If AP posts are so competitive then why....

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miriam
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If AP posts are so competitive then why....

Post by miriam »

... do posts outside the NHS not attract more applicants, and applicants of higher calibre?

I've supervised 6 APs in the NHS. All went on to training from us, or at the next application after leaving us. I've supervised 3 fantastic APs in my private practise who have also all gone straight on to training from us or at their next application.

If I advertised on NHS jobs I would get 50 applicants in a couple of hours, and over 200 if I left it up for a week. Every time we appointed we got a diamond candidate due to the level of competition. However, if I advertise on here for an AP post or even in the BPS appointments memorandum, we typically get 7-20 applicants and the hit rate is much more mixed. Over the past 4 years as well as the diamonds (and some very good interns, graduate posts, admins and qualifieds) I have had 4 weak candidates with whom I have had to part company before the end of the trial period.

Why is there such a big difference between NHS and independent posts, especially at a time that NHS and social care services are being provided free at the point of access to clients by all kinds of companies? And why are applicants moaning there are no posts at the same time as employers are struggling to appoint good candidates?
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Purplebear
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Re: If AP posts are so competitive then why....

Post by Purplebear »

Dear Miriam,

I can't really give you a good answer to this question not having entered the workplace yet, but I have one guess. Sorry if it's simplistic! I check BPS psychologist appointments online from time to time, but there seems to be quite a low number of jobs reported on the website. (Is the memorandum different from the online appointments?) Maybe for people looking for assistant psychologist jobs, they apply more readily to NHS adverts because they see them appear via email notifications etc and maybe they come up more often. What I mean is that it might just be an awareness issue. I feel it's fairly easy to forget about BPS appointments just because there aren't so many jobs on there at a time.

It's also plausible that there's some bias towards NHS jobs but I don't know why that might be.

Out of interest, what kind of person would you say is a diamond candidate? Or what have your diamond candidates been like in the past?
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BenJMan
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Re: If AP posts are so competitive then why....

Post by BenJMan »

I think Purplebear probably reflectsw my views on it really.

The first issue for me would be exposure, that the jobs just arent as widely seen by people actively seeking jobs. Then there is probably somewhat of a bias for NHS positions for obviously reasons and particularly for people who are already within the NHS and paying penion contributions etc.
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kaaatt
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Re: If AP posts are so competitive then why....

Post by kaaatt »

As an AP who started off working in Private healthcare and moved on the the NHS I'll try and explain what happened in my journey.

I am very suprised that you said that so little people apply to private AP posts. Before I got my first AP post, I was given feedback in my previous interview that I had come second overall, and that there had been over 170 applicants so I should consider this a great achievement. For the private post which I actually secured, I was told that over 200 applicants had applied. Similarly, a few months ago I helped to shortlist applications for another AP at a different site within the company, and this racked up about 90 applications (and it was in quite a rural, hard to reach area in Scotland which possibly explains the smaller number).

If I am completely honest, when i was looking for AP posts, I don't think i ever came onto this forum, or checked the BPS appointments listings. It was about checking those NHS e-mails each day and doing a daily search for "assistant Psychologist" on indeed.co.uk when I had the time between working 50+ hour weeks of HCA shifts. I think purplebear has reflected quite well on the reasons why sites such as the BPS are not the first point of call.

For me personally, after securing a job in private healthcare, I had absolutely no intention of seeking out another private job. I saw this post, in part as a stepping stone to working as an AP in the NHS, as it felt impossible to secure an NHS AP post without having had large amounts of experience beforehand as the competition is so fierce. When I started to apply for NHS posts again about 10 months into this post, where I did secure interviews I was often told that they really liked me but there was just someone who had so much more relevant experience than me! If others potentially hold the same views, this may explain the difference in skill and experience levels between private and NHS applicants.

unfortunately for me, my AP experience within private healthcare was not a happy one (although I value the knowledge and experience which the negatives gave me - I would not wish to go through it all again!) and so this experience put me off what felt like a gamble on private posts. I desperately wanted to get a job within the NHS as I felt that as an Assistant, I would be much more protected within this body, as I definitely felt that I was taken advantage of within private healthcare where I had minimal supervision, seemed to be doing the majority of the psychology input myself whilst on the equivalent of band 3 pay and it felt very isolated. I felt that the NHS had much more in place in terms of support networks, policies and monitoring. I think it's also been drilled in to a lot of us (whether it's true or not - I know many people who got on without NHS experience) that working within the NHS give us an advantage within Doctorate applications as they like to see that you have an insight into the workings of Psychology within the NHS, and I am aware of at least one course where you get an additional point for having over 1 years continual NHS service. I imagine it would be much less likely for someone who has secured an NHS post to then seek out jobs within private healthcare, as it may feel like a step backwards?

