So I read @OTtwehy post for her #OTalk on the 29th of October, preparing for OT interviews, and @clissa89 also asked me to write a post ready for this talk as a person who as interviewed on many an occasion. (Mostly band 5’s)
I first want to go back to the Emerging OT Student Conference in May this year, held at Carlisle University. At this event Leslie Crichton presented 50 things you should know before applying for your first job as an Occupational therapist. This presentation was just brilliant, I agreed with all her comments some really suck in my mind as common mistakes people make, this is something I going to share with you along with a few of my own experiences.
My first piece of advice is to put yourself in the short listing person’s chair.
Most NHS jobs get lots if not 100s of applications, my NHS Trust tends to close applications early once it has hit a certain number of application forms; I tend to ask for 50. So even if a job says it will be up for two weeks it might close early if there have been enough applications, this can also the case if it does not give a closing date and remember Band 5 posts do attract a lot of applications.
This means you need to work fast, however, please do not make one of the worst mistakes by having a generic one size fits all application form.
Start by saying which job you are applying for this shows the reader you are interested in that job. If I had a pound for every time I read an application form that somewhere stated “I would really love to work in orthopedics” – a different job than the one they were applying for I would be able to retire.
Getting back to putting yourself in the seat of the person doing the short listing, reading 50 applications is a tiring job, so you need to stand out. Before reading the application forms the people short listing will have put together criteria of what they are looking for in application. They will take this from the job specification, so make sure you read it and try and work out what they are looking for, also ensure you have all the essential criteria as if you don’t this is an easy way for the you not to be on the shortlist.
For example HCPC registration is an essential – when I qualified many organisations would take you on as an assistant until your registration came through, however this is not the case anymore in many areas,
My second piece of advice would be to get your HCPC registration sorted fast, get the forms before you get your results fill them in and get your GP to do their bit then ask the university when the HCPC will be getting the results so you can send the application form off as soon as results are out.
Advice number 3 avoid a list of annoying things people put in application forms such as –
1. Putting placements down, as past employment – these are not past employment
2. Using words like enthusiastic, dedicated, passionate, when you have read 20 application forms all starting, ‘I am a enthusiastic, passionate and dedicated OT’ it begins to get on your nerves – anyone can say it you need to prove it. This should shine through without having to use the words.
3. Writing an essay in your application form – I don’t have the time to read that – you need to get across your experience and what you bring to the post and how you meet the specification concisely and without repetition. I don’t need a list of everything you did in every placement, rather how your placement experience and skills can be transferred into becoming a newly qualified practitioner and fit this post.
Advice number 4 don’t forget your key OT words
Occupation, Function, meaningful and purposeful activities – I read many applications that could be for anything – they don’t mention OT.
Ok so you have the perfect application form which should get you shortlisted – now it’s time for the interview.
This piece of advice is very personal, but I like it if applicants I have short listed contact me personally before the interview for an informal chat or request to look around. This shows a genuine interest and will allow you to be more comfortable with who is interviewing you and if you can get to look around have an idea or where your might end up working.
The interview advice
My first thought is again one of Leslie Crichton 50 pieces of advice – don’t show your knickers to the interview panel – you may laugh but it does happen – think about what your wearing, and practice siting down in it gracefully.
So the questions – these will very much depending on the job and area you are being interview for, so lots of preparation is a must.
Mistakes made – when asking the question what national legislation and advice is out there that impacts on you as an OT – don’t say, well this is hard question cos there is not a lot out there for OT – er wrong. There will be recent legislation relating to your area of work, there will be NICE guidance, there will be information about governance and recent changes in health and social care. Research, research, research before the interview.
Many organisations will send you additional information in your interview pack perhaps about their expected values and behaviours – be familiar with these, there may be a question about them. They will also expect you to know something about the organisation so research this – they will have a website.
I always ask a question about how would your friends and colleagues describe you, I’m looking for good insight in yourself here – I don’t believe people that just give positive answers, I would describe myself as lots of positive things but also highlight I’m not someone who likes to be rushed, and these are the strategies I have in place to combat this. Showing you are not perfect as no one is but demonstrates you can fend for yourself, and know and are willing to work on your limitations.
Models – be open an honest don’t try to fudge this, do your research and explain which ones you have had the opportunities to use on placement or in previous jobs but demonstrate that you would be open to use and learn others.
The dreaded presentation – many places steer away from this as it may give them an idea of your presentation skills rather than ability to do the job. But if you are asked – practice it well, speak to slides with minimal information rather than read lots from overcrowded slides. Make sure you keep to the topic and the time limit. You may be asked to send it in before the interview for governance reasons.
Mentioning clinical and information governance – be sure you understand what this is any your role in it – it’s a popular question area.
Make the most of anything you have achieved or been involved in as a demonstration of your skills – e.g. if you have been involved as student representative or in the professional body
Your PDP and portfolio – do use this in the interview, if a question come up that you have a reflection for example show this- but don’t take forever to find it – use a posit note for items you think might come up is one recommendation. To locate the reflection fast
Have some questions to ask – prepare several and avoid those that have already been dealt with in the interview. Just use those that are appropriate – do ask about development opportunities but don’t give the idea that you expect unlimited outside courses early in your career. Your early development will be to consolidate your knowledge and skills.
Do ask about supervision and preceptorship if they have not already asked questions about it.
During the interview – make sure you engage with all the interview panel, eye contact, and appropriate smiles – a tip is to look round and include them all in an answer – not just to look at the person who asked the question.