10 Great Physician Interview Tips for Residents, Fellows & New Doctors
If you're a resident, fellow, or newly-minted physician, chances are very good that you'll soon be undergoing the job interview process. How can you ensure that you make the impression you want to make and that you get the most out of each interview — even if you don't land the position?
Here are a few physician interview tips to help you navigate the process to your best advantage.
1. Know Your Wants And Needs
Before your interview, come up with a clear idea of what you're looking for. This list typically includes:
- type of practice setting
- community of co-workers
- level of autonomy
- types of patients you'll be treating
- work schedule
- real estate options in the local community
- educational options in the area
- personal recreation opportunities
The best way to assess the full opportunity of any assignment is to know the answer to all these questions before you sit down for a conversation.
2. Request A Proper Interview Process
Most of your questions about the practice and the community should be addressed before the interview. Spend hours on the phone with recruiters, obtaining information about specific assignments and the workplace in general (reasonable salary expectations, typical schedule, etc.).
If you're married or in a long-term relationship, your spouse or partner should also speak with the recruiter. Remember, the interview is not an exploratory trip. You should have so much information beforehand that the interview itself is simply a confirmation of previously discussed details.
3. Have Your Spouse Or Partner Join You
Hospitals, medical groups, and other recruiting parties often encourage you to bring your spouse or partner for the interview, to avoid the need for a second interview. Recruiters should also talk extensively with their spouses before the interview, acknowledging that spouses can also make the final decision.
It's often useful for spouses and partners to have their own itinerary during the interview: touring the local community, visiting local schools, or interviewing for their own jobs. But remember that you're the one being interviewed. A spouse who becomes too involved or who speaks too frequently on your behalf can jeopardize an opportunity.
4. Make A List Of Questions To Ask
The interview process can be intense, and it's easy to forget the things you wished you'd say. Write down your questions in advance! Questions to ask include:
- "Why do you feel that another physician is needed here?"
- "What sort of payer mix can I expect?"
- "Who will my patients be? Where will they live?"
- "What's the general work level? How many patients will I be expected to see?"
- "How much of my time must be spent at the office? The hospital? Satellite locations?"
- "What personal qualities are you looking for in a new physician?
- "Does this position specifically call for an extrovert, someone who likes to greet the public and enjoys practice marketing?"
- "What do your current physicians like best about practicing here?"
- "What do they like least?"
- "Describe a day in the life of this practice."
- "What's the path to partnership?"
- "Are local physicians in support of this recruitment?"
There's also no harm in carrying a notebook with you, referring to your questions during the interview, and jotting down information as you go.
5. Clarify Income And Contracts On The Front End
A properly arranged interview isn't about money. It's about meeting people. One of the most important purposes of pre-interview contact is to decide upon the financial aspects before the interview. Income-related questions may include:
- "How is income structured? Salary? Income guarantee?"
- "What's the specific income amount? How does that compare with income surveys for your specialty?"
- "How is the production bonus determined? Can you provide a real-world example?"
- "What is the income potential in two years? Five years?
- "What makes you think I can earn that much?"
- "What's the signing bonus?"
- "Is there an educational loan forgiveness option? Over what period of time?"
- "What costs are paid for? What costs will I have to assume?"
- "How are other physicians compensated in the group?"
6. Review The Employment Contract (If Possible)
This is usually a preliminary or pro forma contract that may later be tailored to your individual needs. However, this stage gives you another basis for discussion. Confirming contractual/income arrangements in advance allows for a much more relaxed interview process, in which you're largely confirming details, not haggling over them.
Some experts advocated for as much as 70 percent of the interview to be social in nature, with only 30 percent devoted to business. If there's sufficient preparation beforehand, the interview is mostly about meeting people, exchanging philosophies, and determining your comfort level with the practice and the community.
During the interview, you should be thinking, "I understand the contract, the hours, call, equipment, payer mix, patient base, etc. Now, do I fit in with these people? Can I see myself working with them?"
7. Be Prepared To Negotiate!
You're not likely to be offered a "take-it-or-leave-it" work agreement. Most types of physicians are in demand today, and many have multiple practice options. So, expect your initial offer to include some negotiating room.
There's no stigma attached to negotiating. If you feel you need better coverage or a higher guarantee amount, ask for what you think you need. Keep in mind, though, that negotiating is a two-way street, and be prepared to make reasonable concessions to the recruiter or employer.
8. Tour The Workplace
The recruiting party should arrange for a tour where you see all you want of the new area. Usually, we recommend taking the tour on your own or going with someone who doesn't have a financial stake in what neighborhood you visit. If you or your children have particular interests, focus on those. If your son is committed to gymnastics, for instance, you may wish to speak with the local gymnastics coach or teacher. It's also a good idea to socialize with local physicians in your age group, and with those who share your personal interests, if possible. If you're part of a recently married couple with young kids, you'll want to know how families similar to yours spend their time.
9. Dress Appropriately
A surprising number of physicians appear at job interviews dressed inappropriately — too casually, in jeans or other casual clothes, or wearing clothes that simply don't make an appropriate impression. The rule of thumb is to dress conservatively in business attire — men should wear a suit or slacks with blazer and tie; women should consider minimal use of makeup.
10. Decide In A Timely Fashion
The physician search process includes a variety of people — recruiters, hospital administrators, board members, medical directors — all of whom are seriously invested in choosing the right candidate. Many people are awaiting your decision, and after making you an offer, their efforts are completely on hold until you decide. Out of professional courtesy, try to make a timely decision (one week to 10 days), and stand aside so the search can continue if you're not interested.
Most physicians find that the day (or two) they spend interviewing is intense but rewarding. After all, it's enjoyable to be courted — but remember, you're being evaluated. Employers will assume they're seeing you at your best, so be sure to meet that expectation by putting your best foot forward.
After a thorough review of the practice and its community, you may feel favorably toward an opportunity. Say so. A positive reaction will give the recruiting organization and community a sense of a job well done. If this isn't the case, let them know why, so they can carry out potential adjustments to their process, or the position.
Even if your date of graduation is years away, it's never too early to begin charting your future career path!