It would be amazing if we were all offered interviews and were successful in gaining a place on the programme on our first attempt, however this is often not the reality. Often, even the most qualified and committed applicants make a number of attempts before being successful in gaining a place on the training for their chosen specialism, and this post will focus on ways to revamp an ‘unsuccessful’ application. However, no application is wholly unsuccessful as there will be some golden nuggets that you have already included that can be highlighted or added to in order to bolster your chances of getting that all-important interview.
These are the tips that helped me to boost my application. I am a genomic counselling trainee, and so some of the things I did are very specific to my specialism, but I have tried to broaden the tips to be applicable to wider applicants.
Jump at any course available to you that is linked to your specialism or the soft skills that are important for you to be able to demonstrate. Many applicants already have MScs and PhDs, however the education level is really not that relevant if you can demonstrate that you can translate the key knowledge and skills learned to your chosen specialism. If you do not have a second degree, a course in planning and conducting research is a starting point in showing you have an interest in research and developing new ideas. The National Institute for Health Research is a useful resource here. You will be conducting your own research project in years 2 – 3 and are expected to stay up-to-date with developments in your field, so showing an interest in research will be an added tool to your armoury.
- Voluntary work:
I have always been a big believer in doing some regular voluntary work; whether it is a whole day or a couple of hours of your time each week is irrelevant. The main point being that you will develop extra crucial skills that can be extrapolated to your chosen specialism. I started doing a couple of hours of voluntary work each week (even during the pandemic) and truly believe that this was the main driver for my application being boosted to achieve a shortlisting score suitable for interview.
- Stay current:
Find out some recent important developments in your specialism that you can tie in to your rationale for why you are keen to join this area of healthcare science. This could be anything from exciting therapies in development, to research that perhaps didn’t achieve the desired results, however you could suggest alternative avenues that could be explored in the future. Get to know where to find useful resources and current information about your specialism; professional bodies are usually a good starting place.
- Check and check again:
Once you have drafted your answers, read them thoroughly and make the appropriate adjustments. Once you have done this, read them again. It goes without saying, but your application will not be judged favourably if you have grammatical errors or missed out words and this is the simplest way to reduce negative critique. Next, ask a trusted friend to read your answers and look out for grammatical errors and assess how concisely you answer each question. It is important to have a fresh pair of eyes reviewing your application.
It can certainly be disheartening to not be offered an interview and may feel like your application has been glossed over and not given the consideration it deserves after your time put in to writing it. Please don’t give up if you truly believe that this is your chosen career and you know that you are right for the training scheme. The competitiveness of the programme is comparable to medicine (and may be even higher), with 2020 data showing that there were a staggering 69.4 applicants per direct entry post in one specialism. More information can be found here, but do not let this put you off applying!
Just remember that each year you are not successful in gaining a place onto the programme is another whole year you have to regroup, refocus and goal plan exactly what you are able to do to bolster your experience and thus application. I did not let my (multiple) rejections stop me from re-applying, and I can firmly say that the resilience I developed has helped me during the programme. The sense of achievement in finally gaining a place was made all the more special by the arduous journey taken to get there.
The BEST of luck!!