Our experience in the last few years of applications has highlighted common errors through which candidates have disadvantaged themselves:-
It is very important to answer precisely what the question is asking us for. A surprising number of candidates do not give the information requested and instead put down what they would apparently like to tell us. There are no marks if you don’t answer the question you are being asked! Make sure you read the instructions for each question very carefully.
We have been surprised how many applicants disadvantage themselves by lack of attention to good grammar, punctuation and clarity in their applications. Don’t rely solely on spell and grammar checkers. Only careful proof reading will fully exclude any errors. Think about the impression you are giving us! If you are not careful in avoiding mistakes in this important application, how careful are you at avoiding clerical errors in your clinical and prescribing practice?
You may well be able to answer some of the questions partly by cutting and pasting from your cv. However if you do this you must still read through carefully what your final answer says and that all aspects of the question have been answered.
Make all your entries and particularly the personal statement flow well in an orderly fashion. Use normal prose, this is much easier to follow than talking like a telegram in an attempt to save space when there are word limits to questions. Use paragraphs- these make your application easier to follow.
Don’t use abbreviations- you may think everyone knows what they mean but they may not be familiar to the person assessing your application. Moreover, abbreviations can mean different things to different people e.g. “PND” can be interpreted as “paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnoea” or “post nasal drip”.
We strongly advise you to ask your educational supervisor or another consultant to read through your application and advise you on any improvements. Provided they do not actually write the application for you and that you are not making any dishonest claims this is quite legitimate and makes sure that you are showing us your achievements as clearly as you can. Failing this, even a non medical friend can at least help you check that your application form is understandable.
Remember -short listing panels have many applications to mark and are easily bored so be original, don’t waffle and get to the point.
Preparing Your Portfolio for Interview
Although trainees are now using e-portfolio, hard copy portfolios are needed for interview and we have again noted that some candidates make a mess of this. Here is our list of what we like to see in your portfolio and some important practice points :-
- Use one lever arch file for everything
- A printed copy of your application form
- An index in the front
- Use marker tabs so we can find sections quickly
- Don’t put things in plastic wallets- we will want to take them out
- Don’t put in things that are not yours (e.g hospital guidelines)
- This is an opportunity to display your presentation and organisational skills (or the opposite!)
- F2 graduates-bring Foundation training portfolios
- Or: Evidence of having completed educationally approved Senior House Officer, specialty training or fixed term specialty training (FTSTA) post(s) in the UK
- Documents on any audits (Print outs of Powerpoint)
- Reprints/photocopies of any published research
- Checklist of competences achieved, countersigned by trainer
- Any other documents that provide evidence of competencies
- Assessments by trainer/ educational supervisor
- Print outs from e-portfolio of workplace assessments, eg min-PAT, mini-CEX, CbD, DOPS and MSF.