Finding and securing a training position is tough. Claire Chandler has done it. Whilst these lessons are related to the experience in Australia there are a lot of lessons that apply to any application.
- Do your RESEARCH – Start with college websites then move to statewide training programs then to the specific hospitals and rotations. Different positions open, close and send offers at all different times of the year so it’s worth drawing up a little timeline.
- Give yourself PLENTY OF TIME to write your application – some of the answers may be equally weighted with your CV – it’s worth investing your time here. Start prepping weeks out from the due date, not days.
- PROOFREAD the application and your CV – or even better, get someone else to as well. Fresh eyes help.
- Use your colleagues and consultants for support and ADVICE. Try seeking out trainees in their first few years of training as their knowledge of the application processes and requirements will be most helpful.
- Only applicants get the job. Don’t psych yourself out. SEND IT.
If you know early that you want to do paediatrics
You can give yourself a head start by building your CV from medical school. Try to get as much contact with your proposed specialty as possible.
Check out what conferences are on and go to them! They’re inspiring, you will network with like-minded people and get valuable advice for the future. It can be expensive – but there are often early bird prices, student and junior doctor discounts, plus a few scholarships, particularly for rural students.
Consider getting involved in paediatric focused audits or research.
Leap into the fabulous worlds of Twitter and FOAMed. I cannot overemphasize how helpful it is in forming connections with health professionals from a huge variety of backgrounds, all over the world. If you are a bit nervous when introducing yourself to the superstars of paediatrics, it‘s a great help when you find out you are already Twitter friends.
Consider a postgraduate course like the Sydney Child Health Program.
What if you only decided on paeds more recently?
Hit the short courses! Find out what you could get to, including:
- Paediatric Basic Program
- Neonatal Resus
- Leadership courses
- Teaching on the Run
- US Guided Cannulation Workshops
Know the job
- Read through the job description
- Check you meet college and registration requirements
- Research the hospital – its facilities, expertise, institutional values, geography.
- Visit the physical location or check out their website. The extra effort of contacting or visiting the department in advance may be enough to score you an interview
Your resume is your sales pitch. The key to getting your interview. You need to stand out but for the right reasons! You need to succinctly and clearly state why you should be given the job. Aim for an absolute maximum of 3 pages keeping all information relevant to the position.
Think about an opening statement that summarises who you are, why you want the job, and why the employer would want to employ you. Here’s an example of one of mine
I am a PGY4 doctor with the goal of becoming a General Paediatrician in rural and remote Australia. I have extensive experience working in Emergency and General Paediatrics in the Northern Territory. I have spent my extracurricular time building my skill set to be proficient in leadership and education and have completed my APLS, Paediatric Diploma, and Paediatric ICU Basic course. I have researched your hospital online and spoken to some Paediatricians in the department. I truly believe my enthusiasm, dedication, and intelligence would be an asset to your hospital. I have always wanted to improve the lives of kids out bush and see this position as the perfect way to start doing that.
- Pay attention to the criteria: Is the institution dictating the format? If so you need to follow this.
- Think about adding a small number of visual effects to help it stand out. You could make the title a colour or add a simple neutral coloured frame. Ensure that the font is large and simple.
- Think about the order that you present information. It may be useful to put more pertinent information or experiences first rather than just presenting the lot in chronological order.
- Number your pages. This will help make sure no pages go missing.
- Edit your content to make sure it is all relevant. Highlight the most relevant parts – think larger or bold font to draw the employers’ eyes. You need to make this CV look like it has been specifically created for this particular position.
- Let your personality shine through! Let the employers know you have a life outside of medicine and what makes you different from all the other applicants
- Your relevant experience since you got your degree.
- If there are any gaps it is best to explain them. The employer would rather know that you went on a gap year rather than assuming the worst i.e that you had your medical registration suspended for the year.
- Think about what elements of your pre-medical life would make you more employable and why. Did you grow up in a rural location that would make you more suitable for a rural position? Did you do an elective rotation somewhere exciting? You’re looking for points of connection with the interviewers – things that will help you stand out from the other applicants.
- Find experiences within your previous rotations that will demonstrate the attributes employees are looking for. Rostering, junior teaching and supervision, overnight decision making, neonatal resuscitation experience, paediatric cannulation and lumbar puncture experience, participation in education programs, junior doctor representation to hospital executive – all of these things help.
- At high school did you do anything out of the ordinary? Include it.
- What did your life look like before medicine? Think about what elements of those past jobs fits the application criteria or your chosen specialty
- Medical: Here include any association with hospital, state, or national committees. Include any publications, research, courses, conference attendance, and presentation.
- Non-medical: Hobbies, volunteer work, language skills (AUSLAN), IT systems.
- SPELL CHECK!
- Don’t undersell yourself. And don’t lie!
Think carefully about your referees. Ensure that they know you well, have worked in your most recent job, and, importantly, will give you a shining reference. Ideally pick someone who has given you end of rotation feedback, that way you have a very good idea of what they’re going to say to the prospective employers. Have a conversation with them and make sure that they too think you can do the job!
Send your referees your CV so that they have the same information that you are providing the employer. Finally, ensure you have the correct contact details for your referee.
