It’s time to put your hard work into practice and take the first steps in your career.
Job hunting can seem like a stressful activity, especially as it often happens around times of intense pressure, whether that’s as you’re about to finish your degree, during rotations, or at a time when you’re tired and feel you need a break.
However, putting time aside to plan and prepare a job hunt can pay off many times over later – your future self will thank you.
Remember – always read the job description and person specification carefully and make sure you address in your application, how you meet all aspects, whether you’re filling and application form or making your CV bespoke for the job. Use information you’ve collected in your degree portfolio and draw on practical examples of these to illustrate how you meet each aspect of the hob description/person specification.
Application forms and NHS statement writing
Many employers will send you a standard job application form and prefer this method to sifting through CVs. Departments that receive many applications will usually use the application form as the first stage of their selection process and draw up a shortlist of people to invite for interview. It is therefore essential to take time and care when completing an application.
Be precise about your work/placement experience: give clear dates, locations and job summaries. The NHS website provides guidance on how best to make your application successful and how to write your application form.
Qualified Physio have written a useful online blog called ‘8 Steps for the perfect physio or health care application, personal statement and cover letter’.
An up to date and accessible CV is an essential instrument in your job search toolbox, so that you can apply for posts with minimal notice. There are many schools of thought as to how a CV should be organised. Much depends on the individual and the job you are seeking, but some of these general points may be useful:
- Type the information, spacing sections well, so it doesn’t look cluttered.
- Check your spelling and grammar.
- Keep your CV to no more than two sides of A4.
- Include your full name, address, phone number and email address.
- Include a short personal statement to give the reader a snapshot of who you are and what you are bringing to physiotherapy. This statement can either sit as an introductory paragraph, or can work equally well at the end of the CV – pulling the information presented together as a summary.
- Education and training: list in date order the schools and colleges you have attended since age 11.
- Academic qualifications: list the examinations passed with your grades.
- Practice education: make a note of how your placements were organised (e.g. 8 x 4 week placements, 6 x 5 week placements + one elective). List the placements you have undertaken and the key achievements/learning outcomes for each one. You should also list, under the title ‘Positions held’, any positions of responsibility, for example, Prefect, society committee member, etc.
- Work experience: include details of any vacation, part-time or voluntary work undertaken, briefly mentioning your duties and what the job involved. Link these where possible to the behaviours/knowledge/skills from the CSP’s Physiotherapy Framework (accessible via the CPD ePortfolio). Mature students should detail any previous full-time employment.
- Interests and achievements: consider what impression it is you want to create before completing this section. List any special skills or hobbies and give details. Include any special courses you have attended.
- References: you may want to include ‘References available upon request’ at the end of your CV although this is not mandatory. In any case, make sure you have on hand the names and addresses of two people who are willing to be contacted by the prospective employer with a view to commenting on your experience and personal qualities. At the outset of your professional career, most employers will require a reference from your university. Speak to your course leader and another lecturer (or an employer from a clinical job or volunteer work) to gain their permission before using their names. Where possible, try to provide referees who are available at short notice.
Preparing for interviews
Your hard work has paid off and you’ve been invited for an interview, well done! This is your opportunity to demonstrate your qualifications and knowledge, your interest in the role and your personality. Taking some time to prepare for the interview will help you feel calm and confident on the day.
We suggest dividing your preparation into three main areas:
- Identify why you will be able to do the job, with specific reference to the job description and person specification. Think of at least three examples of what you have actually done in relation to each of the areas of the job description and person specification, using examples from different experiences. Think about the impact each of your example had, focusing on your achievements. If you have not had direct experience, think about what you may have done in other areas of your life (domestic, voluntary, student rep roles, etc.), which may have given you transferable skills and experience. Think about your successes, big or small, and the lessons you have learnt from where things haven’t gone as well as you had hoped. Draw out information from your portfolio if you have it that can act as supporting evidence for your statements – you may be asked for this at interview.
- Research the employer and the physiotherapy department via the Internet, personal contact, the organisation’s annual report, etc. Find out as much as you can about the particular Trust and/or department, which will enable you to prepare some questions to ask at the interview. Trusts place an emphasis on values-based recruitment so look at their values beforehand, especially working in the NHS. Values are often available online on the organisation’s website.
- Wherever you look to work, get yourself up-to-date on the policies and guidelines relevant to that sector and the contribution that physiotherapists can make, now and in the future. Write yourself notes under these three headings, and then condense your notes into key bullet points that you can go over the night before the interview.
After the interview
Analyse what you did well in the interview and note down anything you were not prepared for and think about how you might answer differently in the future. If you aren't successful, ask for feedback.
All the steps above and included in the Final Year Student Handbook will hopefully lead you to your first job offer. Once you have received an offer, it is important that you know what to look out for in a contract of employment. So it is equally important that you are given a written contract by your employer to avoid any confusion or disagreements at a later date over what was originally agreed.
The CSP has created a handy Guide to your First Employment Contract, giving you guidance on what to look for when checking your employment contract before you sign it.
For more advice on preparing for interviews including group interviews, download the Final Year Student Handbook