NHS Scientist Training Programme

I know lots of postgrads are interested in the Scientist Training Programme vacancies in the NHS in England, so here are a couple of news items I’ve received in the last few weeks:

2012 recruitment round – the competition
7,735 people applied for the 205 posts on offer in 2012, though as you could apply for up to 3 jobs/locations, you can probably triple that to get the number of applications per job. At least it’s better than the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme where they had approximately 12,000 applicants for 150 places.

Interview process
We spotted a document intended for interviewers (link to a pdf) which gave the format of the interviews (but not the questions!) It’s a bit like speed-dating (a format they’ve been using in medicine for a couple of years) so it’s best to have an idea of what you’ve got coming to you before you get there.

Even better than this though, we’ve had some feedback from someone who was offered a place on the Medical Physics strand of the Scientist Training Programme, so here’s what they went through:

Online Application
This is the most important part of the application process and as there are no phone interviews it is the only opportunity you get to “sell” yourself initially. Really think about the answers that you give here, particularly the essay-style questions. Write your responses in a word processor then copy and paste them into the form as the page will time-out if you try and write everything in there directly. The online application process probably takes about 1-1.5 hours. For 2012 intake the applications were open only for a short period so make sure you keep updated on when applications open!

Online tests
If your online application is successful you’ll be invited to take some online tests. These are in maths and verbal reasoning. Pretty straight forward, just make sure you’re somewhere quiet and you’re not going to be interrupted.

If your application and test results are good enough you’ll be invited to final interview. My interview was in Birmingham (All STP positions are interviewed centrally so expect to travel).

The format is almost like a speed dating night! Four different stations, ten minutes at each, move on to the next one when a bell is rung. It’s quite an odd setup and you end up talking to 8 different people but it’s good. If one station doesn’t go too well you’ll be moving on to the next one in a minute or two.

As I mentioned, there are four stations. Two are scientific questions, based on medical physics (or your chosen speciality). I was asked questions on X-ray, image mathematics, nuclear medicine and some general questions on radiation. Definitely worth brushing up on your medical physics before the interview! I was unable to answer some of the questions on nuclear medicine as I’d not studied it at the time of interview but tried my best to figure out the answer at the time and I think that attempt was enough to impress. The other two stations are an HR station (questions about your personality and ambitions etc. Enjoy this station, it’s the nicest one and a bit of a break! Really sell yourself at this point). And the last station is a general science and healthcare station with questions about your experience and also some questions on statistics and processes.

The interview stations can happen in any order.

The upshot of all this was that he was offered the job – but very unfortunately, he didn’t achieve the 2:1 required, so the offer was withdrawn. Unsurprisingly, his most important advice (to undergrads) was “make sure you work hard to get the required grade!!” (Really hope he gets something else soon as he’s obviously good at getting through the whole application/interview process).

We won’t know which jobs are coming up when, though I’d look out from December onwards, but don’t panic if they don’t get advertised until February (as usual).

If you want any further info on the application process (for 2012), have a look at my previous post:
NHS Scientist Training Programme – 21st February, 2012