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The transition from specialist trainee to consultant is an important one. Many newly appointed consultants feel inadequately prepared to deal with new management roles such as sitting on an interview panel.1,2 Conducting an interview can be as challenging as attending one. One has to exercise keen judgement to separate the cream out of the multitude of applicants. Courses to hone individuals' techniques for conducting interviews are run by most trusts. However, experience from courses is nowhere as close to the real‐life experience of conducting interviews. I recently had the opportunity of being part of an esteemed panel of interviewers. The post in question was that of specialist registrar in paediatrics in the northern deanery.
Seven members were present on the panel, of whom I was the only registrar, but my role was as important as that of anyone else. My first task was to produce a short list of applicants. After getting a grasp of the person specification, which helps to identify the essential and desirable criteria of each candidate, I went through each application carefully. In effect, candidates were not shortlisted if they did not meet all essential criteria. Desirable criteria included experience of research, publications, certificate in medical education, prizes and other achievements, or specialist clinical experience—for instance, echocardiography. The more of these a candidate possessed, the better their chances of making it to the short list. I scored each application independently and so did all the other panel members. The scores were then totalled and a merit list created. We aimed at producing a candidate short list, the number of candidates included on it being double the number of posts being contested. If a wide variation in scores between panelists was noticed for any individual candidate, the applicants' credentials were re‐evaluated and discussed, and decision made by consensus.
I prepared for the interview, to ask questions, rather than answer them. Scoring was carried out based on structured guidelines. This, for me, was an excellent learning experience. I had the opportunity to learn different methods of questioning and to gain insight into how responses are assessed. I am now wiser about what impresses panellists and what does not. This will no doubt enrich my own interviewing skills and prove invaluable when I compete for posts in the future. After the last candidate was interviewed, scores from the panellists were compared. I was pleased (and relieved) to discover that my scoring of candidates was in agreement with that of most other panel members.
I strongly feel that deaneries and trusts should try this system more often to provide their future consultants with a taste of the process of candidate selection. The success of this exercise, if indeed adopted, will depend on whether or not the trainees participate alongside other panel members in the entire process of job selection, right from short listing to ultimately deciding on the successful candidates.
I thank Dr David Milligan, consultant neonatologist, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, for support and guidance during the interview.
Competing interests: None.