So, you are at the end of your course and all your fellow students are busy applying for and securing their first posts. In this series of blogs, you can follow the progress of 6 graduates of the Postgraduate Diploma in Occupational Therapy at Cardiff University as they navigate the process of applying for posts in the NHS, Social Care and the private sector. They will share with you their experiences of interviews, working as support staff until their registration with HCPC comes through and their first year of professional development as graduate occupational therapists. We hope you find these accounts useful in your own preparation for leaving university and entering the profession of occupational therapy.
In this first blog, we hear about one graduate’s initial experiences of job applications and interviews:
So, it’s been a week since officially finishing the occupational therapy postgraduate diploma and I’m already back to studying! I’m preparing for a job interview. Hopefully will find some time to relax and unwind at some point.
Around 3 or 4 months ago when I was stressed on my final placement as well as completing assignments, I told myself I wouldn’t apply for any jobs until we had finished, our results had come through and was registered. Little did I know that pretty much everyone on the course had started looking for jobs (and getting jobs) and then panic set in! I suddenly started worrying that there weren’t going to be any jobs left (slightly irrational) or I was going to be the person at the bottom of the heap that no one wanted. So naturally I started panicking and applying for jobs, whilst still on placement, with assignments to do. Just to emphasise that this was not necessary, as there are loads of other great jobs which have come up now in August, so there was no need to worry at all and stress myself out when I had other, more important things to do.
My first application was for a paediatric post. Static band 5 jobs in paediatrics are quite rare, so even though I had a lot on my plate at the time I managed to get my application in before the closing date. I was quite excited as I heard back only a few days later that I had an interview. After reading the interview information carefully it transpired that I had to make a powerpoint presentation for the interview about “the occupational challenges of an 8-year-old with Autism Spectrum Disorder”. I’ve never had to do a presentation for an interview before! So naturally, panic set in (a regular occurrence), as I figured out how to create a presentation, prepare for interview questions, update my CPD folder as well as complete my last 2 weeks of placement. Luckily, my educator on placement was really supportive and let me use a study day for the interview, and we had a chat about ideas for the presentation. So, once the day came along I was feeling quite prepared and had spent ages getting ready to feel confident. I was slightly disappointed when I turned up to the interview and got told it had been rearranged for a month’s time! I did consider though that I wouldn’t have to do much more preparation as I had already done a fair bit.
Once the day finally came around I did start to feel a bit nervous but had prepared as much as I could have. The actual interview itself wasn’t too nerve racking, and the presentation went better than I expected. I had a question “How would you prioritise your caseload if you had an urgent case?” which threw me a bit. The other questions were fairly straightforward, along the lines of:
- What skills do you think are important to this role, and can you give an example of having these skills?
- What toys would you use when assessing a 4-year-old with developmental delay?
- How would you describe Occupational therapy to a parent?
I was very surprised that I was going to hear the outcome of the interview on the same day. I had the phone call later on in the day to say I hadn’t got the job. My feedback was really positive though, that I was very knowledgeable about the role and was really passionate, however someone with 5 years’ experience got the job. I was disappointed as I did really want the job, but I was pleased with the feedback. I was also quite surprised that someone qualified for 5 years was applying for a band 5 position, but then again made me realise again just how competitive it is for newly qualified OTs going out into the big world.
The second interview I had was for a psychiatric intensive care unit. The role was a new role for a band 5 to develop occupational therapy within the service. I wasn’t 100% sure if I wanted the job or not so I decided to go for a visit to check the place out (which I would highly recommend doing, to reduce anxiety on the day about directions etc., and just to meet the person who may be interviewing you). The interview itself went really well, I had prepared well for the questions that came up so there were no horrible surprises! I felt that I was a lot more relaxed and confident in this interview compared to the last one, I wondered if this was because I had been to visit, so I had a better idea of what answers might be relevant for the job role. I also have got a lot of experience in the area of mental health so had quite a lot of experiences to talk about which were relevant to the job. I made sure prior that I had gone through the person specification and came up with questions. This proved useful as I got asked a question about clinical governance which was in the person specification, glad I had prepared and considered that beforehand!
I got a phone call a few days later in which straightaway they asked me, “How do you think it went?”. I found this a difficult question to answer because obviously I still had no idea, it’s hard to judge yourself how well an interview went. It turns out I didn’t get the job but was very close, they gave me very positive feedback about my knowledge in the area but mentioned they had found someone with more similar placement experiences to the role.