P.S I'm not saying that all private services are the devil, and I know that there are some absolutely brilliant ones out there! But maybe the reputation and experiences of those which haven't been great, scare people away from applying to private AP posts in general.
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Loula
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Re: If AP posts are so competitive then why....

Post by Loula »

It's not really an answer to your question, but in my last post we shortlisted for an AP and found it quite disappointing. We did get a lot of applicants (we capped it at 100), but we really struggled to shortlist with a lot of applicants not tailoring their application to the post (or at least not referring to their enthusiasm for a very different population!), having little relevant experience or even meeting the required criteria for the post. There were also a lot of applicants that didn't have dates of jobs in so it wasn't clear what they'd done or it was poorly written.

Some of the interviews were very poor with concerns mainly around safeguarding about managing risk and when to get support from qualified staff plus 2 applicants didn't turn up. That being said the person who scored highest was a very strong candidate, and coincidentally the only one who didn't have prior AP experience.

We reflected on why the applications/shortlisting had been more disappointing than we'd hoped and attributed it to being a band 4 post that had a short fixed term (6 months) so felt we didn't really attract the more experienced applicants.
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miriam
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Re: If AP posts are so competitive then why....

Post by miriam »

It is weird though, as we have 6600 active members on here, the job adverts get loads of page views and many people post about struggling to find work, yet some of the posts advertised get very few applicants (I heard of one post that only had 3 applicants!) - that really shouldn't be the case. I've also heard people say that they fear applying for posts on here as they (wrongly) think they will be MORE competitive because of how informed people on here seem about the profession.

When I had an NHS partner in a particular project and we advertised on NHS jobs we got a lot more applicants even though the position was still with us rather than the NHS, though still not as many as we would have received for an NHS position. So I think it is a combination of visibility and prestige, but it really makes it hard to lift the quality of non-NHS services if we don't get as strong a field of applicants.

Oh, and as to "what is a diamond?" they are the people who rise to the challenge and show that they are making the most of every opportunity, being proactive about their own professional development, recognising the boundaries of their own competence, thinking psychologically, and asking lots of questions! Quite often they are not people with lots of experience (one of my best ever APs was working in costa coffee when he responded to a job advert on here for someone to spend an hour a week identifying potential funding opportunities for us, and ensuring we had active social media accounts for my company, and showed himself to be so indispensable that he was an AP with us full-time within 6 months, and on training 12 months after that).
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EmmaLou
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Re: If AP posts are so competitive then why....

Post by EmmaLou »

Hi Miriam,

I definitely agree with the previous comments that exposure might be a key issue here - personally I only found out about this website once I had got an AP role within the NHS and talked with likeminded people.. so I had no idea this even existed before I got into the NHS. At my university the careers advice was to look on NHS jobs - no mention of any other avenues like BPS either!

I have worked in the NHS now for the past 5 years in various roles, including AP posts. At one point I did attend an interview for an AP post privately, which I had heard of through word of mouth. I went and was offered the role, but there was one key issue that put me of accepting the role, and in consequence seeking any other work within the private sector at the moment, and that was the pay. My impression from job adverts in the private sector is that the starting wage in the private sector is lower than NHS jobs, and often the top end of the pay scale does not reach what my current wage is. The role I was offered included more travel and weekend work, for £2000 less than I was earning at that time. Unfortunately I could not afford to do that, and wasn't willing to sacrifice my weekends when in other roles I would not need to. As I was an AP already at the time, I thought I would hedge my bets and keep an eye out for further opportunities in the NHS where I could at least stay on the same level of pay (and maybe even go up).

So for me, it was nothing to do with the experience that was on offer, which sounded fantastic and in my eyes would be at least equivalent if not better than NHS experience. It was that financially I would have to make sacrifices to do it which at the time and now I cannot afford to do. It might be different though for people who are just starting out on this career path or fresh out of university? I do think AP posts in the private sector are fantastic opportunities, but I wonder whether others who are already in AP posts in the NHS might also be put off applying if they feel they would have to take a pay cut to do the role? Also, I'm not ruling out private posts for the future, it may be that I just haven't come across the right opportunity yet that would make me want to change what I am doing at the moment.
midas
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Re: If AP posts are so competitive then why....

Post by midas »

Many of my thoughts are similar to those already listed.

EmmaLou made a very good point about pay - once I was in the NHS system, I was very reluctant to take a pay cut to move jobs, weighing up different experience with the financial security (and agenda for change) that the NHS provides.

For me, and this might put me across as lazy, don't know about others... NHS jobs is set up so that it is easy to fire off an application, even one that like Loula said aren't the best, especially if it is capped. We all know that we should tailor applications but we also know how quickly they are taken down so this will unfortunately happen a lot. There don't seem to be the same time limitations on non-NHS posts, but any application has to be started from scratch, so they require an investment of our own time. I have personally spent hours and hours on some applications, a couple even requiring a handwritten personal statement to be posted off, then received no acknowledgment or feedback, just assuming a rejection. This is not to say all are like this, I'm sure they aren't, but that was my experience and it put me off applying for roles outside of NHS jobs.

