Your first job after university

When the time comes to apply for your first job after your health-related course, you can expect the selection process to be demanding, whether or not you want to work for the organisation you’ve trained with.

You may be asked to attend an assessment centre, and the application process will assess whether you have the right values as well as the skills for the job.

Physiotherapists walking in corridor

Completing the application form

It’s a good idea to make the most of any information sessions on job applications and interview techniques that your careers service or tutors provide.

Take time to prepare and make sure you read all the supporting documents and instructions for applicants carefully before starting to fill in your application form. Organisations that advertise health roles will be very explicit about both the skills and values they are looking for. They may also provide guidelines on how they wish the information to be presented, such as a maximum number of words for the supporting information section.

Essential and desirable skills

You’ll need to show you have the necessary requirements for the post you’re applying for. These are usually listed in the person specification which sets out the essential and desirable qualifications, knowledge, experience and skills for the role. You must show you have the essential requirements and make sure you take the opportunity to show which of the desirable elements you have too. This is what employers look for when they’re shortlisting applicants.

The essential skills, knowledge and abilities that health employers are likely to ask for are:

It’s a good idea to list the skills, knowledge and abilities that are asked for in the supporting information section of your application, with examples of how you  can demonstrate how you meet each one. If space is limited, you may have to use examples of situations that illustrate more than one skill.

Some job vacancies will clearly show how each essential skill, knowledge or ability will be assessed during the selection process, such as through an application form, assessment centre, interview, test, references or your portfolio.

Before your final placement, take a good look at NHS Jobs for real examples of person specifications. This will give you an idea of the wide range of skills and qualities you’ll most likely need to demonstrate in future applications. Ensure you have examples of these skills, either work or non-work related, and use your last placement to fill in any gaps.

Make sure you mention any extra-curricular experience, such as care responsibilities, a part-time job, participation in sport, or even organising a family event. Employers are often just as interested in what you have learned from an experience and the skills you have developed, as the experience itself.

Values

You’ll need to show that you can demonstrate the values of the organisation you are applying to. Some organisations will explicitly list their values and ask you to demonstrate them, while others will provide a link to their website where the values will be clearly stated.

The application instructions will likely include statements such as: “Demonstrate how your experiences to date have enhanced your ability to provide compassionate care in line with our trust values of excellence, ambition, innovation.”

Interviews

Each employer in the health sector will have its own approach to interviews. However, most NHS trusts use value-based interviews, whether you’re asked to attend an interview or an interview as part of an assessment centre.

See the box below about values-based interviews.

Reflection

Get used to using self-reflection techniques to constantly self-assess what you have done on placement. The more you practise this, the easier it will be to do this in front of a stranger at interview.

Get together with your fellow students to help you prepare, for example working together to practise interview skills.

"It’s good to get into the habit, every day, of reflecting on what you have done and how you have performed tasks – if you do this it is more likely you will express yourself succinctly and articulately in an interview situation."

Matthew Richards, recruitment, King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 

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