Applying for the HSST programme

Guidance on how to apply to the HSST for direct entry and in service posts.


Before starting your application

Plan your time

Work out how long it will realistically take to complete the application form. For example, you will need to get feedback from colleagues and that may take time. The application consists of an online form in which you provide information about how you meet the person specification for the programme, including qualifications, experience and motivation. The information you provide is reviewed by shortlisters against the person specification. You can make only one application per vacancy. If you try to submit more than one application for a single vacancy, you will be removed from the recruitment process.


Referees should be contacted as early as possible to confirm that they are happy to support the application and provide a reference. No-one will contact your referees until you pass the interviews.

Check important deadlines

Make sure you are aware of the opening and closing dates for all important stages of the application process.

COVID-19 vaccination requirements for NHS staff

The Health and Social Care Secretary for England has stated “All those working in the NHS and social care will have to be vaccinated” by 1st April 2022. You can read further information about HEE’s stance on Covid vaccination.


Oriel, the online application portal

The only way to apply for the HSST is through Oriel, the online application portal.

Minimum browser requirements for Oriel
Browser Version
Blackberry >=6
Apple Safari >=7
Google Chrome >=30
Microsoft Internet Explorer 9, 10, 11
Microsoft Internet Explorer mobile 11
Microsoft Edge all
Mozilla Firefox 24-26, >=27

Register on Oriel

You can register on Oriel as early as you wish but you will not be able to apply until the application window for the vacancy opens.

Click ‘Account Registration’ and create a user account. When you have registered an account, click ‘Proceed to Applicant Registration’. This will allow you to complete further registration details which will then be used to populate parts of the application form for any vacancy you apply for.

We use direct messaging in Oriel to contact you about applications in progress. Check your Oriel account regularly to stay informed. We may also use the email address you give us, but your main source of information throughout will be Oriel.


Search for a vacancy

Once registered login to your Oriel account and click on the vacancies tab. You should search for ‘Higher Specialist Scientist Training’ to see the vacancies available.

There will be two HSST vacancies displayed, one for direct entry and one for in-service. Make sure you select the correct vacancy type for you; most HSST posts are through the in-service route. Click this link to find out the difference between the two vacancy types.

  • direct entry applicants can only apply for the direct entry vacancy
  • in-service applicants can apply for both vacancies. However, if you are successful as a direct entry applicant, you would have to resign from your current NHS post to start the programme.

If you are an in-service applicant, your employer will send you a code and you will need it to complete your in-service application form.

Non-UK Applicants

Before you start your application visit the UK Visas and Immigration Service  to check whether or not you are eligible to apply.


The application form

The application form contains initial screening questions. You must meet the minimum eligibility criteria to be able to proceed with the application. You must provide personal, academic, work experience, general employment and equality and diversity data. Some of this data you may have already provided when completing the full registration process and this will be auto populated within your application form.

In the employment history section, Oriel requires you to enter an end date for your current employment. If you are in current employment and will need to leave your job to join the programme, please enter the 31st August 2022.

You will then be asked to complete a series of short answer questions to demonstrate your suitability, understanding and motivation for the programme. You will also be asked to choose your specialty.

Any work experience, including voluntary work, should be added to the supporting information section.

You can save and return to your application as many times as you like before completing and submitting it. Any false declarations will invalidate your application.

Fitness to practise

There are questions in the application form about fitness to practise, covering such things as criminal convictions.  Applicants who answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions will be required to provide further information, no later than the closing date, to Please mark your email as ‘confidential’. If you were successful in the interviews, the information you provide will be considered by a panel, who will consider whether the information you have provided makes you unsuitable for the programme.

Special circumstances

We have a policy for applicants with special circumstances, who may qualify for priority allocation of training places. Click this link for further information on how the special circumstances policy works.


Shortlisting and allocation to interview

Direct entry applicants

Your application goes through shortlisting review by a panel, who score it against the criteria in the person specification. Shortlisters do not have access to the equal opportunities, fitness to practise or employment history sections of the application form, or to your personal data. Applications are ranked in order of their total score. In the event of tied scores, an algorithm is applied. The highest scoring applicants go through to interview.

There are normally three interview places for each post. There is also a reserve list in case shortlisted applicants withdraw. Click this link for details of the shortlisting dates.

In-service applicants

Although you apply through the same process as direct entry applicants, your application does not go through shortlisting because you are not competing for a post. Once you have submitted your application, you will proceed to interview.

Shortlisting outcomes

When shortlisting is complete, your status on Oriel will change to one of the following:

shortlisted – you will be invited to interview

shortlisted reserve – you will be invited to interview (possibly at short notice) if a candidate in your chosen specialty withdraws

shortlist unsuccessful – your application will not progress further

Applicants will have 48 hours from the date of receiving the notice for interview to confirm acceptance of the interview by booking a time online.


Choosing employers and locations (sub-preferences)

Direct entry applicants

In the period between your invitation to interview and allocation to a training place, you will be asked to specify where in the country you want to train. The term used in Oriel for these choices is ‘sub-preferences’. Your interview score will be ranked and this will be used with your sub-preferences rank to determine the training location to which you are allocated.  You can view the advertised training post locations and specialties on our website. Locations are displayed by region. They may change during the recruitment process, so keep checking the website for the latest position.

In service applicants

You do not have any choice of specialty or location. You can apply only for the training post for which you are being sponsored by your current employer. You will be provided with an application code from by your employer to enable you to complete the application.  We will ask for evidence of your qualifications.


Interviews and interview outcomes

Shortlisted direct entry applicants and all in-service applicants are invited to interview. Invites to interviews will be sent external to Oriel, to the email address you provided on your application. The application status on Oriel will not change until after interviews outcomes are processed. Interviews will be conducted online through a video-conferencing platform.  You do not have a choice of interview date, and it is for you to ensure when you apply for the programme that you will be available on the dates advertised.  The interviewers score your interview, and the score is provided to us for verification.  You will not receive your outcome on the day.

Interview outcome and allocation process

After the verification of scores, the interview outcomes are processed on Oriel.

Direct entry applicants

If your status is ‘offer made’, we will allocate you to a training centre. Only one centre is offered to you. Once you accept a post, however, your acceptance is final. Once you have accepted an offer of allocation to a training centre, we will send your details to them, and they will undertake their employment processes. We do not employ trainees; you will be an employee of the training centre you are allocated to and you will stay in their employment for the full five years of training. Once we have sent details to your allocated employer, our role is over.

In service applicants

If you score over the minimum threshold at interview, you are on the programme. We will email you and your manager with next steps.

Interview feedback

You can obtain your interview feedback free of charge by emailing and attaching photographic ID. This normally takes about a month, but we cannot start to process requests until all outcomes have been released.  Feedback consists of interview station outcomes and any additional comments.


Contacts and useful information

Applicants should ensure that they have read this guidance document and the FAQs available prior to submitting a query.  Any additional queries regarding the national recruitment process should be sent to

Last updated on 22nd March 2022