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Advice when interviewing international doctors

  • November 19, 2019

It is global knowledge that the NHS is suffering a staffing crisis and consequently, it is spending 25x as much on temporary staff than permanent staff to fill rota gaps. Our vision to aid this detrimental system is to employ more permanent international doctors over long-term agency locums to reduce NHS spend, increase staff retention and provide better continuity of care.

Reports reveal than 1/30 agency locum doctors earn over £120 an hour. This amounts to paying some locum consultants £375k a year compared to a permanent consultant who would receive just £74-107k per annum. This disparity is both unjustified and damaging, so to replace a long-term temporary doctor with a permanent staff member will reduce a Trust’s staffing cost dramatically. These extra funds could go towards life changing research or equipment to better aid the work of doctors.

In addition to the financial benefit is increased staff retention; providing departments with more doctors will increase confidence in their clinical decisions, they will feel better supported and it will provide them with a healthier work-life balance. In turn, it will create a better continuity of service to all patients on top of job satisfaction.

Before the interview

When reviewing CV’s, it is important to remember that all international doctors we provide you with will be either fully GMC Registered or eligible to register, having completed the required qualifications. This is advantageous compared to using NHS jobs as it will eliminate the doctors who have not yet evidenced their English language abilities or knowledge and skills to the GMC. The doctors we provide you with will be highly qualified, experienced (as per your specifications) and will be able to communicate safely in English, in line with the GMC’s standards.

When it comes to the interview stage you can then focus on getting acquainted with the doctor as well as exploring their clinical competencies. For example, it’s common to establish their motivations for wanting to relocate to the UK, why they have applied to your Trust, their career goals and whether their personality aligns with the Trust’s values and visions.

We would also advise that you question in more depth the clinical roles and job titles contained within a potential candidate’s CV. For example, some international doctors use the word “Specialist” when describing their job title – in the NHS this could mean a Specialty Doctor or a Consultant depending on where the candidate is practicing in the world. With so many job titles in different healthcare systems it’s always good to be clear about the capacity in which someone has been working. Another example might be if a doctor states they have “ICU experience” – again this job role will vary between countries i.e. sometimes this will mean the individual has anaesthetics experience and sometimes it will be closer to what you would consider an acute medicine role in the UK. To sum, it is best to check duties and responsibilities as what is written in the CV of an international doctor may not always reflect our understanding from an NHS point of view.

Scheduling an interview

In our experience, it is always best to try and arrange interviews for a post or number of posts on the same day. The reason for this is that NHS Trusts will typically require a senior clinician on the interview panel which may be hard to arrange on a sporadic basis – we know that frontline staff are hard to pin down at the best of times, so by consolidating interviews into prearranged “blocks” you have all candidates being considered fresh in your mind when making hiring decisions and feedback can be delivered promptly. This ensures that offers are made in good time and you have the best chance of securing your first-choice applicants. Please also remember that international doctors will often be working full-time at the point they interview with you, so if you are carrying out interviews please do stick to the specific time slots agreed. Like you, these doctors are taking time out of their working day with patients or have booked days off work in order to attend interviews, so it is not always possible for them to wait around or reschedule at short notice.

Skype Test

24 hours before the interview is due to happen, we have found it is helpful for a Trust to “add” the doctor being interviewed on Skype and test their audio and visual connection is adequate for the interview to take place – this ensures everyone is ready and time is not spent during the interview slot finding the correct contact online and dealing with technical issues. We would recommend asking candidates to send a screenshot of their Skype ID and also send the doctor the Trust’s ID or account you will be calling from too. Of course, if working with an agent like BDI Resourcing then we would conduct this test on your behalf with the doctor/s.  

The interview

When the interview starts, the doctor you are speaking with may be very nervous – it could even be their first interview for an NHS job! On that basis, we find it’s always important to start the conversation off with a warm and welcoming atmosphere before easing into the clinical components. Sometimes the interview panel forgets that an international doctor is uprooting their whole life to move across the world and so first impressions of the UK, its people and their potential new employer are absolutely critical. As much as you want to check that the doctor will be a good fit for your team, that same person will want to be sure that you are the right fit for them and their family. From experience, doctors tend to choose the department that they feel most comfortable with at interview and who they feel will give the best support (both professionally and personally).

Additional topics to cover during the interview

Whilst you will likely have a list of standard questions and information to provide during any interview, we would recommend expanding on the below topics in more depth when considering an international candidate:

  • Training opportunities
  • Orientation/Induction periods
  • Long-term career prospects
  • CESR opportunities
  • Research and audit work  
  • Culture and Community Engagement

As an agent, we can provide an insight into the key things a candidate will be looking for on a case by case basis, but generally they will want to know they won’t be thrown in at the deep end and that working for you would provide a positive step in their development as a medical professional. Providing as much information and reassurance regarding the above items can certainly help when working to secure your first-choice applicants.

After the interview

After the interview has finished and you have decided that you would like to offer the post to the doctor, you will need to obtain their full name and address to place on their offer letter. Don’t underestimate how competitive the international recruitment market is – if you like a candidate, ensure that an offer letter is sent as soon as possible. If you attended an interview and didn’t have any feedback within 48 hours, then you would probably start considering other options….

It’s important to bear in mind that no one will accept a job without knowing how much they will be paid. On occasion, offer letters will be sent with the full salary scale rather than an exact salary – this will replicate work as you will need to provide more detail in order to obtain commitment to a role. Some Trusts will issue something called an incremental credit form for the doctor to evidence their experience and help HR calculate the most appropriate salary for an offer letter. We would advise notifying a successful applicant of your intention to offer as soon as possible, alongside this form if you use one.

Remember that offer letters are always conditional, so you can assess a doctor’s experience based on their CV and offer them an estimated salary on the condition that they can evidence clinical experience with official letters/references prior to beginning their employment with you. Candidates are more likely to sign an offer with an NHS Trust if it is evident what their salary will be from the start.

Our support

If you would like our support in sending you qualified and experienced international doctors to help fill your vacant posts, or just require some advice or market insight, please email us at [email protected] and we can provide you with more information.


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