Finally, and this is speculative having not worked in a private company for 4 years, I appreciate the service development, evaluation and opportunities that NHS roles bring, and this could well be part of non NHS roles but it may not be as evident, and I would feel more confident sticking with what I know when working up my experience.
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Re: If AP posts are so competitive then why....

Post by BenJMan »

All of the discussion about all the possible different elements has also made me wonder Miram..I wonder if some people could be put off by the lack of formality and paperwork etc . So jobs on NHS jobs have really clear job descriptions, person specs, pay scales, everything laid out in exacting detail. Sometimes the job posts on here tend to be more informal and whilst they contain all the necessary detail, they arent overly giving on excess details. Sounds the reverse of what most would think they want, but I wonder if some people like to have all that malarkey to go along with their potential job. I know I certainly tend to print out the JD/PS for any job im applying for etc and I use it to inform my interview prep and form etc.

Having just applied for one of the roles on here, I can say that having a blank application form without a bullet pointed person spec felt loads harder to complete than NHS ones do.

Essentially I'm wondering if there is percieved security in familiar beuraucracy
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Spatch
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Re: If AP posts are so competitive then why....

Post by Spatch »

I would hazard that you would find a similar disparity for qualifieds in that most will gravitate towards NHS posts and fewer towards third sector and independent practice.

It's possible some of this is probably historical, that there are strong messages about NHS experience being valued (even though the BPS/DCP have been open about the profession expanding away from just that). I also agree with the ease factor, clarity, pay and suchlike that commentators above have mentioned.

Having discussed this issue with friends I think for non-NHS posts, as with research related posts, where recruitment can be tougher, there is a lot to be said for targeting less experienced candidates who are earlier along the pathway and word of mouth. Much in the same way Phd candidates can often come from mentored and encouraged promising undergraduates/MSc students, there is something about cultivating direct connections. Giving talks at AP groups, getting involved in undergraduate courses etc may raise the visibilty and encourage applicants who have a better understanding of you and your service.
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alexh
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Re: If AP posts are so competitive then why....

Post by alexh »

Maybe accepting the nhs jobs format would help?
hettie
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Re: If AP posts are so competitive then why....

Post by hettie »

I work for a not for profit and we find it incredibly hard to recruit good candidates. Partly this about money, we simply don’t have the same pay scale system. You don’t automatically go up a point (and have a pay rise) every year. There are bands, but it’s not clear at which point you enter in and how you get progression.
However, talking to a colleague in the NHS (regarding a qualified post not an AP post) it was interesting to get their feedback. They didn’t want to apply because they felt that if (and when) recruitment freezes were in place you were at a disadvantage applying for NHS roles if outside the nhs. This means it’s hard to get back in to the NHS for career progression. Also, they felt that the professional networks, support and recognition are less in not-for profits. To be fair this has indeed been my experience and this can at times be isolating. Psychologists are simply less of a presence, so we are less known and our work/competencies are less known. But there are advantages too… Just depends on what kind of environment you want to work in I guess.
trainee15
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Re: If AP posts are so competitive then why....

Post by trainee15 »

Hi Miriam

When I was applying for AP jobs I only ever looked at NHS jobs, partly because I was not completely aware that non NHS AP posts existed at the time but mainly because all the emphasis was that you needed NHS experience to get on the course - perhaps potential AP's feel thu need NHS experience which puts them off? I suppose most AP posts are in the NHS so people don't think to look else where?
Pickle
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Re: If AP posts are so competitive then why....

Post by Pickle »

I'm inclined to agree with many of the points already raised about favouring the NHS AP jobs - particularly about the security of the NHS in respect of pay, pensions, knowing mat pay is there if needed etc. I think there are also clearer (at least perceived) expectations about supervision, and access to further support/learning opportunities etc. For instance, I learnt an awful lot from the doctoral trainees in one NHS AP post, e.g. joining with them for sessions, learning and developing formulation skills, journal clubs etc, which I think gave me the boost I needed to get onto training. There was no way my supervisor would've had the time to give this much support - and it's not an experience possible in a private AP post. That all said, my first AP post was private and it was a superb experience - but it was supervised by an NHS consultant CP - so I was still in the loop in terms of service needs/the NHS etc.
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miriam
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Re: If AP posts are so competitive then why....

Post by miriam »

Lots of interesting misconceptions out there.

We have had trainees in our company every round, either from the clinical or forensic and clinical courses, and I will soon have them in the private provider I consult to also. We also have very visible and valued psychology, with a lot more autonomy and scope than we'd have in the NHS. Our assistants have better quotas of supervision and CPD time than in most NHS posts. My rates of APs going on to training are as good now as they ever were in the NHS. I'd also take a punt that there might be as many AP posts outside the NHS as in it nowadays!
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