Welcome to the jungle of copious links, PDF downloads, and painful IT systems. Check everything that is required and in what format with plenty of time to spare! A single wrong click in a box could exclude you from the entire process so read the instructions carefully.
In each application, you will be required to download various types of evidence. This will be very difficult if you decide to take an overseas holiday at the time as I did. It helps to have a cloud storage system or portable hard drive where you can keep:-
- Proof of ID and medical registration
- Scanned copies of medical and postgraduate degrees
- Proof of immunization status
- Certificates of attendance for courses or conferences
- Statement of employment and rotations at past hospitals
- Some applications will even ask the specific dates your past hospital rotations were and when you took leave!
Finally check the character count. A friend of mine typed 130-word replies only to find out it was 130 characters including spaces.
Find an experienced buddy to practice with you. Consider a formal interview where your dress up, have time limits etc. and record it then debrief.
- Are you umming and ahhhing too much?
- Do you sound confident?
- Are you addressing the questions whilst also selling yourself?
- Could you be more succinct?
- How is your posture? Are you sitting straight, smiling, looking like someone you’d want to employ?
An approach to your answers
- Ask yourself why the interview panel is asking the particular question? How does it relate to the position criteria?
- If you don’t understand the question or can’t think of an appropriate answer, ask for the question to be reworded.
- If you need some thinking time you could paraphrase the question or give a comment like “that’s an interesting question” or “Yes that’s a complex scenario, let me think about how I would approach it on the ward…”
Keep you at the focus of the interview. How can you sell yourself in each answer?
Consider (and practice) the ‘STAR” approach to structured question answering:
- Prepare answers to some of the common questions so you can practice them. Even if you don’t use the exact phrasing, it takes away the “I have to think of an example on the spot” part of the interview. There are many questions that are SO common that it’s crazy to not have prepared.
- Tell us about yourself
- Why do you want this training position?
- A time you made a mistake
- How to deal with conflict
- How to deal with a colleague that isn’t performing (showing up late, showing up drunk, not doing work etc.
- A time you showed leadership
- How you deal with a stressful situation
An approach to specific question types
- Use a structured approach to question answering. Don’t forget the basics of resuscitation and calling for senior help as required. DRABCDEFG, HoPC, relevant PMHx, pertinent exam findings, bedside investigations, initial treatment, more complex investigations, and treatment.
- If you have absolutely no idea what to do, just go with a sensible approach. Resuscitate, seek help (hospital guidelines, online prescribing resources, senior nurse, and doctor assistance).
- Know your limits. How comfortable are you dealing with this scenario? When will you seek support? Employers want to know that you are safe.
- Employers are looking to see if you are respectful, a good listener, and will escalate concerns if it’s needed.
- Employers are looking to see if you are a good communicator – empathetic, and sensible.
- In regard to an under-performing colleague – do you know how to escalate concerns to senior colleges? Are you aware of mandatory reporting?
Weaknesses or mistakes
- What did you learn from the mistake? How did you address your shortfalls?
- Try and pick a simple error and potentially one with a happy ending. It helps to have thought of one or two in advance.
Do you have any questions?
- Prepare a question that sells yourself. Here are some examples
I heard a presentation about your research program by Dr X at the DFTB19 conference I was moderating at. Are there any similar research programs that I could be involved with?
What will you do if you don’t get this job?
- Employers are sussing out if you cope with failure? Do you have a plan B? Does this job actually mean anything to you? Will you be upset?
- Get plenty of sleep the night before and ensure your phone is charged.
- Ensure you know where to be and when. Have the contact details of the interviewer on hand in case you get lost.
- Put some effort in to your appearance. If you have a suit, wear it. No one will ever judge you for being too formal, but they will definitely judge you for being to casual. Don’t be afraid of a little splash of colour or fun – after all this is paediatrics.
- Arrive at the hospital with plenty of time to find the interview room. Don’t be late.
- Don’t forget to be kind and confident with everyone you meet on the day – you never know who will be watching.
- Consider a mindfulness meditation.
In the interview
- Try to exude confidence. Fake it till you make it.
- You are likely to be surging with adrenaline. Take a breath and reflect on the question asked. Start with a smile.
- After you’ve answered the question take a deep breath. See if the interviews have any questions for you. If there is silence you can add some additional detail.
- Observe your interviewers and be aware of the cues they are giving.
- If you tank a question, try to move on with a light heart – you’ll be showing the interviewers you can pull yourself together when things are tough.
- Smile at the panel before you leave, say thank you.
This wait can feel excruciating at times. Ensure you are looking after yourself mentally and physically and have a buddy to support you. I don’t think I talked to one person who felt 100% confident with their performance in the application process so please don’t worry if you are suffering from low confidence or imposter syndrome.
If you got the job – WOOHOO! Get your paperwork done quickly and completely. Start off on the good side of the administrators. You’re likely to need to provide police checks, immunization status, copies of your graduation certificate, AHPRA registration, and some proof of identification. Some of this may need to be signed copies by a JP.
And if you didn’t get the job
This may not be the end. You may be in the running for some 2 and 3 round offers for various sites. Seek feedback from the employer. They will often be able to tell you where your short fallings were or how the other candidates outshone you. Use this information to build a better application or do a better interview next time.