A good number of IMGs ask for my advice and tips on how to write their NHS-Jobs profile. Some IMGs struggle to write supporting information and other free text sections on the NHS-Jobs profile which could be a deciding factor for their shortlisting.
I am writing this blog based on my experience of reviewing several applications and my advice on how to make your application form better. Please note, this is just my experience and not the only way to make it better, please find other sources of advice and support when required.
Four common mistakes people make on NHS jobs application forms.
1 – Spelling and grammar mistakes.
Grammatical errors and improper language in a professional application can be taken as are sign of laziness or non seriousness. I understand English is not the first language for a lot of IMG doctors.
Please put your text through spell check and grammar check and / or request a friend to read it to see if they can spot any errors and advice to you improve it.
2 – Copy pasting the supporting information.
Avoid the copy and paste personal statements to multiple applications. You need to read the job description and see how you can tailor the application accordingly. It is often very clear to the short listing consultant if you have just copy pasted a generic form or have made an effort to the read the job description.
The person shortlisting you is comparing you with the essential and desired criteria of the job, so you should read that carefully and demonstrate in your application form that you meet that.
Anyone can write generic statements about themselves and describe various skills, but linking skills with your own achievements makes your application unique.
3 – Emotional language in applications.
Do not write too emotional, unrealistic or overly romantic statements. Saying things like,
“Since childhood I had a dream to work in London”
“I will work harder than anyone you every met”
These will not make much difference and they sound unprofessional.
4 – Negative statements about yourself.
I noticed that IMGs can write negative statements in the applications forms.
“I have huge gap but i will still do my best”
“I have no exposure or experience of working in this speciality”
“I do not have any understanding of the NHS”
“I do not have any research, audit or teaching experience” #
Your application, personal statement and supporting information should sound upbeat and positive. This does not mean that you lie or hide information but avoid making negative statements about yourself.
Specific sections of the applications forms
The NHS jobs, Trac jobs, NHS Scotland and NHS NI have different sections you need to fill which may includes Brief description of duties, Teaching experience, Management of change, Research experience and supporting information and/or personal statement.
Brief description of duties:
Usually after every job you have done recently and you put in the employment section. There will be a sectoin for “brief desciprion of duties” I have seen IMGS write long descrptios here.
Think about the job you are applying for and what roles and responsibilities you would be expected to do. Having that in mind write 6-8 brief lines so the shortlisting person can see in the last job you have done, you were practising the skills they require.
No need to write too many generic things which junior doctors do anyway. Think about what specific skills you need to highlight.
A lot of IMGs put routine ward based teaching of medical students in one or two lines in this part.
I think you can write a lot more in this section. This is the time to describe your passion for teaching, advantages of teaching and qualities of a good teacher. Teaching is a mutually beneficial exercise where the teacher is also learning.
Read about qualities of a good teacher and how can you relate those skills to yourself. A good teacher is an:
– Excellent communicator and can engage and entertain the audience.
– Active listener and responds to student’s learning needs with an adaptable approach.
– Motivator as they can get best out of their students.
– Good teachers are lifelong learners themselves.
Remember, this section is not only about telling them what you taught but what skills you developed as a teacher. They are less interested in knowing what you taught but more interested in knowing what skills you developed.
While describing your teaching you can also give a little context of the setting, like for example small groups, large groups, lecture or workshop or bedside.
An average / generic statement on this section may say:
“I have been involved in bedside teaching of medical students during my house job and taught them physical examination skills”
A better way to write the same thing:
“During my internship, I was actively involved in the teaching of medical students and I found it was very useful for my personal development as teaching helped in improving my interpersonal and communications skills. I establish a system to understand the individual and unique learning needs of medical students on placement in my ward and tailored my teaching sessions accordingly. I developed some expertise in teaching general physical examination and established techniques to practically demonstrate the techniques. I learnt that developing rapport was key in establishing an effective learning environment.
I feel teaching on a busy ward based environment helped me develop excellent time management and communication skills along with the added benefit of keeping my own knowledge up to date. I received positive feedback from my students and modified my teaching style based on the feedback. Students found me engaging, approachable with good listening skills and I believe these skills have helped me develop as a clinician. I like to further develop my teaching role whilst working within the (trust you are applying to).”
If you have done any formal teaching courses, you can mention them here along with what you learnt and how you are applying that to your daily working life. Like for example, if you have done the “Teach the Teacher” course. You can say something like:
“This course has given me insight into different teaching styles and how to improve the engagement of the audience by actively involving them in the teaching sessions. I now use more role-play method in my teaching sessions which my students are finding more beneficial”
Management of Change
Most IMGs were leaving this section empty in the applications I reviewed. This relates directly to the quality improvement project or an Audit. This is an important area and hot topic for the NHS as in the UK, the doctors are expected to go beyond their routine clinical role and review the systems and practices around them to make things better.
