The STP applications process has had to maintain pace with the drastic global changes that have occurred in the last year and has adapted the recruitment process for STP applicants to match this. If you have started doing research into applying in 2021, you may already be familiar with some of the changes that will be taking place. I will outline the key changes and then draw on my parallel experiences after applying in 2020, during which the interviews were cancelled and reformulated at the height of the pandemic. There are certainly positives in the new application system, and I will try my best to get this message across to you!
The written application
Unlike last year, in 2021 applicants are limited to applying for only one speciality as opposed to the previous limit of two. This means that the application itself will be much more focused, giving you plenty of opportunities to tailor it beautifully. Personally, I think this change increases applicants’ chances of being shortlisted as they can hopefully do everything in their power to try to meet the requirements for said speciality without being distracted by needing to apply their answers to two.
Additionally, the supporting information part of the application will now be more closely based on the Person Specification (PS) – it would be wise to become very familiar with the PS document! The new guidance states that these questions will allow applicants to give a reflective appraisal of their suitability for the role. You should make sure your answers highlight the key qualities in the PS and be sure to expand on examples where you have demonstrated these in a context that is relevant to your chosen speciality.
The infamous aptitude test, now known as the Situational Judgment Test (SJT)
The previous numerical and logical reasoning aptitude tests were, quite frankly, terrifying! They were designed to be challenging and the timed nature of them greatly increased pressure and stress. The new SJTs will map closely to the PS. Applicants will be assessed on 25 hypothetical examples in 50 minutes and, importantly, there are no right or wrong answers! The assessors will be looking for how applicants can demonstrate the key qualities required of a healthcare scientist and their ability to respond appropriately in specific situations. There is detailed guidance on the National School of Healthcare Science (NSHCS) website, so do try out the example questions.
New for 2021, an algorithm will score and rank applicants based on their written application, SJT and location preferences. There will be a reserve list as before.
Similar to the 2020 application process, interviews will be directly with the employing department, and most likely with a NSHCS representative to ensure quality and consistency amongst interviewers. Last year these took place over Microsoft Teams and involved two experienced healthcare scientists from the host department along with a NSHCS representative. If applicants are offered an interview by a host department, this will be the only one offered and applicants who decline the interview will exit the 2021 recruitment round.
On reading about these new changes you may understandably be apprehensive, especially if you have previously applied to the old application process. However, the changes refresh recruitment and provide refined methods to assess and select best-suited candidates given the necessity for everything to be done remotely.
Following my experience with the remote interviews during the 2020 application process, I would like to share some tips:
- Sit somewhere comfortable and preferably at a desk. The interviewers will expect professionalism and won’t want to see you sat on your bed.
- Use headphones and ensure your microphone and camera are working in advance. The interviewers will expect you to ‘arrive’ on time and with a working camera and microphone. If you are not familiar with the meeting platform (this will be communicated in advance when you are sent your interview invitation), test it out beforehand – it is sometimes necessary to play about with the application specific settings to ensure that your headphones and microphone are recognised. Using headphones will also minimise any feedback.
- If there is a delay or other technical difficulty that is likely to affect your concentration once the interview has started, do mention this at the earliest opportunity to the interviewers. As technical problems are now an (almost) daily part of ‘virtual’ life it is important that you are given a fair chance without these distractions, and they will be able to restart the call or try to troubleshoot the problem.
- Take advantage of the new interview process involving only two assessors. Previously, applicants had ten minutes at each of four different stations where they were asked questions based on different themes. This time, you will be asked similar questions, however you will not have to deal with the extra nerves associated with meeting new assessors at every station. This was a clear positive for me during the application process, along with the fact that there was no background noise from other interview stations – just the sound of my noisy fridge which was much more manageable!!
- Shortlisted applicants in 2020 experienced tremendous uncertainty and even fears that the whole process might be cancelled due to the pandemic. Use the concrete information you have been given about the 2021 recruitment process to your advantage and prepare for it with the knowledge that you will be in the comfort of your own home for the whole process.
- Leave yourself enough time to prepare for every stage (written application, SJT and interview). Try mock interviews with friends and family on virtual platforms to get used to the feel of doing them online. I found this useful to identify areas where I could improve, including learning to ‘recalibrate’ communicating virtually – if you use a lot of gestures when speaking, be aware that you may want to move your camera so the assessors can get more of a view of your communication style. Practicing and improving on these small details enabled me to feel more natural during the real thing!
- Good luck – preparation is the key to success!!
Please get in touch with STP perspectives if you have any questions. If you have any tips to add, please put them in the comments below.
By Sophie Marlowe
First year trainee in Genomic Counselling