September 16, 2015
The smartest doctors make the dumbest job-hunting mistakes. It costs them jobs they’d be well-qualified for.
Think your education, clinical experience, and interview are all that matter in edging out the competition for a job? Brace yourself: A good position may well be won or lost by what you do before you even get the interview. Yet many doctors do little or nothing to improve their prospects.
At our firm, we’ve compiled quite a list of doctors’ job-search blunders. Sadly, some of the doctors who committed them might have been good choices for openings they never got consider for.
Here are the eight most common mistakes we’ve come across:
Wait for the job to come to you. If you’re itching to change jobs, don’t confine your search to classified ads or sit back and wait for a recruiter’s call. Make the call yourself. The more lead time you give a recruiter, the greater the chances she’ll find you a suitable position. Or, if you have your heart set on working for a particular organization, contact it directly.
Expect the search to pay off fast. “Please get me out of here!” an FP implored us. “I can’t stand this job another moment!” We promise to get right on it—and we did. Two months later, he phoned again, sounding disheartened.
“What’s taking so long?” he wanted to know. “Is there something I should be doing that I’m not?”
Yes, we told him—he needed to be realistic, and patient. He’d procrastinated while his current job became less and less tolerable. He should have started searching for a new one much earlier. Finding the right spot commonly takes a year, not the two or three months many doctors budget. Sometimes, because of their impatience, they take jobs that are wrong for them or are forced to settle for second-best.
Underestimate a career change. Our firm gets lots of calls from doctors who’ve decided to switch fields—without really knowing what’s involved or how suited they’d be. This is particularly true of would-be physician executives.
Solid practice experience is a plus, but not enough. If your CV lacks such basic credentials as a history of treating capitated patients, key elective posts on hospital-staff committees, utilization review experience, statistical acumen, and starmednstrable negotiating skills, you’re not going to land an executive post.
Be unrealistic about salary. Doctors earning $150,000 a year routinely come to us expecting $200,000 jobs. Some assume that merely switching employers should command a fat salary increase. Others feel they’re entitled to the same deal as a physician friend who boasted at the golf club about his salary or his 12 weeks of vacation.
If you’re hearing such locker-room talk, take it with a grain of salt. Friends may not be candid about what they earn, or they may leave out important details (those 12 weeks of vacation are spread over the four years of his contract).
We find doctors who believe they can get $75,000 signing bonuses, when the actual average is less than $10,000. Residents from non-Ivy medical schools expect to be paid like Harvard stars. Candidates for executive posts demand interest-free loans, or want employers to purchase their homes—all because they’ve read that executives in other industries receive such perks.
In health care, only a handful do. When thinking about compensation, set your sights at a realistic level.
Submit a sloppy CV. The mail at our firm brings too many CVs that are poorly structured, badly written, and rife with errors in spelling and grammar. The doctors they describe would seldom make it to the interview stage with an employer.
Doctors make their most common mistakes by listing their skills first as a separate category. Employers prefer an opening section—just beneath your name and address—that shows your education history and details of licensure and certification. Then comes work experience, with skills and responsibilities cited for each positions you’ve held.
Another big problem area: professional references. Forget about making yours “available on request.” Serious candidates list three to four names, as well as titles, organizations, addresses, and phone numbers. Include the name of at least one colleague at your current job; if you don’t, employers will wonder if you’ve got problems there. If you’re a resident, you’ll make the best impression by listing your chief resident, program director, and attendings you’ve worked with.
And please, proofread your CV. When an employer reads, “John Smith, family physician,” it does not inspire confidence.
Submit a CV with discrepancies. Make sure you CV has no chronological gaps. Even if the reason is innocent—you took time off to attend to family matters or go on an extended vacation—employers may think the worst. So include those reasons in your CV.
The most dangerous mistake, of course, is to claim credentials you don’t have. A candidate may say he holds an MBA, or has completed a fellowship in a given field, when, in fact, he started the program but didn’t finish. Others who completed medical school in five years put four on a CV.
Employers routinely use a credentialing service to verify all degrees and dates. A candidate whose CV has discrepancies can forget about landing a job.
Overlook crucial issues. It’s amazing how many doctors seeking a mainly fee-for-service environment unwittingly interview with practices heavily into managed care. Others, who favor therapeutic abortions—or oppose them—get all the way to the interview stage before discovering that the employer’s policy clashes with their personal beliefs.
Such interviews are a waste of time for all concerned. If you have non-negotiable, make-or-break criteria for a new job, make them clear to the recruiter or the prospective employer before you request or accept a face-to-face interview.
Ignore recruiter’s calls. Recruiters are paid by employers to screen candidates. That includes a personal interview. Many doctors have a tough time fitting these interviews into their busy schedules. But if you’re serious about finding a new job, make time. The best opportunities have multiple candidates competing for them. Unless you’re cooperative about scheduling an interview, the recruiter will simply reshuffle your CV to the bottom of the stack.
Avoiding these pre-interview blunders is only half the battle, of course. In next month’s column, we’ll help you plan for the other half, with tips on mistakes to steer clear of during the interview.
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.