Agile Work

agile work v,

to bring together people, processes, connectivity and technology in order to find the most appropriate and effective way of carrying out a particular task; used here to denote the adaptability of public health professionals in working in partnership and applying their expertise in different areas or fields


How to get a Consultant Post

What constitutes a Consultant post

All  proposed consultant in public health posts should be approved by The Faculty of Public Health.  The  FPH works to maintain standards in public health by reviewing and approving consultant job level appointments and by providing external assessors for interview panels. This assures employers and the public that individuals are being recruited to the highest standard required to protect the population's health and enables us to contribute to the planning of an efficient, high quality public health workforce.  FPH has templates which can be used to devise a consultant post. 

All proposed consultant posts should be run by a Faculty Advisor to see if the post adheres to the standards. Once the Faculty Advisor has approved the post and sent a written confirmation, the recruiter should contact the Faculty to get a list of faculty assessors, who take part in the shortlisting and sit on the Advisory Appointments Committee (AAC).  Appointments should be made via an AAC process - i.e. a panel (see here for the composition) - and all appointments are regulated by statute. Consultants must demonstrate in their annual workplans and workloads that they are meeting all nine competencies and are registered with either UK Public Health Register or General Medical Council.  There is guidance available on this at the FPH website on senior public health appointments.


  • Many PH jobs will be advertised on NHS jobs so set up a search alert for consultant in PH jobs so you can see what kind of jobs are being advertised. Many can be in BMJ and HSJ and others will be advertised through local authority routes. You may hear of upcoming jobs whilst doing your last leg of your registrar post – such as when you may be in an acting up post. Be aware that sometimes it can take three months for a post to be finally advertised but do keep your ears and eyes open to where the post may be advertised.
  • Start the application at least a week beforehand. The first few sections are easy enough to fill in (personal details, qualifications, last few jobs) – save as you go along and do it in sections. I would print off and read through to make sure it reads properly and the spelling is correct. You may have apply using NHS jobs website – it took a friend of mine 5 hours to complete the first time she applied! However, your core information then gets saved and so it is quicker next time though you may need to spend time updating it and personalising it to the job you are applying for.
  • The additional information section is the bit to show off. Use the job specification to make headlines – if this isn’t obvious, you could use the standard public health competencies as headlines. What helped me with filling in this was my part b of the old training portfolio (this is the section where you filled in a description for each project you did in each training venue including aims and outcomes).Having that information at hand was really useful for filling out the form.
  • See yourself as the person appointing, what would you look for?(In other words, does your application match the job description?) And most importantly, show why you want the job. This is different to saying why you’re the best person for the job, this is about showing enthusiasm for working in that organisation and in that job.
  • The adverts tend to say who is the recruiting officer. It is worth contacting them with questions or talk to other people from that organisation. This isn’t about sending them your CV, this is about finding out a little more about the organisation, its culture and the nature of the work there.

Assessment centre

Once shortlisted, you may have to take part in an assessment centre. This will vary from place to place but be prepared to have your skills and knowledge tested! The assessment centre can happen on the day or may be part of a process that lasts over a couple of days. There is likely to be a form of exam, logical reasoning and a form of focus group such as with patients, commissioners or the public health team. A few friends of mine were given an hour to write a briefing for councillors on the impact of certain interventions, e.g. impact of the recession in Sheffield. It is worth knowing your RRR, ARR, RRI, ARI, NNT and NNH.

For my first substantive post, I had to do an online personality test (took about 20-30 minutes) prior to interview. There was also a whole day assessment centre. This comprised of a written exam, a logical reasoning online test, a focus group, being observed over lunch and a one-to-one interview which went through the results of the personality test to see what kind of a leader you would be. The only preparation was to read the commissioning intentions which was circulated prior to the assessment and was ‘examined’ so to speak at the focus group discussions. The written exam was tough – drew on somewhat rusty mathematical skills. I don’t remember all the questions but one was about smoking. There was a stop smoking service running at full capacity that did so many quits in a period of time, which was higher than the success rate from the GPs. You were then asked questions about a commissioning intention to increase numbers but do it through the GPs. Another question had to do with looking at A&E and admission rates and answer questions about whether any of these could be seen in urgent care centres (polyclinics) or what could be moved to the community.

The evening before the interview (so the following week), I had to do an informal interview with councillors and council staff.(This was because the post was jointly funded by NHS and the local authority).Each candidate had to sit at a table and the others circulated around (a bit like speed dating).They asked you questions about yourself. This was a tough situation as it was difficult to ascertain how formal it was or how much you could be yourself. Certainly, you needed to make yourself likable.


Panels tend to consist of 6-10 people and the interviews last about an hour. Depending on what post you are going for, expect a chief executive, a commissioning director, CCG clinical lead or chair, director of public health, councillor, a local authority director of services, non-exec director, an academic, a director of public health from elsewhere and a FFPH representative or two. Each person will ask you a question and there is usually room at the end for additional questions. Be prepared that when you go there will be no ice-breakers and that each question will be assessed and scored. There may be a presentation or a test.  The test is likely to be based on an issue or typical day in the post and is designed to see how you react in that situation.

Types of Questions

  • Questions about the presentation or test
  • Why do you want this job? What skills do you offer? 
  • What experience do you have of x? (Depends on the job description).
  • How do you deal with conflict style questions. 
  • Question on change management, quality improvement or an assessment that led to service improvements
  • Question on your leadership style or your management style (May be a behavioural questions or a past example). 
  • Scenario question – a sort of how would you go about this type question (checking the public health approach or your working style).
  • How do you advocate for public health or 'how do you take people with you' type questions. This may draw on your experience of working with GPs/ councillors/ mental health trust/ VCFS/ depending on JD. This is where you’ll need to know about what is happening in social care, NHSE, PHE and other partner organisations. Know about the national drivers for the relevant public health areas of the portfolio that you are applying for – example, child health if applying for a consultant post with a child public health portfolio.
  • Time management. What would you do first 100 days. Challenges of the job. Role of the organisation – are we doing enough. Involving users and carers.
  • Managing staff/ budgets. Good team/ bad team. Experience of dealing with difficult people that went well/ where you could have done better.
  • Faculty of Public Health assessor question- confirm on GMC or UK Public Health register and if so from when. CPD status. Appraisal status. Your CPD needs in this post. Being a trainer. Experience of supervising others – staff/ trainees/ research projects. Give an example of a recent CPD activity that changed the way you worked. 

Top Tips

  1. Have a list of 10 examples.   Many can be used to answer different questions (e.g. conflict, change management, leadership style) so it helps to map your examples against the different type of questions. 
  2. Take up any offers of interview experience and ask for it if no one offers –the more you prepare, the more confident you’ll be.
  3. Read and reread the job description and person specification as this will form the basis of the questions. Perhaps pretend you're the interviewer and draft questions around the person specification and see if you can answer them. 
  4. Do a bit of homework.  What's the organisation's remit and its culture and processes, what's the population you'll be looking after?  Know what you would do and what your learning needs would be if you started the job tomorrow. 
  5. Stay calm, it's an interaction not an exam.  
Check out the Faculty of Public Health's podcast for more advice  -  Advice to Faculty Applicants for Consultant-level Posts (