How not to suck at NHS Job applications

Cyring baby. Source:

Examples from recent shortlisting

  • Current job title mentioned but no company name given. Unless you’re in the secret service, I can’t imagine why you’d do this.
  • Current job given, but current salary not mentioned. I don’t put a lot of weight in the salary that is mentioned, I don’t care if this job is a big jump for you — good for you and I look forward to reading why you’re equipped to step up several grades (cos that’s what you’re gonna need to do). ̶I̶ ̶h̶a̶v̶e̶ ̶m̶o̶r̶e̶ ̶c̶o̶n̶c̶e̶r̶n̶ ̶w̶h̶e̶n̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶r̶ ̶c̶u̶r̶r̶e̶n̶t̶ ̶s̶a̶l̶a̶r̶y̶ ̶i̶s̶ ̶n̶o̶t̶ ̶b̶e̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶s̶h̶o̶w̶n̶.̶ ̶W̶h̶y̶ ̶w̶o̶u̶l̶d̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶ ̶h̶i̶d̶e̶ ̶i̶t̶?̶ [¹ See postscript below — there’s more to this]
  • No career history. Doing this in NHS Jobs is a pain, but leaving your employment history, or pointing to me to LinkedIn is lazy. I’m immediately asking — if you’re not prepared to fill that in, what are you like to work with? Play the game.
  • Career history roles and responsibilities as a list of statements/acronyms, with no evidence.
  • Statements like “I feel I can do the role well”, with no justification or evidence why.
  • Cutting and pasting big chunks from a CV, resulting in all kinds of mad formatting (NHS Jobs does not do anything in the way of formatting). Even if the formatting is sorted, the content needs to be good. Cutting and pasting from the CV would be fine in the case where you have a decent CV to start off with, but I the cases I saw this wasn’t evident.
  • Complete lack of evidence. Lot of lists of buzzwords, but with no evidence of impact. E.g “I am responsible for service transformation”. What am I to take from that? Were you successful? What worked?
  • Completely missing the point of the Supporting Information section, which is to link back to the published person specification. It says this plainly in the document. This is so basic, but hardly anyone seems to do it.
Gif: Too long, didn’t read
  • And on the supporting info, one thing in the job description in question was a “Track record of communicating externally (blogging, Twitter, conference speaking) about your professional role and raising the profile of an organisation”. Only two applicants referred to this.
  • Mentioning the name of a different organisation in the application. Clearly this was a cut and paste of a previous application. This is a senior job, show some attention to detail. What does that tell me about what your work will be like?
  • Minor typos, such as previous salary of about ten times what this role is paying (at least I assumed it was a typo!), spelling the name of your current organisation wrong and many others. Again nothing major but its sending me the message that you’re not invested in this job by simply taking some time to proof-read before clicking submit.

Giving you the benefit of the doubt

I know this is a pain

Time to stop moaning

Yes, Pick up the Phone

Creating a Great Application

  • A sense that you understand the job and you’ve adapted your application accordingly. For example in this job, there was a candidate pack that talked about our ambition to be The Most Digital Hospital Group in England and some of our principles “We will be valuing collaboration behaviours over individual technical brilliance, as teams at each site work to:Do the basics brilliantly, Do things once for both, Do the hard work to make things simple, Be the best you can be”. Very few applications took the time to pick up this from page 1 of the covering application and refer to it.
  • A good career history. Again, this is a pain to add a list of previous jobs, but leaving them out raises more questions and doubts that you don’t want to encourage. So do the hard work and I think NHS job stores the job list so once you’ve done it once, you at least have the base info for future applications. In the roles and responsibilites bit for each role, don’t just give a list of things cut and pasted from your job description, pick two or three key things you delivered in that role that directly relate to the job you’re applying for.
  • A great set of supporting info. As stated earlier, this is where you justify that you meet all of the essential criteria. The easiest way to help the shortlister is to list every essential criteria and provide an evidenced response to each one. For each of the essential criteria my expectation is that you use something like the STAR model to set this out. At the shortlisting stage I’m looking for numbers, scale and evidence of delivery. Sometimes the criterias in the person spec are pretty lengthy, so feel free to trim it down, but you’re sign-posting to the shortlister that you’ve got everything nailed. Oh, and please try and use some white space — that dense block of text is pretty hard to absorb.
  • Use a few tricks. As stated earlier, the job description in question had the criteria of a “Track record of communicating externally (blogging, Twitter, conference speaking) about your professional role and raising the profile of an organisation”. Not all job descriptions will mention this directly, but this is a great opportunity to market yourself without the expense of breaking the word limit of the supporting information. If you’re applying for a senior digital role, then my expectation is that you’re living the NHS Service Design Manual Principle of Make Things Open It Makes Things Better. What does it say about you as a digital professional not to have an online professional presence? If you haven’t got one, now is the time to start.
  • Play the game. If the advert says apply through NHS Jobs, then that’s the route to use. If you’re doing to send me a CV separately via email, then do it by all means, but I won’t take it into account and I’ll still be shortlisting based on content in the NHS Jobs application. So don’t think by sending me your CV you can do a short supporting information section. Using the same assessment is how we make it fair for all applicants.

In Summary


Husband. Dad to 3 smashing lads. Cub Leader. MAMIL. Group CDIO for Northampton and Kettering Hospitals. Ex NHS Digital. Views own. Always learning.

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Andy Callow

Andy Callow

Husband. Dad to 3 smashing lads. Cub Leader. MAMIL. Group CDIO for Northampton and Kettering Hospitals. Ex NHS Digital. Views own. Always learning.

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