Applying for jobs in health and social care

If you’ve decided to apply for a job in health or social care in south east London, that’s great! Here is some guidance to support you with this.

What's covered?

We will provide you with all the key information you need to take your first steps in applying for roles.

You can either scroll through the entire page or jump to particular sections using the links on the right.

The application process

Find out what's involved when you apply for a health or social care job.

Writing a good application

Get some top tips for what employers are looking for from your application.

Interviewing for jobs in health and social care

Advice and top tips for preparing for and having an interview for a health or social care role.

The application process

Let's find out a bit more about what applying for jobs involves.
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Review the application requirements

First, look at the job advert and any supporting information carefully, to find out what the application process is. Different organisations have different requirements – such as:

  • An online application form on a particular website – for example, many NHS jobs have an application on the site.

  • A CV and ‘covering letter’ explaining why you are applying for the role and how you match the requirements.

    Always check the deadline for submission, too – and make sure you submit it before the date and time specified. Very few employers will consider applications received after the deadline.

Follow their guidelines

Be sure to follow the process the organisation has requested. For instance, if the organisation has a set application form, don’t send your CV unless they ask for it.

Personal statement

Also be aware that many online application forms include a section for a ‘personal statement’ or 'supporting statement', which may play a similar role to the covering letter in offering additional information on why you have applied for the role specifically.

How to write a good application

The main question on any employer’s mind when they read an application will be: why should we hire this person over everyone else who has applied?
This means they will often consider other questions. Click on these panels to find out how to address these questions in your application:
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Is this person genuinely interested in this job and organisation?

To show the employer you are interested in the role, be sure to mention why you’re interested in that job specifically – this should relate to why the kind of work and organisation appeals to you.

Does this person have the right skills and experience to do this job?

The job advert should list the skills and experience required for the role. You should refer to all of the key skills on the advert, and give evidence or examples for each of the ‘required’, ‘mandatory’ or ‘essential’ criteria, rather than giving a general list of your skills.
Note that adverts will often include ‘desirable’ criteria – if you have any of these, you should mention them in your application as it will help you to stand out. However, employers will still consider your application without these, as long as you meet the essential criteria.

What will this person be like to work with?

You should also indicate that you have the right personal qualities for a role. For instance, health and social care roles often involve working with other people, so try to demonstrate in your application that you enjoy this and have the skills. If you prefer working alone and don’t enjoy interacting with people, a job that involves working with patients, or as part of a team, may not be for you!

What makes this person different from other applicants?

It’s important to add any experience, qualifications or insights that demonstrate your distinctiveness. You want to include anything you feel could be relevant to the role, but don’t just include anything for the sake of it. For instance, if you enjoy travelling, this is unlikely to be relevant. But if while travelling you volunteered in a hospital, or demonstrated teamwork skills, this is likely to be relevant.

Extra tips!

Before you get going with your application, please bear in mind these top tips.

Check your language

Your application should be written in correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. You may wish to use your application’s spelling and grammar checker, an app for checking spelling and grammar, or ask a friend or family member to proofread it.

Have a professional CV

If you’ve been asked for a CV, make sure it’s clear and readable, and professionally presented. A fluorescent pink CV, or one with size 8 font, may not give the best impression. You should also make sure it is a maximum of two pages in length.

Get to the point

If you’re writing a covering letter, make sure it’s short and to the point. Employers often look at many applications and have very little time, so you can help yourself by giving them the key information about you from a quick read of your application.

Use examples

Give concrete evidence/examples of skills. For instance, if the job requires excellent communication with colleagues, talk about a paid or voluntary role where you demonstrated that.

Preparing for interviews 

Congratulations – you’ve passed the first stage and have been invited to interview.

What should you expect?

There are two main areas you can prepare to answer questions about.

The employer and role, and how the role fits into the wider organisation and its purpose.

It’s really important to find out about the role and organisation before the interview. Every employer wants to see that you understand what they do and what health or social care, and the particular role you’ve applied for, involve.
If you’ve been given the names of the people who will interview you, it’s a good idea to find out about them and their roles, too.

Your skills and experiences, and how they can help to meet these.

Employers will want to know what skills and experience you can bring to that particular role, so prepare examples or evidence of every relevant skill.
For instance, if one of the criteria is having experience of working with patients, you might want to write a few notes with examples of where you have worked with patients in different scenarios.

Online or in person interviews

You’ll also need some practical preparation, depending on whether your interview is in-person or online:

In person interviews

If you’re interviewing in person, make sure you’ve made yourself available for the interview period, as well as travel to and from the location.
Plan your route with timings, to arrive at the location at least ten minutes before the interview. 
Decide what you’re going to wear ahead of the day, and iron any clothes if necessary. Wearing the right outfit can help you feel comfortable and confident. Many organisations will have a smart casual dress code – if that’s the case, you won’t need to dress in a full suit! However, it’s best to check this first.

Online interviews

If your interview is online, make sure you’ve arranged to be somewhere quiet with a laptop or computer and good internet access during the interview period. It’s best to set up at least 10–15 minutes before the interview is due to start, to ensure you’re settled and ready.
Of course, in some situations it won’t always be possible to ensure this. You might be at home trying to look after kids or have a dog who barks whenever there’s a knock at the door! If that’s the case, just explain to the interviewers at the start that this may happen – they should understand, as they’re human too!

Answering questions

Here are some common interview questions you might get. It’s a good idea to prepare some points you’d make in your answers.

Why are you interested in this role / organisation?

This is your chance to talk specifically about why you’re interested in applying. Try to make brief points to back up your claims – for instance, if you’re applying for a physiotherapy role, if you say ‘I’m passionate about physical activity’ you might add a point such as ‘which is why I opted to do GCSE and A-level PE’ or ‘having been an active gym-goer for 10 years.’

What skills and experience can you bring to the role?

Ultimately all employers want to know the answer to this. Some may ask it in this form, while others may ask a few different questions to find out about specific skills or experience.
Try to cover a few skills that are core to the role, and use evidence from relevant experience. It can be a challenge to balance covering enough information while keeping your answer brief. You may find it best to cover around three to five key skills.

Tell us about a time when…

These types of questions will ask you for an example where you demonstrated a specific requirement from the job advert (for instance: tell us about a time when you worked with others to achieve a defined goal).
One way to structure your answer is to use the 'STAR method', where you break down examples of experiences you've had into four sections:
S: Situation – the situation you were in/dealing with
T: Task – what you needed to get done
A: Action – the action you took to get the task done
R: Result – what happened as a result of your actions and the skills you learnt or demonstrated. Be as specific as you can. 

How would you manage a situation where…

These types of questions will ask you about hypothetical challenging situations, that are likely to arise in the job. For instance:
→ How would you manage a situation where a patient submits a complaint about you?
→ How would you manage a situation where a patient becomes frustrated and aggressive?
→ How would you manage a situation where a patient needs help, but you and other colleagues are busy?
→ How would you manage a situation where a more senior colleague asks you to cover up their mistake?
It’s worth thinking about different scenarios like these and how you would respond. They are usually designed to demonstrate your ability to demonstrate professionalism, think clearly and follow procedures.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

The interviewer will be trying to get a sense of whether you see a long-term future in the role and/or would be interested in growing in their organisation.

Do you have any questions for us?

It’s a good idea to ask at least one question to demonstrate your interest in the job. You can ask about things that matter to you, like what your typical day might be like or how the team works together. It's also okay to ask about things you're curious about, like training opportunities or how the organisation supports its staff.
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Some frontline job interviews will also include technical or knowledge-based questions too. You should be informed in advance if this is the case.

For more specific advice, the following sites may help:

Useful resources

Check out the following for more advice on applying and interviewing for health and social care roles.

The application portal for many NHS jobs.

Getting into social care

Advice for writing a job application for a social care role.

Preparing for an interview

Advice from BBC Bitesize.

The NHS job interview: Questions and answers

Guide to questions you might face in an NHS job interview for a patient-facing role.