If you have done an audit or quality improvement project. You can write about that in some detail like the topic of the audit, number of participants, your role, results and impact.
They are trying to establish if you understand the principles involved in the management of change. If you haven’t done a formal audit or quality improvement work. There are still many ways you can write this section from your experience so far. You must have done some quality improvement work during your medical school and as a junior doctor in the home county.
I can give you several examples of quality improvement work by medical students and house officers I saw while working as a junior doctor in Pakistan.
“As a house officer whilst working in the department of surgery, I establish a system to link the charity sector originations with patients of poor socio-economic class. Healthcare is not fully funded by the state in Pakistan and as a house officer, I noticed patients were requiring expensive medications which they were unable to afford. There were several charity organisation working locally willing to help out but there was no formal system to identify the patients in need unless the patient themselves approached a charity. As a group of house officers, we studied this issue and establish a system to identify patients with poor socio-economic class who were likely to need financial help at the point of admission and provided them help and support early in their treatment by linking them with relevant charities. Our efforts helped to improve the healthcare outcomes for the patients on the ward”
“As a 4th-year medical student, I noticed that the blood bank in my local university hospital was struggling to get enough blood donors and was unable to respond to the emergency request of blood units by the clinicians. As a group of six medical students, we studied the reasons for the lack of volunteers for blood donations and we identified some myths associated with blood donations. We designed a health awareness campaign targeting the myths around blood donations and encouraged the university students, local college students and local residents to volunteer for blood donations. We also establish a mobile texting system where donors were sent reminders 4 months after blood donations, encouraging them to return for another visit. We were able to increase blood donations by 25% and we also identified a cohort of donors with rare blood types and established a database.”
Most IMGS are involved in some projects during their studies, so you can think carefully and write them down properly.
If you have done the research, well and good. Mention research and also your involvement. They like to know if you understand the process of research itself and its implications. Research is about creating new knowledge. You need to mention the research methods, findings and what you learnt from that process.
Most junior IMGs do not have formal research experience at the early stages of their careers. Don’t worry about it. Unless this is an academic post with essential research requirement, not having research experience shouldn’t affect you.
But you can consider doing some small research projects while you are waiting. For most IMGs there is a gap for a number of months between passing PLAB & securing a job. You can easily take up a project like a literature review where you don’t need patients or direct patient data to do research and you can use already published research to create a project.
Literate reviews can help improve your CV while you are waiting. Depending on your speciality, you can find a research oriented senior and ask them to help you with a literature review.
Let me give you some examples from Psychiatry.
– Effectiveness of pet therapy in the management of anxiety disorders.
– Treatments for gaming addiction.
– The evidence base around techniques used in cognitive stimulation for patients with cognitive impairment.
Look at what studies have been done, which methods of research has been used, and what are the results showing. Write a report or an abstract with headings of Aims, Background, Methods, Results and Discussions. Get it checked by one of your seniors.
Remember: Conducting small research project isn’t difficult – Publishing research in a reputed journal is a different ball game.
Other ways to show your research interest:
– Understanding of basic research methods, online courses.
– Studying recent journal articles on topics which interest you and writing reflections on what you learnt and how will you apply that to your own practice.
– Learning to critically appraise research papers and writing the critique.
Management and Leadership Experience
This is an important section and I see most IMGs are either leaving it empty or writing a few lines in it. We all have to take a leadership roles in our routine clinical or non-clinical work.
Generic examples I have seen in this section.
“I was rota coordinator in my previous job and managed 16 doctors”
“I was the cricket team captain in my medical school”
To start writing this section, you need to read the qualities of a good leader and relate it to your examples. Leadership is about taking initiative, inspiring people, communication, vision, resilience, problem solving, motivation, ownership, and a lot more.
Here are some relatively good examples:
“During my house job I took the lead on rota management which included 16 junior doctors. I took a democratic leadership approach to deal with this challenge and took suggestions and opinions of all doctors involved in the rota. My main aim was effective management of oncall rota ensuring safe health service along with making sure all the doctors were getting a fair share of work and rest. Effective communication and ownership of rota helped me develop a good rapport with all the junior doctors on my ward and we were able to discuss and solve problems as a team. I encouraged culture of openness where rota related issues and workload were discussed freely between the junior doctors and the senior management. This experience has given me an insight into the qualities of a good leader and I like to develop my leadership skills further whilst training in the NHS.”
“I love playing cricket and I had the honour of captaining my medical school cricket team. As a cricket team captain, I was responsible to lead 11 teammates with different skill sets and capabilities in challenging match situations. I learnt how to motivate my team during times of difficulty, lead by example and earn respect. I also learnt how to maximise the strengths of my team members and how to work around the weaknesses. Cricket gave me the opportunity to work under pressure and adapt to change. As a team, we worked towards achieving a common goal and pushed the boundaries of our skill sets. We also learnt how to deal with failure and use setbacks to motivate ourselves in regrouping with a better strategy. I believe these leadership skills are transferable to my clinical role and cricket has prepared me to take leadership roles in hospital environment.”
