StarMed: Think Differently About Finding Talent

How Doctors Botch Their Employment Interviews

How To Ace A Job Interview

September 16, 2015

Even the most sterling of credentials can’t make up for these mistakes.

Many doctors seem to think that just showing up for an interview is enough to land them a job. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Making a winning impression face to face is a lot like playing chess. Each move you make must be a part of a logical sequence in a fluid situation. Think in advance about what you’ll say, or won’t say, and re-evaluate it as the interview progresses.

Actually, doctors think this way all the time – as clinicians diagnosing and treating patients. The same analytical skills can help them devise a successful strategy for job interviews. Yet many fine physicians fail to draw on those skills and, instead, blow interviews with senseless blunders like these:

They show up looking unprofessional. It happens more often than you’d expect. The CV is impressive, the experience strong, the reference glowing. But the candidate arrives for the interview dressed for failure. True, clothes don’t make the doctor – but they sure can help get him the job he wants. A shirt with a yellowed or frayed collar, a sport jacket that resembles something off the rack at Kmart, or a tie with penicillin stains does nothing to impress an interviewer.

Here are the keys to make attire work in your favor: A man should wear a conservative dark suit, white shirt, shined dress shoes, and a sedate tie made of silk – the only material endorsed by fashion experts. A woman should wear a dress or suit in a dark or neutral shade, and low to medium heels. Never wear pants or clunky jewelry, and never go without spare stockings in your bag in case there’s a run.

They don’t bring a list of key questions. We sent a candidate to interview with a FP group in Colorado. “Do you remember all the points you need to cover?” we asked him before he left. He smiled smugly and tapped his head, as if to say, “It’s all in here.”

After hours of stressful interviewing and socializing, however, he realized that he hadn’t asked about the job’s on-call schedule or the cost of buy-in. He’d even forgotten to ask about the group’s vacation policy.

You’re likely to have dozens of questions about any job. During the interview, it’s easy to overlook some important ones, so jot them down beforehand. You needn’t worry about creating an unfavorable impression by bringing a list of questions with you. Actually, it shows sincerity and attention to details.

Don’t count on the interviewer to share vital information without being asked. You may well be dealing with another doctor, one who’s inexperienced at conducting interviews. That means you’ll have to take the initiative.

You might, for example, present several diagnoses and ask how such cases are handled at the group or clinic. What are the doctor’s treatment patterns? Their philosophy on testing? Their attitudes about managed care? How big would your patient load be? Only when you have those answers will you know whether you and the job are a good fit.

Another concern: The interviewer may take your failure to ask questions as a sign of indifference, failure to prepare, or even lack of basic common sense. That, of course, can knock you out of the running.

They ask the right questions – at the wrong time. Asking right off the bat about salary or an employer’s vacation policy may suggest that you lack a strong work ethic. That first impression can be tough to

dislodge. Initially, your goal should be to learn as much as you can about the practice and its patients. If pay and benefits aren’t addressed as the discussion unfolds, inquire about them towards the end of the interview.

They fail to cite their strengths. An interviewer will almost always ask, “Why are you a good match for us?” or, “What are you most proud of in your career?” A blank look is not a job-winning response.

In preparing for an interview, assess you accomplishments and be ready to point out those potentially important for this specific job. If you’re especially adept at a certain procedure, that’s worth sharing. Emphasizing non-clinical skills can also give you an edge. We sent a candidate to interview at a Chicago hospital in a Hispanic community. The doctor had worked in Latin America, and her fluency in Spanish helped her land the job.

They try to hide flaws. It’s common for a candidate to be asked about weaknesses as well as strengths. Self-serving answers – “I work too hard,” or, “People tell me I’m too nice” – aren’t convincing.

But candor has its limits too. If you’re asked about your weak points, describe them with a positive, credible spin. Let’s say you’re prone to be blunt when you disagree with other health professionals. You might tell the interviewer this happens because you’re so focused on giving proper patient care. Then acknowledge that you need to work on avoiding these lapses in diplomacy – and that you will.

They bad-mouth their current employer. Describe the practice where you work now as a “zoo,” or call your boss a “jerk,” and the interviewer may wonder whether you’re a chronic malcontent.

When asked why you want to change jobs, resist any urge to trash your employer. Here’s one way to address this question: “It’s a good practice, with good doctors, but my opportunities for advancement aren’t as strong as I’d like.”

If you can’t respond positively, at least be neutral: “We have philosophy differences.” Or, “They have a style of practice that includes running lots of tests on patients, and I believe in practicing more conservatively.”

They don’t give positive feedback. Prospective employers usually knock themselves out to be hospitable. They spend a lot of time and money on the candidate, and they tie up key personnel for interviews and get-aquatinted social functions.

Too often, the candidate doesn’t respond in kind. During the day, when his questions are being answered or he’s getting a guided tour of the premises, he remains poker-faced. Then, after a night of being entertained, he doesn’t say, “Thank you.” That leaves the prospective employer wondering not only whether this physician is the best candidate for the job, but whether he really wants it.

If you’re impressed by what you see, speak up. And when you return home, send a thank-you note. In it, restate your interest in the job (assuming you are still interested), and why you’d be right for it. Good personal marketing savvy and old-fashioned manners are not, unfortunately, something interviewers see every day. They can make you stand out from the competition.

This article was published by Cejka Search and originally appeared in Medical Economics Magazine. Copyright by Medical Economics Company Inc. at Montvale, NJ 07645. All rights reserved.