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The application Pt 1 by @dtbarron

January 4, 2016

Job application form

Over the past few months months I’ve had the privilege of shortlisting and interviewing for a number of posts ranging from band 5 to band 8a. interview

Some of the application forms have brought a smile to my face while others leave me shaking my head in disappointment.

I’m sure there are guru HR professionals would be able to articulate what I’m about to say much better than I can – however in this blog I’m going to reflect on my recent experience; if you are about to apply for a post I hope it might be helpful, if you’re about to be interviewed then my previous blogs related interviews may be of interest.

First Step

The very first step before starting the application form, think to yourself do I want this job and why do I want it.  Job Vs Career

Second thing, having decided you do want the job, look at the advert, look at the job description and start to think about what value you bring to the post – not every staff nurse or senior charge nurse job is the same.

This is going to help you when you start filling in the application form.

Third thing, and I am astonished, indeed somewhat baffled that applicants don’t do this – if the advert gives you the name of someone to contact for anContact informal discussion – why on earth would you not do so?

Do you really need a written personal invitation to make contact?

There are two major reasons for making contact at this early stage:

  • It will give you the opportunity to find out if the area is somewhere you actually want to work – what are the beliefs and values of this prospective employe?
  • It gives you an opportunity to demonstrate to the people who may or may not shortlist you that you are keen to work for us, that you’re knowledgeable about the job and have the skills required.


The last round of interviews I was involved in there were 14 applications for four posts. It is highly unlikely we are going to shortlist all 14 (i.e. it’s a ‘short’ list that we’re tasked with creating), my role in shortlisting is to select the best candidates who we might be interested in employing, that means every bit of information you give the shortlisting panel is critical in you getting to the next stage. Someone who has made contact to find out about the area will, in my view and experience, have a greater chance of being shortlisted.

Only now should you be thinking about the job application form – it’s your second window for prospective employers to look into, and potentially the first one for some members of the shortlisting panel.

NHSS Job ApplicationIn my area we use standard NHS Scotland application forms, they’re not fabulous but they are what we have, so you need to make the best of them.

Let’s cut to the chase, if you can’t be bothered spending time on your application, if it’s full of mistakes and typos why would I or my colleagues want to shortlist you?

Do you really think that is the kind of nurse we want working for us?  One who’s paperwork appears to be of little interest to them, despite the importance of the form – how might that translate into their written clinical records?

I have been disappointed with the lack of or limited post registration learning and development that is evident from application forms. Within my Board there is little excuse as we have actively supported post registration education over many years, not only via our SLA with the University of the West of Scotland, but also via a variety of post registration funds including some directly given by the Scottish Government.

Job role and function

My disappointment re post registration education was nothing compared to my concerns when I read the entries related to the current ‘Role purpose/Summary of Responsibilities’ of some applicants. Telling the shortlisting panel that your role is a series of tasks that seem to have very little to do with a person centred approach to care is unlikely to impress us.screen-capture-26

These are actual examples from the past year:  I wouldn’t mind if these things were listed last, however they play an unfortunate pre-eminent place on the form.

Complete the ward diary – undertake a smooth handover between shifts – I am often left in charge of the unit – order medicines/restock medicine cupboards – run the ward efficiently, using clinical observation sheets – run my caseload efficiently – liaise with the GP – prepare for and take part in MDTs – responsible for ward off-duty – cover duty system – I provide basic nursing care.

Is any reader of this blog inspired by this list?  

I can assure you I am not, and in my recent shortlisting meeting neither were the two Senior Charge Nurses who were shortlisting with me.

ScheinSchein (2013) in his book ‘Humble Inquiry’ notes

“We think of task orientated relationship as impersonal and emotionally neutral”……. “… by contrast,  a person-orientated relationship is expected to be more emotionally charged because one or both parties are interested in each other …”

In their application forms, few explored, what I consider to be the real purpose of the nursing role, as Schein notes above “because one or both parties are interested in each other …

The caring role of the nurse should be the focus throughout the application, but it should most definitely feature prominently in your current role descriptor.   When I read an application I want to be able to ‘feel’ the nurse’s caring approach exude from the page, I want to be able to understand the values and beliefs of the nurse writing that statement.

Of course tasks are an aspect of the nurse’s role, but it shouldn’t be the first thing mentioned and it shouldn’t be the thing that takes up the most space.