One good example along with the skills you developed. Again remember, what you did is less important but the experience you had and the skills you gained are more important. This could be a clinical or non-clinical example.
Team Working section
We all work in teams and we all have a team working experience but unfortunately some of us find it difficult to write it down. In this section, they are trying to check your understanding of team working and its advantages.
first read on the qualities of a good team player and characteristics of an excellent team and see how you can relate these to your examples and your skill set. For example a good team player is reliable, motivated, brings in positive energy, good communicator, adaptable, and hard working.
Common generic examples I have seen may have been a few lines like:
” I have been part of a resuscitation team and have done my ALS”
” I enjoyed working with a team of nurses and other staff on my ward”
Again, start by reading what is teamwork, why is it important and what are the qualities of a good team and a good team player.
– Teamwork triggers creativity and a sense of belonging.
– Teamwork makes team members happier and makes them feel safer.
– Teamwork leads to learning and personal development.
Relate all this to your own example. Let’s say this example:
“During my house job, I was working on a medical ward with a multi-disciplinary team. I feel as a junior member of the team I was given a warm welcome and respect which helped in developing my confidence as a junior doctor. As a team of healthcare staff, we had our defined roles but we encouraged a culture of helping out each other when required and worked towards achieving the common goal of giving our patients the best care possible. I had the opportunity to learn from the senior members of the team and offered my expertise and knowledge to the wider team. I learnt the importance of effective communications, mutual respect and learning from each other as a team. I received positive feedback from my team members and they felt I was approachable and pleasant on interactions. Reflecting on this experience, I feel a good team working environment can help to maximise the potential of junior team members and make them feel safe. I like to further establish my team working skills while working with the (ABC) department of (ABC) hospital.”
You can think of several examples of clinical and non-clinical team working within your scope of work so far and from your personal life.
Supporting Information / Personal statement section :
This section is extremely important, sometimes this may be the main deciding factor on who will get shortlisted given tens of application for a job. You need to write 3-4 good paragraphs or some bullet points to highlight your most important skills and show the shortlisting person you are the right candidate for the job.
I have seen IMGs copying and pasting all the above sections again in this section and writing long paragraphs with generic statements. I suggest you keep it to 3-4 paragraphs but they must be written very professionally.
This is the section to show:
– Why you are applying for this particular job.
– Why this particular department or hospital.
– What skills can you bring to the team.
– How can this job help you develop as a doctor.
You will have to change this section for every job you apply. Generic forms are very obvious to the shortlisting consultants. Show them that you have done your research and are really keen to apply for that particular job.
Think what qualities or qualifications you have which will separate you from an average candidate. Carefully read the person specification of the job and show them how you meet the essential and desired criteria for that particular job.
The person shortlisting you likely will have the job description and personal specifications in front of them, so they will be comparing your form with the requirements.
The first paragraph
The first paragraph should be very clear and should focus on what they are most likely looking for.
- Tell them that you have full GMC registration with a licence to practice.
- That you meet essential and desired criteria of the job.
- If you are on dependent visa or do not need visa, say this in first paragraph.
- If you do not have any significant gaps on CV, mention this and years of active clinical experience.
- If you have NHS exposure via clinical attachment, this should be mentioned as well.
- If you have done research which most IMGs do not have, mention it.
The res of the 2-3 paragraphs can essentially be written by studying personal specification.
Here is an an example: Let’s say the job is for A&E in London and if you like to say something positive about London, you can write.
“I thrive in a busy clinical environment and like dealing with medical emergencies. I am a quick thinker and I have developed a habit of reflecting on every challenging case I encounter. It’s an honour to work on the frontline of the A&E department with a competent multi-disciplinary team and making a real difference to patient`s care. I have the necessary clinical and interpersonal skills required to undertake this job and I have also researched the A&E department of ABC hospital. I found that this hospital provides excellent support to junior doctors and the clinical teams nurture their skills. I believe I can enrich your team with my clinical, team working, teaching and leadership skills and will get supervision and support to develop myself further.
I would love to live and work in London as I grew up in a metropolitan city, I enjoy the cosmopolitan lifestyle and multicultural environment. I believe working in London will suit my fast-paced lifestyle and London will help me thrive both personally and professionally”
There are geographical areas within the UK with long term shortage of doctors, mostly rural communities. They will go through a huge exercise of advertising and employing doctors but the doctors will find another job within 6 months and move away towards a city. If you are applying in one of these areas, you need to show genuine interest in your supporting information of why you want a job in that area.
All the best
Please Note: I wrote this blog as a reflection of my own experience and I do not claim to be an expert at this and I do not claim this to be the best way of filling the NHS Jobs profile. I am sure you can find much better ways.
This YouTube video may also help you to improve the NHS jobs profile: