In this follow up article to our tips for organising a GP placement, we spoke to GP supervisor, Dr Bruce Willett and GPTQ registrar, Dr Colin Case, to get their advice on securing and acing an interview.
1. Create a killer CV
You’ll be asked to attach your most recent CV when you submit your application on MyPLACEMENT. Dr Bruce Willett, GPTQ’s Supervisor Liaison Officer, says it’s vital registrars ensure it’s well polished.
“The only way you can get a sense of a registrar’s technical ability is by reading their CV,” he says. “You get the chance to see what sort of things they’ve done, if they’ve published articles or done any research.”
2. Apply early
GPTQ will notify you when applications open so you can submit your placement preferences.
Registrar Dr Colin Case is currently working at a training practice in Alderley and advises: “When applications open, submit the same day or within the first few days. Practices get ten or more applications within the first few days. They’ll collate them and often only offer interviews to the select best. Some of them will just automatically take on the first few they receive so you maximise your chances by doing it earlier.”
3. Familiarise yourself with the Australian National Registrars’ Terms and Conditions
Read the National Terms and Conditions for the Employment of Registrars (NTCER). As the former chair of GPSA, Bruce says it’s an ‘absolute must you do so’. The policy document outlines what you’re entitled to and what you can negotiate on.
4. Choosing an outer metro, regional or rural placement can increase your chances of success
You may get the placement more easily by being open to doing your GP placements in a regional or rural area.
“The further away you are from a metropolitan area, the more likely you are to get what you want as practices find it harder to get doctors. They’ve got more patients and they’ve got more demand so you start from a stronger bargaining position,” says Colin.
“Part of what put general practice on the cards for me was doing the rural rotation during my hospital years and getting a feel for what it was like. I enjoyed the flexibility, I enjoyed the fact that you’re out of the hospital system and you can choose your own destiny.”
5. Speak to other registrars
Having a chat to other registrars is a valuable way to find out more about the great variety of learning experiences, putting you in a better position to assess what works best for you. Knowing what to look for in your next practice, how you learn best, where you can work comfortably, will help you understand what to look for in your next practice placement.
6. Show off your professionalism at the interview
Colin advises registrars to do all ‘basic job interview stuff’ including arriving on time and dressing professionally. He also suggests addressing the GP supervisor as ‘doctor’ as a sign of respect.
Bruce recommends bringing your communication skills to the forefront.
“Broadly speaking, a GP must be an effective communicator and know how to establish rapport. Then there are the technical skills of actually being a doctor. During the interview, I can really only judge one set of skills so it’s all down to your ability to establish a rapport with me and communicate effectively.”
7. Demonstrate your passion for the job
Enthusiasm is an attractive quality in a candidate. Find opportunities to express how keen you are, show the interviewer that you have researched their practice, and share their clinical interests.
Bruce says: “If registrars ask about the teaching at the practice and about specific things we do, like research or the skillset the supervisors bring to the teaching, that’s impressive. I’m more likely to hire them over someone who doesn’t ask those questions.”
Colin agrees: “I think the research I did before the interview helped me land my placement. I checked the practice website and saw they had a lot of clientele with skin issues. In the interview, I made sure to tell them I had an interest and was keen to learn more in that area. I think it helped me secure a spot.”
8. Address the pay
Pay is often a big factor in securing employment and Bruce says it’s something that is usually discussed during an interview.
“My advice to the registrar would be to wait for the supervisor to bring it up. If you launch straight into the pay side of things and I get the feeling that’s the only thing you’re enthusiastic talking about, that’s a big red flag,” he says. “Leave it to last and only bring it up if the supervisor doesn’t.”
Colin says he was happy with the NTCER conditions so didn’t feel the need to negotiate any further. But he says if registrars want more money or a change in hours, they should bring it up at the interview but be willing to negotiate based on the strengths they have.
“You need to bring something extra to the table. The main thing you can bring is to say you’ll stay on in my practice,” he laughs. “But failing that, you should ask yourself ‘What am I going to do that’s going to make you pay me more than the recommended amount?’. It might be you’re willing to do evenings or weekends. Supervisors would be crazy not to pay you extra if you are going to do more.”
9. Ask about the patient load
Bruce advises all registrars to consider asking one important question.
“Registrars need to see a reasonable patient load to be able to do the learning required for your exams. You should ask the supervisor whether that will occur at their practice,” he says. “The patient load makes a difference to both your income and your ability to succeed at your practical exams which are based on patients you’re likely to see. Some registrars think, ‘If it’s really quiet, that’s great as I get to do lots of study and that will help me pass the exam’ but they’re actually far better off seeing patients. Treating the patient and then researching their ailments is the most effective way to study.”