If you are thinking about applying for your first job in general practice, then it might be a good time to consider reviewing your interview technique and preparing yourself for something totally different. “So, tell me about your experience of maximising efficiency in a regulated environment.” “How do you manage third parties’ expectations?” If you thought that all medical interviews looked the same, think again. With general practice adopting more of a market-led and business focused approach, GP interviews are moving away from the traditional medical format and closer to a business style. GP practices are operating as full-blown businesses and they expect their recruits to have a good awareness of business issues and to demonstrate that they can make a real difference to the bottom line.
As a new recruit, you will be one of only a handful of doctors in the practice and your input will be responsible for an important proportion of the income generated. Your clinical skills will obviously be a crucial factor in the decision made to recruit you. However, equally important will be your ability to build efficiency, to help the practice develop, to manage staff and conflict, to manage internal and external relationships, and to ensure the financial health of your employer.
Many GPSTs will be applying for GP positions at different levels. Some will apply to salaried GP positions, whilst the more ambitious will target a GP partnership or a mixed salaried/partnership position. At interview, most candidates turn up confident that they can do the job; they are proud to explain that throughout their training they have acquired a good ability to manage patients with both acute and chronic conditions, and so on.
However, a well-placed managerial question may soon wipe the smile off their face and leave them feeling confused. Used to an environment where clinical work is the primary concern, they are often ill-equipped to face questions that deal with the harsh reality of working for a small business. How can you answer questions about “an example where you made a real difference to the bottom line” when most of your work has involved dealing with clinical matters? As a GPST you will have some experience of working in a GP practice, but because you are applying for jobs before the end of your training, you actual GP experience may not be more than a few months in total.
Most at risk are those who are applying for GP partnership or mixed jobs. If you are applying for a salaried post, you have a good chance of being employed mostly as a clinical service provider and the managerial questioning may be small; but if you are going directly for the top prize, you could land yourself in a lot of trouble.
Equipped with virtually no ‘real’ experience at top level, you are applying straight for a share of the jackpot and before you go to such an interview, you should really ask yourself: “What have I got to offer that would convince these people to share their profits with me?” Look at it from their perspective. If you want to share the profits then you have to demonstrate that you are worth as much to the practice. Your contribution could come in two ways: either you add value to the business by freeing up other people’s time and letting them develop the business, or you add value by developing part of the business yourself. You have a lot to prove.
Applying for salaried positions first may be a more sensible idea and certainly a less risky strategy. In many ways, it is an excellent stepping stone towards a partnership and it gives you an opportunity to develop the relevant business skills.
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