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How to... get your first job as a GP

Applying for your first job or partnership? Dr Steve Brown offers some pointers on how to bag that interview – and have them eating out of your hand

Applying for your first job or partnership? Dr Steve Brown offers some pointers on how to bag that interview – and have them eating out of your hand

Job adverts are not the only resource for finding out about vacancies. Ask any doctors you know for local openings and your trainer. At present there are many more salaried jobs advertised so partnerships will be more competitive.

Commit to the process of applying for a job. You will have to spend time filling in forms, travelling and making phone calls, so don't fill up your social diary too much. Practices will think you are inflexible or not committed if you can't make an interview.

What suits

What is your ideal job? Full or part time, small or large practice, rural or urban? Do you have a special interest? Do you want to work in a training practice? Find out what the local pay rates are to ensure you are being realistic. If you are not sure about what you want, locum in different practices.

First impressions

Apply as stated. Don't just send off a routine CV if the advert asks you to write for an application form.

More practices are now asking for application forms. Although this will be more time consuming to complete, from the practice's point of view it discourages those who are not that keen. A well-written covering letter will get you noticed. Remember to include reasons why you want that particular job, such as the location or if you have a specific interest.

Don't put things down that you cannot substantiate at the interview! An informal visit will get you known, and you can gain an impression about the practice. I think it is worth visiting even if you don't meet the doctors. Receptionists and practice managers can give you useful information such as how the vacancy arose or practice demographics.


More practices are varying the interview process, so ask what it involves. Our practice asked candidates to bring a video of a recent consultation and do a basic computer test and Belbin teamworking questionnaire. Other practices may bring all the candidates together for group tasks or ask you to do a presentation. The old MRCGP would prepare you for this! Training practices are less likely to do traditional interviews.

Choose your referees well. If one of them is not your trainer you will be asked why. Keep your referees up to date with what you are applying for and tell them they may be telephoned. Often more information is obtained this way rather than from references that are in writing.

It is unlikely you will get the first job you apply for, so if you have an uncomfortable interview use it as a learning tool.Prepare for an interview thoroughly. If you have not been for an interview recently speak to people who have, or if you know somebody who has done a lot of interviewing speak to them. I updated my skills by having a couple of sessions with a management consultant. This could be valuable.

Think about obvious questions. If you have a gap on your CV be ready to explain it; if you have done an interesting job abroad be ready to explain the benefits for your future practice; and if you are lacking in a certain specialty, think how you will explain that. Possible job interview questions include:

  • what hospital job you most enjoyed or disliked and why
  • tell me about a memorable patient
  • tell me how you learn
  • give me an example of teamworking and where you fitted in
  • tell me about a recent amusing experience (this question was the most difficult for candidates when I recently interviewed for a partner)
  • where you would like to be in five years' time
  • three words to describe yourself

You will get a chance to ask your own questions, so prepare. Sensible questions show you understand the practice. Don't be afraid to write down your questions because under pressure you may forget them.

Post interview

If you get a second interview, clarify anything from the first round. Ask about the pay rate and parity details and if you are a serious candidate you will need to see the last three sets of accounts and the practice agreement.

If you don't get shortlisted, ask for feedback. This can be valuable in refining your CV and application form or interviewing skills. It may be that the practice was looking for somebody with different skills or personality, and this will encourage you that your application was good.

Be patient – the right practice is out there somewhere.

Dr Steve Brown is a GP and trainer in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire

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