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How to... wow them at the practice bid interview

Your plan to take over another practice, as discussed last week, has proved a good one and you have been invited to an interview. What strategies should you adopt? Dr Clare Gerada offers some suggestions

Your plan to take over another practice, as discussed last week, has proved a good one and you have been invited to an interview. What strategies should you adopt? Dr Clare Gerada offers some suggestions

So the new world of general practice involves applying for lists, bidding against others for practices and generally entering the competitive commercial market.

This will inevitably mean dusting off that old suit and turning up for an interview. How do you prepare yourself for this particular interview? How do you maximise your chances when faced with a panel interviewing you for a potential new practice? You may query my credentials to advise on this subject – well, remember the old medical maxim 'see one, do one, teach one'? In this case, it's 'do two, teach one'.

I am assuming you have got through the preliminary phase of the tendering process and have now been invited to the interview. Nothing has changed since your first interview for medical school. The most important three tips are as valid to an experienced GP as to a nervous 17-year-old: preparation, preparation, preparation.

Preliminaries
Check the date and place of the interview. Make sure you have taken time out and arranged how to get there. If you are applying for a practice outside your area, check what the traffic and parking is like, estimate the time it will take to get there and then double it.

Who to take
In my experience the interview panel will limit the number of you allowed to attend. Even if left open it is important that you think about who will go. Who you present in front of the panel will say something about your practice – so think of the most successful interview you can and adopt that model. When London got the Olympics, contrast the old, crusty male Parisian faces with the vibrant multicultural team that London put on. Think therefore what gender, ethnic and role mix that you take along and consider whether you take a patient representative.

Preparing potential questions
The questions you will be asked should not come as a surprise. They will generally be derived from the PQQ. We delegated specific areas to different team members so that we all had an area where we felt comfortably prepared. Potential questions will include practicalities about finance and premises but also questions covering access, demand management, practice-based commissioning and any PCT priorities. Brainstorm potential questions and rehearse your answers. Think soundbites – what it is the panel wants you to say?

Presentation
You may be asked to give a five- or 10-minute presentation. Don't panic. Most GPs have the skill to talk coherently on any subject for 10 minutes. The problem is often not going on for too long – it is crucial to keep it crisp.

If you use PowerPoint, the best advice is:

  • keep the slides simple
  • turn off all animationdo not use capitals – except at the start of a sentence or in headings
  • limit colours to three
  • do not have too much information cramped on each slide
  • for a 10-minute talk, have no more than five slides

Remember if you have been asked to talk for 10 minutes, stop at eight, and if you are asked to talk for five, stop at four. Practice your presentation, but only once in public – it needs to seem fresh and unrehearsed. Try not to use notes – you can remember the details of a 10-minute consultation, so you should be able to remember an eight-minute talk with slides as prompts.

What to take
Decide whether you are going to take your tender document with you. If you do take it, make sure that you have a simple and immediate way of marking key chapters. Make full use of sticky notes and ensure that you are very familiar with all aspects of your bid.

Decide whether you are going to take additional information that you may not have included in your bid but that might have come to light since shortlisting. If you do take additional documents, make sure you have copies for the interview panel.

Who should answer the questions?
We worked on the formula of each interviewee taking responsibility for key areas. If the question relevant to that area came up then that person would answer it.

The key areas are:

  • finance
  • premises
  • clinical governance
  • delivering the service – including access
  • public health
  • staffing and management

One of the group acted as chair and, where necessary, directed the questions to the relevant interviewee.

And finally...
We failed on one bid and succeeded on the other. The feedback from our failure was that we did not address how we would improve access (opening times) and in very practical ways how we were going to deliver our promises. In a way we were naive and kept things very vague, essentially saying that we would wait and see. In retrospect we should have been more specific. However, we have learned from our failure.

The process is nerve-wracking but exciting. Dust down that interview suit and enjoy. Good luck.

Dr Clare Gerada is a GP in south London

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