Structuring Interview Questions Guide 3d Cover
Download "How To Answer Questions In An Interview" Guide
Download "How To Answer Questions In An Interview" Guide

In this month’s article, we examine your choices if you can’t get into the training program or senior clinician role you want. While we’ll focus on the training program, the same applies to roles.

Just like job interviews, applying for training programs is just as competitive. As with other industries, only so many positions are available each year for each speciality training program.

This is something you do need to be aware of and be prepared for. If you’re solely focused on the training program and nothing else, it can impact your mindset and be quite debilitating to you and your career.

It’s also important to understand that not being accepted is not personal. You don’t really know who you’re competing against or what the organisation is looking for. While you may meet and even exceed the requirements, ultimately, it’s up to the organisation to determine who will best fit their training program, as these programs can run for 5+ years. The investment is on their part is substantial, so they are very careful about choosing who they believe are the right candidates.

Don’t think of it as a rejection, either. With potentially hundreds of people applying for the limited number of positions for the same training program, being accepted is not a reflection of you. It reflects how competitive the pool of candidates is in this round.

Don’t let this stop you from applying, though, as you may be one of the fortunate candidates accepted.

What you need to know about applying for a training program

I can’t stress enough how important it is to be prepared.

It’s more than just having an updated CV. What can you demonstrate regarding your job experience, research, teaching and published articles? Are your referees strong? Will they provide a positive reference when requested?  The more information and evidence you can provide, the better your chances of getting an interview.

You’ll have to provide online responses to specific questions. Ensure you read these carefully, as each training program and role is different. The questions form part of the selection process, so write detailed, relevant responses. Not spending enough time on this step will show the organisations that you aren’t prepared to put in the effort required, and your application will be rejected.

What do you know about the organisation? What can you find out about what they’ll be looking for in the next round of candidates?

Being prepared will increase your chances of getting on the training program.

So, what options do you have if you aren’t accepted?

Having a plan B

While it may seem like you’ve hit a brick wall, please remember you have not failed.

Think about what else you can do. Who can benefit from your skills and experience? Does it really have to be in this one speciality, or can you branch out into something slightly different that will still give you the same job satisfaction and ability to help people?

I call this having a Plan B. A backup plan if your first choice doesn’t come through. It is okay to change direction – just be open to finding out what else you can do.

Break it down into your skills and interests rather than the role itself. Talk to others and look at LinkedIn to see what other people have done career-wise. You can also talk to a career coach to brainstorm options and bounce ideas off. I’ve helped many doctors in this situation find alternate opportunities that brought them immense job satisfaction.

For example, there are options for surgeons who miss out – anaesthetics, working part-time in theatre, but with a more flexible lifestyle.

The option you end up with may be a better fit even though you don’t realise it initially.


No matter how much experience or work you’ve done to prepare for an application, getting into a training program or senior clinician role is highly competitive. Having a Plan B takes the pressure off if you don’t get your first choice and will show you there are many opportunities to still have a satisfying career.

It’s all about life choices, prioritising and preparation. Closing one door will open another, so don’t be afraid to take that step if you need to.

If you need help with brainstorming your choices, contact me at [email protected] for a confidential discussion.

Structuring Interview Questions Guide 3d Cover

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