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Why is it Taking a Long Time to Secure my First NHS Job?

The short answer to the question of this article is that I do not know. If you want to explore my various theories after observing more than ten of my colleagues in the past year get their first job in the NHS, then stick around and I will attempt to make it worth your while. This article is referring to medical doctor roles in the NHS.

Are there still jobs in the NHS?

Yes. There are more medical jobs in the NHS than there are doctors. It is evident in most trusts as the number of doctors available for each unit is way less than the required and this means that a lot of duties are put out for locum shifts. This makes the hospitals/trusts pay more per hour for a shift than they would have if they had someone substantively employed in the role. Another piece of evidence that proves there are jobs is that medical doctor roles are included in the shortage occupation list. The UK Home Office is very happy to give a visa to people who have got a medical job in the UK at a subsidised application fee and quick turnaround time.

Why does it seem like there are no jobs?

The most common reason is that the recruitment process is very long. The NHS recruitment process is incredibly slow, to begin with, and this is further compounded by numerous applications coming from IMGs all over the world. A recruiter told me they get greater than 300 applications per SHO job and this makes it more difficult to recruit. First of all, if you have UK experience, your application is automatically filtered if you meet the specification for the job. If you do not have UK experience, I theorise that it is a mix of luck and merit, with a greater component of the former.

How can you improve your chance of getting an interview?

  1. Apply for a job that you have relevant experience in. For example, if you have started a residency in paediatrics or have significant work experience in paediatrics in your home country, you will have a much higher chance of getting a paediatric job in the NHS.
  2. A lot of people in my home country work in multispeciality private hospital roles. This sometimes makes it difficult to capture their experience. Explaining your role in the hospitals and tailoring your experience in the roles, to your job application will help communicate your ability better to the recruiting team.
    1. I have linked a Google document (now a slide show) below to guide your description of your job role, either in a multispeciality private hospital job or a single speciality in a general or teaching hospital.
  3. Complete the application in correct English and get the application proofread by a friend or someone with a good command of English/ working in the NHS.
  4. Ensure you tick most of the specifications- this will usually be in the application person specification and job description. You must read these documents for the roles you are applying for (especially the initial ones) before making subsequent batch applications in the same specialities.
  5. Stand out in your application by recording one or two audit processes, this in itself is usually part of the specification and recording one you have done portrays that you understand the audit process.
  6. Courses: having a valid ALS certification (extra points if it is from Resuscitation Council UK) has been shown to significantly improve your chances of getting an interview. Some courses that can be accessed on the e-learning for healthcare can also make you stand out. Completing courses like safeguarding and protecting vulnerable people will show that you are committed to having a grasp of the NHS system and will speak favourably in your applications.

Google document (now a slideshow)

When to apply

About three to four months before February and August of each year (meaning around December and May) are the best times to apply. The adverts for jobs starting in those months are usually advertised about three to four months before the start date. A lot of jobs open up for February and August because those are the official major changeover months for jobs in the NHS. A lot of people will be leaving their previous roles to start in a training position, relocate to Australia or others will be completing residency and going on to become consultants leaving a gap in the rota. This should not dissuade you from applying at any time of the year as there are almost always vacancies.

Finally,

As the process is very slow, you may get an interview invite for a job application made in January in April, in fact. Sometimes, they may have completed a recruitment process and then decide to readvertise and only consider your application in the re-advert.

Batch applications for jobs can also increase your chances. A lot of people tend to apply for more than one hundred jobs, which makes it more likely for them to get positive feedback.

A lot of my colleagues who followed most of the tips in this article eventually got multiple interviews and offers. So, you should not relent on finetuning your applications and batching them in by speciality.

I wish you the best in your applications!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Agor

    Can one get a first job without filling in Audit and research seeing as most of us do not carry out any audit activities in our home countries

    1. Ikechukwu

      Yes, I am sure you can. But if you reflect on your experiences and speak to someone, you might find that you have been involved in an audit at some point in medical school or post grad. Eg: Collecting data for consultants during a study/audit in a hospital you worked reflects some audit/research experience. You just have to present it in a relatable way

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