Onwards and upwards to the next one!
A week later:
I had an interview yesterday for a generic Band 5 position in Primary Mental Health. Despite being a generic role, I am really interested in this area as I am passionate about early intervention and reducing the need for referral into secondary mental health services. The reason I came into Occupational Therapy was because during my psychology degree I discovered OT and felt it really suited my personality. Therefore, a role in a service that offered psychological therapies appealed to me as I could use both my psychology skills and problem-solving, creative OT skills.
I had done a lot of research prior to the interview about the service itself, what they offer (low intensity interventions- group work, CBT etc.), legislation (Mental Health Measure 2010) and types of conditions the service may see (anxiety, depression, stress). I therefore felt fairly prepared for the interview, just hoped I could stay calm and talk about my experiences on placement and their relevance to the role. I was only asked 9 questions, pretty much every single one I had prepared for which was great, as I was able to expand on my answers slightly more than I had done in previous interviews. The questions included:
- What excited you about this role and why did you apply?
- What do you know about the mental health measure (2010)?
- What do you know about the service?
I did become slightly stuck on one question, which asked about how you would manage a complaint from a patient. I’m really gutted I didn’t research that one as I waffled a bit about following the relevant policy. Despite this one blip, I felt quite positive again after the interview as I felt I had remained calm, presented a professional image and had in-depth answers. I received a phone call about 40 minutes later (very quick!), unfortunately to say I didn’t get the job, but was extremely close and was only a matter of points within it. The interviewer said they really liked how knowledgeable I was about the service and it was evident I had spent a lot of time researching what they do as a service. I have been encouraged to apply for 2 other jobs which will be coming up in the service, as they thought I did really well and would love to consider me for one of the other roles. I will definitely take up this opportunity, but as these roles haven’t actually been advertised yet I’m not sure what the timescale might be. I’m hoping that I would be able to get a job a bit quicker as I’m starting to worry about finances now, so not sure whether this opportunity will be a bit too far away time-wise. Good job I have a part-time job in a coffee shop and a support worker job to keep me busy for the time being.
Some other students have also shared with us some examples of interview questions that you may find helpful:
Rotation Post Interview Questions
Could you tell us about you as a person?
Can you tell us your three best strengths with an example of each?
You notice a member of your team is not working within their professional code of conduct, what would you do?
A consultant tells you that a patient needs a home visit and a hoist ahead of discharge… what would you do?
Could you tell us your greatest achievement at university?
You’re a newly qualified band 5 working closely with OT and within the MDT. How would you develop effective relationships?
Can you give me an example from your CPD folder or from memory where you’ve faced a challenge and what learning outcomes did you take from it?
Can you show me your understanding of reflection?
What is your understanding of clinical governance and can you explain three examples when you have implemented this in practice?
How do you prioritise clinical and non-clinical work?
What intervention would you use for someone who is struggling to breathe lying flat and it is increasing their anxiety?
An 89 year old woman has been referred to you and it is reported that she is confused. Why might this be?
How do you delegate work to support staff?
Can you demonstrate how you meet the HCPC standards? (For CPD)
What are some of the barriers that a mental health service user might be facing?
Integration of health and social care, what are the advantages and disadvantages of this?
The following questions are examples of questions asked at an interview for a fixed Band 5 post in a neurological service. As you can see they are geared more towards a Band 5 Occupational Therapist who may have some experience in this area:
- Can you tell us about your previous experience as an Occupational Therapist and why you feel the post in ……. is right for you?
- Can you give an example of some of the communication difficulties a patient may experience following a stroke?
How did you/would you manage the situation?
Can you give an example of a patient who you’ve worked with using the Bobath approach?
- Tell us about an area of service development you’ve been involved in?
Appraisal? Audit? Outcomes?
- Which area of Occupational Therapy is of special interest to you?
- Can you give an example of a time when you have not agreed with a decision that another member of the team has made? How did it make you feel? How did you deal with the situation?
How would your current manager describe you?
- How would your friends describe you?
What would the but be?
- Tell us about a member of staff you have helped develop?
- How you deal with the pressures and demands of a busy workload?
- Tell us about an article you have read recently and how it has influenced your practice? Have you shared this with colleagues?
- Can you give us an example of when you have had to deal with a member of staff whose practice you have had to question? What strategies and techniques did you use to support them?