Rights, Relationships and Recovery

While not wishing to suggest stock phrases that can simply be regurgitated I’m hoping  and expecting to see how you, the nurse deliver care; that you understand the preeminent place the individual who uses our service deserves to be in your application.  In 2006 (refreshed in 2010) mental health nursing had its own strategy for continuous development of our profession; it was called Rights, Relationships and Recovery.RRR Scotland

I fully expect to see in applications for a nursing role in Ayrshire & Arran that nurses know their role in upholding the rights of people in our care, that care is based on relationships with those we are in contact with and that a belief in recovery is a driving principle of the nurse writing the statement.

Also, when I read the current role that a nurse recognises the importance of engaging with carers, it can’t help but bring a smile to my face – and over the last  year I’ve read several.

A role description will be able to articulate the writers belief in involving carer, of supporting them to be involved in care episodes where possible. Carers usually know their relative much better than we, as professionals do, they can help wrap care round the individual – I really want to see view point expressed in the job application form (and of course that’s it’s demonstrated in actions).

For those of you who have filled out an NHS Scotland application form you’ll realise that I’ve only covered the first few pages.  Next week I plan to cover the rest of the application form and include some pointers of what to do, as well as what not to do.

Let me know your thoughts on the items in this blog, or if you’ve got specific questions you would like me to address.


12 Comments leave one →
  1. craggyirene permalink
    January 4, 2016 4:48 pm

    I agree with everything you have said Derek and look forward to part 2.

    • January 5, 2016 7:43 am

      Thank you Irene. I love the new Twitter avatar – I see you’re having a quite retirement 😀


  2. Fiona McQueen permalink
    January 4, 2016 9:23 pm

    Derek, couldn’t agree more regarding person centred practice and its absence in some nurses. I fear that many graduates focus on tasks alone

    • January 5, 2016 7:43 am

      The ‘relationship’ aspect is frequently lost in a midst of tasks, more often than not by those who are more experienced.

      The NQNs that I read did grasp relationships more, perhaps because they didn’t have tasks to fall back on? Having said they they assumed newly qualified meant uptodate, which they went on to demonstrate wasn’t the case.

      As leaders we still have work to do.



  3. Samantha McEwan permalink
    January 5, 2016 3:22 am

    Hopefully not clutching at straws, maybe it’s not the case that the applicants aren’t person centred, but rather for some reason they felt the task element would be more valued in the application form – and the reason behind that needs to be explored? Agreed though, relationships is our job – or career, even.
    Hope you’ll do a part 3 on interview tips.

    • January 5, 2016 7:39 am

      Thanks Samantha – I fear you may be clutching at straws, it is however always good to hold onto hope.

      The fact that applicants think that tasks would be more valued gives rise to concern that they don’t understand the role nor the values we place on relationships.

      I think one way they could have overcome that would have been to make contact with the area beforehand and find out what is important to the team they want to join.

      That said I think hope is important – so it relies on us teaching nurses what nursing is about and helping them to express that in application forms as well as in day to day practice.



  4. Andrew Murray permalink
    January 5, 2016 12:52 pm

    Having just been through an appointment process myself, you make great points. But I just wondered if the form itself is an issue when asking about details on role purpose, for instance. The rest of the form is so factual it would be easy to fall into the trap of just listing tasks I think. Should there be guidance within the form to engage and clarify for those poor souls who won’t read your blog? 😉

    • January 5, 2016 4:39 pm

      Thanks Andrew
      As I said in the blog the form isn’t great, it’s standard and bland – which then leaves us scope for the individual applicant to make what they will of it.

      Irrespective of the +ve or -ve of the form I was disappointed that some applicants saw their purpose as a series of tasks which may, or may not, involve those that use our services!!

      The blog aimed to both highlight this ‘discrepancy’ in beliefs and to give some pointers about what they should be focusing on – it’s about people and should always be about people.

      I’m not sure if medics always contact areas to find out about the ward/team/service before applying – but to me it seems such a missed opportunity if they don’t when it’s offered.

      Re your question – should there be guidance? I’m tempted to say no, I wouldn’t have thought we needed an instruction manual telling a clinician what was important …….. but there again …

      Thanks for the comments.

      And of course, very best wishes in your new venture, we will miss you here in A&A.


  5. Julie permalink
    January 5, 2016 8:09 pm

    Thank you for this blog. It is always a disappointment when individuals don’t complete application forms correctly look forward to reading part 2

    • January 5, 2016 11:18 pm

      Thanks Julie – hopefully the blog will be useful for future applicants.

  6. Lynn permalink
    January 5, 2016 10:40 pm

    Thank you for this, look forward to next part, we use block recruitment in my area so we do get large numbers of forms so to see a caring passionate nurse come out of the page is vital,

    • January 5, 2016 11:19 pm

      Thanks Lynn – I so agree, getting a caring passionate nurse is essential.

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