.

The interview panel can come across as intimidating, but we generally make every effort to put the candidate at ease. If there is a presentation included you will come across as more professional if you are standing up, even if there is a seat available. Make sure you run to time, answer each question to the person who asked it, and keep your answers structured. Avoid talking for more than a couple of minutes for each answer – the interviewer can always ask follow-up questions if you went in a different direction to the one they expected.

If you are unsuccessful don’t be afraid to ask for feedback on your interview. It may show you a new angle on your performance and how you come across. Above all, enjoy it – I still remember my consultant interview 12 years ago as if it were yesterday. Be calm, speak at half the speed you think you need to, and look professional.

Helgi Johannsson
Consultant Anaesthetist
Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London